A Once-In-A-Lifetime Experience

View of Lindau Island from the zeppelin. Photo/Credit: Laura Schönhardt/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

There is a distinct lack of conversation about the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in South Africa – the first that I heard of this opportunity was when I was asked by my supervisor if he could nominate me to attend the 67th Lindau Meeting. The selection process is very rigorous, and it was 4 months after submitting my application that I received an email informing me that I had been selected to attend. I was extremely excited to receive this email, to the point that I immediately rushed to my supervisor’s office to tell him the news. A travel grant was provided by ASSAf, and as the selected delegates were from different universities and research organisations throughout South Africa, ASSAf organised a pre-meeting team-building gathering, during which we met the other delegates. Several Lindau alumni were also invited to this gathering, to share their experiences and give us advice on how we should approach the meeting. This advice varied from the sensible, ‘Meet as many people as you can’, to the less sensible, ‘Don’t sleep at all’. For my stay, I was hosted by Lindau residents, and my host family proved to be exceptional. They went so far as to organise transport for me from Munich to Lindau, and to make sure that I got onto the correct train at the end of my stay. We had many discussions, which varied from the nuances of our cultural differences, to discussions about topics raised at the meeting, to sports, politics, and everything in between. The experience of being hosted by locals added substantially to the entire ‘Lindau experience’.

During the meeting, numerous programme additions were organised, to which only a small group of researchers was invited. These additions were sponsored by research organisations or multinational corporations. I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend two such events. The first event was the Summer Festival of Science, which was hosted by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research. During this event, I found myself conversing with CEOs and vice-presidents from large multinational companies such as the Linde Group, Cabot Corporation and Lockheed Martin. Another opportunity was a flight in a zeppelin, as a part of an introduction to the ‘Clockwork Ocean’ expedition being undertaken by the ‘Helmholtz Zentrum Geesthacht’ of the Helmholtz Association. We were introduced to the methodology and equipment used to study the behaviour and impact of water eddies in the seas and oceans. Thereafter, we were taken on a 45-minute flight in the zeppelin for a magical view of Lindau and the Bodensee from the sky. We were joined for this flight by two Nobel Laureates, who were just as enthralled as we were by the views that unfolded.

 

On board of the zeppelin, expedition director Burkard Baschek from Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht explains the research of ‘Clockwork Ocean’ to Mark Williams-Wynn, Nobel Laureate Dan Shechtman and others. Photo/Credit: Roland Koch/Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft

 

The days of the conference flew past at a breath-taking pace, although not without presenting each of us with many opportunities to network and to learn from both the Nobel Laureates and the other researchers present. The advice from the alumni to not sleep made much more sense at this point. There were simply so many interesting people to meet and to discuss science with, that we all ended up sleeping far less than usual. For me, the lectures that most stood out were those in which the Nobel Laureates chose to share their personal experiences as researchers. These were lectures by Peter Agre, Dan Shechtman (2011 Chemistry Nobel Laureate) and Martin Chalfie (2008 Chemistry Nobel Laureate). After the lectures, each Nobel Laureate held a discussion session with the young researchers. I found Shechtman’s discussion session particularly pertinent to me, as we discussed science entrepreneurship and education. There was a strong emphasis on women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at this year’s meeting, and as such, many of the young scientists involved in discussion panels and sessions were women. In stark contrast, only one of the 29 Nobel Laureates present was a woman (Ada Yonath, 2009 Chemistry Nobel Laureate).

On the final day of the meeting, we were treated to a boat ride to the garden island of Mainau, where we spent the day. Two occurrences during the events held on the island further highlighted women in STEM. During the closing panel discussion on ‘Ethics in Science’, a young researcher from the University of Cambridge, Dr Karen Stroobants, was, by far, the stand-out panel member, eclipsing the otherwise male-dominated panel. Secondly, Dr Hlamulo Makelane, from South Africa, gave heartfelt and emotive closing remarks for the Lindau Meeting on behalf of the young researchers, doing South Africa and women in STEM proud. Everything considered, the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I would recommend to anyone who is eligible to attend. Were it not for the fact that young scientists are only afforded the opportunity to attend once, I would have applied immediately for the next meeting.

 

This article is an excerpt from “Young South African researchers attend the 2017 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting” by Nolwazi Nombona, Mark Williams-Wynn and Paul Kennedy, which was originally published in the South African Journal of Science.

“The Networks Created Will Benefit My Scientific Research Career for Years to Come”

Nolwazi Nombona at the African Outreach Breakfast during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

The first that I heard of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings was when a senior professor approached me to ask if they could nominate me to attend. I secretly thought: Why would they select me? But I submitted an application and then promptly forgot about it. Months later, I received an email that turned my world on its head. The African Academy of Sciences had nominated me for consideration to the Council and I was chosen to attend. I couldn’t believe it: I was going to Lindau! I was excited for the opportunity to meet and interact with Nobel Laureates – the remarkable people I’d only read about on the Internet. But after the initial elation, the nervousness kicked in. I worried to myself: What on earth would I possibly have to say to them? In hindsight, my fears were completely groundless.

My experience far exceeded any of my expectations. The atmosphere in Lindau was friendly and relaxed; and this made the interaction with the Nobel Laureates far less intimidating than I had expected. At the opening ceremony, the excitement in the auditorium was tangible. As became typical for the duration of the Meeting, we had an opportunity to mingle with and meet the Nobel Laureates as well as fellow researchers who hailed from all corners of the globe. The Meeting was centred on lectures, discussion sessions, and science breakfasts, but outside of these times, there were many opportunities to discuss topics ranging from current research activities to politics and cultural norms. Over the course of the week, the Nobel Laureates delivered short lectures; some focused on the fundamental challenges in their respective research areas, whilst others shared their experiences as researchers. For me, the highlight was the keynote address that was delivered by Prof. William E. Moerner (2014 Chemistry Nobel Laureate) on behalf of Prof. Steven Chu (1997 Physics Nobel Laureate). Chu mentioned that governments seem to be in doubt about scientific evidence (especially on climate change) and emphasised the need to have political scientists who can work with governments to develop better policy options for a sustainable future. Apart from the scientific aspects that were covered during the lectures, what was of most value to me was the guidance that each Nobel Laureate imparted during their lecture. They motivated us to never doubt our abilities and inspired us to hold on to the passion we have for science. Possibly the most interesting lecture (judging from the applause given) was delivered by Prof. Ben Feringa (2016 Chemistry Nobel Laureate). In his talk, Feringa took us through his discovery of a ‘nano-car’ which he built from compounds that use light-induced chemical energy to move across a surface, highlighting the positive impact these nano-machines could have, especially in medicine.

The African delegates had a special African breakfast with Prof. Peter Agre (2003 Chemistry Nobel Laureate). This breakfast gave us a chance to meet other African delegates and we had a rare opportunity to pick Agre’s brain regarding his work in Africa through his role as the Director of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute. The discussion touched on various issues, including why we have not been successful in eradicating malaria. The dialogue was so thought-provoking that ASSAf organised a follow-up lunch discussion with Agre and the researchers from South Africa. The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting was a unique experience, and it exposed me to colleagues working on similar research projects around the world. The discussions were enlightening, and the networks created will benefit my scientific research career for years to come. I would encourage every young scientist to apply to attend this meeting, as it provides a remarkable opportunity to interact with current and future Nobel Prize winning scientists from across the globe.

 

This article is an excerpt from “Young South African researchers attend the 2017 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting” by Nolwazi Nombona, Mark Williams-Wynn and Paul Kennedy, which was originally published in the South African Journal of Science.

Die Freude am Entdecken

Read in English

 

Bernard L. Feringa

Nur wenige Ereignisse in der Karriere eines Wissenschaftlers hinterlassen einen so bleibenden Eindruck wie die Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagung. Gräfin Bettina Bernadotte und die Mitarbeiter der Geschäftsstelle des Kuratoriums begrüßen hunderte junge Nachwuchswissenschaftler aus aller Welt an diesem wunderschönen Ort am Bodensee und laden sie zum Austausch mit Nobelpreisträgern ein. Weit mehr als in meiner täglichen Freude an der Entdeckung der molekularen Welt habe ich dort die Begeisterung und die stimulierende Atmosphäre wahrgenommen, die durch die Gespräche mit so vielen begabten jungen Menschen entsteht. Die Vorträge von hervorragenden Nobelpreisträgern, die sich mit unterschiedlichen Aspekten unserer Disziplin und weit darüber hinaus beschäftigt haben, waren ebenso anregend und boten vielfältige Möglichkeiten, neue Fenster in unsere gemeinsame Zukunft zu öffnen. Diese unvergessliche Veranstaltung, die sich durch eine perfekte Organisation und eine zuvorkommende Behandlung auszeichnet, lässt selbst die jüngsten Teilnehmer stolz darauf sein, Wissenschaftler zu sein. Die zahlreichen Diskussionen mit den Studenten haben mich lebhaft an meine eigene Zeit als junger Wissenschaftler erinnert – das Staunen über und die Leidenschaft für die Chemie, aber auch der Kampf mit den Entscheidungen. Welches sind die wichtigsten Themen der Zukunft? Welche Richtung soll man einschlagen? Wie geht man mit den unwegsamen, verschlungenen Wegen der Entdeckungsreise um? Wie findet man die Balance im eigenen Leben? Wie lassen sich die Ratschläge eines Helden des eigenen Forschungsgebiets auf die persönliche Wirklichkeit übertragen? Und wie findet man das richtige Verhältnis zwischen Wissen und Intuition? Es hat mir eine große Freude bereitet, den Beginn der wissenschaftlichen Reise dieser Menschen zu erleben und meine persönlichen Erfahrungen an diese wagemutigen und ambitionierten jungen Frauen und Männer weitergeben zu können.

Nur wenige Ereignisse in der Karriere eines Wissenschaftlers hinterlassen einen so bleibenden Eindruck wie die Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagung.

Die Möglichkeit, durch intensive Gespräche mit Teilnehmern aus aller Welt für die allgemeinen Werte der Wissenschaft eintreten zu können – unsere Verantwortung für die Menschheit und die wichtige Rolle, die die ‘Qualität des Denkens’ in der wissenschaftlichen Ausbildung spielt –– ist für mich einer der wesentlichen Schätze der Lindauer Tagungen. Das erstreckt sich auch auf die vielen Gelegenheiten des Kontakts zur Presse, bei denen man die Schönheit und die Kraft der Chemie als zentraler Naturwissenschaft und die wichtige Rolle aller jungen Nachwuchstalente, die in Lindau zusammentreffen, im Sinne ihres maßgeblichen Beitrags zur Erfindung unserer Zukunft hervorheben kann. Die enormen Anstrengungen der Organisatoren von Lindau, die Community auf breiter Ebene anzusprechen, verdienen Beifall. Die inspirierenden Vorträge und die gesellschaftlichen Events auf hohem Niveau, wie etwa der bezaubernde ‘Mexikanische Abend’, boten uns die richtigen ‘Flügel’, um gleichsam durch diese herrliche Woche zu fliegen.

 

Ben Feringa with young scientists during the 67th Lindau Metting. Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Ben Feringa mit Nachwuchswissenschaftlern während der 67. Lindauer Tagung. Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Das absolute Highlight der Veranstaltung war für mich das fast zweistündige Diskussionsforum mit einer großen Gruppe von Studenten. Die Themen reichten dabei von persönlichen Höhepunkten über entscheidende Momente meiner Karriere bis hin zu herausfordernden Fragen des Publikums zur Zukunft unserer Disziplin. Die Erfahrungen, die die Studenten aus verschiedenen Kontinenten einbrachten, machten diese spezielle Begegnung zu einer intensiven Erfahrung des Voneinanderlernens. Für mich war das ein schönes Beispiel für das Wesen der Wissenschaften, nämlich Fragen stellen und in eine wissenschaftliche Debatte einsteigen. Es hat mir viel Freude bereitet, mit den Studenten meine Sichtweise darüber zu teilen, wie man sein Talent als Wissenschaftler entdeckt: „Vertrauensvoll den eigenen Träumen folgen, da man dann genau das entdecken kann, was einem viel Energie gibt, und die eigenen Grenzen in diesem Abenteuer des Unbekannten jenseits des aktuellen Horizonts erkennen.”

Die Entdeckungsfreude der Studenten, sowohl auf wissenschaftlicher als auch auf persönlicher Ebene, die während der Woche in Lindau in all ihren Facetten zu erleben war, wird den weiteren Weg dieser jungen Chemiker nachhaltig prägen. Die Lindauer Tagungen schaffen ein hervorragendes „Laboratorium“ für junge Talente, den Gestaltern unserer Zukunft.

 

Diesen und weitere Berichte über die 67. Lindauer Tagung finden sich im Jahresbericht 2017.

 

The Joy of Discovery

Zur deutschen Version

Bernard L. Feringa

Few events in the career of a scientist make such a lasting impression as the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. In the beautiful setting of Lake Constance, Countess Bettina Bernadotte and the staff of the executive secretariat of the Lindau Meetings welcome hundreds of young talents from all over the world to discuss with several Nobel Laureates. Far beyond my daily joy of discovery in the molecular world, I experienced the excitement and stimulating atmosphere created by the discussions with so many bright young minds. The lectures of distinguished Nobel Laureates, covering various aspects of our discipline and far beyond, were equally stimulating, providing ample opportunities to open new windows to our common future. This memorable event, characterised by superb organisation and royal treatment, makes even the youngest participant feel proud to be a scientist. The numerous discussions with the students reminded me vividly of my own early days as a young scientist – the wonder and passion for chemistry but also the struggle with choices. Which are the most challenging topics or areas for the future, which directions to take, how to deal with the winding and unpaved roads to discovery, the balance in one’s personal life? How do you translate the advice of one of your heroes in the field and find the balance with your own knowledge and intuition? It was indeed a great joy to rediscover how the journey of a scientist starts as well as sharing my personal experiences with these daring and ambitious young men and women.

Few events in the career of a scientist make such a lasting impression as the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting.

The opportunity to advocate the values of science in general – our responsibilities for humanity and the important role of ‘quality of thought’ in academic training, through extensive discussions with participants from around the world – reflects to me one of the major assets of the Lindau Meetings. This extends to the many opportunities to engage with the press to emphasise the beauty and power of chemistry as the central science and the key role of all the young talents gathered in Lindau in making major contributions to invent our future. The considerable efforts of the Lindau organisation in reaching out to the community at large are to be applauded. The inspiring lectures and high-level social events, including an enchanting ’Mexican Evening’, provided the proper ‘wings’ to make us all feel as though we were flying during this magnificent week.

 

Ben Feringa with young scientists during the 67th Lindau Metting. Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Ben Feringa with young scientists during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

For me, the absolute highlight of the event was the discussion forum, which lasted nearly two hours, with a large group of students. The topics ranged from personal highlights to decisive moments in my career, the challenging questions by the audience on the future of our discipline and the experiences shared by students from different continents, made this particular meeting a steep mutual learning curve for all of us. It was a fine example of the essence of science, asking questions and entering academic debate. It gave me much pleasure to share with the students my views on “how to discover your talent” being a scientist: “Be confident in following your dreams, as it allows you to discover what will give you lots of energy and to experience your limits in this adventure in the unknown beyond your current horizon.” 

The joy of discovery by the students, both scientifically and personally, experienced in all its facets during the Lindau week, will make a long-lasting contribution to the careers of these young chemists. The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting offers a magnificent ‘laboratory’ for young talents who are going to shape our future.

 

More reviews and highlights of the 67th Lindau Meeting can be found in the Annual Report 2017.

 

 

Go on a virtual tour through the Feringa lab at the University of Groningen in the Nobel Lab 360°.

Annual Report 2017

Hot off the press: The Annual Report 2017. Photo/Credit: Lisa Vincenz-Donnelly/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Hot off the press: The Annual Report 2017. Photo/Credit: Lisa Vincenz-Donnelly/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

The Annual Report 2017 of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings is out now.

The report features highlights of the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (Chemistry) and the 6th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences, including inspiring reviews from Nobel Laureates Ben Feringa and Christopher Pissarides as well as young scientists and young economists.

The digital edition of the Annual Report can be dowloaded here.

Die Welt zu Hause in Lindau

Schon seit neun Jahren sind Gastfamilien aus Lindau und Umgebung fester Bestandteil der Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagungen. Durch ihr Engagement erhalten die Nachwuchswissenschaftler die einzigartige Chance, Lindau und seine Menschen im persönlichen Umfeld kennenzulernen und mehr über Leben und Kultur in Deutschland aus erster Hand zu erfahren.

 

Wiedersehen nach sechs Jahren – Elom Aglago und seine Lindauer Gastfamilie

Brigitte Trojan und Hans Schweickert nehmen schon seit 2011 an den Lindauer Tagungen als Gastfamilie teil. Seitdem haben sie schon sieben Nachwuchswissenschaftler aus aller Welt (aus Ägypten, Japan, Georgien, Chile, dem Iran, dem Libanon und dem Togo) bei sich zu Hause aufgenommen. Ihr erster Gast war 2011 Elom Aglago aus dem Togo. Seitdem sind sie in Kontakt geblieben und in diesem Jahr ist Elom nach Lindau zurückgekehrt, um seine Gastfamilie wiederzusehen.

 

Elom Aglago und seine Gastfamilie in Lindau. Credit: Christoph Schumacher/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Elom Aglago und seine Gastfamilie in Lindau. Credit: Christoph Schumacher/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Warum sind Sie eine Gastfamilie geworden?

Gastfamilie Trojan: Wir waren gerade frisch nach Lindau in ein neues Haus mit Garten umgezogen, als wir darüber nachdachten, einen Gastwissenschaftler aufzunehmen. Wir lieben es, hier zu Hause in Lindau zu sein, aber wir sind auch offen für neue Kulturen und Sichtweisen. Außerdem sind wir begeistert von den Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagungen. Für uns war es darum die perfekte Möglichkeit, Menschen aus der ganzen Welt zu begegnen. Zusätzlich ist es ein wirklich gutes Training und nebenbei verbessern wir unser Englisch.

Für uns war es die perfekte Möglichkeit, Menschen aus der ganzen Welt zu begegnen

Wie war es, als Elom 2011 zu Ihnen kam?

GF: Wir waren glücklich und gesegnet als wir Elom 2011 hier hatten. Wir haben jeden Morgen gemeinsam gefrühstückt und über das tägliche Programm gesprochen. Und wenn er zurückkam, haben wir immer ein abendliches Briefing bekommen und über den Tag bei der Tagung gesprochen. Wir haben jede Menge Inspiration von ihm bekommen; er hat einen wunderbaren Sinn für Humor, ist ruhig und sehr pragmatisch. Und er liebte es, die unterschiedlichsten Themen mit uns zu diskutieren – das ist etwas, das wir wirklich sehr wertschätzen.

 

Wie sind Sie all die Jahre in Kontakt geblieben?

GF: Wir hatten hin und wieder E-Mailkontakt. Und an Weihnachten haben wir uns beispielsweise immer gegenseitig frohe Weihnachten gewünscht. Er bekam Neuigkeiten aus Lindau, wir haben ihm zum Beispiel von den neuen Nachwuchswissenschaftlern berichtet. Gleichzeitig schrieb Elom uns aus dem Togo, Marokko oder aus Frankreich – je nachdem, wo er gerade war –, wenn es bei ihm etwas Neues gab. Er hat seine wissenschaftliche Laufbahn mit uns geteilt, die Forschungsarbeiten, die er veröffentlicht hat und seine wichtigsten Ergebnisse. Vor zwei Jahren hatten wir die Idee, dass er uns wieder besuchen könnte; im Dezember letzten Jahres haben wir dann für den Sommer geplant – und jetzt sitzt er uns gegenüber!

 

Wie war es, einander wiederzusehen?

GF: Wir haben uns am Bahnhof getroffen und waren sehr glücklich, uns wieder zu sehen. Es war sofort wieder diese besondere Wärme und Frische im Raum. Wir haben direkt wieder begonnen, über Unterschiede und unsere Philosophien zu diskutieren, über die unterschiedlichen Rollen von Eltern und der Familie in unseren Kulturen und so weiter. Wir haben ihn sehr vermisst… unsere Katze hat ihn auch sehr vermisst.

 

Elom at the Bavarian Evening during the Lindau Meeting 2011. Photo/Credit: Courtesy of Elom Algago

Elom während des Bayerischen Abends auf der Lindauer Tagung 2011. Credit: Elom Algago

 

Ist er, wie Sie ihn in Erinnerung hatten?

GF: Ja und nein. Er wirkt noch genauso frisch und jung wie damals – aber auch ein bisschen seriöser. Es scheint, als habe er seinen Platz gefunden.

Elom Aglago: Ich glaube, ich bin etwas weiser geworden. Ich bin nicht mehr so kindlich. Ich denke, dass meine Gastfamilie hier in Lindau daran ihren Anteil hat. Sie haben mir geholfen, kulturelle Unterschiede zu verstehen, andere Kulturen zu respektieren und von ihnen zu lernen. Ich glaube, das hat alles mit der Lindauer Tagung angefangen. Ich habe zum ersten Mal erlebt, dass wir alle unterschiedlich, aber vor allen Dingen alle individuell, besonders sind. Und das müssen wir jederzeit berücksichtigen.

 

Sind Sie näher dran, einen Nobelpreis zu bekommen als vor sechs Jahren?

EA: Im Moment steht der Nobelpreis nicht auf meiner persönlichen Agenda (lacht). Ich würde gerne administrative Verantwortlichkeiten übernehmen, um den Transfer von Wissen, Technologien und auch Verantwortung nach Afrika zu verbessern. Viele Afrikaner verlieren sich in ihrem Ehrgeiz und sind sich der Mechanismen nicht bewusst, wie sie ihre Ambitionen in die Tat umsetzen können. Ich möchte dabei helfen und plane eine Mischung aus diesen persönlichen Zielen und der Weiterführung meiner derzeitigen Forschung.

 

Haben Sie immer so gute Erfahrungen mit den Nachwuchswissenschaftlern gemacht wie mit Elom?

GF: Es ist immer wieder eine tolle Möglichkeit, Menschen zu treffen, die die Welt nach vorne bringen können. Alle Nachwuchswissenschaftler waren sehr höflich und haben sich an die Situation angepasst. Sie waren immer sehr dankbar und begierig, in Kontakt zu treten und jede Information in sich auf zu nehmen.

Der erste Zugang zur Welt – Gastfamilie Ober

Gastfamilie Ober nimmt seit 2013 Nachwuchswissenschaftler bei sich auf. Bisher waren immer junge Forscherinnen und Forscher aus Asien bei ihnen, zum Beispiel aus Korea, Taiwan oder Thailand. Häufig kommen zwei Nachwuchswissenschaftler gleichzeitig: Sie können in der Ferienwohnung übernachten. Sohn David (9) genießt die Anwesenheit der ‘fremden’ Gäste und hilft seinen Eltern als Gastgeber.

 

Gastfamilie Ober mit ihren zwei Nachwuchswissenschaftlern Nopphon Weeranoppanant („Nop“, links), Cholpisit Kiattisewee („Ice“, zweiter von rechts) und ihr Gast Pree-Cha Kiatkirakajorn („Joe“ rechts). Credit: Courtesy of Catharina Ober

Gastfamilie Ober mit ihren zwei Nachwuchswissenschaftlern Nopphon Weeranoppanant („Nop“, links), Cholpisit Kiattisewee („Ice“, zweiter von rechts) und ihrem Gast Pree-Cha Kiatkirakajorn („Joe“ rechts). Credit: Catharina Ober

 

Warum sind Sie Gastfamilie geworden?

Cathrin Ober: Meine Nichte Theresa hat damals vorgeschlagen, dass wir Nachwuchswissenschaftler bei uns aufnehmen. Wir waren eher unbedarft und haben gar nicht darüber nachgedacht, Gastfamilie zu werden. Theresa war definitiv die treibende Kraft hinter der Entscheidung. Sie hat schon vor fünf Jahren, als sie erst 14 Jahre alt war, gewusst, dass sie Physik studieren will und ist ganz begeistert von den Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagungen. Sie war damals auch schon bei einigen Veranstaltungen mit dabei – beim Grill & Chill zum Beispiel und bei den Matinees. Sie hat uns überzeugt, Nachwuchswissenschaftler bei uns aufzunehmen und hat versprochen, sich während der Tagung um sie zu kümmern. Als dann die ersten Nachwuchswissenschaftler bei uns waren, war unser Sohn David ganz begeistert von unserem ‘fremden’ Besuch. Er hat zum Beispiel jeden Morgen das Frühstück für sie vorbereitet. Er war damals erst fünf Jahre alt! Wenn er nicht so engagiert gewesen wäre, hätten wir das vielleicht nicht weiter gemacht, nachdem meine Nichte von Lindau weggezogen ist. Die Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagungen sind für uns als Stadt natürlich eine tolle Sache. Und dass alles so gut funktioniert, liegt eben auch daran, dass jeder mitmacht. Wir finden es gut, unseren Teil beizutragen.

Unser Sohn war ganz begeistert von unserem ‘fremden’ Besuch

Wie ist es, Gastfamilie während der Lindauer Tagungen zu sein, vor allem mit einem Kind?

CO: Es ist immer ein großer Spaß. Uns kommt zu Gute, dass die Wissenschaftler so ein volles Programm haben. Mein Mann und ich sind beide voll berufstätig und machen das Ganze nebenher. Obwohl wir nicht super viel Zeit haben, waren alle Nachwuchswissenschaftler immer sehr dankbar. Am einzigen freien Abend kochen wir für sie ein typisch deutsches Essen. Dieses Jahr gab es Kässpätzle mit geschwenkten Zwiebeln und Sauerkraut für unsere zwei thailändischen Gäste Nop und Ice. Unsere diesjährigen Nachwuchswissenschaftler waren bisher die lustigsten Gäste. Es war der Hit mit ihnen! Sie waren glücklich um jeden Kontakt. Sie haben sich sehr um David bemüht, haben zum Beispiel Tischkicker mit ihm gespielt und wild durcheinander geschwatzt. Vor ein paar Jahren konnte er ja noch kein Englisch sprechen, da ging alles mit Zeichensprache. Jetzt kann er schon ein paar Worte Englisch und probiert es aus. Das finde ich natürlich sehr gut; das ist eine tolle Sache für die Kinder in Gastfamilien. Es ist ein Öffnen zur Welt, sein erster Zugang zur Welt. Er war bei allem mit dabei und genießt jeden Moment. Es ist auch immer er, der die Nachwuchswissenschaftler beim ersten Treffen am Bahnhof als erster findet. David studiert ihre Fotos im Vorhinein und sucht die richtigen Nachwuchswissenschaftler dann am Bahnhof heraus (lacht).

Während des Interviews kommt Sohn David mit seinem Pullover mit der Aufschrift “Time to go and change the world“ herein. Auf die Frage, wie er es findet, dass jedes Jahr Nachwuchswissenschaftler zu Besuch kommen, sagt er: „Schon cool!“

 

Sind sie mit den Nachwuchswissenschaftlern in Kontakt geblieben, die bei Ihnen zu Gast waren?

CO: Wir sind bisher mit keinem unserer Gäste in Kontakt geblieben. Ich denke, dass es wirklich schwer ist, wenn man einander nur für eine Woche kennengelernt hat. Aber wenn wir wieder Kontakt aufnehmen wollten, dann wäre das sicher mit allen möglich. Unsere Nachwuchswissenschaftler dieses Jahr haben uns sehr direkt gesagt, dass die Hölle losbrechen würde, wenn wir einen Fuß auf Thailand setzen, ohne dass wir uns bei ihnen melden (lacht). Wir zeigen ihnen, wie schön Lindau ist und das war es dann. Wir sind auch nicht so versiert in den Naturwissenschaften. Mit keinem haben wir jemals wirklich über sein Fachgebiet gesprochen. Wir sprechen eher über die Länder und Sitten und die Schwerpunkte im Leben der Nachwuchswissenschaftler.

Ice und Nop waren ebenfalls begeistert von der „tollen Erfahrung“ (Ice) bei ihrer „wundervollen Gastfamilie“ (Nop). Besonders gut gefallen hat beiden der Austausch zu den kulturellen Unterschieden. Die Gespräche beim gemeinsamen Essen waren für Nop ein „sehr wichtiger Teil meiner Erinnerungen an Lindau. Und Spätzle war mein absoluter Favorit!“ (Nop).

 

Eine Familie fürs Leben in Lindau – Gastfamilie Heller

Herr und Frau Heller engagieren sich als Gastfamilie seit 2012. Seitdem haben sie jedes Jahr mindestens einen Nachwuchswissenschaftler während der Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagungen bei sich zu Hause begrüßt.

 

Gastfamilie Heller und Nachwuchswissenschaftlerin Dissaya aus Thailand. Credit: Courtesy of Dissaya Pornpattananangkul

Gastfamilie Heller und Nachwuchswissenschaftlerin Dissaya aus Thailand. Credit: Dissaya Pornpattananangkul

 

Warum haben Sie sich entschieden, Nachwuchswissenschaftler bei sich aufzunehmen?

Herr Heller: Ich habe zehn Jahre im Ausland gelebt und weiß deshalb, dass es schön ist, wenn man Zugang zu Locals bekommt, und bei Bedarf auf ihre Unterstützung zählen kann. Jeder möchte gerne Gastfreundschaft genießen; was im Umkehrschluss dann heißt, diese auch selbst anzubieten. In gewisser Weise kann man so, auch ohne in ein Flugzeug zu steigen, die Welt etwas besser kennenlernen und verstehen. Schließlich bin ich an Wissenschaft im Allgemeinen interessiert, im Besonderen an Astrophysik, Medizin und an Ökonomie.

In gewisser Weise kann man so, auch ohne in ein Flugzeug zu steigen, die Welt etwas besser kennenlernen und verstehen

 Wie ist es, während der Lindauer Tagungen Gastfamilie zu sein?

H: Es bedeutet tolerant und offen zu sein, Rücksicht zu nehmen und einer fremden Person einen Vertrauensbonus entgegen zu bringen. Es ist auf jeden Fall immer spannend, wenn ein völlig unbekannter Mensch ankommt und von einer Minute auf die andere zum Familienmitglied auf Zeit wird. Grundsätzlich ist es eine Bereicherung mit diesen Gästen Zeit zu verbringen und sich auszutauschen und damit ist es die kleinen Anstrengungen auf jeden Fall wert. Die Nachwuchswissenschaftler, die nach Lindau kommen, sind eine globale Elite. So ist es nicht überraschend, dass es angenehme, interessante, fähige und letztlich auch erstaunlich reife Persönlichkeiten sind. Leider ist es uns noch nicht gelungen, einen der Gäste dazu zu bewegen sich hier beruflich nieder zu lassen, obwohl jeder dieser Wissenschaftler ein Gewinn für Deutschland wäre.

 

Sie hatten schon viele Nachwuchswissenschaftler aus verschiedenen Ländern zu Gast. Gab es große Unterschiede zwischen ihnen?

H: Unsere Beobachtung ist, dass sich die jüngere und mobile Generation in der globalisierten Welt immer weiter annähert. Die Träume und Wünsche sind, trotz aller tradierten kulturellen Unterschiede, die gleichen: Sie möchten eine Familie gründen, sich beruflich entfalten, ein Haus besitzen, reisen sowie in einem gewissen Wohlstand, in Frieden und in Sicherheit leben. Vielleicht bedeutet diese globale Annäherung eine Reduktion kultureller Vielfalt, aber aus meiner Sicht überwiegen die positiven Auswirkungen, da Homogenität wie zum Beispiel das Sprechen der gleichen Sprache verbindend wirkt.

 

Können Sie sich an besondere Schlüsselmomente mit den Nachwuchswissenschaftlern erinnern, die Ihnen im Kopf geblieben sind?

H: 2013 hatten wir eine Nachwuchswissenschaftlerin aus Thailand zu Gast: Dissaya. Mit ihr hatten wir von Beginn an direkt einen sehr guten Draht. Sie ist zu einer Freundin geworden und wir haben mit ihr eine dauerhafte Verbindung, obwohl uns tausende von Kilometern trennen. Während der Tagung hatten wir einige tiefgehende Gespräche bei einem Glas Rotwein. Wir haben über wichtige Dinge des Lebens gesprochen: was es bedeutet, älter zu werden, um eines zu nennen. Das waren berührende Momente. Ich habe sie auch auf eine Motorradtour mitgenommen und ihr die Umgebung gezeigt. Nach ihrem Besuch bei uns, kam Dissaya nach ein paar Monaten sogar noch einmal zurück, um zwei Wochen Urlaub bei uns zu machen. Sie hat uns auch zu ihrer Hochzeit eingeladen, leider haben wir es nicht geschafft, dabei zu sein.

 

Lindau Alumna Dissaya aus Thailand schrieb uns zu ihrer Erfahrung in der Gastfamilie.

Dissaya Pornpattananangkul: Vor dem ersten Treffen mit meiner Gastfamilie erwartete ich nur, Erfahrungen mit den Menschen vor Ort auszutauschen. Als ich dann das erste Mal in Lindau ankam, wartete Herr Heller dort auf mich, um mich abzuholen. Von diesem Moment an hat sich meine Gastfamilie wirklich rührend um mich gekümmert. Sie haben mir viele Orte in Lindau gezeigt. Es war eine der wertvollsten Erfahrungen, die ich im Ausland gemacht habe. Durch sie habe ich für das ganze Leben eine Familie in Lindau bekommen. […] Jeder Moment hier war wirklich sehr besonders. Herr Heller hat mich einmal auf eine Motorradtour in die Berge mitgenommen. Die Sicht war fantastisch. Das war wirklich eine der schönsten Szenerien, die ich je gesehen habe.

 

Alumna Dissaya at the motorcycle tour. Photo/Credit: Courtesy of Mr. Heller

Lindau Alumna Dissaya bei ihrer Motorradtour mit Herrn Heller. Credit: Heller

Wir danken den drei Gastfamilien herzlich für Ihr Engagement, Ihre Offenheit und die interessanten Gespräche.

The World at Home in Lindau

For nine years, host families from Lindau and the surrounding area have welcomed young scientists from all over the world who are participating in the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. Through their engagement, the young scientists avail of the unique opportunity to get to know Lindau and its people in personal surroundings and learn more about their lives and culture first-hand. 

 

Reunited After Six Years – Elom Aglago and His Lindau Host Family

Brigitte Trojan and Hans Schweickert have been participating in the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings as a host family since 2011. They have already welcomed seven young scientists from all over the world (Egypt, Japan, Georgia, Chile, Iran, Lebanon and Togo). In 2011, young scientist Elom Aglago from Togo was their first guest. They have kept in touch during the past six years, and this year, Elom came back to Lindau to meet his host family again.

 

Elom Algago and his host family in Lindau. Credit: Christoph Schumacher/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Elom Aglago and his host family in Lindau. Credit: Christoph Schumacher/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

How did you decide to become a host family?

Brigitte Trojan/Hans Schweickert: We had just moved here to Lindau, into a new house with garden, when we thought that we might welcome a young scientist from abroad. We love being at home, we love living here in Lindau, but we are also open to new cultures and perspectives. In addition, we are very enthusiastic about the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. So, for us, it was a perfect opportunity to meet people from all over the world. It is also a great way for us to improve our English.

For us, it was a perfect opportunity to meet people from all over the world

How do you remember Elom’s first stay here in Lindau?

BT/HS: We felt happy and privileged to host Elom here in 2011. We had breakfast together every morning and talked about the daily programme. And every evening, he gave us a briefing about the day at the Lindau Meeting. We got lots of inspiration from him. He always liked to discuss things with us, and we truly appreciate that.

 

How did you stay in contact over the past six years?

BT/HS: We occasionally exchanged e-mails. For example, we wished each other a Merry Christmas each year. We sent him the news from Lindau, told him about the new young scientists, and in return received news from Togo, Morocco or France, depending on where he lived at the time. He shared the progress of his scientific career with us, the papers he published and his most important findings. Two years ago, we had the idea that he could visit us again. Last December, we have planned his visit for this summer – and now he is here again.

 

How was it to see each other again?

BT/HS: We met at the railway station and were happy to see each other again. Immediately, there was the familiar warmth and the same spark. We right away started again to discuss differences and in our philosophies, and to talk about the roles of family and parents in our different cultures and so on. We missed him, and our cat missed him as well (laughs).

 

Is he the same as you remember him?

BT/HS: Yes and No. He is as young and lively as he was then – but also a little bit more serious; it seems as if he has arrived where he wants to be.

 

Elom at the Bavarian Evening during the Lindau Meeting 2011. Photo/Credit: Courtesy of Elom Algago

Elom at the Bavarian Evening during the Lindau Meeting 2011. Photo/Credit: Courtesy of Elom Aglago

Elom Aglago: I have become wiser; I’m not as childlike as I was then. I think that my host family contributed in some way to that; they helped me to understand differences in cultures, to respect other cultures and learn from them. I think it all started with the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. I experienced for the first time that we are all different but unique and special. We have to take that into account.

 

Are you closer to getting the Nobel Prize now than you were back in 2012?

EA: Personally, getting the Nobel Prize is not on my agenda at the moment (laughs). I would like to take on administrative position from which I can improve the transfer of knowledge, technology and responsibility to Africa. Many Africans get lost in their ambitions, not aware of the correct procedures. I plan to do this and continue with my research at the same time.

 

Did you have such good experiences with every young scientist you welcomed?

BT/HS: It is always a great opportunity to meet people who are able to bring the world forwards. All young scientists were very polite and got along well in our home. They were always very thankful; and were eager to engage in dialogue and to take in all information.

 

 

 The First Access to the World – Host Family Ober

The Ober family has been welcoming young scientists in Lindau since 2013. Thus far, all of them have been from Asia: Korea, Taiwan and Thailand. Often, two young scientists stay at their holiday apartment at the same time. Their son David enjoys the company of the foreign visitors and helps his parents as host.

 

Host family Ober with their two young scientists Nopphon Weeranoppanant (“Nop”, left) and Cholpisit Kiattisewee (“Ice”, second from right) and guest Pree-Cha Kiatkirakajorn (“Joe”, right). Photo/Credit: Courtesy of Catharina Ober

Host family Ober with their two young scientists Nopphon Weeranoppanant (“Nop”, left) and Cholpisit Kiattisewee (“Ice”, second from right) and guest Pree-Cha Kiatkirakajorn (“Joe”, right). Photo/Credit: Courtesy of Catharina Ober

 

Why did you become a host family for the Lindau Meetings?

Cathrin Ober: My niece Theresa came up with the idea of acting as a host family for young scientists. We wouldn’t have thought about if it wasn’t for her; she was the driving force behind our decision. She already knew five years ago, when she was 14, that she would become a physicist and had been at various events of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, for example, at the Grill & Chill or at the Matinee. She convinced us to volunteer as a host family and promised to care for the young scientists during their stay. When the first young scientists came to our home, our son, David, also became enthusiastic about the visitors. For example, he prepared the breakfasts for them. He was only five years old! If he wouldn’t have been that committed, we may have stopped after my niece had left Lindau. […] The Lindau Meetings are wonderful for our city. Everything is always working out that well, because everyone plays their part to the full. We are happy to contribute our bit.

Our son also became enthusiastic about the visitors

How is it to be a host family during the Lindau Meetings, especially with a young child?

CO: It is always a lot of fun! We benefit from the tightly packed programme of the young scientists. I mean, my husband and I are both fully employed; we’re doing this alongside our day jobs. Although we don’t have much time, the young scientists were always very grateful. We do have the mornings together, and on the only free evening, we are always cooking a German meal for our guests. This year, we made Kässpätzle, sautéed onions and Sauerkraut. Up to now, the two Thai boys we had here this year have been the most fun, it was amazing with them. They played tabletop soccer with David. They always tried to chat with him. In previous years, it was only sign language, but now he knows a few words in English. I think that it is a good thing for him and the other children in host families. It is his first access to the world. He has always joined when we spent time with them, and it is always him who first finds the young scientists at the train station. He looks at their photos before we pick them up at the station, and he always spots them right away!

During the interview, their son David enters the room, wearing a jumper with the inscription ’Time to go and change the world’. When asked how it is to have young scientists at their home every year, he simply replied: “Quite cool!”

 

Have you stayed in contact with the young scientists you have welcomed here in Lindau?

CO: We have never stayed in contact with any of our guests. I really do think that it is hard if you only get to know each other for one week. But if we’d like to get in touch again, it would surely be possible with all of them. Our young scientists this year were quite direct and said that all hell would break loose if we were to set foot into Thailand without getting in touch with them (laughs). We show them the beauty of Lindau and that’s all. We’re not well versed in natural sciences. That’s why we never really talked about their disciplines. We talked about their countries and customs, about their focuses in life.

The two young scientists were also enthusiastic about their stay at the Ober’s house. They told us about the “incredible experience” (Ice) with “an amazing host family” (Nop). They were particularly pleased with the exchange of their cultures. The conversations during the meals were “very important parts of my memory of Lindau. And Spätzle was my favourite! :)” (Nop)

 

 

Lindau Family for Life – Host Family Heller

Mrs. and Mr. Heller are a host family since 2012. Every year, they welcome at least one young scientist at their home.

 

Host family Heller and Alumna Dissaya in Lindau. Credit: Courtesy of Dissaya Pornpattananangkul

Host family Heller and Alumna Dissaya in Lindau. Credit: Courtesy of Dissaya Pornpattananangkul

 

Why did you decide to host young scientists?

Mr. Heller: I have spent ten years of my life abroad. I know what it’s like to be a foreigner in another country and how nice it is to get access to the local people and to get their support. Everybody wishes to enjoy hospitality: this means that you have to offer it yourself. In that way, you can get to know the world without stepping onto an airplane.
In addition, I do have a special interest in science in general and in astrophysics, medicine and economic sciences in particular.

In that way, you can get to know the world without stepping onto an airplane.

What is it like to be a host family?

H: Being a host family means to be tolerant and open. It implies to be considerate of others and to give someone you don’t know the benefit of the doubt. It is always exciting when a completely unknown person becomes part of your family from one minute to the next. In general, it is always an enrichment to spend time with those guests. The young scientists that come to Lindau are global elite. It is thus not surprising that they are pleasant, interesting, capable and astonishingly mature personalities. Unfortunately, we have not yet succeeded in persuading one of our guests to move to Germany and work here, although each of the scientists would mean an enormous gain for our country.

 

Were there huge differences between the different young scientists you have welcomed in Lindau up to now?

H: In our experience, the young and mobile generation in a global world is coming closer together. Their dreams and wishes are – despite all cultural differences – the same: they want to start a family, to develop professionally, to travel as well as to live in wealth, peace and security. Although there might be a loss of cultural diversity, I believe that the positive impact of this is predominant due to the fact that homogeneity has a connecting effect.

 

Is there a key moment you remember with one of the young scientists?

H: In 2013, we welcomed a young scientist from Thailand: Dissaya. With her, we immediately had a special connection. She really became our friend even though thousands of kilometers are dividing us. During the Lindau Meeting, we had some deep conversations over a glass of red wine. We talked about the important things in life: for example, about what it means to grow old. Those moments were quite touching. I also took her out on a motorcycle tour once to show her the surroundings. A few months later, Dissaya came back to Lindau to stay with us for a two-week vacation. She also invited us to her wedding a few years ago; unfortunately, we weren’t able to go.

 

After the interview with Mr. Heller, we asked Dissaya to also comment on her experience with her host family.

Dissaya Pornpattananangkul: Before meeting with the family, I was only expecting to exchange experiences with the local people. The first time I arrived in Lindau by train, Mr. Heller was there waiting to pick me up. From that moment onwards, my host family took care of me so well. They showed me many places in Lindau. It was one of the most valuable experiences abroad for me. Staying with the host family, I gained a family in Lindau for life. […] The whole time I was there, every moment was very special. Mr. Heller took me out to ride a motorcycle in the mountains. The view was fantastic. It was really one of the most beautiful sceneries I have ever seen.

 

Alumna Dissaya at the motorcycle tour. Photo/Credit: Courtesy of Mr. Heller

Alumna Dissaya at the motorcycle tour. Photo/Credit: Heller

We thank the Lindau host families for their engagement as well as the open and interesting conversations.

After Nerd Heaven: Once a Lindau Attendee, Always a Lindau Alum

It has been a few weeks since the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Chemistry and while you probably have gotten back in the swing of things at work and university, you probably are still walking around with a huge grin on your face. I know I am. I can’t stop smiling when I think about my experience at Lindau. The lectures! The laughter! The lifetime connections I forged! (And don’t forget about the food! Oh, the glorious Bavarian and Mexican food!) It was an unforgettable – and unreproducible – experience.

Now your colleagues are probably wondering why you keep showing off your pearly whites – what are you so happy about? They might not get it, but we do. I attended as a journalist, blogger and the chair of the Science Careers panel, and I get it and I get you. You experienced something amazing – you experienced Nerd Heaven. You were in a place that celebrates success and curiosity and insight and nature and encourages you to be scientific pioneers, exploring the frontiers of knowledge and our universe. You participated in a once-in-a-lifetime intersection of intelligence and impact. Of course you are still fondly thinking of it!

 

Young scientists during the 67th Lindau Meeting, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Now while your Lindau experience may have seemed like it only lasted one week, let me assure you that that is incorrect. The Lindau Meeting is simply the first step in a continuum of Lindau experiences you are about to enjoy. And you won’t be alone in this journey, because as a participant in the meeting, you now share the singular experience that binds you with every other Lindau attendee. You are a Lindau Alumnus or Alumna, and this is something special.

Alumni are extremely important to organisations and Lindau is no different. The success of future Lindau Meetings is dependent upon your success. As scientists, you are society’s gatekeepers, providing us access to information and ideas that move us forward. As Lindau Alumni, you matter, because you make science happen. And therefore you make Lindau happen.

So as new alumni, here are a few ideas to solidify and grow the networking momentum that you experienced at Lindau as you move beyond the place of Lindau and towards the concept of Lindau:

  • Review the Science Careers panel: you are sure to get additional insight into how and why to invest in your career in science, how you can make an impact, how you can pursue your career, what careers are accessible to you (hint: it’s limited only by your imagination!), and how to go about career planning. The panel provided invaluable advice and if you watch it again with fresh eyes, you may catch something you didn’t before. I know I did!

  • Keep your contact information updated: the Lindau folks will be contacting you. They want to keep you involved and engaged in Lindau and with each other. They are invested in your success in the future. So make sure you keep them apprised when you change jobs, institutions, and fields, and when you have triumphs. Key point – when you win the Nobel Prize, make sure you call them immediately after you hear from Sweden! But seriously, stay in touch, and take note that even if at some point you decide to pursue a non-traditional profession or arena, or decide to leave science (seemingly) altogether (fancy a career in cupcakes, do you?), you should still stay in touch. You are still an Alum. You still are still part of the Lindau ecosystem and you are still part of the Lindau family.
  • Take advantage of Lindau Alumni resources: over the next few months and years, you will be hearing about many projects and programmes that Lindau is planning to bolster its alumni network and create opportunities for you to succeed. They will be holding in-person events around the world and webinars related to career development, professional advancement, and job and career planning. They will be enhancing social media networking, so join them and contribute to the conversation. Be sure to join the Lindau Alumni Network. The Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings aims to grow the alumni network and continuously provide value to Lindau Alumni to meet your professional needs and objectives. So you can also let them know how they can help you!
  • Go through the calling (aka business) cards that you collected at the conference. Reach out to those people and let them know how nice it was to meet them at the Lindau Meeting. Connect with them on career networks, and then stay connected with them. Keep them apprised of your career progression. When you know that you are attending Conference X, email them and ask them if they will be too and see if you can schedule a dinner or a coffee appointment. Stay in touch. These are your peers and they are walking similar roads as you. Don’t let the networking you did at Lindau be for nothing. Cultivate those relationships.

 

Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

  • Follow up with the laureates! You want to build a win-win partnership with the people in your networks, and the laureates are no different. So keep them apprised of your triumphs and trials, seek their advice, and help them to help you. And of course, look for ways you can help them, too! For ideas on how young scientists can provide value to leaders in your field, check out my article, Networking with Dr. God, in Science/ScienceCareers, featuring Nobel Laureate and Lindau participant, William Phillips.
  • Promote your Lindau experiences. Volunteer to give a presentation at you institution about the Lindau Meeting and experience, write an article for your local or university or association publication, offer to meet with colleagues who might have an interest in attending. Be a champion for Lindau so others can learn of its relevance and participate in it and invest in it (and become alumni too!).

 The most important thing is to remember you are part of a global team of individuals who have the privilege to be Lindau Alumni, and with great privilege comes great responsibility. Yes, there are many benefits you will receive as an active Lindau Alum – career advice and resources, ideas and inspiration, networking, and of course, greater potential impact of your science. But there is also something of value you can provide the scientific community, and that is to take the information, knowledge and principles that you gained at Lindau and disseminate them. Educate. Inspire. Connect. Lindau is more than a place, it is a platform and you must ensure that the ideas shared here are acted upon. As Lindau Alumni, you have that power.

Stay tuned for Lindau Alumni news, and again, welcome to the family! Your adventure is just beginning, and you have thousands of compatriots (representing 80+ countries) aligned with you to advance science, advance society, and advance humankind. I can’t wait to see what you and your Alumni brethren will do.

 

Young scientists during the 67th Lindau Meeting, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Scientists Should Actively Participate in Public Debate

At the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, this year more than in any other year, scientists felt the need to speak up about the way that public policy is intervening in the future of scientific research.

Now, as during other times in our history, we are facing political scientific disbelief and discussion around scientific observations. Notorious predecessors that faced a much harsher fame were Giordano Bruno or Galileo Galilei, whose theories nobody would doubt nowadays.  At the meeting there was enough time for informal chats and public debates around these themes. As a participant of the press talk organised by Deutsche Welle, I brought forward the idea that it is our responsibility, as scientists, to be engaged with society. I would imagine this a bit like in Athens in the old days, when citizens had a say in matters that concerned them. Scientists should be communicators, and they should be responsible for being able to give back to society and to politics –something that is probably expect from us. We organise marathons, cake bake events and many more initiatives to raise money for research, but what do we do next? Do we communicate effectively where the money raised ended up?

 

Melania Zauri and Aurelio Nuño Mayer, Secretary of Education, Mexico, during a Press Talk at the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Melania Zauri and Arturo Borja Tamayo, Director of International Cooperation, CONACYT (National Council of Science and Technology), Mexico, during a Press Talk at the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Most of the basic and some of the applied research is funded through public money coming from the European Research Council in Europe or the National Institutes of Health in the USA, to name some examples. This means that taxpayers were subject to some form of deductions in their wages to support science. It would be ideal if scientists themselves felt the responsibility to communicate in turn with citizens and funding institutions, because this would foster more collaborations, eventually share the joy for discovery and ultimately even attract more people into science (for example, in a larger citizen science initiative where people see the clear benefit to society by donating part of their time or body, as in clinical research, for the benefit of mankind). Furthermore, funding agencies request more and more that research is communicated to both specialised and non-specialised audiences. Indeed, the public dissemination of science was another strong topic at the Lindau Meeting, which was brought forward by Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie during his talk. He advocated open access journals and preprint servers. He announced the good news that preprint servers are now, after being already established in biology and physics, also being introduced in the field of chemistry! Among the advantages of preprint servers, he mentioned the universal availability of the research, which helps to expose scientific findings to a larger audience and to communicate it back to society. Specialised science communicators will also have access and can team up with scientists to foster the connection to society.

 

 

Ultimately, every contribution will count, and I was honoured to find, while writing this article, that my views are shared by Nobel Laureate Ada Yonath as she expressed during an interview in 2010. I would like to conclude with her enthusiastic quote: “Society financed this science, if not directly, then the education and the way I got there, so society should get back what I found. […] And as for making contact with the layperson, I think young people, teenagers and those in their early twenties don’t have enough exposure to science; they don’t know what it is. I myself have been working on this for many years – I give lectures at many different events and to different groups.”

A Long Road to Becoming a Chemist

The path to my professional career as a chemist was not easy but constructive and challenging in some ways. I grew up in a small, quiet and traditional town in the state of Mexico Texcoco. Both of my parents had to overcome severe economic difficulties to pursue their own career in biology. Thankfully, I was blessed with their pledge to provide me a good education.

I attended a private school to learn English and because the academic programme was more challenging. During my basic education, I participated in several science and academic contests and I enjoyed the school profoundly. My generation was the first that stayed at home, there were not more chances to play in the streets or the neighbourhood, because of the numerous cars in the streets and the worsening of security. Then, in the middle school, I attended a math workshop where I learned tricks to do arithmetic operations in a flash and to solve math puzzles. With that training, I was selected to participate in Math Counts and the Pierre Fermat contest. Later, I enrolled in the EPT-UAEM public high school and was benefitted with a scholarship. During my last year there, I was invited to train for the regional Chemistry Olympiads. I was selected to continue to the state and furthermore the national contest.  That stage was meaningful for my further decision to study chemistry since I was selected to attend Mexico’s National Olympiad of Chemistry. This privilege implied a strong commitment by means of travelling two hours to the school of Chemistry of UAEM-Mexico to be trained for the competition, and then two hours more for the way back. I travelled with my mother after the school in an old van provided by the principal two or three days a week during some months. We arrived at home almost at midnight, exhausted but enthusiastic about my training and the hopeful support within my family. I valued that experience greatly because other peers and I received fascinating lessons with devoted teachers and scientists.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Ana Torres

Ana Torres in front of the Rudder Fountain on the Texas A&M University campus, Photo: Courtesy of Ana Torres

 

After the enriching experience of attending the national contest and motivated by my teachers I decided to study chemistry in the School of Chemistry of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. So therefore, I spent four hours on a round-trip each day to Mexico City to pursue my bachelor degree. Sometimes I travelled by car with my father before dawn, but other days I had tiring trips in the overcrowded subway and the bus, which arrived in the middle of nowhere, where my parents picked me up. Fortunately, quantum chemistry captivated me and I joined a theoretical research workgroup after I had my first course in that subject area.

One year later, I got my bachelor degree with honours and continued my postgraduate studies in chemistry supported by a grant of the National Council of Science and Technology. Usually, there are very few students willing to pursue a career in Theoretical Chemistry in my program. It is worth mentioning that while I studied, my advisor and other theorists designed the Quantum and Computational Chemistry post-graduate courses – indeed some of the lectures were given for the very first time. Furthermore, at that time I started my own family and I had to organise my time efficiently to get a functional balance between motherhood, research and teaching. Therefore, through family shared efforts, hard-work and passion for science I graduated with honours, gaining the M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry, whereas my son developed a love for math.

 

Ana Torres with her parents, Photo: Courtesy of Ana Toores

Ana Torres with her parents, Socorro Hernandez and Pablo Torres, at the National Autonomus Unviersity of Mexico, Photo: Courtesy of Ana Torres

 

I became a teacher and mentor for undergraduate students just after I got my Master’s degree. Then, for the Ph.D., I moved to the Materials Research Institute where Prof. Serguei Fomine became my advisor. From him I learned a strong discipline of work and a structured way to analyse the chemical problems. This contributed positively since I graduated in less time than my postgraduate program demarked. After I graduated, I was accepted for a postdoctoral position within the group of Prof. Perla Balbuena in Texas A&M University. Thus, I dealt with almost six months of paperwork to get a scholarship and arrange the immigration documentation for my son, my husband and for me. I arrived in the US one month later than the start date of the programme given the migratory issues. At present, I am grateful for the support and academic guidance of Prof. Balbuena and committed to work hard on my research project. My family and I are partaking this opportunity to grow in academic and personal areas and I shall respond to their great effort. Science has opened me the doors to travel to countries abroad and to build collaborations and friendships. Currently, I am member of the Graduate Women in Science organisation, the Toastmasters club as well as the group of Bible studies for women and I enjoy sharing Spanish classes.

 

Lindau Alumni 2017 Ana Torres and Octavio Saucedo, Nobel Laureate Mario Molina, former President of the Mexican Academy of Sciences Jose Franco and Director of International Cooperation CONACYT, Arturo Borja (from left to right) after a discussion on Public Policy at the 67th Lindau Meeting, Photo: Courtesy of Ana Torres

Lindau Alumni 2017 Ana Torres and Octavio Saucedo, Nobel Laureate Mario Molina, Jose Franco, former President of the Mexican Academy of Sciences, and Arturo Borja, Director of International Cooperation CONACYT, (from left to right) after a discussion on Public Policy at the 67th Lindau Meeting, Photo: Courtesy of Ana Torres

 

The main goal of my current research project is to perform a theoretical study of the interfacial phenomena relevant for the development of new generation rechargeable batteries. Likewise, I will address the confinement effect exerted by molecular sieves, solvents, nano-structured materials or an inert gas matrix over the chemical reactions, which are important for chemical catalysis. It is expected that the outcome of this project would support experimental research that has been developed for both the description and design of battery materials and catalytic systems. Nowadays, it is important to assist the novel frontier materials design (with enhanced features) using theoretical methods and computational calculations before being synthetised in the laboratory. This could be very helpful to optimise resources and facilitate the materials implementation for the manufacturing process of technological devices.