Portugal: “Non-Catholics Once Again Welcome”

I arrived yesterday morning in Lisbon. I’m here to give a talk at the Instituto Superior Técnico, which is working to build up a quantum information group. On Saturday I leave for QIP’2006 in Paris, then for New York City, before returning to Waterloo. Academia is not an easy life, but I try to bear it like a soldier.

Lisbon is beautiful: sort of like San Francisco, except more so. Yesterday I hiked up to the Castelo de São Jorge, a 100% genuine castle (with turrets, a moat, etc.) that overlooks the city from a hilltop. I took lots of photos, but then lost the cable with which to upload them to my computer. Sorry!

As my host, Yasser Omar, explained to me, Portugal “missed half of the 20th century”: specifically the years 1932-1974, when it was run by a backwards dictatorship. Even today, a tradition of bureaucratic incompetence lingers on. Yasser said that when he was looking for a tenure-track physics job, he could find only one opening in the whole country — and that one was only for “geophysics or the history of physics”! (He now works in a math department.) He and like-minded academics are now doing their best to help Portugal make up for the lost time.

PS. For those Shtetl-Optimized readers who don’t know a shtetl from schmaltz (and it’s come to my attention that such exist): King Manuel I of Portugal expelled the Jews in 1497, five years after Ferdinand and Isabella expelled them from Spain. Apparently, King Manuel realized that this would devastate Portugal’s economy, so he only signed the order reluctantly, after Princess Isabel of Spain demanded he do it as a precondition of marriage (!). Portugal started readmitting Jews in the 1800′s, and eventually became a transit point for over 100,000 refugees from the Nazis. You can read more here.

8 Responses to “Portugal: “Non-Catholics Once Again Welcome””

  1. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    What European universities need now is more integrated job markets. The American job search system in math, physics, and CS is neither perfecgt nor pretty, but it is, to some approximation, a vast meritocracy. This has a huge long-term impact on research.

  2. mick Says:

    Hope you have a good trip! Dave has dobbed you in to post reports on QIP 2006…

    I guess your frequent flyer points are looking pretty good at the moment.

  3. scerir Says:

    Do not miss the incredible Gulbenkian Museum, the Praca da Alegria (Happiness Sq.), that Old Elevator (downtown). I was there between 1961 and 1971 (in the Palacio de Pombeiro!).

  4. Anonymous Says:

    What European universities need now is more integrated job markets.

    Actually landing a US academic job as a foreigner was very difficult during the 80s and early 90s. Ditto for Canada. Only in the last dozen years or so has the market been opened enough to allow non-Nobel-prize material to apply for jobs.

    France, for example, remains mostly closed, not only refusing to hire (for the most part) foreigners but even other Europeans.

  5. Scott Says:

    Mick: Unfortunately, as in this Onion article, I’ve reached the point where I know the specific airport sandwich places that I like.

    I’m sure I’ll find something at QIP to blog about; it just might not be the talks…

  6. Scott Says:

    Scerir: Thanks for the tips! I especially wanted to see the Museu de Marinha. Alas, I didn’t leave enough time for sightseeing on this trip…

  7. Anonymous Says:

    I think it’s actually easier now to get a research position in France if you’re a foreigner. For two people with the same qualifications, the priority would go to the foreigner.

  8. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    Actually landing a US academic job as a foreigner was very difficult during the 80s and early 90s.

    Although I think that you’re exaggerating here, you’re not completely wrong. My point is not to claim that the United States is on a higher moral plane than European countries. Rather, the United States has a natural advantage in research due to its sheer size. Research strength scales nonlinearly.

    The only way for European countries to match the United States is to band together, or integrate with American markets, or both. The Atlantic is not a level playing field in this respect because there are so many nations and languages on the European side. Nonetheless, it’s the only solution.