Last updated August 10, 2017 at 3:09 pm
We asked a bunch of young scientists who received the Lindau Nobel Laureate Fellowship to be our field reporters at The 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings in Germany. In this report, Joy writes about her highlights from the visit.
Before the meeting
The Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting is a week-long, cross-cultural and intergenerational encounters. This year, there will be 30 Nobel Laureates and 430 early career researchers from over 70 countries gathering at this event. “For the young scientists, this meeting is an once-in-a-lifetime experience”, described on the programme, “the extraordinary Lindau spirit creates lasting personal connections and professional networks”. On the train to Lindau, I am a bit nervous yet excited about the upcoming week.
The scientific part of the program includes Laureate seminars and discussions sessions. Lectures held by the Nobel Laurates start from 9am in the morning. Although there was no Q&A session, each Nobel lecture has a corresponding discussion session in the afternoon, for young scientists to participate and ask both scientific and general questions. Master classes and poster sessions give opportunities to young scientists to present their work and get feedback from peers and Laureates.
The social part of the program includes morning exercises, science breakfasts, social dinners and a cruise trip to Mainau Island. We will have plenty of time making friends with like-minded people and exploring what others are doing on the other side of the world. There is also an interesting start-up pitch to encourage entrepreneurship.
Our Australian Delegation team is composed of nine young scientists, including Andrew G, Andrew W, Jess, JJ, Matthew, Michael, Siddu, Vini and myself. Prior to this Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting, the Science at the Shine Dome event held in Canberra provided us an opportunity of getting to know each other. Two of us are PhD candidates and the rest are postdoctoral researchers. There are five nationalities within the group, including Australia, India, Mauritius, New Zealand, USA and China. We are from different universities and research centres across Australia working in very different areas across chemistry, physics, engineering, biochemistry and nanomaterials. In addition to a nice blend of research interests, personalities and cultural backgrounds, we share the passion for science.
Who will we meet? What will we discuss? Will we get enough sleep? These are the questions wondering in my head. The journey will soon start.
During the meeting
The Nobel Lecture series started on the morning of Monday, 26th June. The style of lectures vary significantly from Laureate to Laureate. Some give a brief overview of their scientific challenges and achievement overtime, some raise global issues and strategies to resolve them, and others tell a life-time story and provide us advice of how to become a successful researcher.
Panel discussion sessions are great for young scientists to ask follow-up questions after the lectures. What is the impact of receiving a Nobel Prize? How to achieve a career-life balance? And what was the biggest challenge or turning point of your career? Hearing Laureates answering these questions have broadened my horizon. I remember hearing Laureates telling “my student came up with a better idea than mine”, “I’m in my 70s and I enjoy working in the lab – experiments keep my mind stimulated”, “although I said no to my student’s proposal, he worked hard to prove me wrong and eventually convinced me that he was right”. I respect their humbleness before and after being acknowledged for their significant scientific contribution, as well as their openness to new ideas and the attitude of forever learning and overcoming new challenges.
During morning tea and lunch breaks, I met people coming from different continents, at different stages of their studies and career. We discussed about the science from Laureate lectures, such as climate change and single-molecule microscopy. We also discussed general topics such as cultural exchange and career options. At several occasions, the Australian Academy of Science has organised the team to chat with Laureates, including Prof. Feringa, Prof. Chalfie, Prof. Schrock, Prof. Lehn and Prof. Yonath. We are also honoured to have Prof. Walker and Prof. Deisenhofer to join us for an academic dinner on Tuesday evening, with our Australian team as well as African delegates.
What I’ve learnt from my peers is that people have their uniqueness and strengths. We may have been the top of our cohort but there is always someone that is more talented in a different way. Emotional intelligence is certainly important to communicate with others, to work together and to achieve further. What I’ve learnt from Nobel Laureates is that there is no short cut to any success. We see the glory of achievement but we often neglect the challenges faced and effort made behind the story.
Bayer Foundations organised a start-up pitch on the evening of Wednesday 28th June. This is a great opportunities for researchers, who have an idea or a technology for commercialisation. After intense preparation at late nights, JJ and myself presented our pitches at the event and received valuable advice from investors. A special thank you to my Australian teammates for their support throughout this trip. This is one of many occasions in which we bond to become a great team!
Young scientists have actively participating, organising and leading events over the week. One of our Australian delegate, Siddu, was selected to be on the penal of the “Current and Future Game Changers in Chemistry” discussion. The audience can post questions via the Lindau Nobel app as well as making any follow-up comments directly. Climate change, energy storage and the role of computational chemistry in scientific discoveries are hot topics.
I put my hand up for volunteering at the BASF science breakfast as a discussion facilitator. On Thursday morning, over 80 young scientists, 3 Nobel Laureates and a team of BASF staff have actively discussed the concept of “Circular Economy”, which is an alternative to a traditional linear economy of make, use and dispose. Our group focused on the design factor, from a green synthetic route of materials to a user friendly product, followed by a feasible recycling and regenerating process. We did some creative drawing and constructed a flowchart filled with chemical knowledge.
On the last day of the meeting, we took a cruise trip to the Mainau Island, which is about 1.5 hours away from Lindau. After a picnic lunch on the island, we had few hours exploring this beautiful place with flowers, waterfalls, churches, animal farms, a royal palace and a butterfly house.
After the meeting
Although it has been an intense week, I wish I could stay with this great team of people a bit longer. I have met so many intelligent people, both intellectually and emotionally, and I have so much to learn from them. This trip has indeed inspired me to believe in what I am passionate about, to make persistent effort, to be open-minded and to work collaboratively. Many young scientists including myself has made valuable friendship as well as professional partnership during his trip. Goodbye Lindau. We are looking forward to hearing each other’s success stories in the near future.