Fable to Reality: Former International Students Win Award

October 10, 2017

By Heather Stewart

In the constant whirlwind of news, you may have missed the announcement of the 2017 winners of the Golden Goose Awards. Given by a committee of several science societies and organizations and Congressional supporters led by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, these are awards to federally funded “silly sounding research” that has seriously benefited society. It is of little surprise that two of the awardees are former international students: the late Lotfi Zadeh, who earned his Master’s degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his PhD at Columbia University; and Dr. Kaichang Li, who earned his PhD at Virginia Tech.

As a computer scientist and electrical engineer, Lotfi Zadeh developed the revolutionary theory of “fuzzy logic” to deal with the mathematics and logic of imprecise information. The application of this fuzzy logic was used in more than 16,000 patents and influenced academia and industry in disciplines like economics and medicine and in the improvements to healthcare devices, air-conditioners, and vacuums. His theory helped build a bridge between theory and reality.

Dr. Kaichang Li was intrigued by how securely blue mussels attached themselves to rocks in the water. His research of this adhesion to rocks was key to his development of a wood glue that has widely displaced the use of glue that uses formaldehyde, a chemical known to cause cancer. His research on mussels directly impacts the amount of formaldehyde in our environment every day.

The long-term investment in research exemplified by the Golden Goose Awards is bipartisan, with a “gaggle of supporters” on both sides of the aisle and in the House and Senate. That diverse support is needed to invest in the immigration laws and policies necessary to attract and retain international students. While a goose can only lay a golden egg in a fable, U.S. investment in immigration law and policies that support international students will pay dividends well into the future—as it always has.

Heather Stewart is the counsel and director of immigration policy at NAFSA: Association of International Educators.