Friday, February 08, 2008

THE NEGATIVE IQ PEOPLE AT THE STATE DEPARTMENT

This is really ridiculous. We are writing a paper with a friend and collaborator of mine who is a NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy) specialist at a prominent university in the US. He just came back from India after a stay of more than two months. He said that his original trip was planned for only a month. So why did it take so long?

Apparently, his visa was delayed. The fine folks at the US State Department saw the dreaded word "nuclear" in his job description. Alarm bells went off in their experienced minds. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance? Surely this is suspicious. Off they went doing a background check for more than a month. In the end of course they found nothing. But my friend had to stay for an extra month, delaying his work here, not to mention our own work.

This is outrageous. NMR is one of the most important techniques ever in chemistry, biology, materials science and drug discovery. For crying out loud, life-saving MRI is based on it (although not incidentally, they took the word "nuclear" out of MRI because it would make people uncomfortable). Every single day, hundreds, if not thousands of papers are published in journals worldwide that involve the use of NMR in one way or the other. Four Nobel Prizes have been awarded to NMR scientists. My own PhD. thesis is mostly based on the interpretation of results obtained using NMR (I have mentioned about it here) NMR has nothing remotely to do with atomic bombs.

But the bull-headed rocks at the State Department cannot even distinguish between the "nuclear" in NMR and that in "nuclear weapons". Why can't they hire specialists who actually know something basic about science (and common sense) instead of randomly spouting gut reactions and going ballistic every time they see the word nuclear? In some ways, it would give people like me sadistic pleasure to think of all those floor scrubbers in the department running around trying to find out if I have a Jihadist background. But as everyone knows, unfortunately in the end the person who will lose the most will be me.

Despicable, and it reminds me of Goverdhan Mehta's shoddy treatment at the American consulate. But considering the ultimate authority they answer to, we can trust them not to look at trivial things like facts and details.

At least now I know what word to not include in my job description when I file for a Visa. "Magnetic Resonance" will have to do. Sigh.

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5 Comments:

Blogger gawker said...

I'm not sure if it is because of the "nuclear" thing. Apparently nowadays everybody who goes for stamping in India gets delayed due to some new procedure they've begun enforcing. I've heard of a lot of people who didn't get their passports returned for a month or so.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Patrix said...

My cousin sis who has majored in Historic Preservation also got delayed for more than a month for her H1B visa stamping although Ash had no such problem this time around. So as Gawker said, it might be more than nuclear.

BTW if you do include nuclear in your resume, you might get a bump in your processing time if you file under a special status that implies importance for national security or something like that. Use their ignorance against them for your benefit :)

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget these: 'biology or biomedical' is sure to land you in the trap.

5:12 PM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

Hmmm...interesting. Although given his past record, he says he did not get into trouble when he said "magnetic resonance". Should ask him if they actually told him this.

7:41 AM  
Blogger Ashutosh said...

And Patrix, thanks for that juicy bit of info with which I can as you said use their ignorance against them :)

7:42 AM  

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