ASciNA and the Greater Washington, D.C. Chapter—The Years 2002 to 2004 in Review

by Bernhard Voller

It is my great pleasure to present the last report of my term as head of the Greater Washington, D.C. chapter of the Austrian Scientists and Scholars in North America (ASciNA) network. ASciNA was founded in June 2002 during a conference at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, D.C., which was hosted by the Office of Science and Technology (OST). It is worth mentioning that Austrian researchers working at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the world's largest biomedical research facility, played an instrumental role in the inception of ASciNA. Without their pioneering spirit and teamwork this organization would not have come into existence.

 

{access view=guest}Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick - all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.{/access} {access view=!guest} At this time, when I am somewhat nostalgic to leave but equally looking forward to returning home, I would like to convey my gratitude to all of the friends and colleagues who made my stay in the United States a comfortable and remarkable one! I still remember when Günter Lepperdinger very kindly took on the task of introducing me to so many of you. I accompanied him to Washington, D.C., on many occasions, and one day I had the pleasure of meeting Philipp Steger, the Science Attaché at the Austrian Embassy and founder of the OST. Philipp's role was central to the optimal functioning and continued success of this worthwhile venture.
 
As the group in Washington, D.C. was growing stronger and becoming viable, another group of Austrian scientists from Boston, Massachusetts, was emerging and soon joined hands in the pioneering efforts to help promote the endeavors of the group. As a result of that effort, Austrian scientists from all over North America convened at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, D.C. in June 2002 to found ASciNA. At that pivotal meeting, several ASciNA chapters throughout North America were formed based on the regions in which Austrian scientists worked. One of the new chapters was in Greater Washington, D.C.

 
image: Remapping North America according to ASciNA: Bernhard Voller (Chapter Greater Washington, D.C.) and Hubert Zajicek (Chapter South West)

After Günter Lepperdinger's return to Austria, Dorothea Strozyk and Ilona Reischl were chosen to head the Greater Washington, D.C. chapter. Regular formal meetings and social gatherings were planned to welcome and get to know the new Austrian scientists coming to the Washington metropolitan area. Different topics, including how to support newcomers and Austrian scientists already living in the area, were discussed. Other issues such as housing, accommodations, local travel, driver's education, shopping, banking and child care were included as essential parts of getting to know the local environment. Among the more complex issues were the ever-changing U.S. laws with regard to obtaining visas and the legal requirements for staying in the United States. For ease and greater accessibility, some of the information was posted on a newly created Web site: http://www.ascina.at/greaterWashingtonDC/

When Traudl Robinson and I took over the chapter in July 2003, the group had already developed into a strong and cohesive forum and was enjoying the benefits of the hard work of the pathfinders. However, our main goal remained the furthering of the association, in addition to enhancing the flow of information between the ASciNA chapters. Dorothea's idea to meet for lunch at the NIH was followed and continued on a monthly basis. Off-work social gatherings continued every month as well. At the meetings we began to include a presentation by one of the fellows. To mix business with a little pleasure, the group chatted and networked afterward at one of the local bars in Bethesda. Besides the many impressive presentations by the group members on biomedical research done at the NIH, I particularly remember the presentation given by Benedikt Braumann on his work at the International Monetary Fund and Dirk Rupnow's talk about his research on the Holocaust. Dirk also arranged a visit to the Holocaust Museum and gave us a private and very personalized tour.

 
The vicinity to the OST gave us the opportunity to meet with Philipp Steger whenever help was needed. I must not forget to thank him for his hospitality and generosity, especially for the recent farewell given at his home in my honor.

 
Being a neuroscientist, it is natural to compare the ASciNA network to that of the brain. Just as the different regions in the brain contribute to the functioning of the entire brain, the Greater Washington, D.C. chapter, based on its individual unique capabilities, benefits the entire network. The progressive and continued refinement of the interactions within and between the chapters is a hallmark of the intended successful outcome of our group. I am convinced that Ruth Pfeiffer, the new head of the chapter, and Traudl Robinson will make a great team and strengthen the network further. I know they will make ASciNA and the Greater Washington chapter even stronger and more successful. I wish them both the very best in their future endeavors.
 
image: Farewell to Bernhard Voller: Philipp Steger, Bernhard Voller Traudl Robinson, Ruth Pfeiffer
 

 

Once again, I wish to thank everyone for the time I spent in your company in the United States. I shall cherish the memories and draw upon the experience in my personal as well as professional life. I hope for our paths to cross in the future.

 
 
 
 
 
With best wishes to all!
Bernhard Voller{/access}