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Once the leading computer science country of the former Soviet Bloc, Bulgaria is now powerless to stop its best minds fleeing to foreign universities, and taking some of the country%s hope for a brighter future with them.

/strong>A Bulgarian lunch is always delicious: grilled meats, salads of juicy tomatoes, cucumber, Bulgarian white cheese, oven roasted peppers, drizzled with oil and vinegar... But today at the ‘Bulgarian table' in the canteen of the TU Delft's Electro building, two Bulgarian computer specialists and TU PhD students, Ventzeslav Iordanov (28) and Georgi Kuzmanov (29), must make due with a Dutch lunch of soup and uitsmijters, as they recount how Bulgaria was once known as the computer science country of the former European communist countries. They estimate that 15 years ago 65% of Eastern Bloc computers were produced in Bulgaria, earning the country the nickname of 'Communist Silicon Valley'.Today, Bulgaria's best young computer professionals are exiting the country after a significant downturn in the fortunes of the Bulgarian computer industry, which is a serious concern for the technological development of the country. This seems to be the era of Bulgaria's braindrain.There are about 20 Bulgarians working in the Tu's Electro building. In fact, of the 25 PhD students in Computer Engineering, just four are Dutch, the others coming from countries such as Romania, Russia, Greece and Bulgaria, countries with traditional strengths in mathematics and physics. TU Delft is benefiting from their talents.Iordanov holds an MSc degree in Engineering Micro-electronics and another in Electronics. Kuzmanov has an MSc in Computer Engineering. Although they consider the Bulgarian school and university systems to be second to none in the world in terms of teaching quality and level of knowledge, they were both frustrated by a lack of opportunities for continuing their studies and finding satisfactory employment in Bulgaria. A major reason they left Bulgaria was the severe lack of funding not only for the research itself, but also for the grants needed for traveling abroad to present their work at international conferences, which is vital for professional networking.Kuzmanov and Iordanov followed different paths to TU Delft. Kuzmanov worked for a French company for two years, doing development and research in micro-electronics and computer design. From contacts he made at conferences, he applied for an advertised PhD position with Professor Vassiliadis, the head of TU Delft%s Computer Engineering Lab. Iordanov, who had an offer for a PhD in electronics from a Bulgarian university, had studied previously at the TU for six months during his MSc, and, while testing the waters for potentially working here, a position was opened up especially for him in his preferred field of micro-electronics.Both men also have different views about the braindrain phenomenon and whether they feel they can use their professional qualifications to contribute to the future development of computer science and electronics in Bulgaria. Kuzmanov has definite views about developing contacts and relationships between foreign universities, companies and industry and their Bulgarian equivalents. He sees his role as being able to pull strings to promote Bulgarian development: "If you have such an opportunity, you should use it." They both agree that most of the enterprise in Bulgaria is based on contracts with foreign companies. Returning to work in Bulgaria remains at the back of Kuzmanov mind, he won%t rule out the possibility yet. He says he may return if there was a good job on offer in his area of research. "I need to benefit from my PhD, I don't want my four years here to be a waste", he says.Iordanov does not see himself contributing to Bulgaria in a professional sense. He says that in Bulgaria employment opportunities for him in micro-electronics are non-existent and that it's highly unlikely he'll ever return to work there. From his class of three graduates in micro-electronics in Bulgaria, one is now in the U.S., the other in Sweden. "I consider us to be probably the last of the micro-electronic Master graduates from Sofia University," he says, adding that today Sofia University only offers the subject to a Bachelor level. He believes his role is more about making a contribution to the social and economic situation of his family in Bulgaria. Iordanov, who has just started his own family in the Netherlands and is close to defending his dissertation, is fairly set on continuing to live and work here.There are aspects of living in the Netherlands that don't agree with either of them, but right now life revolves around their research, even if that means sacrificing familiar surroundings. They both return home to visit at least twice a year. Kuzmanov recalls, "I couldn't even peel a potato when I arrived in Delft, but now I'm an expert in Bulgarian cooking."Iordanov says, "I would feel better if I could do the same work I'm doing here in Bulgaria," but unfortunately reality can't live up to his wishes. Yet, reality hasn’t dimmed his enthusiasm for his homeland: "All my life I will be a Bulgarian at heart."

Once the leading computer science country of the former Soviet Bloc, Bulgaria is now powerless to stop its best minds fleeing to foreign universities, and taking some of the country%s hope for a brighter future with them.A Bulgarian lunch is always delicious: grilled meats, salads of juicy tomatoes, cucumber, Bulgarian white cheese, oven roasted peppers, drizzled with oil and vinegar... But today at the ‘Bulgarian table' in the canteen of the TU Delft's Electro building, two Bulgarian computer specialists and TU PhD students, Ventzeslav Iordanov (28) and Georgi Kuzmanov (29), must make due with a Dutch lunch of soup and uitsmijters, as they recount how Bulgaria was once known as the computer science country of the former European communist countries. They estimate that 15 years ago 65% of Eastern Bloc computers were produced in Bulgaria, earning the country the nickname of 'Communist Silicon Valley'.Today, Bulgaria's best young computer professionals are exiting the country after a significant downturn in the fortunes of the Bulgarian computer industry, which is a serious concern for the technological development of the country. This seems to be the era of Bulgaria's braindrain.There are about 20 Bulgarians working in the Tu's Electro building. In fact, of the 25 PhD students in Computer Engineering, just four are Dutch, the others coming from countries such as Romania, Russia, Greece and Bulgaria, countries with traditional strengths in mathematics and physics. TU Delft is benefiting from their talents.Iordanov holds an MSc degree in Engineering Micro-electronics and another in Electronics. Kuzmanov has an MSc in Computer Engineering. Although they consider the Bulgarian school and university systems to be second to none in the world in terms of teaching quality and level of knowledge, they were both frustrated by a lack of opportunities for continuing their studies and finding satisfactory employment in Bulgaria. A major reason they left Bulgaria was the severe lack of funding not only for the research itself, but also for the grants needed for traveling abroad to present their work at international conferences, which is vital for professional networking.Kuzmanov and Iordanov followed different paths to TU Delft. Kuzmanov worked for a French company for two years, doing development and research in micro-electronics and computer design. From contacts he made at conferences, he applied for an advertised PhD position with Professor Vassiliadis, the head of TU Delft%s Computer Engineering Lab. Iordanov, who had an offer for a PhD in electronics from a Bulgarian university, had studied previously at the TU for six months during his MSc, and, while testing the waters for potentially working here, a position was opened up especially for him in his preferred field of micro-electronics.Both men also have different views about the braindrain phenomenon and whether they feel they can use their professional qualifications to contribute to the future development of computer science and electronics in Bulgaria. Kuzmanov has definite views about developing contacts and relationships between foreign universities, companies and industry and their Bulgarian equivalents. He sees his role as being able to pull strings to promote Bulgarian development: "If you have such an opportunity, you should use it." They both agree that most of the enterprise in Bulgaria is based on contracts with foreign companies. Returning to work in Bulgaria remains at the back of Kuzmanov mind, he won%t rule out the possibility yet. He says he may return if there was a good job on offer in his area of research. "I need to benefit from my PhD, I don't want my four years here to be a waste", he says.Iordanov does not see himself contributing to Bulgaria in a professional sense. He says that in Bulgaria employment opportunities for him in micro-electronics are non-existent and that it's highly unlikely he'll ever return to work there. From his class of three graduates in micro-electronics in Bulgaria, one is now in the U.S., the other in Sweden. "I consider us to be probably the last of the micro-electronic Master graduates from Sofia University," he says, adding that today Sofia University only offers the subject to a Bachelor level. He believes his role is more about making a contribution to the social and economic situation of his family in Bulgaria. Iordanov, who has just started his own family in the Netherlands and is close to defending his dissertation, is fairly set on continuing to live and work here.There are aspects of living in the Netherlands that don't agree with either of them, but right now life revolves around their research, even if that means sacrificing familiar surroundings. They both return home to visit at least twice a year. Kuzmanov recalls, "I couldn't even peel a potato when I arrived in Delft, but now I'm an expert in Bulgarian cooking."Iordanov says, "I would feel better if I could do the same work I'm doing here in Bulgaria," but unfortunately reality can't live up to his wishes. Yet, reality hasn’t dimmed his enthusiasm for his homeland: "All my life I will be a Bulgarian at heart."

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