#LiNo17 Daily Recap – Friday, 30 June

The 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting ended with the Baden-Württemberg Boat Trip to Mainau Island. It was a day full of science, discussions, joy, genuine delight and even some tears. Enjoy the highlights of the last day of #LiNo17.

 

Video of the day:

 

“I felt like I had the world in my hands.” – Young scientist Hlamulo Makelane

A definite highlight of the day were the heartfelt closing remarks made in the courtyard of Mainau Castle. You can watch the entire Farewell in our Mediatheque.

Hlamulo

Browse through our mediatheque to find all lectures, discussions and more educational videos from the Lindau Meetings.

 

Picture of the day:

Nobel Laureate Rudolph A. Marcus enjoying the Baden-Württemberg Boat Trip to Mainau Island whilst conversing with young scientists. 

67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting Chemistry, 25.06.2017 - 30.06.2017, Lindau, Germany, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings Boattrip to Mainau Island

For even more pictures from the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, past and present, take a look at our Flickr account.

 

Blog of the day:

For Nobel Laureate Jean-Pierre Sauvage, novelty, teamwork and adventure drove advances in synthesising molecular chains and knots. Read about his work and his advice for the young scientists.

Sauvage

Do take a look at more of our inspring blog posts.

 

Tweets of the day:

 

Last but not least, follow us on Twitter @lindaunobel and Instagram @lindaunobel and keep an eye out for #LiNo17

This is the last daily recap of the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. The idea behind it was to bring to you the day’s highlights in a blink of an eye. We hope you enjoyed the meeting and wish you all safe travels home.

#LiNo17 Daily Recap – Thursday, 29 June

Thursday was the last day in Lindau but not the last day of the meeting. Friday is going to take the participants to Mainau Island, so while they are enjoying their last day on the picturesque island, let’s take a look at what happened yesterday. Here are our highlights from Thursday:

 

Video of the day:

All six panelists – Nobel Laureates Sir John E. Walker and Dan Shechtman, Wiltrud Treffenfeldt (Chief Technology Officer of Dow Europe GmbH), May Shana’a (Head of Research & Developmen of Beiersdorf AG) and young scientist Thomas L. Gianetti from ETH Zurich as well as chairwoman Alaina G. Levine – have strong opinions on “Science Careers” and gave excellent advise for #LiNo17 participants.

You are welcome to browse through our mediatheque for more panel discussions, lectures and other informative videos.

 

Picture of the day:

Nobel Laureate Peter Agre’s lecture on “Aquaporin Water Channels” was not only educational, but also made the young scientists laugh. Most definitely one of the best pictures of Thursday.

67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting Chemistry, 25.06.2017 - 30.06.2017, Lindau, Germany, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings Audience in Peter Agre's lecture

For even more pictures from the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, past and present, take a look at our Flickr account.

 

Blog of the day:

When Nobel Laureates come to Lindau, photographer Volker Steger presents each with a surprise task. Find out what it is and how the laureates “sketch their science”.

Sketches of Science Slider

Do take a look at more of our inspring blog posts.

 

Tweets of the day:

 

Last but not least, follow us on Twitter @lindaunobel and Instagram @lindaunobel and keep an eye out for #LiNo17

We will keep you updated on the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting with our daily recaps. The idea behind it is to bring to you the day’s highlights in a blink of an eye. The daily recaps will feature blog posts, photos and videos from the mediatheque.

 

“It’s Important to Show the Achievements of Women in Science Through the Media” – Antonella Coccia

Interview with #LiNo17 young scientist Antonella Coccia

This interview is part of a series of interviews of the “Women in Research” blog that features young female scientists participating in the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, to increase the visibility of women in research (more information for and about women in science by “Women in Research” on Facebook and Twitter). Enjoy the interview with Antonella and get inspired.

 

Antonella_1

Antonella Coccia, 22, from Argentina is an undergraduate student and researcher at University of Belgrano, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Antonella is working in biotechnology. More specifically, she is studying how to obtain Lysine (amino acid) through bacterial fermentation. Her country is a food producer and it is looking for more effective ways to feed cattle; however, Argentina doesn’t produce any amino acids (they are imported).

 

What inspired you to pursue a career in science/chemistry?

I was a very curious girl. I was always making my parents tired with the why’s, how’s and for what questions. My father noticed how passionate I got when I learned something new, especially when it was related to science, so he bought me a chemistry set for my birthday. I loved it. It was my first contact with science and I felt that that game satisfied my voracious curiosity. Later, I started high school in a science orientated school. Those years were of a lot of importance to decide my future career. I had the opportunity to visit the school chemistry laboratory for the first time, and it was love at first sight. I started to participate in every science fair, to show my experiments to other kids and to inspire them to join science orientated classes.

 

Who are your role models?

I do not think I have a single role model to follow. In the years that I have been involved in the sciences, I discovered many people and figures who have inspired me in many ways and taught me very valuable things. Like many girls interested in science, Marie Curie is a significant role model for me. I was impressed by how she could set her goals beyond what was known at that time. I admire her ability to build a family along with her scientific career, and how she succeeded in inspiring her daughters so much that one of them later received a Nobel Prize. Finding the balance between having a family and engaging in science is something that I’ve always admired. On the other hand, my parents are also a role model. They have shown me through their years of work how sacrifice and hard work pays off. They are also a major example of overcoming difficulties by believing in themselves. Other role models for me were my teachers, especially my current research director and professor Dr. Pablo Raul Castello who has shown me day by day that the possibilities are endless if one is inspired and passionate enough about his work.

I admire […] how she succeeded in inspiring her daughters so much that one of them later received a Nobel Prize.

How did you get to where you are in your career path?

When I finished high school, I decided to apply to universities in the United States. Therefore, I had to take the SATs but I felt that there was a great gap between my school and the contents of the exams. I had to be an autodidact and work hard to achieve my goal. I was accepted but I couldn’t start my studies abroad due to economic difficulties. I felt that everything had been in vain. Then I entered the University of Belgrano where I am currently studying for the third year of my chemistry major. I found that the knowledge that I had acquired and, moreover, the qualities as a student that I developed as well as the maturity I had gained, positioned me differently compared to the rest of my classmates. I took risks, I wasn’t afraid of that and I sought for what I thought my career needed. That’s how in the second year of my career I was already participating in an investigation in the university laboratory. Those experiences have shown me that sometimes things don’t go the way I want but everything that I’ve learned stays with me and makes a difference in future situations.

 

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?

I think that the coolest project I’ve ever participated in is the one that I am part of right now. This project is very dear to me because it’s the first investigation that was entirely entrusted to me. I am working in Lysine production through bacterial fermentation. This is a well-known process around the world; however, we have a different approach and it already has intellectual property. I really like this project because it is applicable to my country’s industry and it could be the answer to the current dilemma of how to produce more and better food. Argentina is a food producer; however, it does not produce the required supplements to enrich the cattle food. Our project can provide those supplements making food production cheaper and creating an inexhaustible source of food enrichment.

 

Antonella_2

What’s a time you felt immense pride in yourself/your work?

The first time I inoculated the medium with the lysine producer bacteria. I was very nervous and excited at the same time. I even texted my mom to tell her as a joke that my little babies were growing. Even though the formulation of the medium was the most important part, the bacterial growth was the most decisive stage. I was about to find out if the formulation was correct.

 

What is a “day in the life” of Antonella like?

So, a day in my life starts at 5:30 am when I get up and start to prepare to go to university. I take a bus and a subway which usually takes me an hour. Then I get to University and start my classes. I take classes until 13:00 hrs when it’s time to take a lunch break. At 14:00 hrs I start working at the laboratory, I check on the bacterial growth and the Lysine production. I answer some emails and work on some projects. When I come back home I try to go for a run or to take a gym class. I find it very relaxing. I always eat dinner with my family because it’s very important for me to save some time to share with them. At the end of the day, I study for my classes and complete course assignments.

sometimes things don’t go the way I want but everything that I’ve learned stays with me and makes a difference in future situations

What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?

Even though I am focusing on finishing my undergraduate studies, I’m looking forward to starting my postgraduate studies, I really want to get a doctorate degree. As for my research goals, it may sound cliché but I would really love to work on a project that causes an impact on society or that gives me the chance to leave something good to the world.

 

Antonella_3

What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?

When I am not in the laboratory or taking classes I really enjoy going to food truck fairs with my mom or baking for my family. I also like taking dance classes and running because I end up very relaxed and with a clearer mind. Something that keeps me going is doing activities with friends, having a coffee or going for a walk – it’s always great to spend some time with them.

 

What advice do you have for other women interested in science/chemistry?

I think that the most important thing for a woman interested in science is never underestimating herself. There will be people that will discourage you or even yourself will, but it’s important to keep in mind why you are doing what you do. It happens to me sometimes that it feels like I haven’t achieved anything. Other times, I am really lost with my investigation or I get frustrated with grades after extended periods of study but I surround myself with people that really support me and remind me of how much I have achieved and how much I love what I do.

 

In your opinion, what will be the next great breakthrough in science/chemistry?

I don’t think there is a certain answer to this question but if you ask me what I hope will be the next breakthrough in science I would say that I wish a cure will be found for illnesses that cause many deaths around the world such as cancer, leukaemia or AIDS, to name just a few. I think that a lot of research is being done in those areas and it is probable that the next great breakthrough will go in that direction.

 

What should be done to increase the number of female scientists and female professors?

From my point of view, there should be more encouragement for little girls. It’s important to show the achievements of women in science through the media because it avoids the myth that there are not so many women involved in science careers. The young women should see that we are more and more female scientists every day, it’s the best way to inspire them. Another thing that I haven’t seen or heard (at least in my country), and I think could make an enormous difference, is offering science lab as an extracurricular activity. I particularly discovered my love for science when I experienced what it was like being in a laboratory and the endless opportunities that it represented.

Julie Fenton Loves a Challenge, Regardless of Scale

Interview with #LiNo17 young scientist Julie L. Fenton

This interview is part of a series of interviews of the “Women in Research” blog that features young female scientists participating in the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, to increase the visibility of women in research (more information for and about women in science by “Women in Research” on Facebook and Twitter). Enjoy the interview with Julie and get inspired.

 

Julie_1

Julie L. Fenton, 25, from the United States of America is a Graduate Student & PhD Candidate in Chemistry at the Pennsylvania State University, US. She is working in inorganic/materials chemistry. Nanomaterials have garnered intense interest in the scientific community, due in part to their unique shape-, size-, and composition-dependent properties, and emerging technological applications that leverage these properties require nanomaterials with very specific architectures and well-defined characteristics. Colloidal synthetic methods are among the most effective for delivering high-quality inorganic nanomaterials with desirable properties in high yield. However, the complexities of solution-based chemistry limit the ability to predict and rationally target desired products, rendering some materials and morphologies of interest inaccessible. Her work has focused on developing new synthetic and post-synthetic modification strategies in order to produce inorganic nanomaterials with precise control over product morphology, elemental composition, and crystal structure in a variety of material systems. These advances allow them to access metastable materials, morphologic features, and/or complex heterostructures with desired physical and chemical properties, many of which are not amenable to previous synthetic methods.

 

What inspired you to pursue a career in science/chemistry?

I have always had an interest in problem solving and puzzles – I love a challenge, regardless of scale. When I came up against my first chemistry class in high school, thinking about the world on a molecular level intrigued me, and I was hooked. To me, the chemical discipline represented solving some of the most complex and intriguing problems in the world, except that the answer was previously unknown. This was exciting to me as a young person, and the passion only deepened through higher-level study of chemistry through college, and now well into graduate school.

 

Who are your role models?

I have been fortunate enough to benefit from a number of fantastic mentors and role models, scientific and otherwise, throughout my life. My first (and best) role models have been my parents. Through a strong work ethic coupled with the highest value placed on integrity and respect for others, they have demonstrated to me what success in life looks like (which is not specifically linked to career success). Though my parents, who are not scientists, don’t always understand exactly what it is that I’m doing on a day-to-day basis, they are supportive at every step, encouraging me to be the best version of myself in scientific pursuits, but reminding me that the world is larger than just science, and that it’s important to stay grounded in my personal values.

Academically, I am grateful to have benefitted from and been inspired by too many people to name in this discussion, so I will name just two: my current graduate research advisor, Dr. Raymond Schaak, and my first research advisor as an undergraduate, Dr. Richard Schaeffer. These two have been phenomenally encouraging to me, helping me to develop and to think creatively as a scientist, while giving me the space to work independently on projects that I have cared about. Beyond that, they have modelled how one can balance the demands of a career in chemistry with other priorities in life. Conversations with these two have helped me to think broadly about the world and my place in it, going far beyond the expectations I could have asked for from an academic advisor.

 

How did you get to where you are in your career path?

I grew up in rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA and did my undergraduate work in chemistry at Messiah College, a small school (~2800 undergraduates only) in Grantham, Pennsylvania, USA. During my second semester as an undergraduate, I began to do research for the first time… I was enthralled by the challenge of research on the cutting edge of science. Research gave me an opportunity to think creatively about the world and the ways in which it works, and my advisor (Richard Schaeffer) gave me ample space to explore and problem-solve independently.

I anticipate working toward developing mentoring programmes to help foster students’ interest in STEM fields at an early age

Like many aspiring U.S. scientists, I participated in a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF REU), between my third and fourth years of college. As a student coming from a small undergraduate institution, this was my first opportunity to do research full-time, working alongside graduate students and primarily research-active faculty members. As such, this experience was amongst the most formative of my young life as a chemist, igniting a passion for academic research and scientific problem solving on the highest level that will never be quenched. Unlike most undergraduate researchers, however, my REU was conducted at the Université de Strasbourg in Strasbourg, France, affording me the unique opportunity to live and to conduct research outside of the United States, where I have lived, worked, and learned for my entire life. Even though significant language and cultural barriers existed between the French research group and myself, we forged relationships and collaborations through the common language of chemistry. This is where I first understood and appreciated the international impact that work in science can have: increasingly, we are participating in an endeavour that transcends our national and cultural boundaries, aided by the ease of communication and collaboration. It was (and still is) incredibly exciting to me to contribute, in some small way, to something much greater than myself.

These experiences propelled me into graduate school, beginning in the summer of 2014, where I have been ever since, and will continue to motivate me as I move into the next stages of my career. I’m currently working towards my Ph.D. in materials/inorganic chemistry at the Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pennsylvania, USA under the direction of Ray Schaak.

 

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?

I’m probably totally biased, but the coolest work that I have worked on is my current dissertation work. Although it’s really important to be able to control the way that atoms arrange themselves in solid-state materials (because the atomic arrangement, or crystal structure, dictates the properties), the typical high-temperature synthetic methods for making solid-state materials are often limited to obtaining only the most stable arrangements of atoms in a solid. By using a lower-temperature, solution-based cation exchange method, we can transform a performed material template into a material with targeted composition. Interestingly, these transformations can be accomplished with the retention of some qualities of the template material, including features of the original crystal structure, circumventing some of the primary difficulties encountered in traditional solid-state chemistry. Using this approach, we have been able to target and isolate some unusual crystal structures in a predictable fashion, which begins to point towards the ability to generalise these approaches for polymorphic structure targeting in solid-state chemistry.

I think the most exciting thing about chemistry (and science in general) is that the great breakthroughs can be serendipitous and unexpected

What’s a time you felt immense pride in yourself/your work?

In different ways, I have found pride in sharing my work with others. Outside of my lab or the community of solid-state chemists, there is something really exciting about communicating the major points of my science to non-technical audiences in a way that appeals to them (without oversimplifying the science behind it), in formal presentations and informal conversations. Additionally, I have found great satisfaction and pride in seeing some of my efforts come to fruition in published form. Getting to a paper is a grind – it represents many hours in lab and many, many failed experiments, significant data analysis and interpretation, as well as the actual time spent writing the manuscript and putting together figures and data in a way that communicates the significance more broadly. It is exhilarating to contribute to the scientific community, even in very small ways.

 

Julie_2

What is a “day in the life” of Julie like?

I’m a synthetic chemist, so the majority of my work-life time is spent in the hood or nearby in the lab, weighing powders, pipetting solvents, heating/degassing a reaction, injecting precursors or decomposition agents, or cleaning and working up reactions. I spend “down” time reading papers, chatting science with my lab mates or advisor, or getting other work done (at the beginning of my graduate career, this was class assignments or grading for my teaching assignments… lately, it’s writing!). If I’m not in the synthesis lab, you could probably find me in the Penn State Materials Characterization Lab using one of the transmission electron microscopes (TEM) to take a look at the morphology of my nanoparticle samples, to analyse their crystal structures (using selected-area electron diffraction or high-resolution TEM), or to assess their elemental composition using STEM-EDS (energy dispersive spectroscopy) mapping.

 

What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?

To merge my passion for chemistry and my desire to engage others in STEM, I plan to pursue an academic research career after completing my graduate work. As a young person, I had few female academic role models; as a professional, I anticipate working toward developing mentoring programmes to help foster students’ interest in STEM fields at an early age. I look forward to leveraging my career to help bridge the gap between technical and non-technical audiences and to increase scientific literacy at all levels of academia, politics and normal life. Thus far, I have observed and begun to appreciate the unique set of opportunities available to academic scientists: engagement with top-calibre colleagues, students and mentors, involvement with a built-in community of equally passionate researchers, opportunity to converse and collaborate across disciplines and institutions, and utilisation of cutting-edge instrumentation and laboratories. Leading scientists in top academic institutions enjoy the ideal setting for making discoveries, establishing meaningful collaborations and mentoring future generations of scientists. For an ambitious and creative scientist, academic research positions provide the latitude and flexibility to innovate, the environment to pursue individual research interests (sometimes several different ones), and the opportunity to truly impact the scientific world and the world at large.

 

What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?

I enjoy traveling to new places (or familiar ones), outdoor activities, reading, board games, and spending time with family and friends. I also make some attempts to cook, though I have found that synthetic skills in chemistry do not directly translate to cooking skills (although it feels like they should).

 

What advice do you have for other women interested in science/chemistry?

Although we live in a world of instant gratification and quick answers, progress in science is often quite slow. It requires a significant investment of time, energy and thought, and even with this discipline, projects stalling or hypotheses failing is inevitable in these disciplines. This can be discouraging to anyone, but particularly to young scientists. Eventually, progress is made: an interesting discovery, fresh eyes to interpret formerly frustrating results, or new ideas and hypotheses that can be tested and proven true, but this takes time. My advice is to keep pushing towards the goal of understanding, and to stay positive — try not to let temporary frustrations get in the way of that. I would encourage young women in particular to not be intimidated by male-dominated academic science. If you want it and are willing to work hard, you are capable of achieving every success in science.

 

In your opinion, what will be the next great breakthrough in science/chemistry?

I think the most exciting thing about chemistry (and science in general) is that the great breakthroughs can be serendipitous and unexpected – although we would like to know exactly where they will come from, we don’t and we shouldn’t expect to. As a materials chemist, however, I think some of the scientific discoveries with the potential for the greatest impact on society will come from the development of new materials. I expect that the next decade and beyond will give us numerous breakthroughs in materials for a wide variety of applications, particularly those important for solar energy harvesting, fuel cells, batteries, other electronics and beyond (perhaps for applications we haven’t even thought of yet).

We should continue to reach out to and encourage aspiring scientists as children and teens, and at the undergraduate level

What should be done to increase the number of female scientists and female professors?

This is a difficult question, and one that I think (rightly) is starting to be addressed at every level of academic training and careers. I think that we, as a community, are taking steps in the right direction towards an academy that looks more representative of broader society (including more women and other under-represented groups). While progress is good, this process will take time! 30, 40 and 50 years ago, the pool of trainees looked much different than it does today, which is still reflected in the way the academy (or even in high levels of scientific industry) looks today. I think it’s important not to do this artificially at the highest levels of science, but to build up to that slowly, over a period of time. We should continue to reach out to and encourage aspiring scientists as children and teens, and at the undergraduate level, and help to change the perception of what a scientist looks like and does. At the graduate level, mentorship is extremely important, as learning from the mistakes and triumphs of others who have gone before you is valuable for making informed decisions about your career (and basically everything else).

Sketches of Science

When Nobel Laureates come to Lindau, photographer Volker Steger presents each with a surprise task. One by one, he brings them to a desk with a blank white posterboard and a queue of chubby, colourful wax crayons. Then Steger asks: For what did you get your Nobel Prize?

Crayons and paper waiting for a science sketch. Credit: Melissae Fellet

Crayons and paper waiting for a science sketch. Credit: Melissae Fellet

Each laureate sketches his or her answer, following the only guidelines to make the sketch big and use multiple colors. After finishing and signing the picture, Steger photographs each laureate with his or her drawing.  The whole process takes about 20 minutes. 

This year he photographed three laureates: Tomas Lindahl, Bernard L. Feringa, and Jean-Pierre Sauvage. I accompanied Steger to his photo shoot with Sauvage at the Hotel Bad Schachen on Wednesday afternoon. Once Steger presented his challenge, we left Sauvage alone with the paper and crayons, listening for several minutes from the hallway to crayons clicking on the desk, a sound similar to that of chalk on a chalkboard.

Sauvage emerged from the room smiling and ready to explain each of his drawing’s three sections: the synthesis of a molecule with two interlocking rings called a [2]catenane, the synthesis of a more complicated molecular trefoil knot, and the contraction and expansion of a molecular muscle. Steger and I whisked Sauvage down the hall to a makeshift photo studio to continue the explanation.

Between shutter clicks, Steger asked Sauvage to demonstrate the molecular motion with his hands. I passed Sauvage a stool so he could sit down and prop his sketch against his leg, leaving his hands free to trace the twists of molecular knots.

Jean-Pierre Sauvage describes the assembly and motion of knotted molecules. Credit: Volker Steger

Jean-Pierre Sauvage demonstrates the assembly and motion of knotted molecules. Credit: Volker Steger

In contrast to traditional posed portraits where a twinkling eye or smile hints at someone’s personality, the physicality in Steger’s portraits directly connects each laureate to his or her intellectual work. When Steger first imagined this project, titled Sketches of Science, he says: “I wanted to learn about each person and their work at the same time in a playful, fun way.” The idea worked right away.

In his photo, Sir Harold W. Kroto pretends to kick a buckyball colored like a soccer ball. When Anthony J. Leggett wanted to twist his arms to show the atomic arrangement that allows for superfluidity, he asked Steger to tape the sketch to his body. 

Some laureates prefer words to pictures, diagrams and physical demonstration. Robert F. Curl, Jr. filled two sheets of paper with the story of his discovery, quoting his co-laureates and sketching diagrams of his experiments. Roald Hoffmann filled most of his posterboard with a poem titled “Orbitals and Sex.”

The sketches remain in Lindau under the care of the Foundation Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, and they may eventually be archived at the Nobel Museum in Sweden. All of the project’s photographs can be viewed in a gallery and downloaded as an e-book from the Lindau Mediatheque. The e-book also contains Steger’s notes from each shoot, revealing on the stories behind the sketches.

Bernard J. Feringa magically suspends his sketch of the molecular motor recognized by his 2016 Nobel Prize in chemistry. Credit: Volker Steger

Bernard J. Feringa magically suspends his sketch of the molecular motor recognised by his 2016 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Credit: Volker Steger

 

Sir Martin J. Evans’ second sketch – a mouse – pays homage to the lab animals needed for his Nobel-winning research. Martinus J. G. Veltman depicted a scientist as a person climbing a mountain just to see what’s on the other side. And Leon M. Lederman drew Nobel Laureates having a party, with a lady joining the group, hearts filling her speech bubble. “As I am later told by another laureate,” Steger wrote, “this is just what happened to Leon Lederman after he won his Nobel Prize!”

Over the past eight years, Steger has photographed almost 100 Laureates. The collection has been exhibited around Germany, and in Japan, Kuala Lumpur, and Russia.  It will travel next to Australia for an exhibition from March to November 2018. 

When Steger started this project, he had one question for himself: “Is there something that all the laureates have in common?” Now that Sketches of Science is nearing its end, he has an answer: “Yes – they all have a Nobel Prize and that’s it. They are a very diverse group of personalities.”

#LiNo17 Daily Recap – Wednesday, 28 June

With Wednesday ending, we are striding towards the last two days of the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting – but that does most certainly not mean that the next days are getting less exciting than the previous ones. Talking about exciting days, let’s take a look at the highlights of yesterday.

 

Video of the day:

Yesterday, Nobel Laureates Stefan Hell and Richard R. Schrock discussed “Current and Future Game Changers in Chemistry” with Jörg Huslage from the Corporate Research & Development Department of Volkswagen Group and Siddulu Talapaneni, an Indian Young Scientist from the University of South Australia at the Panel Discussion moderated by Geoffrey Carr, Science Editor from The Economist.

Obviously, this is not the only video from the last days and today! You are more than welcome to browse through our mediatheque for more.

 

Picture of the day:

Nobel Laureate Ferid Murad enjoying his coffee break while talking to some of the young scientists.

67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting Chemistry, 25.06.2017 - 30.06.2017, Lindau, Germany, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings Ferid Murad in talk with young researchers

For even more pictures from the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, past and present, take a look at our Flickr account.

 

Blog of the day:

Focus on Africa: Advancing Science to Advance Humankind – Alaina G. Levine talks with a rising star of Kenyan science, Titus Masese, on the present, presence, and presents of African Science across the globe.

Focus on Africa Slider

Do take a look at more of our inspring blog posts.

 

Tweets of the day:

 

 

Last but not least, follow us on Twitter @lindaunobel and Instagram @lindaunobel and keep an eye out for #LiNo17

Over the course of the next three days, we will keep you updated on the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting with our daily recaps. The idea behind it is to bring to you the day’s highlights in a blink of an eye. The daily recaps will feature blog posts, photos and videos from the mediatheque.

“It Is Time That We Write Our Own History in Science!” – Eva Maria Wara Alvarez Pari

Interview with #LiNo17 young scientist Eva Maria Wara Alvarez Pari

This interview is part of a series of interviews of the “Women in Research” blog that features young female scientists participating in the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, to increase the visibility of women in research (more information for and about women in science by “Women in Research” on Facebook and Twitter). Enjoy the interview with Eva Maria Wara and get inspired.

 

Eva_1

Eva Maria Alvarez Pari, 23, from Bolivia is an undergraduate chemistry student doing her Master degree at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität, Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany. Eva is in the first stage of her academic career. Nevertheless, she is deeply interested in organic chemistry applied to the medicine.

 

What inspired you to pursue a career in science/chemistry?

Well, I consider that question really anecdotal. During the elementary school I was close to failing one year of my studies because of mathematics. Nevertheless, in high school I have been immersed in science more and more. My first approach to chemistry was in 2007, when I started high school. I have been lucky to have an amazing woman as a chemistry teacher who has supported me in every stage of my academic life. She deeply motivated me. Nevertheless I made my first step, when one day I saw in the newspaper a competition that has been launched for high school students. I had a big desire to participate and I asked my teacher to train me for Chemistry Olympics competitions in my city. Although I have won a third place I didn’t feel any regret or depression. I was completely sure, I did my best. Since then I put my heart and soul into the chemistry. I have participated in some of my teacher’s lectures at her technical institute, where I gained my first experience working at lab under her supervision. Since mathematics at high school caught my attention by creating models to explain some natural phenomena, I decided to do a Bachelor degree in mathematics. Nevertheless, there was something missing in my life. Then I realised that if I couldn’t study chemistry I would probably have regrets later. So, I started my chemistry studies immediately. At the end, I have completed both careers. It was really hard to manage the schedules of my different subjects avoiding overlapping of the courses and arranging the transportation stuff to be on time to every single lecture. But when there is passion, everything is possible. Being motivated made it possible to complete both careers in five years; otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have done it without this driving force.

 

Who are your role models?

Definitely my professors have played a big role in my academic formation. I was fortunate to being surrounded by powerful women in chemistry. My chemistry teacher at school was a devoted person who dedicated her life and time to motivate students to pursue a scientific career. She supported me even outside the classroom. We were not teacher and student anymore, but we started to be two people learning from each other drawn by a shared passion to chemistry. During my undergraduate studies, two dedicated women were a continuous support to my scientific career. I feel admiration of their outstanding research projects and their role as women holding high positions in the university which is not common in my home country. They oriented me personally and academically, keeping my motivation to pursue an academic career. Certainly one of my strongest motivations is attributed to Marie Sklodowska-Curie, who gave the first step and opened to us the opportunities to be as equals to men in science.

I have made the best decision of my life and I don’t regret it at all.

Last but not least, my parents have always been concerned about my education and gave me all the facilities to tackle a scientific career. No expense was too great to give me the best education since I was at elementary school. They gave me freedom to decide what I wanted to become. Actually, they are supporting me in my master studies economically, and they even have plans to do so, too, for my PhD studies because they are concern about my deep love for Chemistry.

 

How did you get to where you are in your career path?

Nothing can be done without motivation and constant work. I realised at high school that to become a scientist involves many years of studies. But that is not everything. You must keep yourself in constant learning because science never sleeps. So, even knowing that, I have made the best decision of my life and I don’t regret it at all. Since high school I have set long and short goals to become a scientist, and it also meant to get a better education outside. I am always daydreaming because it keeps me motivated. Since my first day in Germany on October 1st, I have looked for many opportunities to encourage my scientific aspirations. As an anecdote, one day before the deadlines for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting I have seen a publication on Facebook related to eight women who participated in the preliminary meeting. I didn’t miss the opportunity to apply immediately and because of that I arrived too late to my preliminary Master meeting in Erlangen. Of course, now I am really glad that this happened. The first obstacle I have faced took place, when I decided to apply for a scholarship. Unfortunately, most of the scholarships launched in my home country require one year of work experience, which reduces your aspirations to apply as soon as you have completed your bachelor studies, even considering these studies in Bolivia last five years. This drawback event helped me to understand that if I want to fulfil my dreams there was no other solution than to study abroad by myself and with the economic support of my family. Since I am here in Germany, I had the opportunity to be part of Prof. Heinrich’s group. Their research is focused on Medicinal Chemistry with topics like carbofluorination reactions. Prof. Heinrich has given me a comfortable environment to work, and my colleagues are a scientific family who are always willing to share knowledge and advice. I have been part of seminar discussions of organic total synthesis of some active substances and natural products. There, I found a space to be immersed in a wide spread of acknowledgment so I could start shaping my scientific career. Now, I have many projects in mind and I am also looking forward to getting a PhD position once I finish my Master degree so I can continue building my academic life.

 

Eva_3

 

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?

In my home country during my last year of my Bachelor in Chemistry, I have spent three months working in a scientific institution where I could get knowledge of the use of many of the technical instruments that chemists use to elucidate organic structures. The person in charge, Dr. Marcelo Bascope, is used to giving the interns the opportunity to perform scientific projects during their stay there, which I consider a good opportunity to start with your own scientific project and see your limitations and strengths working in a lab. I decided to carry out the identification of active principles from Nicotiana Glauca, a medicinal plant native from South America, which has as main component the alkaloid anabasine. I spent a month working at this project but the most rewarding experience I had was the freedom to perform every step from sample preparation up to purification and identification using the equipment to elucidate the structure of each component. The satisfaction to complete everything by myself helped me to realise that I was meant to work in a lab. This was the first close experience at the lab doing research. The freedom to work on my own increased my self-confidence, because there was no one telling me what to do or putting pressure on me. It was only me and my research growing day by day like a baby becoming an adult.

Take risks in scientific life.

What’s a time you felt immense pride in yourself/your work?

When I was admitted to a Master’s degree programme at Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen I was really proud of all I did so far to get an education abroad. Germany is the country for scientific opportunities. I have been here for only six months and I am part of a research team, a PhD student Anna Pirzer (whom I collaborated with in the lab and who gave me freedom to pursue my own ideas) and I are going to publish a research article. I am proud of myself, of everything I have done to pursue a scientific career, every obstacle I had to overcome to achieve my goals and for all the work that lies ahead.

 

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What is a “day in the life” of Eva like?

After I wake up, I organise everything to go to my master lectures and I prepare my material of studies. Every Thursday of the week I am part of discussion in a seminar session related to total organic synthesis in Prof. Heinrich’s group, so I can polish and hone my organic synthesis skills through wide mechanisms of reactions used to synthesise complex molecules. During the afternoon, if I don’t have any lectures to attend I go to the library to look for some books to study for the upcoming examinations or I just stay the whole afternoon studying in the library with some friends or alone. During the evening, I write some e-mails to my professors and colleagues from my home university keeping in contact with them and sharing science in some way while I enjoy hearing instrumental music. My favourites are movie soundtracks. I am fond into Hans Zimmer compositions.

 

What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?

My scientific aspirations in science are not related to immortalising my name, not even to economic ambitions. I have a big desire to follow an academic career. Nothing is more rewarding than to share and receive knowledge. I have a deep desire to become a Professor and to have my own research group, with active students performing activities regarding science and discussing breakthroughs in chemistry. I have always been interested in discussing and sharing ideas, even during my bachelor studies I used to organise out-of-the-classroom lectures prepared by myself and my colleagues to encourage our understanding of chemistry. At that time, we were aware that our bachelor program and lab courses didn’t provide the same knowledge in some areas of chemistry compared to cutting-edge universities in science.

 

What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?

My daily activities are not limited to study. I devote my free day doing out-door activities like hiking or taking a walk in the city, it keeps me motivated and I find equilibrium between my scientific life and my personal life. I love writing poems and thoughts as well. During the weekend, me and my master partners go to some events in Germany, go to shopping or run cultural meetings by sharing our typical food. Most of the time, I am with my “German family”. Since my childhood, I had the opportunity to grow up under a constant influence of German culture. I maintain relationship with people who belong to Missionskreis Ayopaya, an institution that is directly connected to Bolivia through German volunteering.

I am pretty sure, the understanding of origin of life through chemistry laws would be the next breakthrough in science.

What advice do you have for other women interested in science/chemistry?

Take risks in scientific life. Don’t be shy or afraid to express your own ideas even if you are mistaken. Try your best in everything you perform and overcome fear of complexities, of academic inferiority, of the unknown and of failure. Trust yourself and keep on moving even when it means that you only advance little by little. Scientific research has obstacles and the time one invests may extend too many years but the results are a lifetime achievement, a satisfaction that your ideas could encourage the welfare of humanity and the development of one’s country. This fills you with happiness. We are not Marie Curies – of course not. It is time that we write our own history in science!

 

Eva_4

 

In your opinion, what will be the next great breakthrough in science/chemistry?

Regarding my particular interests in organic synthesis, we always have to deal with chiral molecules which are present in nature as single enantiomers. I have completed my bachelor thesis in mathematics related to group and graph theories in order to simplify our understanding of symmetry in organic molecules through mathematics. Unfortunately, it is not simple to reach a general explanation. Most of the complex molecules of life are chiral so there is no way to apply these mathematical models to them. I am pretty sure, the understanding of origin of life through chemistry laws would be the next breakthrough in science.

 the number of women who don’t show interest in academic careers has increased

What should be done to increase the number of female scientists and female professors?

Since I have been in Germany for six months, I have realised that there is no big gap between women and men pursuing a scientific career. Both have the same opportunities and support in the first stage of their scientific careers. The numbers of women are even bigger in PhD research groups compared to men, according to my experience working in the lab. Over the last few years, the gap has been narrowed considerably in developed countries. Nevertheless, the number of women who don’t show interest in academic careers has increased. I think that there are still some prejudices related to the balance between family and academia in women’s lives – that is another reason why some women speed up their graduate studies in order to get a stable position at the university before deciding to have a family. There must be some guarantee that a woman who decides to have children could continue in the same charge after taking a semester off, but, unfortunately, women cannot recover the same opportunities they had before they decided to start a family. Universities or academic institutions must adopt special programmes or work-family policies to support women who decide to start a family before getting tenure and not put their later chances at risk.

#LiNo17 Daily Recap – Tuesday, 27 June 2017

We are already three days into this year’s chemistry meeting and there are so many interesting things happening. We have collected a huge amount of exhilarating pictures, exceptional lectures and thought-provoking blog contributions. So you can guess that there is so much more that you should definitly check out on our mediatheque than we present to you in our daily recap . Enjoy the following highlights!

 

Video of the day:

“This meeting is about mentorship, and it’s about the future, it’s not about the Nobel Laureates, it is [in fact] about mentoring the next generation of scientists – OUR BEST HOPE FOR THE FUTURE” – Brian Malow has provided us with a live video featuring seven young scientists.

 

 

Picture of the day:

After having the Poster Flashes on Monday, our Poster Session proved to be a success. Frank Biedermann, a young scientist explaining his research about “Supramolecular Sensing Ensembles” to Nobel Laureate Erwin Neher.

67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting Chemistry, 25.06.2017 - 30.06.2017, Lindau, Germany, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings Poster Session

 

For even more pictures from the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, past and present, take a look at our Flickr account.

 

Blog of the day:

“When scientific issues become publicly controversial, Nobel Laureates have a history of making strong statements at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings,” writes Melissae Fellet in her new article on science in a post-truth era. Politics and the question of what scientists can do to rebuild trust is one of the main topics being discussed by the participants of the 67th Lindau Meeting.

Post-truth_Slider

Press Talk on ‘Science in a Post-Truth Era’ hosted by Deutsche Welle during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Do take a look at more of our exciting blog posts.

 

Tweets of the day:

 

Last but not least, follow us on Twitter @lindaunobel and Instagram @lindaunobel and keep an eye out for #LiNo17

 

Over the course of the next four days, we will keep you updated on the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting with our daily recaps. The idea behind it is to bring to you the day’s highlights in a blink of an eye. The daily recaps will feature blog posts, photos and videos from the mediatheque.

Women Have Unique Qualities That Make Them Great Scientists, Says Hannah Noa Barad

Interview with #LiNo17 young scientist Hannah Noa Barad

This interview is part of a series of interviews of the “Women in Research” blog that features young female scientists participating in the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, to increase the visibility of women in research (more information for and about women in science by “Women in Research” on Facebook and Twitter). Enjoy the interview with Hannah and get inspired.

 

Hannah_Noa_1

Hannah Noa Barad, 30, from Israel is a PhD Student at the Bar Ilan University, Israel. Her research is in the field of renewable energy, specifically solar energy and solar cells. The method she uses in her research is combinatorial material science and high-throughput analysis to discover new metal oxides and utilise them in all-oxide based solar cells. She also focuses on understanding the mechanisms behind the photovoltaic activity of the new solar cells.

 

 

What inspired you to pursue a career in science/chemistry?

As a child, I was always very curious about the world around me, this was the driving force that pushed me to learn and study as much as I could. When I got older I realised that in order to understand the world we live in I must study science, because it helps us discover the secrets of our world. I always loved chemistry because of the beautiful reactions that take place and so I chose to pursue chemistry in higher education. I later also understood that chemistry is a field in science that incorporates many other sciences like physics, biology, etc. so that I can continue to expand my knowledge in other scientific areas.

 

Who are your role models?

My role models are all the women who strove over the years to improve science, even when it was a career that was frowned upon for women. I admire their courage and abilities, and how they shaped the scientific world into accepting them as equals and even more. It is because of these women that I am able to freely pursue my goals and ideas, and hopefully improve our world.

in order to understand the world we live in I must study science

How did you get to where you are in your career path?

It took a lot of hard work to get to where I am today in my career. The directions I chose were influenced by my family, who always pushed me to follow my dreams. I am also supported by my supervisor Prof. Arie Zaban, who taught me never to give up even when nothing seems to be working.

 

What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?

I’d like to say that all the projects I worked on are very cool – I love what I do! If I had to choose one project it would be the plasmonic ‘hot’ electron effect I discovered in one of my solar cells. I was examining the effect of one of the layers on the solar cell performance, and as a result I found out that a whole different mechanism governed the photovoltaic behaviour; this was the ‘hot’ electron effect.

 

What’s a time you felt immense pride in yourself/your work?

Whenever I reach a milestone in my work, which could be getting a degree, publishing a paper, etc, I feel very proud and accomplished, mainly because this also means that the people supporting me can also be proud!

 

Hannah_Noa_3

 

What is a “day in the life” of Hannah Noa like?

I usually get to the lab around 8:30 to 9 am and then I see what I have planned for the day. If I need to do some experiments, I make sure I have everything ready and prepared; if I need to analyse data, I make a list of what needs to be done and start working on it. I usually end up helping other people in the lab throughout the day, be it advice or brain-storming about a research project, editing their manuscripts or even helping them perform experiments of their own. Our lab members always eat lunch together, and we usually try to keep it for getting updated with each other. I leave the lab between 5 and 6 pm, and head home to eat dinner and relax. Sometimes I hang out with friends or go to cultural events as well.

 

What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?

I would like to be a better scientist and help improve the planet we live on through the research and work I do. For me, making our world a better place to live in is highly important, and I think that everyone should be treated well and get a chance at living. So for me it is important to improve my skills and as a result all that surrounds me to make the required steps at a better world.

It is because of these women that I am able to freely pursue my goals and ideas, and hopefully improve our world.

What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?

I have many hobbies including playing music, drawing and doing arts. I also like to meet up with my friends and have fun experiences together, like concerts, field trips and even escape rooms.

 

What advice do you have for other women interested in science/chemistry?

My advice to women interested in science and chemistry is not to give up on your dreams! It is hard but it is worth it! Try your best, prove yourself, believe in yourself and in your capabilities, because you are highly capable, and being a woman only brings out the best qualities for being a scientist!

 

 

Hannah_Noa_2

In your opinion, what will be the next great breakthrough in science/chemistry?

This is a great question and it can have many answers. I personally hope the next breakthrough will be in the area of electrical vehicles, finding a better battery that is more stable, cheaper and compact to be used in cars today. I think a breakthrough in this area can move our society forward and help reduce and even eradicate many issues we have with ruining the environment.

 

What should be done to increase the number of female scientists and female professors?

In my opinion, to increase the number of female scientists and professors a few things need to be done:

(1) more scholarships for women in science and research, which will help motivate women to come to these fields

(2) Improve the conditions for women so that they can have families and a career as well, such as having day care in universities until late hours etc.

(3) The various scientific faculties in all the universities should have academic positions intended only for women, to which men cannot apply to at all. This will help increase the number of women professors, who will in turn teach women students. The students will see women professors and they will become motivated themselves since they see that this goal can be achieved, and they will push harder in their scientific fields, to become better and motivate more women to study.

Being a Lecturer in Benin Means Having a Vision, a Clear and Positive Vision of the Future

I am a young Lecturer-Researcher born March 23rd 1988 in Benin, a francophone country in West Africa. My career is therefore based both on lecturing and on scientific research. In terms of lecturing, holding a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in Biomedical Analysis, I have acquired the skills of a laboratory technician. These knowledges, both theoretical and practical, enabled me to obtain a PhD in Environment and Health Sciences. After a placement at the Polytechnic School of Abomey-Calavi, I conducted educational activities in the Department of Human Biology where I had to teach General Microbiology and Medical Microbiology. Other courses were later put to my charge. These included the teaching of General Microbiology at the Interfaculty Center for Training and Environmental Research for Sustainable Development; Animal Health Experiences at the Faculty of Health and Food Hygiene and Occupational Risk Management at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

 

Teaching a session of Medical Microbiology in the Department of Human Biology, Polytechnic School of Abomey-Calavi, University of Abomey-Calavi. Photo: Courtesy of Tamègnon Victorien Dougnon

Teaching a session of Medical Microbiology in the Department of Human Biology, Polytechnic School of Abomey-Calavi, University of Abomey-Calavi. Photo: Courtesy of Tamègnon Victorien Dougnon

 

Being a lecturer in Benin means first of all to be willing to sacrifice one’s personal life for the benefit of students training. I am fortunate to be a biologist trained and recruited in a Polytechnic School. This means that our trainings attract many students. However, we do not really have what it takes to cope with the challenges of time. Initially, the Canadians had helped our school a lot. Over time, the number of students has increased tenfold. I currently teach microbiology to nearly 200 students in the second year of their Bachelor’s degree. Obviously, this is too much. The laboratory has not changed and the equipments are sometimes older than me. My bacteriological oven in the laboratory is almost twenty years old. Supreme sacrifices must therefore be made by forming pedagogical groups and, therefore, repeating the manipulations as many times as possible.

Secondly, education in Benin is currently undergoing major restructuring. As for me, I still have the grace to belong to an institution in which the vision of leaders is the strengthening of an efficient education system in spite of the limited funds. The school team and the Rector of my Institution are constantly undertaking pedagogical training for the lecturers recruited. Moreover, the training modules are daily improved and upgraded to international conditions and standards with the help of a committee set up by the Rectorate. In spite of all these efforts, a tendency to the disappearance of the practical works is to be denoted. The large number of students poses serious problems. This is why we make a lot of requests for donations of equipment and materials in human biology.

 

Students cleaning the laboratory benches before starting my practical courses, Department of Human Biology, Polytechnic School of Abomey-Calavi, University of Abomey-Calavi. Photo: Courtesy of Tamègnon Victorien Dougnon

Students cleaning the laboratory benches before starting my practical courses, Department of Human Biology, Polytechnic School of Abomey-Calavi, University of Abomey-Calavi. Photo: Courtesy of Tamègnon Victorien Dougnon

 

In my field, for example, we do not have a Master’s degree in Medical Microbiology. With my team, I am currently considering the introduction of a special training programme in Molecular Microbiology and Applications (MsC) in order to prepare our students to benefit from thesis scholarships as well as those trained abroad. Finally, being a lecturer in Benin means having a vision, a clear and positive vision of the future, the only one based on the youth very well trained and dynamic.

In terms of research, my research activities can be divided into three main areas:

  • the problems of market gardening and the hygienic quality of foodstuffs
  • applications of microbiological techniques to the resolution of development problems
  • exploration of Benin’s flora for the treatment of infectious and non-communicable diseases

 

Victorien Dougnon in his laboratory reading free staphylocoagulase, an important test in the identification of Staphylococcus aureus. Photo: Courtesy of Tamègnon Victorien Dougnon

Victorien Dougnon in his laboratory reading free staphylocoagulase, an important test in the identification of Staphylococcus aureus. Photo: Courtesy of Tamègnon Victorien Dougnon

The activities of the first research axis were used, in part, to carry out my PhD thesis, whose theme was about a highly consumed vegetable in Benin: Solanum macrocarpon Linn. The study determined medicinal and nutritive properties in the leaves and fruits of this plant. However, the finding was that these vegetables had a defective bacteriological and toxicological quality resulting from the use of poultry droppings as agricultural inputs during growing. This study proposed an alternative that was validated and which consisted in the implementation of an anaerobic biodigestion system based on simple local material. This resulted in a significant reduction of more than 95% in bacterial loads and heavy metal content. The results of this study make an important contribution to protecting the health of the consumer of S. macrocarpon in particular and leafy vegetables in general.

In addition, and within the framework of this first research axis, the sanitary quality of meat carcasses was evaluated by the research and characterisation of Escherichia coli O157, an emerging serotype, feared for its particular virulence. This aspect of the study evaluated the risk of contamination of meat by this species.

After the defense of my thesis in 2013, I was recruited as a permanent Lecturer-Researcher in the Department of Human Biology of the Polytechnic School of Abomey-Calavi. I conduct my research activities in the Research Laboratory in Applied Biology (Polytechnic School of Abomey-Calavi). I also work in the Laboratory of Biology and Molecular Typing in Microbiology, Faculty of Sciences and Techniques, University of Abomey-Calavi.

The second axis allowed me to propose answers to development problems (sanitation, health problems, quality control of foodstuffs and products used in biology). It also allowed me to evaluate some microbiological diagnostic methods for a more efficient management of biomedical laboratories focused on quality results with minimal investment.

As for the third axis, it consisted in the exploration of the Beninese flora for the treatment of diseases. The aim of the works undertaken was to highlight the therapeutic effects, the chemical composition of the plants and the exploration of their level of toxicity.

The work carried out in these different research axes contributed to a better knowledge of the microorganisms responsible for infections in Benin, to improved laboratory practices to optimise various microbiological diagnoses, to improved management of the market gardening sector and awareness of food vendors and to a better knowledge of plant species that can treat bacterial infections and even non-communicable diseases such as hypercholesterolemia.

Being a researcher in Benin is not easy at all. It is true that the Ministry of Higher Education and the Rectorate of the University of Abomey-Calavi are doing a lot of things that show an optimistic vision of the future. I have, for example, received an allowance from my Ministry to conduct my PhD works. Periodically, the Rectorate sets up competitive funds from the University, which contribute to strengthening the technical platform of the laboratories and to train new doctors. However, things remain immense.

In the field of research, the first problem facing Beninese researchers is the language barrier. Doing research in biology nowadays and being able to position itself durably on the world plane, imposes at least the knowledge of the English language. In the face of this, several mechanisms have been put in place. Any candidate for a Master’s degree in Benin must now present a certificate of proficiency in the English language. Secondly, the lack of research funding and equipment remains staggering. I remember that at the beginning of my career, I financed the protocols of my work with my salary. When you have nothing, you have no choice. Most of the research in Benin is done on own funds. Only passion allow you to work in such conditions. I was obliged to carry out my work at the hours of non-attendance of the laboratory by the students. Indeed, it is the same equipment that is used for classical training and research activities. Thanks to God, the World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), since the end of 2016, has alleviated my suffering and that of many colleagues of my Institution, the University of Abomey-Calavi.

 

Victorien Dougnon during a training at the Department of Animal Experimentations, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, University of Legon, Accra, Ghana. Photo: Courtesy of Tamègnon Victorien Dougnon

Victorien Dougnon during a training at the Department of Animal Experimentations, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, University of Legon, Accra, Ghana. Photo: Courtesy of Tamègnon Victorien Dougnon

 

Thanks to the TWAS-UNESCO, I was able to obtain a substantial donation of equipment to set up and launch a complete unit in Microbiology. I have benefited from a microbiological safety cabinet, a large number of culture media, an autoclave, strain-freezers, refrigerators, trinocular camera microscopes, a bacteriological oven, etc. It was this same funding that allowed me to set up a team of ten young scientists (master and thesis students). These students are mostly women selected on the basis of excellence in their academic studies. The goal is to prepare some dynamic and talented female scientists that can claim international awards in the coming years. This provision even allowed me to win the Leadership Award from the Youth Advisory Body in 2016 in my country. Thanks to the foresight and support of my Rectorate, the acquired equipment will soon be installed and will contribute not only to the practical training of the students but also to the execution of the research protocols without too much difficulty. My work on the efficiency of traditional and aromatic plants is therefore greatly facilitated. I therefore pay tribute to the TWAS, which has had an indelible impact on my career.

Another obstacle that I had to cross and that is, besides, common to many Beninese researchers is the question of publications. Obviously, with limited resources, it is difficult to be able to publish the work in high-impact journals. So we started with some small ones, and that gave us some international evidence of potentiality. Subsequently, we have a lot of collaboration in Tanzania, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and worldwide, with the impact of publishing in higher-quality journals. Participation in more than forty scientific events in the field of biology and chemistry has opened up many axes of international cooperation.