Robin Bucur and the Art of Following One’s Own Path

Robin Bucur is a second-year medical student at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy “Carol Davila” in Bucharest. A creative and passionate young man, Robin garnered quite a few accomplishments, despite his very young age.

More about Robin

Robin considers that his greatest achievement is writing a chapter in the “Introduction to the Biological Effects of Terahertz Radiation”. He also holds the Cambridge Research Spotlight Scholar distinction from the Cambridge Centre for International Research, for his impressive work in neurosciences and brain-computer interfaces. It is also worth mentioning that Robin is the youngest person in Romania ever to write an original paper.

In addition to being a noteworthy scholar, Robin is also heavily involved in diplomacy. This side of him was formed through several high school experiences, such as Model United Nations conferences and the Generation Z project (which was initiated and coordinated by Mihai Viteazul college pupils and had the purpose of informing students about important matters that usually aren’t taught in school). The students involved in the Generation Z Project were awarded the second prize of the European Charlemagne Youth Prize in 2021. Currently, he is a Young European Ambassador fighting against disinformation and enhancing European scientific output. He is also a Student Representative in the University’s Senate, being the voice for over 6000 students.

However many accomplishments these may seem, they only scratch the surface of what Robin has managed to achieve in a few years. But how did he manage to do so many things in such little time? Robin describes himself as having a “yes mindset”, meaning that he took every opportunity that appeared in front of him. Although he also describes himself as “doing too many things at once” and sometimes maybe without any structure, undoubtedly all of Robin’s hard work has ultimately paid off. 

A star on the rise…

Like many of you, Robin started out as a starstruck science devotee. He mentions that he has always loved biology. The force driving him to greatness has always been passion: “The passion for learning is just something that I’ve always had. Since I’ve known myself I’ve always loved to read and to learn about our universe. Especially biology, that’s always been with me. It just feels right.”

His science journey started unexpectedly, through a random phone call while taking the bus home. It was one of his classmates asking him to take part in his project about Terahertz radiation. “Without any further information, I said yes. Because in the first couple of years of high school, I was saying yes to pretty much anything. I just wanted to do a lot and develop myself.” 

“I learned how to do a literature review, how to find papers, how to use that information and restructure it in a creative sense, to develop new things. I worked on this research project with my classmate which was about developing microactuators starting with cellular structures. Even though I was in 10th grade I studied ATP synthase and about various interesting organisms.”

Robin’s greatest inspirations are “people who make the impossible possible. People who did great things, either when they, themselves, didn’t think it was possible or they were doubted by everyone. That keeps me going. That usually includes Nobel laureates, especially this year’s winners.”

“To reimagine the universe we live in, against all odds”

So what did Robin actually discover? After his first project studying Terahertz radiation, he found a research paper stating that Terahertz radiation was capable of stopping cell multiplication without killing them. It would manage that by destroying their actin filaments. He then got the idea that he might be able to elongate plant cells artificially using the exact same process. Robin assimilated this to cotton strands, which are actually very long and thin cells, or with bamboo shoots, which are, once again, swiftly elongating cells. Since he didn’t have enough space to test his theory on whole plants, he conducted his research on wheat seeds. He found that exposure to Terahertz radiation significantly decreased the germination rates of the seeds. However, those that did sprout, grew faster, sometimes even twice as fast without any further exposure. 

That fantastic find led him to achieve the Cambridge scholarship, where he entered the alluring field of neuroscience and brain-computer interfaces. There he studied the effects of psychopharmaceuticals, mainly how caffeine interacts with EEG and how it may affect sleep or epilepsy studies. He worked on an algorithm that can detect the consumption of caffeine automatically and then remove it from the EEG.

Advice for aspiring scientists

But how exactly did Robin manage it all? “I don’t schedule my time, I don’t control every minute of my time. I sometimes spend too much time on Instagram. I’ve given a lot of thought to this question because I get it a lot. So I think it is like juggling, you don’t start with a lot of things and you build on that as you get used to it.”

Where could a research novice even start? Robin recommends they begin their scientific journey with literature reviews about something that they’re passionate about. From there, their own ideas will start to flourish. 

After reading about his incredible feats, one might want to be just like Robin. But, to that, he says that the best advice he has for admirers is to “not follow in my footsteps.”

“Everyone has their own path. Nobody that gets high up there follows anyone. To be a leader is not to be a follower, but it’s not really about that. You are your own person, you have your own way to the top. If I were to follow someone else, probably I wouldn’t have gotten where I am, because my path is unique and so is everyone else’s. So don’t follow in my footsteps, follow in yours. Follow your own path.”

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