Science is for Everybody and Helps All

by Nicholas A. Peppas | Aug 26, 2022

Nicholas Peppas

I am writing this letter on the eve of my first-ever trip to Bucharest, Romania, for a scientific meeting on the future of biomaterials. At this meeting, I am looking forward to connecting with friends, colleagues, and many young scientists from around the world who are thirsty for knowledge and eager to help their countries. Such interactions always remind me that science is about more than simple academic endeavors and recognitions. In fact, scientific collaboration is at the core of our ideals at Sigma Xi—"Science without barriers.”

When I stand on the shore of the Danube River near Bucharest, looking northeast toward Moldova and Odessa, Ukraine, I will be reminded that many global societal problems are also scientific problems in need of brilliant scientific solutions. How do we feed people everywhere in the world? How do we address transportation, flooding, and climate problems? These are not only problems for the Danube Delta, but also for the Mississippi Delta, the lowlands in the Netherlands, the Ganges Delta in South Asia, and the rest of the world.
Perhaps most importantly, how do we address medical problems across the globe? Contributions to the design of biomaterials for various medical applications, and micro- and nanodevices for the medical and pharmaceutical industries, are leading to major new solutions to significant medical problems. No longer are the treatments for diabetes, osteoporosis, asthma, cardiac problems, cancer, and other diseases based solely on conventional formulations. Many of the methodological advances in biomedical sciences will be the result of serious molecular understanding.

Other significant opportunities have appeared in the medical sciences over the past 30 years with new advanced medical devices. Picture a day in the near future when insulin will be delivered only when needed, and when siRNAs for the treatment of Crohn’s disease will bypass the stomach and be delivered directly to specific cells. Imagine “intelligent” biomaterials that respond to light, temperature, pH, magnetic field, radiation, or even the existence of specific molecules in the body—with the ability to treat a disease before it progresses.

Such developments require the collaboration of countless chemists, physicists, mathematicians, statisticians, medical doctors, and engineers—all without barriers. We need young and old, men and women, experienced and novice, and as much cultural and international diversity as possible in the medical sciences. We have to be inclusive and work together. That’s the promise that brings science back to the center of our activities. It’s what bridges the world and gives hope for solutions to societal problems. 

In the long run, it is the journey of discovery that matters. As the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy wrote:

As you set out for Ithaca, 
hope your road is a long one, 
full of adventure, full of discovery.
. . .
But don’t hurry the journey at all. 
Better if it lasts for years.



Nicholas A. Peppas, ScD
Sigma Xi President

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