#LiNo17 Daily Recap – Friday, 30 June

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

 

Video of the day:

 

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

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

Hlamulo

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

 

Picture of the day:

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

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

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

 

Blog of the day:

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

Sauvage

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

 

Tweets of the day:

 

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

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

#LiNo17 Daily Recap – Thursday, 29 June

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

 

Video of the day:

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

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

 

Picture of the day:

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

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

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

 

Blog of the day:

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

Sketches of Science Slider

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

 

Tweets of the day:

 

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

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

 

“The world deserves well-educated women.” – Ana Torres from Mexico

Interview with #LiNo17 young scientist Ana Torres

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 Ana and get inspired.

 

Ana_Torres _4

Ana Torres, 33, from Mexico is a Postdoc at the Texas A&M University in the US. Her research is focused primarily on the theoretical study of the interfacial phenomena relevant for the development of next generation rechargeable batteries. She is also studying the confinement effect exerted by molecular sieves, solvents, nano-structured materials, an inert gas matrix over the chemical reactions, which are important for chemical catalysis. Her motivation is to assist the novel frontier materials design (with enhanced features) using theoretical and computational methods to optimise resources and facilitate the materials implementation for the manufacturing process of technological devices.

 

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

Since forever, science books were the only reading material available at home. Both my sister and I grew up with my two parents who are successful biologists despite the difficult circumstances they had to overcome to pursue a career in science. Their personal stories encouraged me to appreciate my education and science in general. I spent a lot of time surrounded by students, immersed in school, math competitions and science fairs. Also, my parents took my sister and me with them on their field research in natural reservations and archaeological zones. I went with my mother to her postgraduate courses and academic workshops. There was not a lot I could do in my small hometown in Mexico but fortunately, I was invited to participate in the Chemistry Olympiads and I enjoyed it all the way through the National Competition. I discovered my passion for chemistry during high school and I decided to travel a long way daily to Mexico City to the UNAM University and get an academic career in science.

 

Who are your role models?

In many ways, I have been inspired to dedicate my life to science when I pictured my parents doing their daily academic activities with a genuine delight. I enjoyed reading stories about inventors like Edison, Gutenberg, and González-Camarena and enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes adventures. As a child I had the highest scores in school triggered by the discipline at home and motivated by the guiding hands of several exceptional teachers and academicians who invested professional resources into my training. I keep evocative memories of my math teacher, during middle school, who was very dedicated in preparing his students for national competitions. After middle school, I participated in the National Chemistry Olympiads where I met devoted teachers and researchers of the UAEM-Mexico who trained the team and encouraged us to pursue a career in chemistry. My bachelor and postgraduate studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico contributed to my personal and academic growing. I have been inspired in many ways by committed theorists and advisors: Prof. Fernando Colmenares, Prof. Serguei Fomine and Prof. Perla Balbuena and also the leading academics and theorists Prof. Raul Alvarez, Prof. Fernando Cortes and Prof. Tomas Rocha. Likewise, I shall mention the Nobel Laureates who are my academic life models: Prof. Mario Molina, Prof. Roald Hoffmann, Prof. Robert H. Grubbs, Prof. Walter Kohn, Prof. John Pople, Prof. Konstantin Novoselov, Prof. Andre Geim, Prof. Rudolph A. Marcus and Prof. Martin Karplus.

my parents took my sister and me with them on their field research in natural reservations and archaeological zones

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

The way throughout my current academic position was not easy but constructive and challenging in some aspects. I come from a small, quiet and traditional town in the state of Mexico. Thankfully, I was blessed with my parents’ commitment to provide my sister and me a good education. During my basic education, I participated actively in several science and academic contests. Later on, I enrolled in the public high school and was benefited with a scholarship. That stage was meaningful for my further decision to study chemistry since I was selected to attend Mexico’s National Olympiad of Chemistry. That privilege implied a strong commitment by means of traveling 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 traveled with my mother after the school in an old van provided by the principal two or three days per week during some months. We arrived at home almost at midnight, tired but enthusiastic about my preparation and the encouraging support within my family. After that fruitful experience of attending the national contest, I decided to study Chemistry in the School of Chemistry of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. So therefore, I spent four hours in a round-trip each day to the Mexico City to pursue my bachelor degree. Sometimes I traveled by car with my father before dawn, but others I had tiring trips in the overcrowded subway and the bus, which arrived in the middle of nowhere where my parents picked me up. After I had my first course of Quantum Chemistry in the university, I joined a theoretical research workgroup. The Quantum Chemistry captivated me and one year later, I obtained my bachelor degree with honours. I continued my postgraduate studies in Chemistry supported by a grant of the National Council of Science and Technology. Usually, there are few students willing to pursue a career in Theoretical Chemistry in my program. Thus, while I studied my advisor and other theorists dictated Quantum and Computational Chemistry post-graduate courses, indeed some of the lectures were first given. As well, during 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 joint efforts, hard-working and passion for science important achievements were scored: my son loves math and I graduated with honours, gaining the MSc. and PhD. degrees in Chemistry. At present, I am thankful for the support of Prof. Balbuena and I am committed to my post-doctoral stay in Texas A&M University, US. Likewise, I am sharing this experience with my supportive family; we are all growing in academic and personal areas.

 

Ana_Torres_1

 

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

Every single project I have worked on has represented a hot topic for me. My Chemistry Master Project was crucial for my academic growing, since I was assigned to deal with some kind of reactions that computationally develop through the wrong expected pathway. So given that behind every failure is an opportunity to succeed, I just let the theory to guide me to get the pieces of the puzzle. Hence, the experienced guide of my advisor, Prof. Colmenares, and my chemical background converged into an alternative and plausible new two-step mechanism proposal (alternative to the spin intersystem-crossing) that explained for the experimental results and became the distinctive approach of the research group. By the time Prof. R. H. Grubbs held a lecture in the university, I got immersed in some articles on methatesis reactions which led me to work with Prof. Fomine. It was my luck that he noticed that I could have a complementary role in the nanoscience research he was guiding in that moment in view of my previous experience in multireference and ab-initio electronic structure methods. From then on, I had to deal with the electronic structure of polymers and p conjugated carbon-based linear and bidimensional nanosystems. Furthermore, after the 2013 Chemistry Nobel Prize announcement, I was fascinated by the multi-scale methods and the perspective of deconstructing a complex system into an accurate computational treatable one. This perspective helped me to deal with the molecular simulations of nanostructures and large-size catalytic systems and encouraged me to look for my current postdoctoral position which is working on a project focused on the computer-aided design of novel materials with technological applications. In this context, it is sought to contribute to the science development in the field of materials used in cutting-edge energy storage devices.

I had to organise my time efficiently to get a functional balance between motherhood, research and teaching

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

I feel proud when I mentor other young students and I succeed to transmit my enthusiasm for Quantum Chemistry to them. In particular, when I teach and help other students with their research and studies in chemistry I feel very gratified. As well, I value the research that I carried out in my home country headed by great Scientists and a limited infrastructure. I got some awards, they came unexpectedly as a nice reward for a constant work and joint endeavor of my home university and advisors, I feel pleased about it and double committed with my future efforts.

 

Ana_Torres_2

 

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

Currently, I am doing a postdoctoral stay in the Department of Chemical Engineering in Texas A&M University. My day starts early in the morning, so my husband and I start the day helping my child to get ready for the elementary school. Then I spend most of the day in the office interacting with the quantum world through the computer and enjoying my computational research. There, I read some Quantum Chemistry books or participate in a seminar or workshop. It is a fruitful experience to share the office with two young female students, we have a nice environment of mutual support and cooperation. We all come from developing countries and share a strong motivation and commitment on science. My workgroup is very diverse, encouraging and productive; it is leaded by Prof. Perla Balbuena. In my previous group, I was the only woman. At late afternoon, I go back home to enjoy a delicious and healthy dinner with my family. This, however, would not be possible without the wonderful team effort of my family that supports me. Then, after homework, games, handicrafts and origami at home, I benefit of the calm of the night to carry out some calculations and read before I go to sleep.

when I teach and help other students with their research and studies in chemistry I feel very gratified

What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?

When the bachelor degree is issued by my home university UNAM, the following oath must be taken:
“I affirm to practice my profession with integrity and enthusiasm, always bearing in mind my social responsibility to the community that contributed to my training, ensuring the professional solidarity, the progress of Chemistry and the prestige of our university. For my race, my spirit will speak.”
I am keen to embrace this phrase as part of my everyday service through science and mentorship and willing to impact positively and more directly in the solution of welfare issues and technology development through the research in the field of Theoretical and Computational Chemistry.

 

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

I enjoy walking, running and biking, which let me spend a great time with my son and my husband and undertake physical activity. Likewise, I enjoy the Bible studies, since it provides me a compass to guide my next steps in all the areas of my life. As well, it is a good opportunity to know some colleagues of other research fields and countries out of the office and to enrich each other with great learnings and common goals. I like to talk about quantum chemistry and science with my family and friends, listen science podcasts, computers, hi-tech gadgets, stereograms and the origami. I like farm animals and the country lifestyle, indeed in my home country I have the opportunity to spend some weekends in my parents’ eco-farm to take care of rabbits.

I urge each woman in disadvantaged regions to break away from the traditional molds society has imposed upon us to justify the lack of support to education, science and job opportunities

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

As a woman, I have my own perspective to address problems in several fields of chemistry; organisation and multitask skills enable me to have a good balance between the family and my career. It is important to have a strong discipline and continue motivated along the way to get an academic career on the basis of family ties and academic cooperation. Personally, chemistry can be seen as a high-level marathon that demands several attributes. Endurance to overcome the day-by-day challenges and enthusiasm to keep high levels of motivation to perform high-quality research. To keep the feet on solid ground, persistent academic training and the desire of service and impact in a positive and useful way in the immediate surroundings. The result is reaching the goal bearing in mind that every step is worth the effort! I urge each woman in disadvantaged regions to break away from the traditional molds society has imposed upon us to justify the lack of support to education, science and job opportunities, and to go beyond our own ways and limits to play an active role in our nation and take the challenge to pursue a career in Science.

 

Ana_Molec 4

 

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

The implementation and widespread usage of artificial intelligence in drug discovery, novel materials design, analytic techniques and environmental phenomena.

 

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

The world deserves well-educated women. In Latin countries, commonly women are responsible on their own of the children. They are mainly responsible for their education and the most important: they are laying the foundation of the future generations. Empowering a woman translates into well-educated children, an irreversible and fruitful process, which I witnessed by first-hand in my family. In this line, the thrust and support of women in Science represents an axis of transformation in the society. Certainly, job opportunities for women in Science should increase and special programs for childcare and scholarships for women might raise the number of women that continue their studies and pursue a career in Science.

 

“Always accept an opportunity,” Says Emma Danelius

Interview with #LiNo17 young scientist Emma Danelius

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 Emma and get inspired.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Emma Danelius

Emma Danelius, 32, from Sweden is a PhD Student at the University of Gothenburg. Her research interests span across the fields of organic chemistry, medicinal chemistry and chemical biology. During her PhD studies she has been involved in projects with different applications but with a main objective of investigating the conformational behaviour and the intramolecular interactions of cyclic peptides and macrocycles.

 

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

Since we started to learn about chemistry and biology in school I was always fascinated by everything that was known to exist but that we could not actually see. I always felt I had to find out more, so what better way than to work in research. I remember when I asked my father scientific questions, he always gave me really diffused answers, probably because he didn’t really know the answer. But then I just couldn’t stop thinking about it. I guess it just continued like this, constantly thinking about this microscopic world and what is going on there.

 

Who are your role models?

I have many role models and can mention a few. First is my grandma; she was a strong woman who always believed in her grandchildren. She was always supporting us to be who we are and achieve what we strive for. My mother has also been important, laying the ground for my approach to the balance of working life and family. She has also always been a tremendous support. When it comes to role models in science, obviously I have to say Marie Curie; I find her story truly fascinating. A famous researcher here in Sweden that inspired me a lot, especially for everything she did for women in science, is Agnes Wold. At our department we also have a fantastic researcher and role model, Kristina Luthman, who has always inspired me as well as supported me. My closest friends are also chemists and they influence and encourage me every day.

 

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

After finishing high school I did not know exactly what I wanted to study, just that it would be in the field of natural science. I took a ground course in chemistry and completely fell in love with it. I did a bachelor in analytical organic chemistry and began a thesis work position at Swedish Medical Products Agency in Uppsala, working with NMR spectroscopy. Subsequently, I enrolled in the master program in organic and medicinal chemistry at the University of Gothenburg. I undertook a thesis work position at Astra Zeneca, working with synthetic organic chemistry. After that I started my PhD at the University of Gothenburg, working with Professor Mate Erdelyi on weak interactions and conformational analysis of peptidomimetics.

I was always fascinated by everything that was known to exist but that we could not actually see.

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

It is difficult to single one out given I really enjoyed working on all projects that have crossed my path so far. However, the peptide project that is the basis of my PhD work is the one closest to my heart. I am fascinated by the conformational behaviour and the intramolecular interactions of molecules with biological relevance, which runs nearly every aspect of biology.

 

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

I would have to say it was the first time I got an article accepted for publication. I remember that was a really good feeling. Also, it is always rewarding when I can present my research at conferences. One time in Germany especially comes to mind when there were over 600 people in the audience. That was a bit scary but I felt proud afterwards.

 

emma_2

 

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

I usually drop off my kids at day care in the morning, cycle to work and then spend the day in the lab, by the computer writing or analysing data, or by the spectrometer. Sometimes I also have teaching assignments. Two days a week I pick up the kids from daycare after work, the other days I work a bit later in the evenings. Then I spend the evening at home with the family. If I have time, I might go out for a run after putting the kids to sleep.

 

What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?

I would love to continue working in research. I will finish my PhD in October this year and the next goal is to get a good post doc position.

Always accept an opportunity, say yes instead of no.

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

Spend time with my family, travel, read books, see my friends and go to the theater or cinema.

 

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

One thing is to try to always accept an opportunity, say yes instead of no. I think in general that men are a bit better at this. Most important though, is to take care of and support each other. Appreciate and respect sisterhood.

 

emma_1In your opinion, what will be the next great breakthrough in science/chemistry?

Life is about dynamic processes of complex molecules in a three dimensional world. Techniques that can continue to push the sensitivity and resolution limits, like super resolution microscopy or spectroscopy, so that we can get a complete zoom in on these processes.

 

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

This is a complex question and the answer is by no means trivial. When I started the chemistry program there were actually more women than men in the ground courses, so it seems that simply making an effort to interest more young girls in science subjects at an earlier stage is not the solution. Along the way women have dropped out, and at the professor level it is mostly men at our department.

Three things that I thought of that might help are to have anonymous applications, to find ways to support women after they have children, and to try to divide administrative tasks equally.

 

 

 

 

When the Stars Align, Your Career Will Shine: Science Careers Panel Preview

I’m back, baby. After two amazing years reporting at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, I gleefully signed up for my third. But there’s a twist. This year’s focus is on chemistry, and I’m a physics nerd. What’s a gal to do? I did what any sound-minded, giddy geek would do: Jump at the chance to jet to the foremost conference of Nobel Laureates, to become educated by, connect with, and be inspired by the chemistry community, which by no coincidence is also Lindau’s leitmotif. I look forward to an amazing week of lectures, master classes, conversations, and prime networking, with both established and emerging leaders in chemistry. Remember this meeting is being attended by up to 30 Nobels, and more than 400 young scientists from around the world. And, because this is Lindau, there will also be a few Nobles participating as well. Thank you Countess Bettina!

 

Alaina G. Levine with Nobel Laureate Klaus von Klitzing at #LiNo17. Photo/Credit: Courtesy Alaina G. Levine

Alaina G. Levine with Nobel Laureate Klaus von Klitzing at #LiNo16. Photo/Credit: Courtesy of Alaina G. Levine

Like last year, I will be reporting from this true #NerdHeaven throughout the week, blogging, and of course, tweeting up a storm. Follow me @AlainaGLevine and via the hashtag #LiNo17. So stay tuned. Now of course because I am a comedian (and oh so clever), you can totally expect that I will be inundating you with tons of chemistry jokes. It is how we will bond. And if you play your cards right, I might just end up writing in formulae.

But speaking of the language of chemistry, there is nothing formulaic about Lindau. Even though there is a schedule (and it is packed!), there are always surprises to be had. Go around one corner and see Dr. Mario Molina, the Nobel Laureate who discovered the whole in the ozone layer. Take a stroll to the Grill and Chill, and hang with Dr. Bernard L. Feringa and listen as he highlights his talk on the joy of discovery. Or bump into Dr. Klaus von Klitzing, like I did last year on his birthday no less, and watch in amazement as he takes his Nobel Prize medal out of his jacket to show it to you. You might even get a chance to touch it! You can read my story, Lindau: The Day I Got the Nobel Prize, which shares that experience.

I am sure you have studied the agenda for Lindau with the same velocity and ferocity as you approached picking your PhD dissertation topic. So you probably noticed that on Thursday, 29 June at 15.00 hrs there will be a very special panel discussion on Science Careers. But did you notice who is on that panel? Did you see the chemistry celebrities that Lindau lined up to share their experiences? And did you also see that yours truly is moderating the panel? That’s right – I am so excited about this I even brought a suit for the affair.

Now the leaders who will be participating in this panel are Absolute Heroes (oh yes I did) of Chemistry, whose careers span the spectrum of ecosystems. These stars include:

Thomas L. Gianetti, Postdoctoral Associate in Chemistry and Applied Bioscience, ETH Zurich, Switzerland: Dr. Gianetti, an early career scientist, will share his insight and perspective as a young scientist attending Lindau and launching his career.

May Shana’a, Head of Research & Development, Beiersdorf AG, Germany: Dr. Shana’a has more than 26 years of expertise in the management of global R&D organizations of multinational companies. For 20 years she worked in skin care and cosmetics. Most recently she led the global R&D organisation of Ashland Specialty Ingredients (ASI), located in Bridgewater, USA. Before that the Lebanese-born Shana’a assumed international leadership positions in the research departments of Johnson & Johnson and at Unilever in the company locations in Italy, the U.S. and in the UK. She is among the world’s leading innovation experts in skin care. 

Dan Shechtman, 2011 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Technion – Israel: Dr. Shechtman, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing last year, is known as the father of entrepreneurship in Israel and has also made it his mission to educate and motivate young kids to go into STEM with his development of a kids science TV show.

Wiltrud Treffenfeldt, Chief Technology Officer Europe, Middle East, Africa & India, Dow Europe GmbH, Switzerland: Dr. Treffenfeldt serves as a Consultant to the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), and is Global Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Dow. She serves as a Director for Bioprocess Development of The Dow Chemical Company, USA. She joined Dow Germany as Leader for Corporate Biotechnology R&D in Europe in 2001 and then Dr. Treffenfeldt has been R&D Director for Biopharma since 2004. The main focus of her responsibilities is the development and implementation of strategies in the areas of human and animal health at Dow and Dow AgroSciences with the goal of creating sustainable value within the biotechnology sector.

Sir John E. Walker, Emeritus Director, Medical Research Council, Mitochondrial Biology: Dr. Walker won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1997, and as of 2015, he is Emeritus Director and Professor at the MRC Mitochondrial Biology Unit in Cambridge, and a Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge.

 

Panel Discussion during the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Panel Discussion during the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

We plan to delve into many different elements of crafting successful careers in science, including how to handle challenges and failure, what skills are necessary to advance, and how can one stand out in the crowd. We will also have a very frank but organic discussion with the panelists in which they will describe their own jobs and career paths, and the lessons they have learned which have shaped their success. Be prepared to be amazed! You can easily see that this panel will be a fabulous enzyme which will truly catalyze your career! The advice they will give will be so “neat”, I can’t even.

So folks this is just a nanosample of what you can expect at this stellar meeting where the stars shine bright, the science is chill, and the networking is chem-tastic.

I can’t wait to see you in #NerdHeaven!

Society Needs to Move On from Stereotypical Gender Roles, Says Diana Montes-Grajales

Interview with #LiNo17 young scientist Diana Montes-Grajales

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 Diana and get inspired.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Diana Montes-Grajales

Photo: Courtesy of Diana Montes-Grajales

Diana Montes-Grajales, 28, from Colombia is a postdoctoral researcher at the Center of Genomics Sciences CCG-UNAM (Mexico). She works in the fields of drug design, evaluation of environmental pollutants and ecological genomics. Currently, she is involved in three main projects: the identification of molecules from the rhizosphere with potential for medical or agrochemical applications; the in silico drug repurposing for dengue and chikungunya treatment; and the evaluation of endocrine disruptors and emerging pollutants targeting breast cancer proteins.

 

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

Curiosity and scientific vocation! When I was at school I had a very inspiring professor of sciences, Ariel Acosta. He taught me the basics of biology and chemistry as a discovery process in the lab. We tested and interpreted the results by ourselves with a guide containing previously learned knowledge. This was more than 15 years ago in a public school in Colombia; I did not have access to computers at that time and my text books were not advanced enough to have all the explanations for all the experiments we conducted in the lab. This definitely sparked my curiosity and forced me to think like a scientist by the age of ten. I have had to decide between science and making more money or having stability so many times, but the answer was always the same: I am a scientist.

 

Who are your role models?

I admire more scientists and artists than I can list here. There is a broad range of people that have done amazing things to help us to live better and to interpret our world. However, I do not have role models because every person is unique, and I think having role models could be in a way frustrating. In addition, the matter of science is the novelty, and if you want to do something that has not been done before, probably imitation is not a good choice. So all that I do is trying to learn from others and my own experiences, put more effort in what I do and work hard to improve my skills.

 

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

My interest in science began in my childhood, inspired by the biology class at my school. I enjoyed so much to start thinking in the capability of small things to make a notable difference in biological systems, such as how the properties of the cell membranes are influenced by its chemical composition, and how the food chain is mainly supported by the photosynthesis reaction of plants and algae, which ultimately lead us to survive.

I have had to decide between science and making more money or having stability so many times, but the answer was always the same: I am a scientist.

My inclination for science increased during high-school, thanks to spectacular experiments in the chemistry laboratory – so many different thoughts on nature and behaviour of matter: the replacement of a metal by another in the reaction of iron and copper sulfate, the formation of a visible solid by the combination of two liquid solutions with the formation of a precipitate and the violent reaction of alkali metals with water were some of the things that impressed me in those days. Chemistry was then the career I wanted to follow and study at university, even though I also liked medicine. This was a difficult decision as many people adviced me to study health sciences, as my first option did not sound so profitable. Anyhow, I applied for chemistry in 2005, and I was accepted to the University of Cartagena (Colombia) with the best score in the admission exam. Studying chemistry was a great and challenging experience. In the first semester, I met Prof. Jesus Olivero-Verbel, the director of the Environmental and Computational Chemistry Group, who later became my mentor during my undergraduate and Ph.D. studies.

I was an outstanding student and I had a lot of international experiences. In 2010, I did a three month internship in the Drug Discovery Platform of the Scientific Park of Barcelona (Spain), under the direction of Prof. Jordi Quintana. There, I worked in the development of molecules against transthyretin amyloidosis. In 2011, I started my Ph.D. in Environmental Toxicology, and three years later I was a PhD. Visitor student for six month at the Department of Chemistry of the University of Cambridge (England), under the direction of Prof. Gonçalo Bernardes. There, I performed the spectroscopic analysis of the in silico predicted protein-ligand pairs of endocrine disruptors and breast cancer proteins using circular dichroism, native mass spectrometry and microscale thermophoresis. I also participated in international collaborations with the GBernardes Lab (England) and Prof. Thomas Sanderson of the INRS (Canada), and I attended several short-term courses related to toxicology and medicinal chemistry in the United States, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, France and England.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Diana Montes-Grajales

Photo: Courtesy of Diana Montes-Grajales

 

When I finished my PhD, I was immediately employed as an assistant professor and young researcher at Universidad Tecnológica de Bolivar (Cartagena-Colombia) in 2016. There, I created an elective for engineering undergraduate students called “green chemistry and sustainable engineering”, which is a research-based course. I also started and lead a group of around 40 undergraduate students, which is getting involved in environmental sciences research. I got a new laboratory of research in bioinformatics and computational chemistry, in which we develop mostly studies in drug design and in silico evaluation of environmental pollutants, and I also proposed a new master program in Bioinformatics. That year, I met Prof. Winston Hide of the Harvard University at an international course and he was surprised with the quality of the research presented by me and my students so he encouraged me to continue my training. He told me something like “If you do not do everything you can do, you will regret it later.”

I was working on protein interactions for a while, and these are actually my favorite molecules. But at some point, I realised that I needed to learn about DNA to comprehend the complex molecular mechanisms involved in some diseases and toxicological effects, as well as to understand cancer, one of my main research interests. Then, I applied for the UNAM postdoctoral program scholarship and I was admitted. So I am currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Center of Genomics Sciences CCG-UNAM (Mexico), and I am learning genomics and molecular biology.

 

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

The coolest project was the evaluation of Ruthenium NAC-CORM molecules as agents for the cancer treatment, developed at the University of Cambridge during my PhD. Internship. Cancer is one of the topics that attract my attention the most, and having molecules that release components that both kill the malignant cells and have antioxidant effects is a smart approach.

 I do not have role models because every person is unique

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

This is a difficult question because I do not use to feel pride in myself or my work. I am very self-critical, so I hardly ever feel satisfied with my performance, which results in a never ending improvement process. Being accepted to participate in the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting was a super happy moment for me, because I will have the opportunity to learn from people that have achieved great things in chemistry. Another important moment in my life was when I received my PhD. diploma and the Laureate thesis award, because it meant for me that I was officially a scientist and I was doing it well.

 

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

I wake up around 6 am, I prepare and have breakfast at home, read a little bit and water my Bougainvillea flowers in the garden. Then I go to the lab around 9 am, I check my to-do’s and start working to get them done. Once I finish my experiments – every day is different-, I go to the gym to do Zumba, normally around 7:00 pm and after that I go home, then I continue working a little bit more on my computer, and sometimes in the lab. I love learning new techniques, so when I have a little extra time, I ask others to teach me something about their work and I help them with their experiments.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Diana Montes-Grajales

Photo: Courtesy of Diana Montes-Grajales

 

What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?

I want to do something meaningful that helps to improve the quality of life for the next generation.

 

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

I love to experience the world through travel and art.

 

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

Forget gender and trust yourself!

  I want to do something meaningful that helps to improve the quality of life for the next generation.

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

The discovery of new antibiotics to attack multidrug resistant bacteria or an effective treatment against cancer!

 

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

Society needs to forget gender roles and stereotypes. We need to change our way of thinking and understand that we moved forward to a modern life and the way we do things now is very different to how things were done before. So, we need great minds of both genders and good education to form humans with critical thinking, and not girls and boys. This is of course not an easy task, because we still live in an unequal society and changing the culture is hard. Some strategies that could be implemented may include the government monitoring salaries and regulation the proportion of inclusion of women in companies and universities, as well as promoting education programs based on equality.

On the Trail of Nobel Prizes

The new Lindau Science Trail serves as a permanent embodiment of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, their history and first and foremost makes “Nobel knowledge” accessible to everyone. The Lindau Science Trail can be followed not only by those living in and around the picturesque city of Lindau; visitors from all over the world can go on their very own journey of discovery. 
On knowledge pylons that are spread out all around Lindau, one can learn more about the everyday applications of scientific phenomena. And who knows, there might just be a Nobel Laureate waiting around the corner in Lindau you surely can’t rule it out.

Picture/Credit: Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

The knowledge pylon at the harbour of Lindau. Picture/Credit: Lisa Vincenz-Donnelly/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

The Lindau Spirit for everyone

Knowledge should be freely available to everyone at all times. This credo is at the heart of the philosophy of the Foundation and the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings.
For more than 65 years, Nobel Laureates and young scientists from all over the world have come together in Lindau once a year to exchange ideas and learn from each other. The “Lindau Spirit”, which inspires the participants year after year, can now be experienced on the Lindau Science Trail by everyone throughout the entire year.
The Lindau Science Trail consists of a total of 21 knowledge pylons, 15 of which can be discovered on the island of Lindau. On the mainland of Lindau and on Mainau Island there are three pylons each waiting to be explored.

 

This map shows the locations of the different knowledge pylons which can now be discovered on the island of Lindau. Picture/Credit: Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

This map shows the locations of the different knowledge pylons which can now be discovered on the island of Lindau. Picture/Credit: Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

The Knowledge Pylons – Something for Everyone

At the knowledge pylons, explorers big and small can learn more about various scientific discoveries and about the different Nobel Prize disciplines in English as well as in German. The pylons cover the three natural science disciplines – Physics, Chemistry and Physiology/ Medicine – as well as Peace and Literature. Two knowledge pylons explain economic theories in a manner which is easily understandable; two others provide insight into how the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings started and tell the story behind the Nobel Prizes. You don’t have to be a science expert to understand the explanations on the pylons. The Lindau Science trail addresses grown-ups as well as children. There is a special children’s section on every pylon.

Spotlight on the “Lindau” Nobel Laureates: The Nobel Laureates that have visited the Lindau Meetings thus far will be honoured at one central spot: on the “kleiner See” that separates mainland Lindau from Lindau island there will soon be a pier where the names of all the Nobel Laureates who have already visited the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings will be listed – more than 450 laureates.

 

Virtual Science Trail: Discovering Science With the App

A dedicated app will allow you to meet the Nobel Laureates virtually on the Science Trail. At six different locations, virtual Nobel Laureates explain why they have received the Nobel Prize. You can even take a selfie with them!
The app also gives you the opportunity to test your freshly acquired ‘Nobel Knowledge’. While ‘hiking’ on the Science Trail you can try to answer the numerous quiz questions. The Rallye can only be taken right on the spot, not at locations remote from the Lindau Science Trail – an open invitation for all science enthusiasts to come and visit Lindau and take the chance to meet Nobel Laureates.

Picture/Credit: preto_perola/istockphoto.com, illustrations: eatmefeedme; editing: rh

With the Lindauer Wissenspfad App, one can test one’s knowledge. Picture/Credit: preto_perola/istockphoto.com, illustrations: eatmefeedme; editing: rh

Download the App here.

 

Experience the Lindau Science Trail Back Home or in Your Classroom

Those who cannot physically come to Lindau can still discover the town, the Nobel Laureates and their research by virtually walking along the Science Trail and visiting the pylons in the app. Teachers can use it in the classroom as well.

If the Science Trail is also available virtually what’s the point in taking a field trip to Lindau and experiencing it first-hand? In addition to jointly completing the Science Trail and the Rallye, a surprise is waiting for all students here in Lindau. Teachers, who are interested in a school field trip to Lindau, may contact the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings for more information and additional material.

Pupils exploring a knowledge pylon. Picture/Credit: Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Pupils exploring a knowledge pylon. Picture/Credit: Lisa Vincenz-Donnelly/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

The realisation of the Lindau Science Trail was enabled by the support of the city of Lindau and the Prof. Otto Beisheim Stiftung.

 

Guided tour for #LiNoEcon participants: Tuesday, 22 August 2017 at 16.00 hrs (starting outside the main entrance of the city theatre)

Den Nobelpreisen auf der Spur

Der Lindauer Wissenspfad macht ab sofort die Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagungen, deren Geschichte und vor allem das „Nobelwissen“ für Groß und Klein sicht- und (be-)greifbar. Auf den Spuren von Nobelpreisträgern und ihrer Forschung können alle Lindauerinnen und Lindauer, aber auch Gäste aus der ganzen Welt, auf Entdeckungstour durch Lindau gehen. An insgesamt 21 Wissenspylonen lernen sie dabei mehr über wissenschaftliche Alltagsphänomene. Vielleicht kommt dabei auch der eine oder andere Nobelpreisträger um die Ecke – in Lindau immerhin durchaus denkbar…

Die Leuchtturmstele am Lindauer Hafen. Picture/Credit: Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Die Leuchtturmstele am Lindauer Hafen. Picture/Credit: Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Der Lindau Spirit für Alle

Wissen sollte immer und überall frei zur Verfügung stehen. Das gehört zum Kernanliegen von Stiftung und Kuratorium der Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagungen, zu ihrer Mission Education. Die Idee zum Bau des Lindauer Wissenspfades ist daraus entstanden. Die Stadt Lindau hat sie bei der Umsetzung unterstützt.
Schon seit über 65 Jahren kommen in Lindau einmal im Jahr Nobelpreisträger und junge Nachwuchswissenschaftler aus der ganzen Welt zusammen, um sich auszutauschen und voneinander zu lernen. Der Lindau Spirit, von dem die Teilnehmer dabei inspiriert werden, soll jetzt auf dem Lindauer Wissenspfad für jeden und vor allem das ganze Jahr über erlebbar sein.
Der Wissenspfad besteht aus insgesamt 21 Wissenspylonen, 15 davon können auf der Lindauer Insel entdeckt werden. Auf dem Lindauer Festland und auf der Insel Mainau stehen jeweils drei Stelen zur Erkundung bereit. Auf der Karte sind die einzelnen Standorte auf der Lindauer Insel zu sehen.

Die Karte zeigt die verschiedenen Standorte der Wissenspylone, die ab sofort in Lindau entdeckt werden können. Picture/Credit: Archimedes Exhibitions GmbH

Die Karte zeigt die verschiedenen Standorte der Wissenspylonen, die ab sofort in Lindau entdeckt werden können. Picture/Credit: Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Für jeden etwas dabei – die Wissenspylonen

Auf den unterschiedlichen Pylonen lernen kleine und große Entdecker wissenschaftliche Begebenheiten aus den Bereichen der Nobelpreisdisziplinen kennen und verstehen: es gibt Physik-, Chemie-, und Medizinpylonen, aber auch eine Friedens- und eine Literaturstele. Zwei Wissenspylonen erklären Theorien aus den Wirtschaftswissenschaften, zwei weitere Stelen erläutern, wie die Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagungen entstanden sind und was sich hinter dem Nobelpreis verbirgt. Man muss kein Naturwissenschafts-Experte sein, um die Erklärungen auf den Pylonen zu verstehen. Der Wissenspfad richtet sich an viele unterschiedliche Menschen; die Kinderspuren auf jedem Pylon bringen das ‚Nobelwissen‘ auch den jüngsten Forschern näher.

Natürlich bekommen die Nobelpreisträger auf dem Wissenspfad einen besonderen Platz: auf den Stelen wird nicht nur ihre Forschung sicht- und erlernbar gemacht, zukünftig werden sie an der zentralen Station auch besonders geehrt: Auf dem kleinen See wird es in Lindau bald einen Steg geben, der die Namen der Nobelpreisträger verzeichnet, die schon einmal in Lindau zu Gast waren. Und das sind schon mehr als 450 Laureaten!

 

Virtueller Wissenspfad: Mit der App auf Entdeckungstour

In Zukunft kann man den Nobelpreisträgern auf dem Wissenspfad auch virtuell begegnen. Die App macht das möglich: an sechs verschiedenen Standorten erklären virtuelle Nobelpreisträger, wofür sie den Nobelpreis bekommen haben. Sogar ein Selfie mit Preisträgern ist möglich!
Entlang des Wissenspfads können alle ‚Wissenspfadler‘ das Erlernte in der Rallye testen und über Quizfragen knobeln. Dafür muss man allerdings vor Ort sein. Damit möglichst viele Leute den Weg nach Lindau aufnehmen und den Wissenspfad auch in echt kennen lernen, werden die virtuellen Nobelpreisträger und die Quizfragen nämlich nur am Pylonenstandort freigeschaltet.

Mit der Lindauer Wissenspfad-App kann man in der Rallye z.B. Quizfragen beantworten. Picture/Credit: preto_perola/istockphoto.com, illustrations: eatmefeedme; editing: rh

Mit der Lindauer Wissenspfad-App kann man in der Rallye z.B. Quizfragen beantworten. Picture/Credit: preto_perola/istockphoto.com, illustrations: eatmefeedme; editing: rh

 

Der Wissenspfad auf dem Sofa oder im Klassenraum

Aber auch diejenigen, die nicht nach Lindau kommen (können), haben die Möglichkeit, einen Blick auf Lindau, die Nobelpreisträger und ihre Forschung zu werfen: sie können den Wissenspfad zuhause virtuell ablaufen und die Pylonen in der App abrufen. Das können sich auch Lehrer im Unterricht zu Nutze machen.
Der Wissenspfad lädt Schulklassen aber auch explizit ein, nach Lindau zu kommen und sich auf die Spur der Nobelpreise zu machen. Vor Ort kann man deshalb auch gemeinsam einen Preis gewinnen! Interessierte Lehrer können sich gerne mit dem Kuratorium für die Tagungen der Nobelpreisträger in Lindau in Verbindung setzten und weitere Informationen und Materialien erhalten.

Schüler an einem Wissenspylon. Picture/Credit: Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Schüler an einem Wissenspylon. Picture/Credit: Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Ermöglicht wurde der Wissenspfad durch die Unterstützung der Stadt Lindau und der Prof. Otto Beisheim Stiftung.

“We Need Diversity in Science,” Says Hlamulo Makelane

Interview with #LiNo17 young scientist Hlamulo Makelane

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 Hlamulo and get inspired.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Hlamulo Makelane

Photo: Courtesy of Hlamulo Makelane

Hlamulo Makelane, 30, from South Africa is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa. Her research focuses on the development of highly selective and sensitive methods for determination of organic pollutants in wastewater. This requires the synthesis of polymers and the application of a very novel electrochemical technique in sensor technology, as well as using unusually uncommon sample matrices.

 

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

The most interesting aspect of science that has inspired me is the generation of evidence-based solutions to national and global challenges because as a scientist knowledge gained from research is the gateway to making a positive difference for humankind.

 

Who are your role models?

I do not have specific scientists as role models; I always look at other people’s career in science or even non-scientific fields and get inspired. Personally, I have been very fortunate to have a mother who always inspired me not to limit myself and encouraged me to do what I think is right for my career. I have been inspired also by many people I interacted with in conferences, workshops and in my daily life.

 

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

I became interested in science subjects at high school because of my Physical Science and Mathematics teachers and through participation in the Phalaborwa Foundation Programme for Technological Careers (PROTEC). I had no idea about chemistry as a career and thought that chemistry is one of the baseline subjects one has to do for different career paths in science. Choosing a career path and developing a passion for chemistry came after a school visit to one of the mines around Phalaborwa where I met a female analytical chemist who explained her work, and thus I realised that I could make a difference in the world through chemistry. The stereotype that science isn’t for girls and constant reminders that sciences are difficult and completing a degree as women in science is not easy unless one is extremely intelligent never stopped me from pursuing my career in science. I was persuaded and went on to obtain a PhD in Chemistry with a focus on environmental management for water quality.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Hlamulo Makelane

Photo: Courtesy of Hlamulo Makelane

 

My PhD project involved environmental electrochemistry for developing highly selective and sensitive sensor methods for determining organic pollutants in oil-polluted wastewater. I really enjoyed the experience of working with environmental related issues and understanding the impact of organic pollutants on the environment. This was my introduction into the world of electrochemistry and sensor development using dendrimers and polymers. Following encouragement from the PhD research outcomes, I applied for a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of the Western Cape, where I completed my PhD. The post-doc research that I am currently working on is entitled “Ultra-sensitive AC voltammetric polymer electrode for signalling priority organic pollutants (POP) in coal-polluted wastewater”. This research is enabling me to contribute immensely to the critical issues related to the environmental state of the country and also contribute to the nation building effort of the country through it. Through the experience gained during my PhD research projects and being exposed to science, technology and innovation (STI) indicators at the Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation Indicators (CeSTII) as a post-doc fellow, I am more certain that I want to pursue a research career in water quality research for environmental management. This includes environmental electrochemistry and environmental science and technology indicators, as I have developed a skill set suited to the field. I have travelled a lot to national and international conferences, seminars and workshops where I presented my work as I strive to explore new relationships between ideas and facts and in doing so sharpening tools and methodologies in my discipline. I have published my research work in the top sensors and electrochemistry journals.

 

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

I think that most of the projects I have worked on were the coolest projects thus far, because they all contributed to my career growth in many different ways. I find it more interesting that most of these projects enabled me to produce results that are evidence-based solutions to the national and global challenges.

 

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

When I was nominated as an early-career scholar to present my research work in 2013 at Brown University’s International Advanced Research Institutes (BIARI) at “Connections and Flows: Water, Energy and Digital Information in the Global South”. I felt a great sense of achievement because it was my first time to present my research work in the innovative interdisciplinary institute, where a diverse group of young engineers and engineering faculty as well as from engineering education, policymakers and those working in agriculture, environmental studies, urban studies or related fields attended.

 

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

Since I started my career path in research it’s difficult to come up with a “day in the life”; however, it has been a phenomenal journey thus far because I learn something new each day. I write down the things I need to do for the day and I do not remember having a boring day because there’s always something new to learn or do. Some days involve desktop research, reading papers and scientific manuscript writing, and other days involve lab work with more practical work and data analysis. The work usually goes from 9 am to at least 6 pm; however, there are days where I have to work until late.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Hlamulo Makelane

Photo: Courtesy of Hlamulo Makelane

 

What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?

Firstly, I would like to continue with the development of selective and sensitive sensor techniques for the determination of organic pollutants in wastewater as there are many exciting polluted wastewater questions for environmental management focusing on water quality that need to be answered. Secondly, I would like to focus on science, technology and innovation (STI) to develop the experimental techniques and design appropriate for environmental assessment approaches of a specific case, which will also include building on current technology to assess the environmental impacts.

 

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

I like reading, traveling, meeting with friends, gym and sometimes going for a hike.

 

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

The outright bias that has impacts on our education and career choices as women still exist; however, if you are interested in science/chemistry, go for it, and you will enjoy the discovery that the journey brings. The stereotype that sciences are challenging for women should not prevent you from following your career path in science. Challenge yourself to even go beyond the first degree and obtain the highest degree because I believe that if I made it, you can also make it. We need diversity in science and if you are interested in increasing the number of women in science it will also empower you to think differently about the global challenges, and your creativity will result in good solutions.

 

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

There are many breakthroughs anticipated in shaping the environmental challenges through science/chemistry, but ultra-sensitive sensor systems with high selectivity for the detection of organic pollutants at femto- to atto-molar detection limits are envisaged to be one of the next breakthrough. The device will be cost-effective, reliable and consist of easy-to-use technologies suitable for accurate determination of organic pollutants in effluents, collecting the requisite data necessary in setting environmental standards, and ensuring compliance to regulations on emission limits.

 

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

This question does not have one answer due to the increasing number of challenges female scientists/professors are currently facing. Gender bias still plays a big role in higher education, which prevents an increase in the number of female scientists and female professors. Some of the challenges related to the number of female scientist not increasing the way we would like to see is the lack of support from their departments or institutions where they are based. There is a need, therefore, for the government to address this issue by implementing and monitoring policies that encourages the number of female scientists and female professors to be recognised. The policies should also directly support female scientist by creating a good working environment without being compared to their male colleagues because the science world is still dominated by male scientist. The created platform should work towards closing the gap between male and female scientist as well as bringing inclusion of females in science, which can have far-reaching benefits them. This will enable female scientist to grow in their career and to be recognised for their hard work. Therefore, more women would be attracted to stay in sciences, enhance their careers in the field and become role models to young and upcoming female scientist.

The Impact of Fundamental Science on Researchers and Society

It was not surprising that after the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 some of the most frequently asked questions were “What can we use your research for?” and “Does it have any application?”. These questions may have different origins: First, for non-experts the research honoured with this prize is very difficult to grasp because it is so abstract. Thus, having a (pseudo)application or a visualisation of the research can be powerful. It is no surprise that the “nano-car” received such widespread recognition. The human mind tends to seek some kind of concrete example to help them understand abstract concepts. Second, society finds that research of any kind should have at least some sort of accountability towards its funders, which is oftentimes the public. Third, in a world where we face many challenges, it can be difficult – if not impossible – to see how such research contributes to solving daily problems around us (be it hunger, war, energy, climate change, health, etc.). This “missing link” can lead to frustration and provoke the desire to see immediate benefits and products that improve daily life. Today, an increasing number of aspects of life are put under the scrutiny of innovation, productivity and economic measures. It is thus getting more and more difficult to justify research that has no immediate gain. Fundamental research as such thus seems to be locked in a fight for funding, for professorships and sometimes even for its existence.

The term fundamental science or research as opposed to applied research is used herein to describe research without an immediate apparent value, application or product in mind, often also referred to as basic research. Oftentimes, it sets out to answer a specific (set of) question(s). For this kind of research the following criteria are essential: (1) its outcome is often unknown, (2) the researcher is working at the frontier of knowledge (no one has done anything similar before) and (3) the research extends current knowledge. The research efforts that won this year’s Nobel Prize, but also the discovery of gene editing and experiments conducted at CERN, are excellent examples of this kind of research.

 

#LiNo17 participant Michael Lerch is currently carrying out his doctoral research in the laboratory of Ben Feringa at the University of Groningen. Photo/Credit: Dusan Kolarski

#LiNo17 participant Michael Lerch is currently carrying out his doctoral research in the laboratory of Ben Feringa at the University of Groningen. Photo/Credit: Dusan Kolarski

 

In times of tightening budgets for research and increasing economisation of universities and research outputs in coordination with increased student numbers, fundamental research has been facing scrutiny and has been under attack. This is not necessarily bad as such scrutiny and scarcity of resources could arguably increase quality of research. However within these discussions, some beneficial aspects and effects of fundamental science tend to be forgotten. Hence, I would like to highlight how fundamental science shapes its practitioners and impacts society. Fundamental research is a school of life and plays an important role in fostering critical thinking and creativity. Fundamental science further benefits society, for example, by generating knowledge, by enabling unexpected long-term applications, by forming independent and critical citizens and sometimes by supporting leadership and teaching. For fundamental research to be effective, aspects like credibility in a post-factual world are paramount. It is also critical that researchers and a public that is willing to listen are equal partners in dialogue. To enable such a dialogue, the social competence of researchers becomes important. It is the researcher’s responsibility to actively go out and tell the public why scientists do what they do, what the benefits are and why fundamental research is so important. The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings have been playing an essential role in this for decades. In addition, Nobel Laureates are often visionaries of their times and inspiring role-models for both successful approaches in research and experts in the social competences and communication that are so important for the dialogue with the general public.

 

Impact on students

Fundamental science in the way it has been set up since the advent of universities is first and foremost an educational experience for the student. Doing a Ph.D. is often a transformative process and has an immense influence on personal development. This transformative experience is directly linked to the nature of fundamental research. Three aspects are worth highlighting in this context: (1) social toolbox/character formation, (2) critical and analytical thinking and (3) creativity.

One can form character through different tools and approaches. While desirable character traits change with time and are a matter of public debate, there are certain traits that are associated with being successful in life: resilience, frustration tolerance, knowledge of your own limitations, grit, integrity and reliability. Scientific research is challenging and can be very frustrating. As one sets out to learn the basic tools and skills needed to be a successful researcher, one is immediately confronted with one’s own limitations, frontiers of personal but also general knowledge. Many students, although used to writing small pieces of scientific work, have never conducted independent intellectual work before. Doing so is very hard and even more so frustrating. Besides increased anxiety and a feeling of inadequacy, many students feel unhappy about their chosen work as they are not prepared for the stress and frustration that comes with it. Overcoming the daily challenges of research requires hard work, resilience, dedication and persistence and contributes to the education of responsible, independent global citizens.

Furthermore, science has a very high standard and code of conduct at its core. This teaches students integrity and reliability. Appropriate supervision and coaching can be paramount to a student’s success. If one talks to successful Ph.D. students that had a lot of freedom during their doctoral years, they will often say that the first year felt like a lost year: “I did not have a clue how to do research”, “I was so inefficient in the beginning” or “I did not know why and how I should be doing research”. By talking further, it often becomes apparent that even though scientifically this initial period of time might feel “unproductive”, it actually was a period of fundamental transformation of a person’s thinking and provided him or her with the toolbox necessary for research. And it is this aspect, in my opinion, that makes fundamental research valuable as an educational experiment that goes far beyond research itself.

 

Michael Lerch is currently carrying out his doctoral research in the laboratory of Ben Feringa at the University of Groningen. Photo/Credit: Dusan Kolarski

The doctoral candidate develops molecular photoswitches that can control biological functions. Photo/Credit: Dusan Kolarski

 

However, persistence, resilience and hard-work will not bring you all the way. Mental capabilities such as discipline of mind as well as critical and analytical thinking are also of crucial importance. What is taught at university is thus essential for further success in research. The approach to fundamental research makes all the difference between being productive and losing sight of a goal and purpose. This approach, together with the mental, social and intellectual tools that come with it, is something that needs to be taught to younger students and researchers. Take responsibility for yourself, be proactive, choose what you are working for, know why you have chosen this and be able and willing to defend this in front of others. This is not only a scientific education, but in many ways also a political one: learn to not just accept facts as such, but verify them as well as possible, realise the importance of perseverance and that nothing that really matters comes without effort, and build resilience. That does not mean that with having the right approach to research doing it on a daily basis becomes easy – far from it. But having a framework to understand why one is doing something and what it can lead to can help build the resilience needed to succeed not only in science but also in life. In addition, fundamental scientific research is much too frustrating if you do not have the mental and scientific toolbox to at least achieve “mini” victories by reaching intermediate milestones that are publishable and that allow you to feel productive in a certain way. This is also the reason why it is generally advisable to learn from the best practitioners in the field.

Finally, creativity is essential. In physical sciences, where most experiments fail, creativity keeps research going, helps us to see the problems faced each time from a different angle, allows us to come up with new ideas and look at the subject under investigation in ways no-one has ever looked at before.

 

Impact on society

The educational transformation achieved through research described above is important not just for the researcher but also for society. The majority of trained professionals will spill over from academia into other areas of work including industry, consultancy and services. Transferrable skills are important here. Beyond the oft-quoted skills such as presenting, supervision and time-management, exposure to fundamental research is, to a much greater extent, fundamental training in thinking and behaviour, which has benefits for society. Unfortunately, these aspects are often overlooked, because it is so difficult to make non-scientists understand what it really means to conduct fundamental research.

Our places of work are in the midst of ongoing changes. Technological advances are transforming our environment and the way we work and live. Industry 4.0 and advances in automation and artificial intelligence will make knowledge workers more important. The tools and skills acquired through research allow us to find our way in such an environment. Purely economically speaking, the knowledge and skills gained make researchers useful in a broad variety of positions and empower them to be productive and independent workers who make novel discoveries. In addition, beyond the immediate philosophically beneficial gain of knowledge, the answers found through fundamental research are often picked up later in a completely unrelated context and can lead to impressive applications: LCD displays, photodynamic therapy and green fluorescent protein, to name but a few.

The academic world is international with many researchers studying abroad, visiting and experiencing different cultures and regions of the world. With increasing regionalism and the growing importance of nation-states, cultural understanding and global ties are essential. It is then also the openness to new things and the ability to work in multicultural and international teams that make researchers highly valuable additions for employers.

 

Michael studies molecular photoswitches that can control biological functions. Photo/Credit: Dusan Kolarski

Michael in the Feringa lab at the University of Groningen. Photo/Credit: Dusan Kolarski

 

Conclusion

It is important to regularly reflect on the role scientists play in society and on the training that students receive. When fighting for the importance and relevance of fundamental scientific research, researchers have to focus on the aspects discussed and make clear to lay people that fundamental science can make a difference. They also need to explain that research not only has a purpose per se but also that, if done right, it can have tremendous additional beneficial effects, which spill over into our society and impact our future.

Nonetheless, fundamental science also faces challenges from within: researchers need to be more realistic and transparent when communicating goals and practices to a general audience. For an understanding and listening audience, one needs trust. This trust, however, is difficult to build, especially if scientific evidence becomes opinion. Overpromising will certainly not help here. Researchers need to carefully evaluate when and in what way they promote their work and science in general. For parts of society that understand the scientific method, it is necessary and effective to talk about the process of research and why researchers do it instead of just talking about impacts and applications. For other parts of society that lack such an understanding, however, it will be more effective to fight for science without explaining what and why one does something,and this challenges fundamental science: it will always depend to a certain extent on funding sources that need to be satisfied. Scientists need to be aware of this and develop the necessary arguments and the social tact to promote their work. Fundamental scientists are exposed to the frontiers of knowledge on a daily basis. This is sometimes a tough but very often also a rewarding thing to do (playground-analogy). But most importantly, it shapes us and forces us to think beyond boundaries. Many of the leading scientists of the current and past generations have done so during the Lindau Meetings and will also do so this year!