A curious student with a passion for the stars, a famous astronomer, a week's vacation: the book was born like this, from Eda's questions and from Margherita Hack's explanations that, starting from the most common experiences, accompanies her young student in an easy journey to discover the laws that govern the universe.
It is the introduction of the book So speak the stars, written by the great astrophysics Margherita Hack and from the young student of Albanian origins Eda Gjergo, which gave us the exclusive interview that follows.
Interview with Eda Gjergo
The first time I saw the cover of the book, it was not so much the name of Margherita Hack as your surname Gjergo that attracted my attention. Tell us about your origins.
I was born in Tirana and lived in Italy since I was a year and a half. Unfortunately I got to visit Albania in 3 occasions alone, at 7, 18 and 20 years, and each time for no more than a week. My mother told me about both happy moments in her youth and the difficulties of the last few years. In Italy I lived in different places.
But certainly the city that is closest to my heart and to which I have linked the most beautiful memories is Florence. The Florentine sense of humor is unique and their speech puts me in a good mood. I also remember that going to school early in the morning to see the sun rise hot and radiant on the Arno had become a necessity and a small daily whim. I love Florence, its views, its atmosphere and the people known there.
Have you studied in Italy so how does your passion for science begin?
My passion has developed naturally, regardless of my academic studies. It started from astronomy. The celestial bodies have always fascinated me. One Sunday in the second grade I accidentally took a book called 'Introduction to Astronomy' bought by my mother. I remember the intense and pleasant upheaval I felt and the surprise in discovering how many unknown things there were beyond daily perceptions. That passion has never been extinguished, and is now fueled by a deeper understanding of physical principles.
It is not for everyone to see their name at your age next to a giant of science like Margherita Hack. How was your relationship born?
I wrote her a letter when I had 10-11 years. In those days there were no people around me to talk to about quasars, the various hypotheses about the expansion of the Universe or the variety of elementary subatomic particles. I only had magazines, articles and books that I sought diligently. And it was difficult to make sure that hypotheses, conjectures and generalizations taken from these sources were indeed solid. My mother therefore encouraged me to write a letter to Margherita.
It was a very liberating experience, a kind of safety valve. I still remember the excitement of receiving the first response from Margherita. Now I am very fond of her, as I have also got to know her splendid human qualities. Together with my mother, Margherita is one of my examples of life for her constancy, willpower and solidity of moral principles. I feel her really close as if she were part of my family. Margherita is an extremely affable person, sincere and sincere, with a truly golden heart.
If on television he stands out for his eccentricity, in private his kindness is the first quality to emerge. We had maintained a correspondence for some years, when I met her at the end of eighth grade I was particularly nervous. As soon as I met her she immediately conveyed a sense of familiarity and serenity. She and her husband Aldo are very nice people, it was a fun morning that soon turned into friendship.
What are you doing during this time? Do your studies always continue in the field of science?
I attend the University in Chicago. Applied mathematical and physical studies. All those who have tried to be admitted to a good university in the United States know that it is necessary to pass several standardized exams, have a positive academic curriculum, two or three references from professors, extracurricular activities and maybe projects carried out during high school to be admitted. Every university looks for a different variety of students, and certainly getting in touch with the desired Institute helps. The choice is vast and the consequent specializations and levels are the same. I consider myself really happy with my choice, as people here are essentially prone to technical subjects and needed this kind of immersion.
In Italy I attended two scientific high schools and the United World College (a splendid international high school that is accessed only through selection, whose goal is to spread multicultural understanding). Although the chosen addresses were among the most scientific available, the humanities certainly had the upper hand. I am pleased to have expanded my culture also in other fascinating branches such as art, history, philosophy or literature, they certainly make me a more complete person. But at the same time for these few years of university I have to be immersed in such a focused environment otherwise it would be difficult to reach the levels of preparation I desire. I now live in an active metropolis that offers numerous opportunities.
Do you ever think of your origins in relation to your field of interest, science?
The science itself has nothing to do with nationalities. The interactions of the scientific community are partially so. The Albanian people continue to demonstrate that they have brilliant minds in numerous fields. Personally, I am very attached to my origins and I trust in the enthusiastic Albanian spirit and its progress that I was able to see during my last visit a year ago. Although insignificant, my key ring depicts an Albanian flag and I sometimes think about my origins.
What plans do you have for the future, or rather, what would you like to do when you grow up?
Ah this question is difficult, because it varies during the life of a scientist. For now I still have a doctorate in front of me to decide exactly which field of research I will begin to undertake. Certainly the understanding of the underlying structure of the Universe and its entirety is what has always fascinated me the most, and even now I find no greater pleasure than the application of a handful of basic principles for the explanation of a remarkable variety of phenomena.
The work of a researcher consists either in expanding the variety of algorithmizable phenomena or in perfecting current theories. Given my third-year university level, I can only work in the first case for now. This summer I will do research together with a professor who works mainly on spline functions, solutions of partial differential equations and geometric design through programming.
So I will try to optimize and write codes about any problem the professor will decide to give me, he still hasn't exactly decided. In the field of research, everything evolves fairly quickly on a small scale (unlike the large scale, the basic problems from which these other intermediate steps are necessary, those problems often take years). So for the next couple of years I see my life closely tied to computer systems.
Even artificial intelligence fascinates me a lot, along with the understanding of neurological phenomena as I firmly believe that there are defined predictable processes behind every single event existing in nature, every form of human behavior including. So it would be fantastic sooner or later to work or to simulate these processes (through models that can predict certain behaviors or imitation of these thanks to artificial structures).
Progress in this field is already considerable. In fact I would define my belief in the conviction of the existence of a single basic concept that governs the Whole. Obviously Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle sets limits in the human capacity to understand this concept. However, this does not imply its non-existence. And we must not take it for granted that you agree with the logic of the human mind, it is possible in fact that the creativity of the human mind and its products can never completely dissect this concept, but it seems to me a worthy enough cause to dedicate my entire life to it.
As for pure mathematics, the idea of infinite dimensions has always fascinated me ... so geometry, which is differential, discrete, complex or computational, intrigues me all. But perhaps I am attracted to these two branches (a form of mathematics that could be called visual and cognitive processes) precisely because of my desire to understand and generalize more deeply the basic physical phenomena.
I feel very fortunate to be able to study both applied mathematics and physics, because these two branches give me independence and virtually a variety of choices in my almost infinite research. In summary, I do not yet know what I will become a researcher, my interests are many, but they concentrate in one way or another around the unification of our understanding of the Universe.
Or of course, like other dreams I want to match my mother in the care and attention of my future children in a dozen years ... and maybe perfect my knowledge in music theory.
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