Charlie Sanabria Mechanical Engineer and Material Scientist Life

Last updated November 5th 2017.

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Charlie Sanabria Mechanical Engineer and Material Scientist life

Born as Carlos Mario Sanabria, I was soon nicknamed Charlie, Chars, Chaz, or most often just Cha...

I grew up in Bogotá, Colombia, and turned out to be a borderline hyperactive kid with a great heart and a curiosity that would occasionally get me in trouble with adults. 1 ← hover over or tap these

During my teenage years my parents decided to leave our native land behind—along with (pretty much) everything we owned—in an attempt to find greater opportunities elsewhere. This courageous move took us to the small (yet culturally rich) country of Panamá, and although I never felt at home, the diversity and relative calm of this peaceful country taught me a lot about taking life in stride. It also allowed me to let go of those things that don’t add value to our lives—but we often crave so much and stress about—such as money and social status.

We moved to Panamá having no clue about The Florida State University’s satellite campus there. But as soon as we found out about it, we realized this was our best chance to get the education my parents always wanted for me and my brother. So, being the hard-working Colombians our parents brought us up to be 2 , my brother and I enrolled in FSU’s Mechanical Engineering program which started in Panamá, and ended with a diploma from the real FSU in Tallahassee 3 . It must be said that my brother is six years older than I am, and he pretty much trail blazed the path for me. I often found myself wanting to do everything he did—out of admiration—and I owe a huge part of who I am to him.

Once in the US, I understood the reason why (for centuries) millions of immigrants have left their countries behind and have come to this land... Opportunity. Is hard to explain it to those we leave behind—as much as it is hard to explain to Americans themselves 4 —but once you are here, you can feel it in your bones and it’s all around you. The sky's the limit!

A few weeks after arriving in Tallahassee, I contacted every professor I could—looking for a job (any job!), and what I found would change my life forever. I was hired by the Applied Superconductivity Center and over the years I transitioned from a hardcore mechanical engineer to a true materials scientist. Through my research at the ASC 5 I got involved in major research projects such as ITER 6 and the LHC 7.

I must admit that during the first few years at the ASC, it was hard for me to realize that through this job I actually had the power to influence something as important (and as big) as ITER or the LHC. But over the course of a few years my research got the attention of highly respected scientists in the field, and slowly but surely I realized that even the simplest of experiments can make a difference—when done right. This realization made me think deeply about what I wanted to do with my life, and about the way in which science has driven human civilization towards the most impressive age of discovery and wonder. At that moment, I knew I wanted to be a scientist for the rest of my life.

My time at the ASC taught me what it means to be a scientist. It made me hungry for knowledge. Not only about my research but about science in general. Soon I wanted to know its history, its current state, and its potential future—across all fields! I’ve realized that (as scientists) we have the responsibility to keep the flame of knowledge burning brightly, expand it as much as we can, and pass it down to future generations.

The power of science has no limits, and if we harness it adequately we may be able to eradicate the main issues that threaten our society today—and expand our civilization throughout the universe for millennia to come.

  1. I believe this is still the case

  2. Colombians in general are very hard working people. There is very little opportunity and a ferocious competition in our country. So every little chance we are given, we jump right on it and give everything we can to show our talent

  3. I say “real” because graduating from an institution in the United States was almost an unattainable dream for us

  4. I’m not sure they are all fully aware of this

  5. Applied Superconductivity Center

  6. An experimental fusion reactor in the South of France

  7. The particle collider in Switzerland that made the discovery of the Higgs Boson in 2012