“Ever since I started my graduate studies, I have heard my colleagues speaking about the beauties of Boulder (Colorado, USA). Indeed, many Europeans working in my field of research visit Boulder every summer, and, without exception, they speak highly both of the city and of its academic environment.
It was, thus, with great expectations that I arrived in Boulder last September, for a five month visit to the High Altitude Observatory. Half a year later, back in my home country, it is without hesitation that I also say that Boulder is a special place and, having been asked to describe my experience, I have started wondering why it is that my visit to Boulder did not fail my expectations.
It is certainly true that, settled at the base of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder is surrounded by an exquisite landscape. Moreover, the university and research institutes count, among their staff, many world known experts in a diversity of subjects, including those related to my own work, namely, physics and astronomy. But was that really it? I have seen places of unparalleled beauty also in Europe and worldwide. I have studied at the University of Cambridge, UK, which, with no doubt, has its own share of famous researchers. So, what is it that is so special about Boulder? The answer is simple: It feels great to be there!
It is hard to know whether it is the sun (over 300 sunny days every year), or the fact that people come and go, attracted by the beauties of the place, that makes Boulder so special. The truth is that everything in Boulder is extremely dynamic. And the same dynamic that makes people come out of their homes on weekends to walk in the mountains or bike along Boulder creek, is present in the research institutes, and in the University. The place is filled with visitors that, while coming and going, share their own expertise with the permanent staff. Scientific discussions are lively, and the questions – many questions – are almost always constructive. Colleagues are helpful and particularly careful to make visitors feel welcome and to engage them in ongoing activities.
Naturally, I am not naive to the point of believing that everything about Boulder is positive. A five months visit is a short visit, and, as a visitor, I have no doubt that my view is limited. Still, my impression is that Boulder is an example of how important it is for the academic environment that the individuals that make up that environment feel motivated and well. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps my visit was indeed too short to allow me to see beyond the surface. Nevertheless, I felt welcome and motivated, and that surely was reflected in my scientific work while there, and surely will be reflected in my research activities and interactions while back here, in Portugal.”
Fulbright Research Scholar at the High Altitude Observatory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, at Boulder, Colorado, AY 2006/2007