Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Venezuelan overseas: a maracucho at the helm of MIT

What would be Venezuela today if it had managed to hold to its brain power, and the one of its immigrant children in particular?  Today, Rafael Reif, the son of Jews escaping Eastern Europe, born in Maracaibo, educated in Caracas, has been elected president of MIT  That is right, president of  THE MIT, the one and only.  On the other hand, Pastor Maldonado, quite a criollito, has won a Formula 1 this week end and that is celebrated by all, even by those who should know better.

I do not want this post to be interpreted along ethnic cliches.  There are plenty of Venezuelans of Venezuelan origin that have done well outside of Venezuela, and there are immigrant sons who also win a motor races (Johnny Cecotto anyone?).  No, the point here is that more than anywhere else perhaps, in Venezuela brain power is considered second rate, even useless.  Whereas prowess at machines, or baby making, or heavy drinking, or political bla-bla is what impresses.

The question is that after 14 years of Chavez, how many Rafael Reif (or Perez) have we lost in this past decade.

End of rant.

PS: although not mentioned in his bio, I suspect from the dates that Rafael Reif left Venezuela for his postgraduate studies with a Fundayacucho scholarship.  If many bright students of the program did not come back to Venezuela and became big successes outside of the country is not their fault.  The government then could not even pass a law that would have automatically recognized many degrees obtained through a Fundayacucho "beca".  Because of course the "criollitos" that directed all the trade associations of Venezuela could not stomach the return of people who they considered threats and whenever possibel demanded that their degree would be "revalidated".  And then you wonder how come Chavez became president and retained office for so long.....  Mediocrity rules in Venezuela and Chavez embodies it.  While ironically he does not demand "revalidation" from the Cubans of our health service, for lack of a better name.

End of PS rant.


  1. Daniel

    You are absolutely right! Rafael should be considered a true Venezuelan hero, one worthy of admiration. All he needs now is to learn how to hit a baseball and the rest of Venezuela will agree with us

  2. Anonymous12:23 PM

    Daniel, no puedo creer que a estas alturas no ha entendido que aqui la intelectualidad pasa de largo, hemos tenido venezolanos excelentes en artes ciencias letras etc... se habla de ellos cuando ya no estan, pero eso sí pasan a la historia, menos mal. La Maga Lee

  3. Charly12:59 PM

    While we are on the subject of brilliant Venezuelans in diaspora, how about award winning Hydrologist Ignacio Rodriguez Iturbe? He used to be professor at Universidad del Zulia, then Dean of research and graduate studies at Universidad Simon Bolivar now Distinguished Professor at Princeton. Very well known world wide in the water sector. But, vroum vroum, who the fuck needs a world class Hydrologist when you have a Pastor Maldonado. As you well know: c'est donner des perles aux cochons.

    1. I was lucky enough to have Mr. Iturbe as my Religious studies teacher on my last year in High School...

    2. You sure it was not his brother Jose (Pepe)?

  4. Many countries (even states and provinces within those countries) require revalidation in engineering, law, medicine, and education, to name a few disciplines. There are valid reasons for this. Expecting Venezuela to pay a blind eye to revalidation would be absurd. It would also feed the pretender mentality (pantallero) that is pervasive.

    It's lovely to see such seriousness and peer-reviewed "mérito" in Rafael Reif. He deserves it. I'm also glad he was able to reach well-earned heights unavailable to him, in Venezuela. In fact, had he stayed and revalidated, I wonder if he wouldn't have been "eaten alive" by all the jealous (political) factions, long before the 5th, not just among racecar enthusiasts. Bravo, Dr. Reif.

    1. Syd

      My college degree did not exist in Venezuela and yet I was expected to "revalidar". I did not do it and instead left to get a PhD.

      I have no qualms about re-validations in medicine. On law it is rather unnecessary to demand it because nobody would hire you unless you prove you know the law of the country where you pretend to work. You may be a consulting service but you cannot sign unless you have a local law degree.

      But engineering? If you degree is from a valid university through a Venezuelan scholarship, why? You could be asked to take some local regulations course and that should be enough. Then again, in Venezuela 2+2 do not seem to be always 4.......

    2. Daniel, structural engineering in Finland is not the same as that in Venezuela. For temperatures, materials and environments have different synergies. In electrical engineering, there are variances in code and practice between the US and Canada. Here are sites that may clarify further: .

    3. Which is why I mention courses on local regulations. But when I came back to Venezuela they are basically asking me to take year or two of courses to "revalidar" as if biology was different in Venezuela or in France....... My undergraduate was in biochemical engineering which did not exist in Venezuela then (or now for all that I know).

    4. Daniel, you have qualms about revalidation requirements in biology (or biochem), but no qualms about revalidations in medicine (human biochem processes, plus)? Look, I'm not disputing your need to seek alternatives so as to avoid revalidation requirements. My beef is with those who so easily dismiss revalidation in those professions, which logic dictates should require such a review process, let alone language proficiency. For me, the excuses against revalidation are often the domain of the intellectually lazy, or the 'vivos'. How many in medicine have I known that go the distance, that revalidate by writing boards for this state or that. That is, after jumping hurdles to obtain specialization in a language that is not their own. The merit is in the ability and the dedication to overcome hurdles, not to whine about them as deliberate impediments.

      Serious people get serious. Big difference between those who pretend they have a degree, on the basis of a course or two, and those who choose to present their credentials, evaluated by the institution that awarded them, and to take extra courses if needed. The more serious opportunities arise from taking the high road.

    5. Anonymous4:18 PM

      I got a beca to study physics in Europe. When I went back my proto-Chavista colleagues argued that my degree was worthless because my PhD research had no relevance to contemporary Venezuela. I always wondered how these thugs from UCV interpreted Newton's laws in a tropical context. But that was unfair: they probably meant that only those graduating in Caracas knew which research topics in physics were important for our economic development. The end result was that they did very little themselves (relevant to tropical conditions or otherwise) and made it very difficult for those who had studied abroad to make a contribution. I didn't think that trade union activism in science was possible, until I saw it.

    6. Syd, I got a degree in aerospace engineering and couldn't register in the colegio de ingenieros because I wouldn't revalidate my degree at the IUPFAN. Why would my aerodynamics and structures knowledge not apply to Venezuela? Is it because they use the metric system? Do you think USA engineers only design machines that work in the USA? I guess cars sold in Venezuela were designed by Venezuelans... right.
      Don't even get me talking about all the airlines and shops that would not hire me because I was "overqualified". Heck, I was going to take their mediocre salaries and work as a mechanic if needed, but instead I got so frustrated that I came back to the states, got a masters in aerospace and now I work here making cutting-edge parts for Boeing, Airbus, etc...
      I wonder how many more galileos like me could not make it in Venezuela but are very happy somewhere else. To me that's a huge failure...

    7. Why revalidate in medicine? Public health issues are different, local diseases are different (will someone who studied at Harvard Medical School see dengue on a regular basis?), the availability of certain medicines and treatments, laws, cultural practices...

      Biochem? Molecules don't care where you are. Cells behave the same way. Same with Physics.

      I've met both Rafael Reif and Rodriguez-Iturbe. In both cases it was like shaking God's hand. Every kid in Venezuela should know their names.

    8. Roberto, so you're annoyed that the colegio de ingenieros wouldn't annoint you with their royal jelly just because you had a B.Eng. and refused to revalidate it at the IUPFAN? Ahhhh. Since when does any engineering association anywhere accept foreign-trained engineers as members, without requiring that they first revalidate?
      PS. A venez cousin of mine recd his B.Eng from a Cdn university in the early 60s, returned to Vzla, revalidated and registered in the Colegio de Ingenieros. Since then, he has enjoyed a long career as a specialist manufacturer, along with fellow engineering partners, one of whom recd his engineering degree in the US and also revalidated. Cuál es el peo? Sorry, but I have no interest in those who want to rock the boat, just for the hell of it, or to rebel, or to draw attention to themselves. That's the stuff of juniors. Certainly Rafael Reif wouldn't carry on like that.

    9. Well Syd, you missed my point or maybe I wasn't as clear as I thought. I was using my experience not to draw attention to myself but to highlight how unwelcome you can feel in Venezuela when you go back with a foreign degree. I really just skimmed on the surface of the rejection I got at so many professional levels. I would have loved to stay in Venezuela, but my passion is aerospace and the only job I could find was in auto parts. Yes, you can be successful in Venezuela if you go back and "assimilate." Meaning that you become one more production engineer at a built-to-print factory like the majority of the people I've met.
      The whole point of the article was about brain drain in Venezuela. I would bet anything that the number of successful returns like your cousin in the 60s is very small compared to the exodus of talent during the 90s and 2000s. I really wish it wasn't so.

    10. By the way, here in the US there is usually a path to becoming a licensed professional that involves a period of at-work training instead of going back to college. There is also a test involved, regardless of where you got your degree.
      I would rather do that than having to take classes again and having to pay the colegio of ingenieros a yearly fee which is assessed from the moment you got your degree even if is not valid in Venezuela. To me this actually sounds like quite a racket. In retrospect I'm kinda glad they didn't like my degree...

    11. Roberto, my cousin's sights were not set on working in an industry that does not exist in Vzla, such as the aerospace industry. Had he done so, he would have been seen as nuts. Clearly, you are trying to stretch and politicize an issue, without being honest about a couple of realities. One of these is that it's not easy anywhere in the world to gain employment with a simple bachelor's of whatever; I've known plenty of engineers, both in the US and Canada, who haven't had it that easy, upon graduating with a BEng. Furthermore, any professional association I've ever come across, in North America, requires fees from its members, not sure how they're calculated. But what I'm sure of is that you're trying to make Venezuela and its colegio de ingenieros to be pariah states, because they did not embrace you, when you were fresh out of US engineering school, and provide you with the opportunities in an industry that you favoured but wasn't available in the country. Frankly, this exchange is over. Estás pidiendo peras al olmo simplemente para politizar. Cut it out; you come across as intellectually dishonest. Un imberbe, pues.

    12. Pana no se cual es tu pique ni a que vienen los insultos. Yo no estoy politizando nada. Yo estoy hablando de mi experiencia personal y no inventando ningun cuento... la ingenieria aerospacial si existe en Venezuela, simplemente se llama aeronautica, o es q tu crees que los aviones se mantienen solos? Yo he vivido en ese mundo desde que naci y se de lo que hablo.
      Por otro lado, sera dificil conseguir trabajo en cualquier lugar del mundo como lo fue en USA para mi, pero como parte del programa Galileo yo esperaba algo mas de apoyo tanto del gobierno como de la industria. A la final Fundayacucho aprobo mi seleccion de carrera porque nosotros eramos el futuro, no el pasado.
      En algo estamos de acuerdo... this exchange is over. No sigo cayendo en la trampa de discutir con alguien que no ve el valor en la opinion de los demas. Un resentido, pues.

    13. Venezuela is not USA, Canada, Germany or France. It's not attractive for professionals or skilled immigrants. Who'd be stupid enough to come to Venezuela to earn peanuts and risk his skin instead of staying in any other country with a nice income and in a safe environment?

      If Venezuela does not make things easier and more attractive to professionals that studied abroad, most of them might as well stay out to never come back. Just look at Germany right now. They're making things easier for skilled labor and professionals from abroad, because that's what countries need to progress.

      Stop pretending that Venezuela is heaven on earth and that the bureaucratic barriers are required to stop the inflow of foreigners. Your chauvinistic attitude is complete nonsense.

  5. Heavy drinking impresses?

    yes, AND alcohol gives them the infinite patience required for tolerating stupidity.

    Only mindless bureaucrats would take All re-validation seriously, especially in a country where anyone can buy revalidation with the right amount of money.

  6. Dr. Faustus1:38 PM

    I very much enjoyed reading this post on Reif. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. His accomplishments should be celebrated throughout Venezuela. The President of MIT?

    Wow. Great story.

  7. I would love to ask Rafael Reif what does he think about Noam Chomski misusing MIT's resources to peddle propaganda about huguito.

    1. The faculty at MIT (and I'm assuming Reif is in the same camp) hate the guy. He's apparently as obnoxious during faculty meetings as he is in public.

  8. Juan CTT8:23 PM

    I'd like to bring out one point, One of the most atrocious problems with Fundayacucho, is that the government didn't seem to have a solid plan to utilize the first class human resource they produce with Venezuelan Tax dollars.

    "Revalidation" is one of the sides of many problems. If it were by me, I'd give all the people that received money from the Fundayacucho program, easy credits to build company of any kind, fund first class research of any kind. Create those specialties in the Venezuelan academia and adapt the "know how" to our own specifications. Now I'm going to ask you, In such situation, Would they feel the need to stay in another countries?? Of course not, but instead government is wasting money like if there were no tomorrow in proverbial manure that we don't need.

    But then you had to see how the Japanese, Israeli, South Korean and Chinese learnt how to build their country from the ground, they took what they could learn from the most prestigious university around the world and they adapt the "know how" and knowledge to theirs own countries.

    Of course we think we know better, and god forbid to we take advantage of the powerful Venezuelan human resources that is being utilized in others countries. I mean we are subsidizing and developing others countries. Yeah! that's where you realize how Idiots we are.

    What we have now is the government giving away money for the fun of it, to print out a very poor power point sheet just to show and impress people. That seems to be the scope of Fundayacucho program.

    1. Exactly my point... thanks!

    2. That’s something that I have never understood about Fundayacucho. These morons invest a gazillion dollars on people, but there’s absolutely no interest on finding a place for them to return.
      A friend of mine just finished his master in renewable energies in Germany. He was told that Fundayacucho was “not an employment agency”, i.e. they have no plan whatsoever for him. I have heard the same story over and over again.
      And don’t get me started about the son and relatives of Ministers that get their scholarships just because of their “revolutionary credentials”…

  9. One of the most common mistakes is the confusion between Idealism and the Doctrinaire. An idealist is defined as one who pursues and dwells upon the ideal, a seeker after the highest beauty and good. A doctrinaire may do this also, but he or she is differentiated as one who theorizes without sufficient regard for practical considerations,or one who undertakes to explain things by a narrow theory or group of theories, or strict rules and unbending regulations.

    The fact that revalidation is excellent in some instances or even in many instances does not make it good in ALL instances.It may seem intellectually tidy to allow things to run on mindlessness, but then we tend to fall prey to the doctrinaire.I would never equate " a rule is a rule" with wisdom -


  10. Juan CTT12:34 AM

    Now seeing Roberto case, it baffles me that, with all the money that Venezuela got from the oil, the government didn't bothered to studied his case and foreseen a good opportunity to assemble a team of aerospace engineer, mechanical engineers, electronic engineers, software engineer, scientist etc, the kind of manpower that makes a real contribution to the industry and the economy in the world, to build the foundation of the first aerospace company in Venezuela, car makers, truck makers, you name it. Like I said, The government that paid the tuition and his education should have gave to those guys all the needed money to achieve that goal.

    But instead these guys were met with utter indifference when they finish their academic career, not just from the government itself from the society as well.

    Now In Venezuela there were a few attempts to make something like this, specially in IUPFAN/UNEFA, but as always the government abandon the project halfway, meanwhile the government is spending billions of dollars every year on things that can be developed by ourselves, because no-one I mean Nobody in Venezuela, has the vision to make something like the Asian tigers did in the last 3 decades, if they are, they don't get many votes.

    1. ...because no-one I mean Nobody in Venezuela, has the vision to make something like the Asian tigers did in the last 3 decades, if they are, they don't get many votes.

      Think about Juan CTT, you're a politico in Venezuela, that means you're probably a lefty -de la boca para afuera- and your environment is similar to that of tiger in a zoo: in that pit -that we may call Venezuela- you are just one of the pride. The other politicos are just like you, i.e. toothless tigers that fear nothing, in the know that any squabble among the pack is just temporary noise deprived of potentially harming consequences.

      Enter politico 2, that has this vision about transforming the pit, allowing for up and coming people with great ideas and a successful track record of performance in the jungle, the real one, not some danger-less zoo pit. What are the consequences for other politicos, if number 2 is successful? Utter and absolute irrelevance. Utter and absolute ignominy.

      Hence Roberto's point: los tigres de zoologico have too much to fear from people that come from abroad. Too much is at stake, too much to lose. Of course, tigres de zoologico is a term that describes not only the political class, but the business, academic, artistic, intellectual, professional, etc., in Venezuela. Let me put it another way. You're a businessman, you've made your wealth out of good old mercantilism and patronage. You have cultivated relationships with the political tigers for years, in order to ensure that they let you grow and work in exchange for donations / bribes when needed. Enter politico 2 with this crazed idea of opening up to competition, from the real jungle, how long do you think Venezuelan businesses, large and small, will last in such an environment? How long do you think Venezuelan businesses will be able to get away with such appalling levels of services at such overprice?

      Tigres de zoologico despise Robertos, Daniels, Miguels and Rafaels. There's not a chance in hell that they'll welcome you for they know that in a pit where Robertos, Daniels, Miguels and Rafaels thrive -read the real jungle- they would shown for what they truly are: tigres de papel.

    2. Juan CTT5:39 AM

      AB... "you're a politico in Venezuela, that means you're probably a lefty -de la boca para afuera"... thank god I'm not politician in Venezuela.

      But you are right, the old establishment in the country would have so much to lost, if the newcomer, in a manner of speaking, have some much to offer, and start bringing new ideas that can help the local economy.

      That's why the bad company, those that push one candidate that can help them keep a large share of the market. Sort of what el-nacional newspaper, Venevision and another Venezuelan companies where doing with Chavez back in the 90's when they gave him a public endorsement. It's funny because he repaid them with a bag of charcoal.

      So yeah that's the common school of though in Venezuela, and it's too bad because with that strategy, of the asian tigers, even the local companies can benefit too!, because for projects like that you need money, supply, food etc, and what better place to start than the local companies and banks. But I guess they don't see it that way.

      I hope that the new president of Venezuela will learn from this.

    3. "The government that paid the tuition and his education should have gave to those guys all the needed money to achieve that goal. But instead these guys were met with utter indifference when they finish their academic career, not just from the government itself from the society as well."

      Venezuela is not the only country that gives out scholarships or government loans without an accompanying box of Pampers -- meaning, without a "here's a job for you, son, now that you're done with basic training". I once took out a government loan for technical studies, as have millions of others, in Canada, over the years. At no time did I come across the whining I've encountered here, from those who expected to be given a job, subsequent to completing basic studies on that loan/grant, or to be hugged and kissed by the appropriate professional association, without complying with membership requirements.

      Yes, a government-industry partnership such as that which exists among Asian tigers would be ideal. But it boggles the mind, when those who want that, no, those who expect that in Venezuela, cannot see that the country can't even manage its own basic necesssities.

      One of the purposes of higher education is to be able to see the landscape and to know where one fits within it, before graduation, preferably even before embarking on studies, moreover, when part of those studies have no application to the considered marketplace. (I can understand Aeronautical engineering for a small niche in Venezuela, but aerospace engineering?) And if there is no match between the specialized studies and the opportunities, then one should know that one will have to look elsewhere, that one should not expect miracles from the environment one wants to live in, but which provides no support for the studies preferred. No wonder Cadivi now restricts the general area of studies! The government cannot rely on students to think through their choices vis-à-vis the marketplace!

      Every day, millions around the world migrate to job opportunities, whether in a different state, or a different province, or a different country. In this regard, Venezuela is no different. But some people want it to be the total immersion paradise that it most definitely is not.

    4. Here we go again..."Aerospace engineering is the primary branch of engineering concerned with the design, construction, and science of AIRCRAFT and spacecraft" (definition of aerospace from Wikipedia, the upper caps are mine). Please stop making me sound like some kind of fool for picking an unrealistic dream as a career. I can't make Penn State change the title of my diploma just so that it fits some narrow minded definition in the head of my countrymen.
      But on the other hand, the way you think we should all pick our careers doesn't leave any room for students that want to break the mold, invent new technologies, create new markets... in that world, Rafael Reif is only teaching at the LUZ in Maracaibo and not at the cradle of so many inventions like MIT.

    5. Before someone misunderstands me... I'm not throwing a jibe at the LUZ, it is a fine institution. Just making the point that shall we all conform to the "marketplace" Reif should have been like the majority and not try to reach for the stars (MIT).
      After reading his biography I should have picked La Carabobo instead.
      No hurt feelings I hope :)

  11. On revalidation, if a given country requires it for doctors, yet allows FDA approval for medications to be sold - and I'm not talking by the original manufacturer, but rather by a company copying the meds and claiming they are equivalent - you can be sure the purpose of revalidation is not a fundamental concern for the health of the citizens. I don't know for certain that's the case for Venezuela (I know it is true elsewhere), but someone I think it's likely.

  12. @SYD
    I have to agree with Daniel on this one. The greatest country in the World does not care about Re-validation, (other than to work as a Doctor or a Lawyer) where you must pass a “Bar Exam”, must other High End Technological areas need NO re-validation at all.
    I have a title from Cuba, (of all places) and I have worked at two TOP technology companies in U.S. I have never had any one ask me to Re-validate. My best friend works for Aerospace Industry, he actually have the capacity to Approve certain SW designs, on behalf of the FAA (of all places) for equipment that goes on board airplanes, he graduated from the same University I graduated. No one has ever required a revalidation from Him.
    Because this country is Results driven, what matters is Results, if you prove you can do it? That is all they need. The result is: This country attracts the very top performers no matter where they come from.

    1. BETO, that is an EXCELLENT point. When nobody's health/safety is directly at stake (note that I say directly), the government is not involved. Heck, I think even the bar exam is run by a private institution, and not the government; I wouldn't be surprised if doctors work more or less the same way. For pretty much everything else, the only "validation" study needed is by the employer. If the person can do the job, then why does it matter where they learned what they did? They could be self-taught at home, and it wouldn't matter otherwise. (I actually know someone who got his black belt in karate that way, believe it or not. Never took a class, or even had another belt, but he qualified, so what else mattered?)

      This is where the indirect health issue comes into play. If a lousy engineer is designing airplanes, and one crashes because of his/her mistake, it's the company that will be on the hook for liability. So they have a very strong incentive to "validate" the employee - not their education, but their ability. Government interference not needed.

    2. Juan CTT7:01 PM

      @Syd, Yeah Venezuela is not the only one, but seeing as Venezuelan Tax Dollars is being used someone would expect that somehow that these people would return the investment of the government to the country.

      I know for a fact that there are several countries in the world, not only government but private institutions as well, that give out scholarships for research, with the condition that they shall return to theirs country and apply what they learnt, this is not a necessary condition, the person can stay in the same country or go to someplace else. What they gain with that?, the research that the person did, which is gold for them and should be for us too. What is gaining Venezuela with Fundayacucho NOTHING apparently.

      IMHO, I see great benefit if the person choose (with Fundayacucho) a career that you can not easily find in Venezuela, or when the field doesn't exist at all. Because we would have more chance to speed up the development of the country. I believe that's why Fundayacucho was created in the first place.

    3. BETO and AIO,

      Your comments about revalidation of foreign engineering degrees in the US are not entirely correct.

      In the US, only a licensed or registered Professional Engineer can perform engineering services to the public (there are exceptions for some industry and government engineering jobs which do not have direct contact with the public). Only licensed engineers can take legal responsibility for their work.

      In order to become licensed, your degree must have been issued by an ABET certified school, or you must have it revalidated. Only a handful of foreign schools are ABET-certified, so in general a foreign engineering degree must be revalidated before you can apply for licensing as a Professional Engineer in the US (there are add'l requirements such as exams, experience, etc.). I believe Canada has similar requirements.

      When I had my USB engineering degree revalidated, the evaluators deemed it equivalent to a degree from an ABET school, but I know of cases where degrees from other schools (in Venezuela and other countries) were not considered equivalent and the applicants were required to take additional courses at a US college or university.

      Of course, you can work as an engineer in the US w/o having a Prof. Eng. license or an engineering degree from an ABET school. In fact, you don't even need an engineering degree (e.g., network engineers, software engineers, even building maintenance and sanitation "engineers"), but in order to sign engineering reports and drawings, and to have the same "rights" you have in Venezuela as a member of the Colegio de Ingenieros, you will need a professional engineering license which will most likely require revalidation of a foreign engineering degree.

    4. Thank you, Mr. Norton, for clarifying the sketchy information provided by those wishing to stretch a point in order to make politics. And yes, in Canada, only a licensed engineer can provide industry, municipalities, and the public with its legal stamp of review/approval on information, drawings and plans, these then becoming legal documents. The stamp states "licensed professional engineer", the province of jurisdiction, the name of the engineer, his or her number, and provides a place for signature and date. I'm talking about the stamp from civil and structural engineers, with whom I have had direct experience.

    5. Yes, Ed Norton, thank you for that information. The differences I see between the systems are two, and they are both key. First, not every single engineer needs to be certified. Obviously, a certified engineer could have more value at times than non-certified, but it's not obligatory, and the decision to become certified would be up to the individual. Second, while the government requires the certfication, it's not the entity which makes the decision. That's left to subject-matter experts, who truly have an incentive to "police" themselves.

  13. Another Venezuelan educator making the (local) news...
    One of my best friends from college is a HS teacher in Florida and one of his students got selected as a Presidential Scholar (pretty big deal). In his essay, he names Carlos, his chemistry teacher, as the person that has inspired him to succeed.
    As happy as I'm for Carlos getting this type of recognition, this is another example of the failures of Venezuela and the Galileo program to keep its talent at home after spending millions in our education...

  14. I am late to this, kudos to Dr. Reif, agreat Venezuelan, his speech is pricelss:

    Let me note, that I doubt he had a Fundayacucho scholarship. Dr. Reif began his studies in September 1974, which means he was accepted by March of 1973 and had to have some form of financing by the acceptance date in April 1974. Fundayacucho was created in June 1974. If my memory serves me right, Fundayacucho started sending people to the US in 1975, mostly undergraduate at the beginning.

    Dr. Reif likely was given a research assistantship by Stanford, something quite common in sciences and engineering, while it could also be a teaching assistantship, the fact that he finished an experimental Ph.D. thesis in 4 years suggests he started in a lab right away. It could also have been a scholarship from Simon Bolivar where he spent one year, but the short time at USB suggests that this was not the case.

    1. research assistantship = fellowship, no, Miguel?

    2. Miguel, if one's parents cannot foot the bill of studies (in the US), there are alternative pockets of funding. For one, there are numerous scholarships that are untapped on an annual basis. One has to know where to look for those scholarships of relevance. And one has to apply, naturally presenting bona fide credentials and demonstrated merit. In the case of Rafael Reif, who has had the chops to reach the top of his profession, I can imagine that if his fellowship did not provide enough funding, he might tapped into one of these scholarships. He might also have tapped the advantage of his Jewish connection. For, as one young Jewish man told me, when we were discussing the March of the Living (arranged freebie journeys for youth through Jewish Holocaust terrain): "There's an insane amount of money available to young Jews ...".

  15. I meant March of 1974 not 1973

  16. There are many fantastic Venezuelan scientists that many people have never heard of. There is of course Ignacio Rodriguez (noted above) who I have the fortune to know. His brother Bernardo who has worked in Venezuela is a fantastic scientists too:

    I used to joke with my friend Jose Esparza that he was the third most famous maracucho scientist after Fernandez Moran and Ignacio, but Jose has gone far on his own right and is now at the Bill Gates Foundation:

    or Reinaldo Dipolo, who has an impressive career in Venezuela (this was written in the 80's):

  17. Juan CTT8:57 PM

    Thanks Daniel for this tribute to the Job of Rafael Reif, who gave us motive to be really proud and to celebrate a truth achievement.


  18. @Mr. Norton.
    ABET is a private Institution..! I don't have a certification from them, and I work for Microsoft in the U.S.A. and have worked for Other SNP100 companies before. You don't need that certification, at all. I don't even have a Microsoft certify Professional "certification" yet it does not matter, because I do my Job and Do it well. From ABET’s web page: ” ABET is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization that accredits college and university programs in the disciplines of applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology” also “ABET accreditation, which is voluntary and achieved through a peer review process”
    Today's Fresh Multibillionaire Zuckerberg, did not finish Harvard... So what??? Most of the guys who worked there at the beginning actually left school to pursue Facebook..!
    Look If I want to have an electric re-wiring on my House, I can choose to have an engineer that is certified by any of the existing “organizations” but it is not required, also It will be more expensive, because that Engineer had to pay for the “Certification” so they will charge more.
    Tell you what, most of the guys who come to your house to fix the Phone cable, or the Internet connection, don’t even have a technical degree, or the guy that re-wire alarms etc. If you don’t believe me, ask one of them next time they come to your house.

    1. BETO: this post is about Rafael Reif, a man who took the bull by the horns, and "entró por la puerta grande" of his profession, in a country and language that was not his own. He did not do so by cutting corners here and there. He did not do so by flaunting nor disrespecting convention. And I strongly suspect he never had to pretend to be what he was not. Reif had the vision to know what was required of him, over the long haul, and he met those challenges, brick by brick. Today, he has the trust of his Board of Governors and academia at large.

      Zuckerberg, Gates and the TV repairman are completely different kettles of fish. Or as I learned in grade school: one of these things is not like the other.

    2. Beto,

      Certification is a mafia in the US.It causes people to spend beaucoup money and time jumping through hoops instead of concentrating on the task at hand.Do I need to hire a certified interior decorator to order my Feng Shui? I don't think I will, even if required by law.

      Personally I trust my own instincts when it comes to hiring a professional, though I try (on principle and when possible) not to hire certified anything, otherwise I might end up with a German teacher who cannot speak proper German, or a plumber who charges 200 $ to do a job worth 45, but some expert hoop jumper instead :)

      However the proper certifications are sometimes absolutely necessary.

      There are different levels of requirements with different areas of expertise, and one must be careful not to throw them all into one huge pile, and instead evaluate each case by its own merit.This is where bureaucracy often fails.

      Are there requirements necessary to some professions? Yes of course, and some things have to be overseen, but the most important point that I see is that anything done in a doctrinaire and dogmatic way tends to be unfair, and end up with inferior results.

  19. @ SYD.
    Wow, I guess there must be a reason why I’m not certified, must be I’m not as smart as I think, since I have No clue what you are talking about.
    My First Comment was, “I agree with DANIEL” meaning, it is a shame that so many professionals from Venezuela (and Cuba, and other Countries) have to find GLORY outside of their “Suelo Patrio”.
    Don’t get me wrong, that fact does not diminish his accomplishments at all, on the contrary.
    Therefore, I guess we can also say that the sky is blue.???

    1. yes, I agree. The sky is blue. Let's do lunch.

      I don't think it's a shame that so many professionals from different parts of the world, even from the so-called first world, have to find glory outside their home country. I think it's a good thing. New ideas. It's also a practical necessity in some fields for any number of reasons, economic, principally, but also psychologically.

      In Canada, you have many actors who rarely get praised in their own country so they go to Hollywood and make it big. You have nurses that trained in the Cdn system, but either don't want to practice here, or there's not enough "cupo", so they get certified and go to the US. In the teaching professions, there is a limited "cupo", so the newly-trained who don't want to go through years of substitute teaching, go for 4-year contracts in Korea. If you study pretrochemical engineering, say, in Nova Scotia, and there's a limit to the job opportunities in that province, you go to Alberta, or elsewhere around the world. This is not a big deal when one is in their 20's or 30's. Long ago, I gained post-grad accreditation in business, at McGill (in Quebec), and I knew from the outset that my language skills in joual (the local lingo in a newly politicized environment) would add an extra barrier; so I went to Ontario. My brother trained as a surgeon, in Canada (after his medical degree in the US); he decided he didn't want to work in a socialized medical system, so he wrote his boards and got accepted in the midwest (US). I used to meet many Asians (in the financial sector) during the 1980s, who would flip jobs, from Toronto to HongKong and back again, each time at a higher salary; they were skilled for both markets. I've known many Indians who have limited employment "cupo" in their own countries, so they to come to Canada and start again, but on a familiar base. All these people are not afraid of starting again and of learning new ways.

      I don't think that any government grant, or scholarship, has to find people jobs. It's outrageous to think otherwise, to think that one needs a nanny. If the government wants people to stay in "el suelo patrio" then they will necessarily have to restrict the areas of study for which the funds are made available, so that the disciplines match local market availabilities. In Vzla, that would mean no funds for studying aerospace engineering, or ice fishing. Y punto.

      Insofar as certification is concerned, clearly it's not for everyone. But it is vital at certain levels in certain fields. And no, I don't see boogeymen in every revalidation or certification process.

    2. Correction: I don't see boogeymen in every revalidation or certification process, in serious disciplines that require broadly-based public trust, if not legal protection.

  20. @ SYD.
    Let me rephrase, It is a shame that the country does not set the proper conditions to attract good professionals, and so many from Venezuela (Cuba, Canada and other Countries) have to find GLORY outside of their “Suelo Patrio”.
    Like it better???
    Look I don’t disagree with that portion of the comment, I think Open Markets and Competition is the best way to attract the best and brightest. Not rules and regulations that obligate you to come back to the country, or re-pay somehow the scholarship, etc.
    In fact U.S. Universities graduate thousands of students from other countries and don’t ask them to stay or do social work in U.S. or any other crazy socialist idea, for the good of the community. Instead U.S. offers one of the most open and competitive markets for almost all professional areas. The result, the best ones usually stay, or go to the next best competitive market.
    So let’s grab lunch..!!!

  21. Anonymous4:11 PM

    Dear A. Barreda,

    you asked: "Who'd be stupid enough to come to Venezuela to earn peanuts and risk his skin instead of staying in any other country with a nice income and in a safe environment?"

    I answer: My husband (middle-aged, EU-citizen) was stupid enough to do that. He is bipolar. He made that decision in an acute episode of mania. Sad, very sad, but true. I pray that he comes back home...

  22. Douglas Novo12:23 PM

    My congratulations to Rafael Rief. A jewish friend of mine, (no longer in Venezuela), knew him from his Maracaibo days and has only fond memories of him; bright, unassuming and a warm human being whether speaking in Spanish or Yiddish. Venezuela once used to be the land of opportunity and freedom for many, educated or not. No longer, the reverse brain drain will take a very long time to compensate, oil not withstanding.
    Regarding the "revalida" issue I may be able to share a different version of the problem from the point of view of my own expereineces in the 80's after graduating from Georgia Tech with a degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering. I was not a "Fundayacucho becado" but many of my friends and contemporaries at the time were. Based on all the comments I've heard I will give my bullet points of the experience below:
    * I was an Aerospace Engineering mayor for a year before switching when I realized that Venezuela would never amount to much in the field and I wanted to work and live in Venezuela, (particularly in Maracaibo!). There was some connection between the national development plans of the day and the Fundayacucho allotment of careers if I recall then so there where grandisoe plans to develop an endogenous aircraft building industry but like so much state planning it never amounted to much.
    * Although there was very little coordination with the Venezuelan universities regarding "revalida" arrangements there was some coordination regarding technical career needs in the country. Like so many things in Venezuela a few local successes did not compensate for the final failure in time at the end.
    * It never ceased to amaze me how divorced Venezuelan, (at least public), universities where of the business world around them. I never heard of career fairs to help graduates find jobs. However Fundaayacucho did coordinate for some big venezuelan companies to go to US career fairs at schools where there where important contingents of venezuelan students in technical careers, (at least in the late 70s and early 80s). The one I remember most was PDVSA which was in all of them very aggresively.
    * Once back home the revalida issue came to the forefront and if you were already employed companies handled it differently. I remember PDVSA would pay your "Colegio" dues as a fringe benefit and they would arrange with public universities to have special revalida courses made in their training facilities. I made my revalida courses in La Salina, (east coast of Lake Maracaibo), together with people from ENELVEN, CORPOZULIA, PEQUIVEN and of course PDVSA, (I never worked directly with PDVSA but was employed at the time by a marine services contractor which found a place for me in those classes). Seen from that point of view the revalida experience was very positive, the teachers had mostly US post-graduate degrees and we had many points in common. Professional discussions about the development of the country where not uncommon and the classes where made useful by the discussions we had more than by the actual material reviewed. The whole process was crowned by a "Tesis, (final year thesis required of all venezuelan college graduates) which usually was selected to help advance a local need or problem identified , either by us or by the university teachers. Of course all of this was in the early 80s. Although I know PDVSA had a national program I don't know how successful it was in other areas.
    (end of first part)
    Douglas Novo

  23. Douglas Novo12:24 PM

    * Membership in the "Colegio de Ingenieros", was a completely different mater. These where more like social and political clubs that professional trade organizations. Elections where very political just as in public universities. Dedication to professional matters was very low and I consider them to be more obstacles to the technical development of the profession with very few exceptions. I never belonged to them or paid a single cent to them, ( I did not need to sing legally binding technical documents which was their "alcabala" moment). In the US trade associations, memberships is not compulsory and if you have to seek certification to practice your profession its usually a technical state level requirement with a one time fee when you certify or re-certify. Associations are about technical development of the organizations and politics is limited to lobbying for big themes for the association, (for example smart grids for Electrical Engineers).
    I hope my two-cents worth helps enrich the discussion.
    (end of second and final part))
    Douglas Novo

  24. Douglas, your ample experience and historical trajectory certainly does enrich the discussion. And yes, I can well imagine that the 'Colegio de Ingenieros', like the 'Colegio de Médicos', is more of a social and political club than an information-rich professional organization. On the other hand, don't be too harsh on the Venezuelan model. As someone with long-ago memberships in trade associations and the Board of Trade (in Canada), I can tell you that the political and social club aspects were very strong in these, as well.


Comments policy:

1) Comments are moderated after the fourth day of publication. It may take up to a day or two for your note to appear then.

2) Your post will appear if you follow the basic rules. I will be ruthless in erasing, as well as those who replied to any off rule comment.

Do not be repetitive.
Do not bring grudges and fights from other blogs here (this is the strictest rule).
This is an anti Chavez/chavismo blog, Readers have made up their minds long ago. Trying to prove us wrong is considered a troll. Still, you are welcome as a chavista to post if you want to explain us coherently as to why chavismo does this or that. We are still waiting for that to happen.
Insults and put downs are frowned upon and I will be sole judge on whether to publish them.