1 September 2009

Denis Markiewicz's science story

Scientist Denis Markiewicz describes his path to science and to the MagLab.

By DENIS MARKIEWICZ, scholar/scientist, Magnet Science & Technology

This atmosphere was a most important factor in forming my interests, and from a very early age my general orientation toward science was set.

Denis MarkiewiczDenis Markiewicz, right, watches Research Engineer Todd Adkins work on the 32 tesla all-superconducting magnet.

Children learn early from those around them, and from my youngest days I was taught the wonder and awe of the natural world. Simple things like the beauty of flowers, a rainbow, the Milky Way, the action of waves at the beach, were valued experiences when shared with a loving adult. I remember gathering in the backyard with family and neighbors one night to watch a lunar eclipse. This atmosphere was a most important factor in forming my interests, and from a very early age my general orientation toward science was set.

Somewhat later, even as a boy from a family of modest means living in a small town, I had the opportunity to see the workings of science on a large scale. During World War II my father had been a radio operator aboard a Navy destroyer. He later taught himself how to repair TVs, which were just becoming widely available, and he made a business out of it. So we had a set several years earlier than would otherwise have been the case. In the afternoons, I selected the stations. After the war there were many documentaries on the development of the atomic bomb, and I learned the story of Oppenheimer, Trinity, the Enola Gay, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Although the events were terrible, I could see the importance of science, and that science could be a means to having a life. "Scientists go to work and get paid to do science," I thought. And for me the choice has been good. Science offers the opportunity to work hard and the satisfaction of accomplishment.