A Whole New World of Opportunities

by Nicholas A. Peppas | Jul 01, 2022

Nicholas Peppas

I have been a member of Sigma Xi since 1973, when I was a graduate student at MIT. Now I am writing my first letter to Sigma Xi members as president of the Society, with the hope of sharing my thoughts and sincere emotions about the future of science and global research. 

Over the past year as president-elect, I have been working on the goals of the upcoming International Forum on Research Excellence (IFoRE). The theme of “Science Convergence in an Inclusive and Diverse World” captures some of the major trends in our fields and the important new directions of science worldwide. 

Recent changes in science have led to a major emphasis on addressing and solving societal problems. The technologies driving infrastructure development, scientific breakthroughs, and translational research are multifaceted and require major contributions from various disciplines that have not necessarily come together in the past. We must be inclusive in everything we do.

We are all observing a revolution in scientific approach, a new way of working together to solve societal problems that cannot be addressed by just one discipline. About 12 years ago, MIT’s Phillip Sharp, a Nobel laureate, coined the term “convergence” to describe this merging of different disciplines and scientific areas that could solve important problems by creating jobs, speeding products to market, and improving agriculture, energy, and the environment—all with the ultimate goal of enhancing quality of life worldwide. 

These goals, however, will not be possible if they come from only a fraction of the scientific population. For that and many other reasons, I believe we need to address the diverse approaches offered by scientists who have not been heard before. There is a new generation of scientists emerging from all backgrounds. This is the time to recognize the diversity in the scientific enterprise, and to become more equitable and inclusive. And this must be done with bold initiatives and actions. That’s what we intend to bring to IFoRE ‘22.

We all need to recognize that many scientific discoveries of the last seventy years have been achieved by diverse groups of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. We must push the notion that there is clearly a need for new approaches, new solutions, and a restructuring of how teams do research. The scientific problems of the future—growing populations, climate change, post-traumatic stress disorders and other disabilities, new bacterial and viral illnesses, and the significant increase of auto-immune, chronic, and emergent diseases—will demand ceaseless, innovative research to find better solutions.

In closing, I share a quote from 1947 Nobel Prize recipient and French author André Gide, who said, “One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore.” 



Nicholas A. Peppas, ScD
Sigma Xi President

comments powered by Disqus

Blog Categories