Some Surprising Words of Wisdom

Lindau Alumna Karen Stroobants during the Panel Discussion 'Ethics in Science' at the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Lindau Alumna Karen Stroobants during the Panel Discussion ‘Ethics in Science’ at the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

We have had the privilege to take part in an event that I am sure we will talk about for long, and remember forever.

 This week, we have been educated by the most innovative chemists, and scientists, alive today. And where we indeed expected to learn about protein structures, novel methodologies and reaction mechanisms, some other words of wisdom genuinely came as a surprise. Harald zur Hausen, for example, has pointed out to us how important it is to acknowledge all contributors of ones work, whether they are human or collaborating cattle. Dan Shechtman has given us some essential dating advice; “thermodynamically, the perfect partner does not exist”. And according to William Moerner, watching ‘The Simpsons’ should be a fairly accurate method to predict whether one will obtain a Nobel Prize.

 

Martin Chalfie at the Science Picnic with young scientists during the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie and young scientists during the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

 We have been inspired by Nobel Laureates, who have really engaged with us throughout this week. I personally decided to take up my studies in chemistry after learning about Marie Sklodowska-Curie, and I am sure many of us have been strengthened in our enthusiasm to pursuit the scientific profession after engaging with all the role models we met here in Lindau. In addition to the inspiration we have all gained in our specific fields, I hope we collectively have been inspired to deposit our pre-prints in online archives. Many of us recognise problems in the current academic culture, and let me remind you that we are the next generation of academics, and we have the possibility to reshape this culture. We can start today, and the concept presented by Martin Chalfie can be our first step in this endeavour.

 We have connected, not only with Nobel Laureates but also with one another. All of you have expressed creative ideas, contagious enthusiasm and profound confidence during our conversations. However, I could not but notice that those young scientists who are attracted by the academic career path showed more of this confidence than those who are considering other directions. Of course as Peter Agre mentioned, I hope many of us will reach our scientific aspirations. I want to encourage in particular the motivated women I have met, so that Ada Yonath will over time enjoy female company on the Lindau stage.

 

Lindau Alumna Karen Stroobants at lunch with Nobel Laureate Aaron Ciechanover during the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting , Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Lindau Alumna Karen Stroobants at lunch with Nobel Laureate Aaron Ciechanover during the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting , Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

To the few who have, with hesitation, expressed their passion to become a teacher, please remember that Ben Feringa might not have taken up a career in science was it not for his high school teacher. To those who have discussed potential opportunities in the policy field, let me remind you that during the opening keynote lecture of this event, Steven Chu would have liked to tell us that science should always be coupled to society, economics, and politics. We need teachers and policy makers, who advocate for the scientific method, at least as much as we need Nobel Prize winners. So whatever career path you decide on, please let it be a positive choice, and one that will enable you to have fun.

Faster Progress for Everyone

Martin Chalfie is promoting preprint archives for biological research papers that will make new results and findings accessible to a significantly bigger audience much faster.

 

Credit: exdez/iStock.com

Credit: exdez/iStock.com

 

Important questions that kept cropping up during the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting include what the future of research can and will look like and how the status quo can be improved. Beside the oft-mentioned political events and their influence on science, another major issue concerns an intrinsic problem: the publication machinery and the importance of the impact factor. Shortly before the meeting, a number of Nobel Laureates publicly criticised the current journal-ranking method. During the meeting, Martin Chalfie also expressed his view that publications should be assessed more on the basis of their factual quality and less on which journal they appear in. I asked him what he had in mind as an alternative and what steps, if any, he has taken. His solution is: ASAPbio.org – Accelerating Science and Publication in Biology.

ASAPbio is an advocacy group founded by Ron Vale – an initiative instigated by scientists for scientists it aims to make new discoveries within the life science available to a broad audience much faster than previously possible. Chalfie helped launched the initiative in early 2016 together with Harold Varmus, Daniel Colón-Ramos and Jessica Polka, now the director of ASAPbio. “We wanted to develop a preprint archive for biological research. There has been something similar in physics for at least a quarter of a century.” As soon as researchers are ready to share their work and findings with the world, Chalfie continues, they can upload their articles to a preprint archive, where it can then be read and commented on by other scientists as well as by the general public. The largest preprint server for life science-related articles is bioRxiv.

ASAPbio promotes the use of open access centralised and comprehensive repositories for all life sciences. “This changes the overall dynamics of the publication process,” Chalfie says. The conventional publication pathway looks quite different: A scientific paper is submitted to a suitable journal. In an initial step, one or more editors then decide whether the paper is appropriate material for the journal in question. If the editors give the go-ahead, the paper is passed on to several experts in the field. They then form a picture of the work and can, if they deem it necessary, reject the paper as deficient or request further experiments. In such cases, the authors have several months to make the requested changes before a final decision is made, which can still be negative even after suggested changes have been made. All in all, the decision-making process can take from several months to a year, and if the paper is ultimately rejected, the authors have to submit it afresh to another journal. As a result, not only the authors lose valuable time but also the research community and the public at large, who have no access to the new findings during the decision-making process. “By contrast, preprint archives make new discoveries and research advances immediately available to everyone – whether scientists or students – and they do so free of charge,” Chalfie says, summarising the advantages.

Moreover, each paper is automatically assigned a definite submission date which the authors can refer to should a similar work be published soon afterwards.

However, Chalfie, points out, “it’s not about publishing raw data at an early stage.” Instead, a manuscript should be uploaded to an archive platform at the same time as it is submitted to a journal. It is then revised in stages in response to feedback from the journal and comments submitted via the platform.

 

 

Martin Chalfie talking to young scientists during the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting,  Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Martin Chalfie talking to young scientists during the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

“During one of the first organisational meetings, we talked about how the established journals would be likely to react to such an initiative and these platforms. Fortunately, the major journals such as Science, Nature, the journals of professional societies and many others all support the idea of preprint archives and the general repository,” Chalfie explains. The journals have no problem with authors submitting their papers to them and uploading them to a platform simultaneously. Many journals even allow “joint submissions”, meaning that they ask authors whether they want to make their papers available on an archive server at the same time.

Another sign that this new pre-release system will catch on in the long term is the acceptance of such prearchived work as a criterion for grants, the allocation of project funds and similar selection procedures. “The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the NIH, the Wellcome Trust and many universities now consider papers in the preprint archive in their evaluation of applicants,” as Chalfie relates proudly.

Although the new preprint archives as well as the general repository for biological research are still in their infancy compared to the fields of physics, and they have yet to be discovered by many scientists, they have already been acknowledged and accepted by major research institutes and renowned journals. Therefore, advocacy groups such as ASAPBio offer an excellent opportunity to take the cumbersome publication process in the life sciences to a new direction and focus once again on the actual quality of research work instead of mere impact factors.

#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.

From Copper Photocatalysts to Chemical Topology

When Jean-Pierre Sauvage started his own research lab, he focused on developing copper catalysts that could absorb light and use that energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. After characterising the shape of one of these catalysts, the focus of his research changed to that recognised by the 2016 Nobel Prize in chemistry: synthesising molecules with interlocking rings and knots.

The game-changing catalyst was a copper ion binding to the concave portions of two crescent-shaped phenanthroline molecules. Because of its binding geometry, the copper ion held the arcs in perpendicular planes. Sauvage realised that closing each crescent to form a loop would create a molecule with two interlocking rings, called a [2]catenane. “At that stage, we had to decide whether we would continue in the field of inorganic photochemistry, or be more adventurous and jump into a field we didn’t know so well,” Sauvage said. “We decided to jump.”

 

Jean-Pierre Sauvage during his lecture at the 67th Lindau Meeting, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Jean-Pierre Sauvage during his lecture at the 67th Lindau Meeting, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

The field less familiar to him at that time is called chemical topology, and it has foundations in mathematics and biological molecules. Topology is the study of infinitely deformable objects. Mathematicians classify topological knots as identical if they have the same number of loops and crossings, even if their shapes appear drastically different. Topological knots can also be found in biological structures. Some bacteria have a loop of DNA, and two interlocking rings of nucleic acid can appear as an intermediate during cell replication. In viruses that infect bacteria, intertwined cyclic proteins can provide rigidity to their outer shells.

In 1961, H. L. Frisch and E. Wasserman, at Bell Labs, connected topology to the chemical world, publishing ideas to synthesise molecules with interlocking rings and knots. Three years later, Profs. Schill and Lüttringhaus synthesised the first molecule with two interlocking rings, in an elegant, but lengthy, process that built each ring of the [2]catenane sequentially.

About twenty years later, Sauvage recognised that his copper catalyst pre-assembled the interlocking portion of the catenane, providing a fast and efficient route to the simplest molecular chain. In 1983, he, along with Christiane Dietrich-Buchecker and J.P. Kintzinger, synthesised a [2]catenane in two steps, compared to the 15 steps needed in the previous synthesis. Sauvage says the researchers knew their work was novel, but they partly hid it in the literature, publishing in a lesser-read journal and writing the article in French. Although the paper remains one of the few French papers of his career, the concept of templating catenane synthesis has become a standard method in the field.

 

A molecule with interlocking rings syntheised by Jean-Pierre Sauvage and Christiane Dietrich-Buchecker in 1983. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A molecule with interlocking rings synthesised by Jean-Pierre Sauvage and Christiane Dietrich-Buchecker in 1983. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Over the next decade, Sauvage and his group synthesised and characterised molecules with more complex topologies, including a doubly-interlocking catenane and molecular trefoil knot with three loops and three crossings.

As the researchers continued to follow their interest in the challenge of making molecules with novel structures, they also developed an interest in molecular motion. In interlocking rings, for example, one ring can rotate around the other. With a reliable way to make a variety of interlocking molecules, researchers could then build new structures, experiment with ways to control the motion, and then convert that motion to work in molecular machines – advances achieved by Sauvage’s colleagues, co-laureates, and friends J. Fraser Stoddard and Bernard L. Feringa.

From the story of his research, Sauvage had four pieces of advice for the young scientists:

Novelty is the most important thing when choosing research, and he stressed the importance of working in a team, interacting with other scientists inside or outside your group. Moving to an unfamiliar field can be very beneficial, Sauvage said. And although that jump can be intimidating, he encouraged the young scientists to be self-confident: “Do not ask yourself whether you are good enough to tackle a new problem: Just do it!”

#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.

 

Für die Wissenschaft einstehen, bis es “klick” macht

Die 67. Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagung neigt sich dem Ende zu. Die aktuellen politischen Ereignisse hinterlassen ihre Spuren, doch die Laureaten ermuntern die Nachwuchswissenschaftler zu Durchhaltevermögen und Leidenschaft für die Forschung.

Passend zum Abschluss der letzten Veranstaltung im Saal des großen Stadttheaters ertönt ein heftiges Gewitterdonnern – wie als Warnung an die Teilnehmer, sie mögen doch bitte wirklich all die neuen Forschungsfakten, sowie Vor- und Ratschläge verinnerlichen und mit nach Hause nehmen. Tag 4 und damit der letzte reguläre Programmtag der Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagung neigt sich dem Ende zu. 

 

Nachwuchswissenschaftler unterhalten sich mit Nobelpreisträger Martin Chalfie während der 67. Lindauer Tagung, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Nachwuchswissenschaftler mit Nobelpreisträger Martin Chalfie während der 67. Lindauer Tagung, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Die Woche war vollgepackt und doch viel zu kurz: die ersten Veranstaltungen, die sogenannten Science Breakfasts, behandelten Kernthemen wie Circular Economy, CO2 Recycling oder die Chemie des Geschmacks, und begannen bereits um 7 Uhr morgens. Und doch reichte die Zeit kaum aus, sich mit allen Teilnehmern über die neuesten Forschungsergebnisse, die (wissenschafts-) politischen Entwicklungen weltweit, oder einfach ihre eigene interessante internationale Geschichte auszutauschen. Denn genau das ist das erklärte Ziel der Lindauer Woche: der Austausch zwischen Nachwuchswissenschaftlern und Preisträgern sowie zwischen allen anderen Teilnehmern – je weiter entfernt des anderen Expertise von der eigenen, umso wertvoller ist der Gedankenaustausch.

Interessanterweise kam bei so einem Austausch ein Raum von etwa 50 Chemikern während des Circular Economy Science Breakfast mit dem Gastgeber BASF zu einer eher sozial-ökonomischen Erkenntnis, die Walter Gilbert von der Harvard Universität auf den Punkt brachte: „Die Wissenschaft kann Lösungen bieten – umgesetzt werden müssen diese aber von allen zusammen.“ Er bezog sich hierbei vor allem auf neue umweltschonende Technologien, die zwar von der Grundlagenforschung her bereits durchaus realisierbar sind, aber von den Konsumenten noch nicht angenommen werden. Er und die Teilnehmer sahen hier vor allem die Forschung in der Pflicht, die Vorteile der neuen Entwicklungen so lange zu erklären, zu verdeutlichen und anzupreisen, bis sie tatsächlich in das Allgemeinverständnis und den Alltag übergegangen sind.

 

Nachwuchswissenschaftler unterhalten sich mit Nobelrpreisträger Robert Huber beim BASF Science Breakfast.  Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Nachwuchswissenschaftler unterhalten sich mit Nobelrpreisträger Robert Huber beim BASF Science Breakfast. Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Neben der exzellenten Forschung schlängelte sich auch die zur Zeit international schwierige Situation der Forschung durch die Veranstaltung. Vor allem die Nachwuchsforscher sehen sich inzwischen vielfach extrem wissenschaftsfeindlicher Einstellungen ausgesetzt, und suchen Rat, wie sie am besten damit umgehen sollen. Die nahezu einhellige Meinung der Laureaten: den Mund aufmachen und für die Forschung und wissenschaftliche Fakten einstehen.

Dazu gehört eine fundierte, sachliche, aber auch beherzte Wissenschaftskommunikation, die neue Erkenntnisse nicht nur unter Wissenschaftlern, sondern auch einer breiten Öffentlichkeit zugänglich machen sollte. Weder die Forscher noch die Wissenschaftsjournalisten sollten sich hierzu hinter Fachjargon oder Plattitüden verstecken. Und in der Panel Discussion Science Careers rief Sir John E. Walker die Nachwuchswissenschaftler sogar zu einer Karriere als Politiker oder Politikberater auf: „Die Politiker können nur fundierte Entscheidungen treffen, wenn sie gut informiert sind und die Materie verstehen. Dazu brauchen sie euch!“ Er und seine Panelmitstreiter May Shana’a (Beiersdorf AG), Dan Shechtman (Nobelpreiträger am Weizmann Institut), Wiltrud Treffenfeldt (Dow Europe GmbH) und Thomas Gianetti (ETH Zürich) sehen es schlicht als Pflicht der Wissenschaftler an, für die Forschung und deren Ergebnisse einzustehen.

 

Podiumsdiskussion zum Thema

Podiumsdiskussion zum Thema “Science Careers”, Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Außerdem forderten die Laureaten die jungen Forscher vielfach dazu auf, auch abseits der bekannten und bequemen Pfade zu forschen, um so wieder große Durchbrüche zu schaffen. Martin Chalfie und viele andere erzählen Anekdoten, wie wahrlich neue Erkenntnisse oft durch Fehlversuche zu Stande kamen. Anstatt die Fehlversuche als Versagen zu werten, sollten die Nachwuchswissenschaftler die Freude an der Forschung nicht verlieren, und unerwartete Ergebnisse zu schätzen lernen. Ein High-Impact-Paper sei schließlich kein Garant für spätere Erfolge. Solange die Forscher aber mit echter Leidenschaft an einem Thema arbeiten, hätten sie ausgezeichnete Chancen für eine erfolgreiche Zukunft, so Dan Shechtman. Ohnehin, seien mindestens die Hälfte der naturwissenschaftlichen Arbeiten, die später mit einem Nobelpreis ausgezeichnet wurden, in vergleichsweise kleinen Journals mit eher niedrigem Impact-Factor publiziert worden, sagt Martin Chalfie.

Am letzten Tag der Veranstaltung findet noch die traditionelle Bootsfahrt zur Insel Mainau statt. Dort werden Bettina Gräfin Bernadotte und Björn Graf Bernadotte noch einmal die Tagung Revue passieren lassen, und dort wird auch die letzte Panel Discussion zum Thema Ethics in Science abgehalten. Ich bin mir sicher, dass auch hier die Nachwuchswissenschaftler noch einmal aufgefordert werden „alternative Fakten“ nicht einfach stillschweigend hinzunehmen, sondern so lange für die Forschung zu werben, bis auch der letzte Kritiker überzeugt ist.

“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.

 

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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.