8 Female #LiNo16 Participants that will convince you to apply for a future Lindau Meeting

The 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (26 June – 1 July 2016) dedicated to the field of physics is over, but the planning of the next Lindau Meeting has already started. Here you can find several impressions of young women in physics who participated in #LiNo16.

Hopefully they will convince you to apply for next years’s 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (dedicated to chemistry) taking place from 25 to 30 June 2017.


Winifred Ayinpogbilla Atiah, 25, from Ghana

Winifred (second from left) with Nobel Laureates

Winifred (second from left) with Nobel Laureates Daniel Shechtman (second from right) and Martin Karplus (center)

My experience at the Lindau Nobel-Laureate Meeting is one I term as an unforgettable experience. First and foremost the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting afforded me an opportunity to having a one-to-one interaction with Nobel Laureates I only before saw on the internet and also meeting with colleagues who are working similar or close to my research study. I loved the exposure, the atmosphere and the discussions so much. I had the opportunity to be involved in panel discussions and attended the leadership breakfast meeting which has really enlightened me in various prospects. In summary: The LNLM is a must go meeting.

I encourage young women who have no knowledge of this meeting to attend because this meeting opens many opportunities for you as a young women in research to broaden your horizons in diverse ways and also help broaden your networks.

Read more about Winifred.


Ana Isabel Maldonado Cid, 30, from Spain

Ana at the harbor in Lindau

Ana at the harbor in Lindau

The 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting has been an extremely good opportunity to meet excellent scientists at all levels, ranging from Nobel Laureates to undergraduate students.

I’ve had the pleasure to meet and discuss with some of the Laureates. I’ve also had the opportunity to talk a bit with Prof. Klaus von Klitzing, who is now working at the Max Planck Institute in Stuttgart, where I have worked as a postdoctoral researcher about a year and a half ago. I also found it very inspiring to talk to Prof. Brian P. Schmidt about science leadership and to Prof. Carl E. Wieman about teaching in university.

Of course, the talks, panels and discussions with the laureates were all very interesting as they dealed with very important aspects of science, such as gender. In particular, I had a very good experience when participating in the press talk about migration and science presented by Physics World. I believe that through the exchange of experiences with the laureates in chemistry, Professors Dan Schechtman and Martin Karplus, I’ve learned a lot.

I also had the real pleasure to meet and talk not only about science, but about life itself, with many of the selected young scientists who were attending the meeting last week. I think I have made many new friends and I hope I will be able to stay in touch with them from now on.

In conclusion, attending to this Meeting has been an intense and wonderful professional and personal experience for me and that’s why I strongly encourage other women in science to apply for attending to it.

Read more about Ana.


Katarzyna Tych, 29, from the U.K.

Katarzyna Tych (second from right) with other #LiNo16 participants and Nobel Laureate Kurt Wüthrich (second from left) in a German beer garden

Katarzyna (second from right) with other #LiNo16 participants and Nobel Laureate Kurt Wüthrich (second from left) in a German beer garden

Before attending the meeting, I was excited and a little nervous, unsure as to whether I would have the confidence to speak to any Nobel Laureates – or even have the opportunity to do so. I knew that I would see some incredible lectures, and I hoped that I might meet some fellow young scientists and learn some new science.

As it turned out, the meeting vastly exceeded my expectations. From day one, everybody was so friendly and open – introducing themselves, asking about each other’s work, keen to learn and make new friends – and this led to a really warm and engaging atmosphere. We had many opportunities to speak with Nobel Laureates, in a relaxed and informal setting, which made it much less intimidating to do so, and meant that we could learn a lot from these inspiring people.

One of the great things about the meeting, that many people remarked upon, was that we had the impression that female participants were well represented. This meant that we had the opportunity to speak to many other women in science, share our experiences, and discuss how to encourage more women to go into the physical sciences.  This made us feel more welcome, and more confident in our positions as female scientists. 

Read more about Katarzyna.


Charlotta Lorenz, 22, from Germany

Charlotta Lorenz

Charlotta with Nobel Laureate Johann Deisenhofer in Lindau

When I arrived in Lindau I knew the conference was a huge event, but it took me a week to realize that I felt like everybody could just stay another week to get to know all the participants I had not met and to talk even more to those ones I had just met. But everybody was already exhausted from the great, but full program, so that it’s good that we got a rest.

It’s hard to name one moment as the most memorable one; I guess it’s more the “Lindau spirit”, i. e., many highly motivated and interested young people and Nobel Laureates at the same place exchanging research ideas, but also general, society-concerning thoughts.

During one dinner I sat next to Johann Deisenhofer and we talked about research, the American society and many other topics. Another young researcher worked on the same setup I am going to work on, so I was happy to hear a talk from her during one of the master classes. But it also turned out that there are many parallels between different specializations, e.g. image processing in bio- and astrophysics.

I can only encourage women to apply to the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings as there will be many other women with the same motivations, interests and future plans. It’s very inspiring to talk to everybody and share experiences!

Read more about Charlotta.


Irene Alda, 23, from Spain

Irene Alda (second from right) with new #LiNo16 friends

Irene (second from right) with new #LiNo16 friends on Mainau Island

The 2016 Lindau Nobel Meeting was a  week full of knowledge, experiences,  fun moments, and inspiring people. It was great to receive tips from David Gross on being creative: be interested in more things outside physics; and dealing with frustration: work always with more than one problem at a time. Or seeing that  Kurt Würthrich used to practice high jump and that Bill Phillip’s secret to happy life is a positive attitude and finding balance in the different phases of your life.

Everyone should apply to this meeting: be ready to be “wowed”! Perhaps, because of how society shapes “our thoughts and beliefs”, there are less women in Physics: women should definitely apply. In most cultures it is difficult to find women in Physics (compared to other fields like Biology or Medicine). Events like these are inspiring and give you energy to achieve whatever you set your mind to.

Read more about Irene.


Ayesha Azez, 24, from Pakistan

Ayesha Azez (left) with Nobel Laureate William Phillips on Mainau Island

Ayesha (left) with Nobel Laureate William Phillips on Mainau Island

When it comes to describing my impressions of the meetings, I believe I’m now more educated, inspired and motivated by the work of Nobel Laureates and was able to make a lot of connections with other young scientists doing some exciting science. 

My favorite Nobel Laureate at the meeting was William D. Phillips, in every coffee break both me and my friend were looking for him to talk. Most of the time he was already talking to some students and we just stood there and listened to him. Sometimes, we as students feel like our questions are kind of stupid and not worth asking a Nobel Laureate but I was very impressed by his behavior that no matter what type of question we asked, he always had an answer and sometimes even a quite detailed one. We just needed to stand near him and felt like a river of knowledge is flowing. 

And this was not only with Prof. Phillips but I felt this with every Nobel Laureate. In general, every time I listened or talked to a Nobel Laureate it was a moment worth remembering. 

The Bavarian evening was an unforgettable night obviously, so many beautiful people wearing their cultural dresses. Countess Bettina gave me a Thumbs Up for my dress which I can’t forget. 

Although women do study science but not many of them get a PhD and pursue their carrier as a scientist. I think women should apply and attend these meetings if they get a chance and I would recommend all my friends and class fellows to apply for this meeting. I personally didn’t feel myself to be tooo important for science before attending this meeting. But at the meeting everyone was talking about the importance of Women in Science. I found the atmosphere so inspiring and encouraging there. 

Read more about Ayesha.


Lola Fariñas, 29, from Spain

Lola with a Nobel Prize Medal in Lindau

Lola with a Nobel Prize Medal in Lindau

In my daily life, I am mostly surrounded by people who work in industry, education, restoration, consulting, etc. Being a PhD student in my world is not very common. As years go by, and more people ask me THE QUESTION: “this weird thing you are doing your PhD in… what is it for?” I become more skeptic about my career and my future. Many times during these past years doing my PhD, I experienced this feeling of rarity and discouraging solitude. Having the chance to attend the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting was the perfect medicine to fight against these thoughts. That’s why I really want to encourage you – young scientist – to apply for this event.

If you are lucky enough, you’ll have the chance to meet hundreds of people like you, who feel really passionate for what they do and look at your research with curiosity and empathy. Also, you will meet a bunch of inspiring people who won a Nobel Prize (You’ll even be able to drink some beers with them, like if they were your buddies!).

And all these things will happen during one week in a scenic city where you’ll be treated as someone kind of important. To sum it up, I can assure you that you will hardly have such an amazing opportunity like this again. Please, don’t let a little bit of paperwork stop you from enjoying it.

Read more about Lola.


Lena Funcke, 21, from Germany

#LiNo16 participates Lena Funcke (right) and Christiane Lorenz (left) at the harbor of Lindau

#LiNo16 participates Lena (right) and Christiane Lorenz (left) at the harbor of Lindau

Might quantum mechanics emerge from an underlying deterministic theory and what is the physics behind soap bubbles? Which challenges are presidents of universities or large science societies faced with? What motivates the greatest minds of contemporary physics to do research?

The six days I spent in Lindau gave me an exciting insight into fundamental issues like these and many more. The lectures in the morning and the discussion sessions in the afternoon dealt with various topics ranging from physics, politics, personal anecdotes, and science education to tips for becoming a good scientist. In addition, the meeting comprised several informal events such as an international get-together in Austria, a dinner organized for the fellows of the Max Planck Society, and a boat trip to the flower island Mainau. These events gave me a platform for inspiring personal discussions with the Laureates and other young scientists.

The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting offers a unique possibility to informally meet some of the best researchers of our current science community. It gives you exceptional insights into specific scientific debates and into the complex development of scientific knowledge.

Apart from these general points, the meeting can also be very stimulating for your own research. For example, I was given the chance to present a poster about my own work and also approached several Nobel Laureates to discuss specific questions related to my research. The discussions with Laureates like Arthur McDonald, Brian Schmidt, and Gerardus ‘t Hooft and with other young scientists gave me new research ideas and even resulted in a new collaboration. Therefore, I strongly recommend everyone to apply for this meeting, whose guiding principle “Educate. Inspire. Connect.” hits the nail on the head!

Read more about Lena.


If thoses statements are not inspiring and convincing enough to make you apply for the next Lindau Meeting, just look at the last photo of this post with the beautiful harbor of Lindau, then grab a pen to fill out the application form!

See you in Lindau next year! :-)

Lindau Harbor

Junge Physikerinnen im Rampenlicht

Unter den diesjährigen Teilnehmern des 66. Lindau Nobelpreisträgertagung befinden sich zahlreiche junge begabte Physikerinnen.

Einige haben mir im Vorfeld des Meetings mehr Einblick in ihr Leben gewährt und sich zu den folgenden 10 Fragen geäußert:

  1. Was hat Dich inspiriert in der Physik zu arbeiten?
  2. Wer sind Deine Vorbilder?
  3. Wie bist Du dorthin gekommen, wo Du gerade arbeitest?
  4. Was war das coolste Projekt an dem Du je gearbeitet hast und warum?
  5. In welchem Moment war Du besonders stolz auf Dich / auf Deine Arbeit?
  6. Wie sieht ein Tag in Deinem Leben aus?
  7. Was willst Du in Deiner Karriere erreichen?
  8. Was machst Du neben der Forschung?
  9. Welchen Ratschlag würdest Du anderen Frauen geben, die sich für Physik interessieren?
  10. Was könnte der nächste große Durchbruch in der Physik sein?

Darüber hinaus wollte ich auch noch wissen, was ihrer Meinung nach unternommen werden muss, um die Anzahl von weiblichen Professorinnen in der Physik zu erhöhen.

Lasst Euch inspirieren von…

Lola (29) aus Spanien, Charlotta (22) aus Deutschland, Gabriela (33) aus Brasilien, Ana Isabel (30) aus Spanien, Katarzyna (29) aus Großbritannien, Ayesha (24) aus Pakistan, Irene (23) aus Spanien, Winifred (25) aus Ghana, Birgitta (35) aus Deutschland, Anastasiia (26) aus Russland, Anna-Christina (26) aus Deutschland, Zaynah (28) aus Mauritius, Cora (27) aus Deutschland, Tara (26) aus Slovenien, Ann-Katrin (29) aus Deutschland,…

Alle Interviews sind auf dem Women in Research Blog zusammengetragen. Vielleicht ist beim nächsten Treffen auch ein Eintrag von Euch dabei!


Spotlight on Young Women in Physics at Lindau

Several young talented female physicists are among the participants in the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting.

Some of them gave me an insight into their life in advance of the meeting by answering the following 10 questions:

  1. What inspired you to pursue a career in physics / STEM?
  2. Who are your role models?
  3. How did you get to where you are in your career path?
  4. What is the coolest project you have worked on and why?
  5. What’s a time you felt immense pride in yourself / your work?
  6. What is a “day in the life” of you like?
  7. What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?
  8. What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?
  9. What advice do you have for other women interested in physics / STEM?
  10. In your opinion, what will be the next great breakthrough in physics research?

Furthermore, I wanted to know what should be done in their opition to increase the number of female professors in physics.

Get inspired by…

Lola (29) from Spain, Charlotta (22) from Germany, Gabriela (33) from Brazil, Ana Isabel (30) from Spain, Katarzyna (29) from the UK, Ayesha (24) from Pakistan, Irene (23) from Spain, Winifred (25) from Ghana, Birgitta (35) from Germany, Anastasiia (26) from Russia, Anna-Christina (26) from Germany, Zaynah (28) from Mauritius, Cora (27) from Germany, Tara (26) from Slovenia, Ann-Katrin (29) from Germany,…

All interviews are gathered on the Women in Research Blog and might include an interview with you during the next meeting as well.


I’m not a chemist, but at the Lindau meeting that doesn’t matter

I love robots (who doesn’t?) and really enjoy the work roboticists do. All through graduate school, I had a roboticist as a housemate. We talked about how difficult it is for robots to things that we humans take for granted. Show a robot a picture of the street and it won’t be able to differentiate a car from the road. Building a robot hand that can lift a glass of water and then keep it down took many years of hard work by a bunch of expert roboticists. And yet, these little machines have been instrumental in making our modern lives possible.

Sabine Hauert

When I first came across Sabine Hauert on RoboHub, I was enthralled by her articles. She has a knack ofcommunicating beautifully the cool things that robots do and the difficulty of getting them to do. All this has got nothing to do with chemistry, so I was very pleasantly surprised to know that Sabine was attending this year’s Lindau meeting because the theme this year is chemistry. I was very curious why a roboticist would like to know about molecular workings of the world.

Sitting by the lake Bodensee, I got a chance to ask her to explain this to me. Turns out the behaviour of robots could be used to make cancer drugs.

Here is Sabine on her experience at the meeting so far:

Although the theme of this year’s Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting is chemistry, the talks transcend boundaries. They have featured quantum computing, personalized medicine, cell biology and even Tibetan art. The Laureates, who I imagined as super-specialists, are rooting for us young researchers to expand our horizons, work across disciplines to tackle challenges in climate change or medicine, and persevere against all odds. I’m not a chemist, and it doesn’t seem to matter.

As a swarm engineer, I take inspiration from insect colonies and bird flocks to explore new ways in which large numbers of simple agents can self-organize. I use computer tools like crowdsourcing and machine learning to discover strategies that lead to formation of swarms and apply them to real-world problems. During my PhD, I engineered swarms of flying robots for disaster scenarios. At Sangeeta Bhatia‘s Lab at MIT, I hope to make nanoparticles swarm to improve the treatment of cancer.

Through listening and mingling at talks and dinners in Lindau, I’ve learned that many parallels exist across disciplines and this untapped territory is making me tingle. I discovered Gerhard Ertl‘s spirals that emerge from reaction-diffusion systems, Dan Shechtman‘s diffraction patterns of quasi-crystals and Jean-Marie Lehn‘s use of self-organization to make complex matter. Molecular machinery presented by John Walker and Ada Yonath, including the ATP synthase and the ribosome, would make any roboticists shy away from their bulky motors.

Could these discoveries lead to innovation in robotics or bio-engineering? Can my work help design these self-organized systems? At dinners we brainstormed about machine learning and artificial neural networks to explore self-organization in the brain.

Many seeds were planted this week, cross-disciplinary ideas that will require time and frontier funding to grow. Instead of focusing on a specific topic, maybe next year’s Lindau meeting could be about “science and passion”? I have a feeling that Richard Ernst would approve.

Sabine Hauert is a Human Frontier Science Program cross-disciplinary fellow at MIT in the laboratory of Sangeeta Bhatia. Before working in bio-engineering, she completed a M.Sc. in Computer Science and a Ph.D. at EPFL in Switzerland where she worked on controlling swarms of flying robotsPassionate about science communication, Sabine co-founded a non-profit association best known for its blog Robohub and podcast.

A video about Sabine’s work with swarms of flying robots:

From a small city in India to the big world of science

Sarika Goel grew up in India in a small city called Meerut in the state of Uttar Pradesh. As a curious child she grew to love science and chose to study engineering. After completing undergraduate studies in chemical engineering in the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, she joined to the University of California at Berekely to pursue a PhD.

Now with three other young researchers, Sarika will be video blogging her time at the Lindau meeting. In her career so far, Sarika has managed to overcome many challenges and has won many laurels in the process. So her chosen theme is apt: “Facing challenges and inspiring others in science”. Even with project deadlines looming on her head, Sarika took time to answer some questions about her life, science and video blogging.

Sarika Goel

Why did you become a scientist?

As a child, like the small city I come from, my dreams were also small. I never really thought about doing higher studies until the day my results for 12th standard came. I came at the top of my state among girls and that made me see bigger dreams.

I have always been very keen to know how things work and how we can make things work more efficiently. This curiousity won and became a major driving force for me to study engineering. During my engineering studies, while I was doing research work for my undergraduate thesis, I realised how awesome research is. And that love for research brought me to Berkeley on tweaking the properties of small molecules to make useful bigger molecules.

My PhD has been a great learning experience so far. The thing about research that I love the most is the freedom and opportunity I get to learn new things every day.

The theme for your videos is “Facing challenges and inspiring others in science”. What’s it all about?

Scientists not only share curiosity with their fellow researchers but also a responsibility toward future generations. In this video blog, I want to show how do Nobel Laureates and young researchers tackle challenges and obstacles? What did they learn on the way? What did they teach others? I want to know how we can inspire and encourage each other and the next generation of leading scientists.

How will you go about making videos on that theme? 

I believe that everyone can relate to the deepest influence on us. Thus, to get true inspiration we should be able to relate to the source of inspiration. I will be interviewing Nobel Laureates and young researchers and in their own words, we together will learn their individual key to success, the challenges they faced in their lives and research career and how did they overcome those and succeed.

What will make your video blogging expedition successful?

I’d like to bring out personal perspective of individual researchers. The challenges they face and the successes they have in the process. I believe those will have deep influences on the viewers my of video blog.

What do you hope to take away from the Lindau meeting?

I am very excited about meeting Nobel Laureates in person. I am looking forward to interacting with them and with other young researchers from all around the world. There will be many exciting discussions about science. I hope to learn about all the awesome research happening in the world, to make friends and bring memories that I will cherish all my life.

Heather Gray: chaotic starts and Higgs excitement

Heather Gray, a researcher working on the ATLAS experiment at CERN, was at this year’s Lindau meeting. I spoke to her over email before it started to find out about her expectations, and afterwards she told me about her impressions of the meeting and what it was like to watch the announcement from CERN with other young researchers. She also made a video diary of the Higgs exciement at Lindau that you can watch below.
What were your first impressions of the meeting when you arrived?
My arrival at the meeting was somewhat chaotic as my bag had been sent on the wrong flight by the airline and then when dashing out for some new clothes I dropped my wallet! However the staff at the Lindau meeting where wonderful so they quickly helped me to sort things out. This did mean that I was a little distracted during the initial stages and the opening ceremony. I enjoyed the formality and tradition clearly inherent in the opening ceremony and obtained a better understanding of the history of the Nobel meeting. Of course, it was exciting to see so many Nobel Laureates in one place at the same time, although this was something I got more accustomed to over the week. Finally, I found the number of young researchers quite surprising – there really were many, many young people all doing fascinating research in many different corners of the globe.
You mentioned in our last Q&A that you’re working on the Higgs boson. How busy were you in the weeks leading up to the meeting, and how did you feel on Wednesday when the results were announced? 
Oh, whenever we have data, we are always extremely busy working to understand it. I was very busy the week before I left because I was taking a shift as run manager: essentially looking after our experiment’s data-taking for a week, in the last few days that we collected data that was used for this result, so it was definitely a time in which we wanted things to go smoothly. I do work on the Higgs, but I don’t work on the two channels that ATLAS showed this time, so for me the busiest time is yet to come as we collect more data. However, in the last few days before the result went public the entire collaboration was involved in the process of understanding the results, approving it and converging on the message we wanted to present to the outside world.
At Lindau, the seminar in which the spokespeople of the two experiments presented the new results unfortunately clashed with some of the scheduled talks, so there wasn’t an opportunity to watch it together with the other participants. However, quite a group of us got together and watched in the tent on a few laptops, which I enjoyed a lot.  I found the seminar very exciting, even if I already knew what ATLAS was going to show, and I even found myself surprisingly emotional when the Director General said “I think we’ve got it!” We couldn’t stop ourselves from clapping as everyone had broad grins on their faces.
What’s next for the Higgs in general, and for your own research?
In this case, the two are really quite well aligned. What we want and need to do next re more careful measurements to determine whether this particle is the Higgs boson or something else. The decay channel that I work on directly is the decay to a pair of bottom quarks and we need data before the channel becomes sensitive. Of course, this doesn’t mean we’re waiting, but rather actively working on the analysis and optimising things so that we can obtain the best results possible.
In order to understand if it is the Higgs, we need to repeat the current measurements with more data and check nothing changes. Then we need to see if we observe this particle in all predicted decay channels and whether we see it decaying in different ways at the rate at which we expect. Here’s where the channel I work on fits in, as the bb channel is the only decay to quarks that we could expect to see, and if it’s the Higgs, it should really couple to all particles.  We’ll be taking data until the end of this year or early next year and we hope that this should give us enough data to obtain at least the first answer to this question.
You took part in a master class with David Gross – what was that like?
The master class was one of my favourite parts of the meeting. I couldn’t have asked for better timing to be giving a talk about the Higgs than the day after that seminar! I found the contributions from all participants were of a very high quality such that I found them fascinating. The discussion was excellent with many people attending the class participating. I also enjoyed the discussion I had with David Gross about how sure we experimentalists need to be about a result before making it public. 
What will you take away from the meeting?
I will take away some great experiences, great friends, new ideas and most of all the impressions I got of the Nobel Laureates, not just as great scientists, but also human beings.

Before the master class: Josh Dillon

The Lindau meetings have certain traditions – the polonaise comes to mind; the exclusivity (laureates and young researchers only!) of the afternoon discussion sessions; the boat ride. But now and again, Lindau tries something new. From 2010, I remember an “inverse panel”, with Nobel laureates interviewing a panel of young researchers instead of the other way around. That doesn’t appear to have caught on. This year, there are “master classes”. I’ll get to witness one of them on Thursday: the one organized by George Smoot on “Cosmology and Astrophysics: Gamma Ray Bursts and Galaxies”. I have no idea what to expect (although Kelly’s report from the Fert master class gives some clues – but then, each Nobel laureate probably has his own version of this event). So I met beforehand with Josh Dillon, who is one of the grad students participating in the class.

MP: I gather from the participant list that you’re a graduate student at MIT. What are you working on?

JD: I study cosmology in the group of Max Tegmark. We’re interested in mapping the early universe with what is known as 21 cm radiation. It’s emitted by neutral hydrogen, ordinary hydrogen atoms. It’s one of the only ways to
have access to the universe after the cosmic background radiation was released, but before galaxies started to form. That’s our long-range goal; a more intermediate goal is to see how the universe went from being neutral to being ionized, during what is called the epoch of re-ionization. That’s also what I’ll be talking about at the master class.

MP: How did you get to Lindau?

JD: My department chair sent me an e-mail asking if I was interested in attending this conference. He asked my advisor to write me a recommendation, and I applied. There were a number of different stages; it was fairly complicated: we had to apply to get nominated by the US, and then get accepted to the conference.

MP: So how did you get selected for the master class?

JD: After I was accepted, we got a whole bunch of e-mails from the organizers. One of them asked whether I was interested in taking part in a master class. I thought I might as well try, since I was only required to give a very short talk, and it seemed a good way to meet a Nobel laureate in my field. It wasn’t a long application: one page.

MP: So what is the master class? I have no idea!

JD: That’s a good question. It’s a bit vague. I’d never heard of any session called a master class in any context other than music. We were told it was to be a five to ten minute talk, so I don’t think I am expected to teach a class, which would have been a lot more challenging! I managed to have lunch with George Smoot and a bunch of other laureates today, and we talked a bit over lunch. I think he envisions this more as a way for people to talk about their research, but also for people who are interested in astrophysics more generally to get a broader sense of what is going on in fields that aren’t exactly their own.

MP: So what are your impressions of Lindau so far?

JD: It’s been a really cool conference. There are many opportunities to engage with other students. I’d never before met so many people who are at my age, and are doing astrophysics, outside my university. And it’s been neat to meet people from other countries. People are very friendly, and very willing to go out on a limb a little bit, introduce themselves and just make contact.

MP: Have you had much contact with the laureates so far?

JD: I sat at Brian Schmidt’s table at the International Get-Together. The discovery that Brian Schmidt and his colleagues made – Dark energy – is a great part of what inspired me to go into this field. We talked about a lot of things. Interestingly, a lot of the discussion was unrelated to physics. There were several Americans and several Germans at the table. We talked about international politics, and history; Schmidt talked about his winery and wine in general, as we drank some wine.

I had, in fact, gone to an earlier discussion session with him where he talked about some of his future projects. It was also interesting to learn that he had a hard time getting a job – this was right before he got involved in the project that eventually discovered Dark energy. He said at one point that he was three weeks away from leaving the field, and that he would either do something he was passionate about, or leave the field. I haven’t been in that position yet, but it certainly gives me pause. But he also pointed out that the unemployment rate for physicists is some absurdly low number!

Well, I still have a few more years before I really have to think about what to do next. But being here is great, because it reminds me of all the really cool stuff that’s going on and can go on in the future. I’m passionate about what I do, and I want to devote my life to study physics; being here is a useful – recharge of that passion!

MP: Many thanks for the interview, and I look forward to hearing your talk at the master class!

Researcher profile: Heather Gray on life at CERN

Heather Gray, originally from South Africa and currently working at CERN, is one of the attendees producing a video diary to document her time at the Lindau meeting this year. I caught up with her over email just before the start of the meeting to find out what a day’s work at CERN is really like – and what she could tell me about the hunt for the Higgs boson.



Can you tell me about your research?

I work on the ATLAS experiment, one of four at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). During my PhD I spent most of the time working on the pixel detector, which is the table-top sized detector right at the heart of ATLAS. I was also one of the main contributors to the first physics paper published by ATLAS in which we measured the number of charged particles produced in proton-proton collisions. Since becoming a fellow at CERN, I have continued to work on charged track reconstruction and, in particular, on the optimisation of the algorithms for the higher than anticipated number of proton-proton collisions per event at the LHC. My physics focus has switched to the Higgs boson. I am working on a search for the Higgs using the decay to a pair of bottom quarks. If the Higgs exists and has a low mass, then this will be a crucial channel in determining that an observed resonance is actually the Higgs boson.

Can you tell me anything about the search for the Higgs boson? Do you think we’ll have a definitive answer by the end of the year?

At the moment we’re all very busy analysing the data to present updated results at the ICHEP conference which starts in Australia next week. So right now, I can’t say anything definitive, but you might want to ask me the same question again at the end of next week. Given the excellent performance of the LHC this year, I expect that we should have enough data by the end of this run to give a definitive answer about whether the Standard Model Higgs boson exists or not.

Will you work have practical applications beyond the experiments at CERN?

If we were able to answer this question right now, it would certainly simplify our lives in terms of obtaining funding, but the honest answer, is that when one does this type of fundamental research, the practical applications come such a long time after, that one never has a clear idea of them at the time that the research is being performed. The other way to think about this is historically: in the end pretty much all the ground-breaking discoveries resulting in amazing practical applications, but these were not developed by those people making the discoveries. The applications were done by others, later.

What is it like being a PhD student at CERN? 

There is a great sense of community amongst PhD students at CERN because there are typically a few hundred of us there for a similar period. I really enjoyed being at CERN because it meant that I was in the centre of the detector development and commissioning and now with all the physics results that are being produced. On the other hand, Switzerland is quite an expensive place, so it was not the easiest place to live from a financial perspective whilst being on a student’s salary.

What is an average day like for you?

My days can be quite variable, but the most typical day would be as follows: Cycling to work, pain chocolat and espresso in restaurant one (on a nice day, this has a view of Mt Blanc), answering emails for a few hours, attending meetings to either show or discuss our latest results, a few hours programming to update the results and then informal meetings over coffee with a couple people. Our days don’t tend to be very quiet…

What are you most looking forward to about attending this year’s Lindau meeting?

I’m not entirely sure what to expect, but I think I’m very interested in getting to know all the different people who will be there and to hear the talks from people in different fields. Being at CERN, I tend to hear about almost everything that is going on in particle physics, but I don’t have all that much exposure to other fields. I’m also looking forward to enjoying the summer sun by the lakeside. 


International bright young things: 30 under 30

This year’s Lindau meeting has brought together over 550 young scientists from around the world from countries including Germany, Kenya, the US, Egypt, India and South Africa. The often repeated motto at Lindau is “educate, inspire, connect” and although the temperamental wifi in the Inselhalle conference centre means that connections of the digital variety are not always a success, the range of scheduled discussions and social events promise plenty of in-person opportunities for the attendees to get to know each other and the Nobel laureates.
So who are the attendees at this year’s meeting? What do they have in common and what are they hoping to gain from this intense once-in-a-lifetime invitation? You can hear from six of the attendees in their video diary updates. In addition, in the run up to this weekend, Scientific American has been profiling 30 of the young scientists attending Lindau. In the “30 under 30” series of short interveiws, each of the 30 attendees were asked the same questions including what they’re working on in their research, where they see themselves in the future and who their scientific heroes are.
“There is certainly a “wow!” factor to meeting any Nobelist” 
Common to them all is an excitement at the opportunity to talk with the laureates: “there is certainly a “wow!” factor to meeting any Nobelist” – Eduard Rusu and “I am eager to ask Nobel laureates their thoughts on improving science education and discussion how science can be better communicated to the public.” – Merideth Frey.
“I do not have a particular scientific hero.  In general I carry great admiration for any researcher who has made a long-lasting imprint on a wide breadth of disciplines.” 
However, when talking about scientific heroes, the answers are more wide-ranging. Several mention notable figures such as Albert Einstein who was “one scientist I consider an all-rounder, and Richard Feynman who was “not only a brilliant scientist, but a brilliant conveyor of science.” Another attendee explains “I do not have a particular scientific hero.  In general I carry great admiration for any researcher who has made a long-lasting imprint on a wide breadth of disciplines.” The most original answer though, is probably this from Ulrika Forsberg: “a more “understandable” role model that I grew up with was MacGyver from the 1980s TV series of the same name, who seemed to solve just any problem by knowing a lot about everything.”
“I hope to be up to date on whatever technology is in active use, to know how it works but to still go backpacking without it.”
When asked to consider where they’ll be in 10 years time, the vast majority still hope to be in academic science, running their own labs. Probably my favourite answer though was from Claire Thomas who “will be a scientist, but it is almost impossible to say where science will be at that time so I cannot imagine my options and certainly not my choice. I hope to be up to date on whatever technology is in active use, to know how it works but to still go backpacking without it.”
Check out all the interviews in the series here and note all the interesting hobbies mentioned too! From competitive equestrian sports to ballet, being a pilot to bike rides, this year’s attendees are certainly an interesting group.