Networking at Conferences, or How to Win-Win at Lindau

 

There’s nothing like a good conference. I am a certified conference addict and I attend as many as I can each year. I love hearing the exciting presentations, meeting new people, gaining insight about new trends and innovations, and discovering novel ways to look at problems. From attending conferences, I have been able to move my career in new directions as I have met interesting people who have given me amazing advice and ideas.

I would have to say that my success – that is, the fact that I am in a career and job that brings me both joy and intellectual challenge – is a direct result of networking at conferences.  

And it should come as no surprise that one of my favourite conferences is my beloved Lindau (#NerdHeaven). It is hard to believe but the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (#LINO18) is about six weeks away. Did you know that this conference, which this year will be focused on physiology and medicine, will feature a staggering 41 laureates and 600 young scientists from across the globe? That is a lot of potential networking.

If you are planning to attend, you may be wondering how you can effectively leverage your time at Lindau to meet and greet as many people as you possibly can. But like many early-career professionals, you might also be new to networking and concerned that you might be overwhelmed by both the quantity and the quality of all the brilliant brains with whom you may come in contact.

Fear not, Fellow Nerd! I am here to help and ease your mind as you jump into this networking paradise. 

The first thing you should know about networking is that it is not a dishonourable activity, akin to selling a used car that is a piece of junk. In fact, networking is the exact opposite of this and is the most honourable action you can take in your career. The reason this is so is because networking is not about what can I take or get from you – rather, it is about what can I give to you, and what can I contribute to your team, organisation and project.

 

Young scientists during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Here’s a very simple and clear definition: Networking is a spectrum of activities that starts with the first point of contact I have with someone and aims for a mutually-beneficial alliance, where we are both providing value in various forms and functions over time. The win-win aspect of networking can last a lifetime, and is especially important, because when you look to offer something to someone in a networking partnership, you will find that hidden opportunities will be offered to you. Many of these opportunities are not necessarily measurable or even tangible (it could be something as simple as having a conversation with an established star in your field), but they can lead to critical career opportunities such as fellowships, jobs and awards. The key to networking is to endeavour to help the other party in some way over time. When you do this, they see you as honourable and are more likely to offer you tangible experiences which have the potential to be game-changers in your life and profession.

On 24 May 2018, I will be presenting my second webinar in collaboration with the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings on “Optimising Your Time at Conferences: Networking Strategies to Advance Your Profession, Career and Field (Especially at Lindau!)”. You can register for the webinar here. Although Lindau will be the focus of this webinar, I will be discussing networking tactics that are applicable to any conference you will ever attend for the rest of your life. Talk about high ROI (Return on Investment)!

 

  1. Know that everyone is there for the same reason. It helps to understand that everyone who attends Lindau (or any other conference) is there to network with everyone else. And at Lindau in particular, this goes for the laureates as well as the young scientists. I have interviewed more than a handful of Nobel Laureates who participate in Lindau year after year and have inquired why they attend and keep coming back. And over and over, their answer is the same – they want to meet and interact with other nerds, especially those who are just launching their careers. The Nobels know that networking is noble, so take a hint from them. And knowing that we all attend Lindau to network can help to ease your mind and relax. We are all in it together, and we all want to Network!

 

  1. Prepare. If you simply show up at a conference and participate in whatever events catch your fancy, you’re likely to miss the best networking opportunities. Before attending the conference, familiarise yourself with its programme. Start reading the programme now (or about a month in advance) and get to know the speakers and their backgrounds and the special events. This will help you make the most of the experience and arm you with intelligent questions to ask not only the laureates but the other young scientists as well.

 

  1. Plan ahead and make connections now. In general, it is fine to reach out to other attendees and even speakers who will be presenting at conferences. If you know you’d like to meet with fellow attendees, request appointments with them at least two to three weeks before the conference. They are busy, too, so it’s wise to get on their calendars beforehand. And even if the person you want to meet is not on the programme, it’s OK to reach out to ask if s/he will be attending, and, if so, whether her schedule would allow a short meeting. Ask for only 15 minutes, because most people attending conferences generally can’t afford to meet for a full hour for lunch, but they almost always can squeeze in a brief coffee appointment.

 

  1. Arrive early to talks and talk to those around you. Before coffee breaks are over, migrate back into the auditorium and sit near someone you don’t know. This is a great opportunity to network, especially for introverts, because there is a reason to speak with the other person: You are both here to attend the session and you can ask them if they have ever heard this presenter before. Furthermore, this networking has an expiration date and time – when the speaker begins their presentation, you have to stop talking immediately. This is a fantastic exit strategy and one that helps networking neophytes ease into networking because you can be completely certain that you won’t be stuck making conversation indefinitely.

 

  1. Tweet and use the conference app. Lindau has an especially robust and useful app that allows you to plan your schedule and get background information about the laureates and other participants (you will be notified once this year’s app is available for download). Most major conferences now use apps, and some even allow you to contact other participants through the app itself. Download the app before you leave home so you can make sure you know how to navigate it. And then once you are at Lindau, tweet away! The hashtag is #LINO18. Twitter is especially useful for conference networking because you can tweet and follow tweets with the conference hashtag. You’ll get incredibly useful insight about leaders, hot topics and popular sessions. Often, this information isn’t shared anywhere else. You’ll also discover who the trendsetters and other established leaders are in the community and get a sense for potential collaborators. You can retweet these individuals’ tweets to help establish and amplify your brand and demonstrate your dedication to the community. And by doing all of this, you’ll have a reason to contact your newfound colleagues after the conference.

 

  1. Look for “Action Nodes”. I define an action node as anything at a meeting that people can talk about, such as the queue for the food, drinks, registration and so forth. All of these nodes give you something to immediately discuss. For those who are unsure of what to say when you first meet someone, this can provide the spark.

 

Do you want more tips and ideas to network successfully at conferences, particularly at Lindau? Then join me on 24 May 2018 for a special webinar!

I look forward to networking with you at Lindau and beyond!

Fact-Checking – An Effective Weapon Against Misinformation?

 

Picture/Credit: Anne-Marie Miller/iStock.com

Starting out as a science writer, I fact-checked articles for a popular science magazine. Having pored over the text and checked each name, date and statement, it was satisfying to know that the reader would find facts, not fiction, on the pages. Invisible to the reader, this kind of fact-checking in journalism was used by TIME magazine and the New Yorker as early as the 1920s.

Today, anyone who reads the news is likely to have noticed another kind of fact-check: articles and media coverage examining the accuracy of reported claims or rumours, with politicians a common target. As independent checks, they are a way to tackle misinformation.

Fact-checking activity has increased dramatically within the last decade, long before the terms ‘fake news’ and ‘post-fact’ began popping up in headlines. In a recent census, there were 149 active projects in 53 countries. They include groups within the traditional media, like the BBC in the UK, and independent charities and NGOs like Germany’s Correct!v’s Echtjetzt. Not surprisingly, politics and economics dominate. A handful of projects, such as SciCheck and Détecteur de Rumeurs, are dedicated to science.

The rise of the fact-check is partly a response to the deluge of misinformation accompanying the internet and social media: never before could dubious claims be shared so easily, widely and quickly.

Fact-checking is also, however, a chance to document issues more thoroughly than in routine news reporting. An important goal of journalists is to cover all points of view to maintain impartiality. However this, along with increasingly under-resourced newsrooms and tight deadlines, can ironically result in false balance and misleading coverage. Coverage of climate change is a classic example.

“There’s been mounting pressure on journalists to call out false statements by politicians or by other interests in their reporting,” says Lucas Graves, a fact-checking researcher at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in the UK and former journalist.

Empowering the public to help them make political decisions is a high priority for many fact-checkers, as is improving public political discourse and making politicians more accountable.

There are many cases where fact-checks have forced politicians to change their rhetoric, says Graves. Last year, for example, the UK’s Channel 4 FactCheck forced Jeremy Hunt, then Secretary of State for Health, to correct parliamentary records after he stated 30,000 more mental health professionals had joined the National Health Service since his government took office. The true figure was 692.

One notable experimental study in the US even demonstrated that reminding politicians of the threat of a fact-check significantly reduced the number of negatively-rated fact-checks they received.

That said, such ‘wins’ are by no means universal. While there are reports that political parties do monitor fact-checks in the media, politicians don’t often acknowledge critical checks of their claims.

But how do the public respond to fact-checks? Overall, a huge body of literature on the subject suggests they have a modest corrective effect, says Graves. But it’s complicated.

First of all, a person must encounter a fact-check for it to have any effect: a significant stumbling block. To date, there hasn’t been much investigation into this. Exacerbating the issue are the media preferences of individuals with particular political beliefs. “People are much less likely to see, in the United States for instance, a fact-check of Donald Trump by PolitiFact if they’re watching Fox News,” comments Graves.

 

Fact-checking is booming. In the latest census, there were 149 active projects worldwide. Credit: Duke Reporters’ Lab

 

In any case, can we assume that once someone sees a fact-check, their misplaced beliefs are then corrected? This is the premise of the deficit model, a term coined by science communicators in the 1980s.

In reality, humans are more complex creatures with ideological beliefs, emotions and identities. Evidence on the benefits of vaccination, for example, is unlikely to persuade a parent with a strong distrust of conventional medicine to vaccinate their child against measles.

One particular phenomenon, confirmation bias, means that individuals favour information that aligns with their existing beliefs more readily than that which doesn’t. The anti-vaccine parent is therefore less receptive to information from vaccine proponents.

In a related phenomenon, the backfire effect, misplaced beliefs can even be reinforced. Demonstrated in a 2010 study, volunteers believed more strongly that there were weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq in the run-up to the second Gulf War after they read an article describing how no such evidence was found.

Subsequent research, however, showed that the effect is rare and consequently less concerning for fact-checkers. Political scientists Ethan Porter and Thomas Wood studied the responses of individuals with a range of political beliefs to factual corrections of claims by politicians. “By and large, citizens heed factual information, even when such information challenges their ideological commitments,” they concluded.

The same study demonstrated, nevertheless, that individuals are happier to accept a correction of a claim that supports their beliefs, agreeing with previous research. Also, crucially, even if an individual accepts a politician has made a false claim, it does not mean they will change their beliefs on political policies. Likewise, a separate study has shown, they are unlikely to change their vote.

All in all, how society responds to fact-checking is nuanced and complex. Facts, so dear to scientists, are just one piece of the puzzle. One thing is clear, though: social sciences research is crucial to provide hard evidence on what works and what doesn’t. Equipped with this, fact-checkers can reach out most effectively, encouraging more constructive dialogue on the big issues that affect us all – including those involving science.

 

The Conversation is one of 149 organisations currently accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network. Conditions for accreditation include transparency in procedures, management and funding.

 

 

Read More

What Your Advisor Didn’t Tell You: You’re a Super Hero and You’ve Got Yottatons of Skills

Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

When you were studying for your degree, did your mentor or principal investigator (PI) ever happen to mention to you: “Good news! Not only are you developing technical skills in science and engineering, but you are also honing vital and transferrable skills in other realms, too!” No? I didn’t think so.

As a maths major, I certainly didn’t hear that from my advisor. In fact, I was led to believe that the only skills I had were tied to maths and the only job and career I was qualified for had to have the word “mathematics” in the title – as in, mathematician, maths professor, maths teacher, and so forth.

What a silly idea.

Your degree may say “chemistry”, “physics” or “pharmacotoxicology”, but hidden below the surface of your disciplinary expertise is a truckload of highly vital, attractive, invaluable, and diverse skills. These skills fan out across multiple dimensions and encompass much more than your scientific knowhow. In fact, these skills are highly coveted by many more sectors and ecosystems of which you and your PI might not have been aware. They include hard business skills and “soft” or interpersonal skills, such as communications, negotiations, conflict resolution, marketing, and leadership.

Because our advisors typically have not spent time outside of academia, they often do not realise that they, too, have these skills. But more importantly, they don’t think to inform their proteges that they possess these abilities and that the proteges can and should specifically articulate that they have them when looking for jobs and planning out their career paths.

Let’s take a look at the origin story of these skills. From studying science or engineering and, in particular, pursuing it at the graduate level and beyond, you have organically gained certain critical problem-solving skills. You have been bestowed these super powers through the process of conducting scientific research, in which you have to identify a problem that is not possibly known to exist and identify a solution from nothing. You are creating knowledge and/or developing an innovation. This is not something to take lightly, as this serves as the foundation for your entire brand (your promise of value) to employers because this is what employers desire – they need Creators and Explorers, who can solve problems that at first glance seem impossible. Scientists and engineers are trained to think in the direction of the impossible, to create something from nothing, to find and explore and measure realms that are unseen and unknown.

 

In your pursuit of the unidentified and unfamiliar, you have developed certain attributes that serve you well in your day-to-day super hero business of STEM. For example, you:

  • Are adaptive, adaptable and flexible
  • Take a critical thinking and analysis approach
  • Are very self-disciplined
  • Have excellent computing skills
  • Can solve a problem from the ground up
  • Are both holistic and detail-oriented
  • Understand how the physical world works
  • Have extensive project management and teamwork experience (after all, your teams are often large-scale, diverse and across continents and cultures)
  • Have networking experience, from finding and working with collaborators

 

You also have a considerable amount of business skills. I am sure your advisor never hinted at this aspect of your glory either, partly because they probably didn’t realise themselves that they have and use hard business skills on a regular basis every day in their research. For example, did you know that you and your mentor have marketing experience? When you pen a grant proposal, you are essentially writing part of a marketing campaign. You are suggesting to the agency or organisation that they invest in you and your research and you outline why this will be a good investment and how the financier will obtain a return on their investment. That is Marketing 101: explain to the customer why they should buy your product. In this case, the product is your research and the impact you will have, and the customer is the funding agency.

 

There are plenty of other hard business skills that you probably gained from engaging in STEM, such as:

  • Project Management
  • Accounting
  • Human Resources and Training
  • Procurement and Inventory
  • Risk Management
  • Customer Service
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Public and Media Relations
  • Event Planning
  • Grant Writing
  • Operations
  • Vendor Relations
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Safety Protocols
  • Quality Assurance

 

As you talk with your advisor and others within academia, it is relevant to note that these skills are probably being described using a different vocabulary. I noticed this myself when I was working for a university and looking to get a job beyond the academy. On my resume, I described the problems I had solved in terms of students, i.e., what I had done to advance students’ goals and recruit more students to the institution. I wasn’t getting any interviews. And then, thanks to a career counsellor, I changed one word on my resume and suddenly I got many interviews. What did I do? I simply swapped out the word “student” for the word “customer”, because if you think about it, what are students to a university? They are the customers of academia – they exchange money (their tuition) for a product and service (their degree and the education that comes with it). Once I communicated that I spoke the language of industry, and articulated my skills using their vocabulary, they were more inclined to interview (and hire!) me.

So how do you start identifying your own set of skills? Use a tool I have created, called the Skill Inventory Matrix.

This is a self-assessment tool that you can utilise to not only recognise the skills you have acquired, but also to analyse and determine what opportunities are good for you to explore and pursue given your goals, interests and skills. Before you begin to complete it, know this: this is a private document. You won’t ever need to show this to anyone. It is a personal tool designed to help you articulate your true value which you can use to populate your resume or CV, cover letters, introductory emails, profiles on LinkedIn and other social media sites, and any other self-marketing document and communique, throughout your career. So be truthful, thoughtful and thorough as you endeavour to fill it out, because it will provide you with extremely powerful information about your skills and value that will arm you to make the right career choices for you and only you.

It is also a living document: the more experiences you have, the more projects you complete, the more jobs or assignments or gigs you pursue, the more information you can glean about yourself. So keep this tool handy throughout your entire career so that as you have accomplishments you can add to it to be able to more methodically and authentically tell your own value story.

The Skill Inventory Matrix

 

In the first column, list out any experience that literally gave you experience, which could be a paid job or research assistantship, or a volunteer position, or a short-term class project.

Then in the next columns, write down what different types of skills you gained from each experience. As you fill this out, don’t worry about spelling or even vocabulary – if you don’t know the precise word for it, describe the skill in terms of the problem you solved.

In the “characteristics” column, jot down what you realised about yourself from this experience, such as you work well in a team or independently, or you thrive when given a deadline.

And finally write down what you loved and hated about these experiences. This is useful data to have to plan out your career – we will cover this in a future blog so stay tuned!

In the meantime, as you start filling in your Skill Inventory Matrix you will discover the full extent of your value and the plethora and diversity of skills you have. And then you will know what I mean when I call you a super hero. Because that’s what you are.

 

Author’s Note: Excerpts and some of these concepts have appeared in other works by the author, including her book, Networking for Nerds (Wiley, 2015), career columns in Physics Today and Nature Astronomy, and other publications.

 

 

Read More

Science Should Prepare for a Marathon

Science can no longer be complacent about its role in society. Global inequality and dissatisfaction with the global financial system that is perceived to perpetuate this inequality has led many into the arms of populists. In a highly polarised environment, it is not only political and financial mechanisms that are being called into question, but also scientific facts. A ‘post-truth era’ has arrived in which scientific evidence is no longer necessarily perceived as the gold standard. Last year, it wasn’t only the scientific enterprise in general that was beleaguered: the institutions of science and learning and scientists themselves also came under attack in numerous places around the globe, from Hungary to Turkey

These tempests have acted as a jolt that has awakened the scientific community and supporters of science into action. Many scientists now acknowledge that they must invest more time and effort in communicating not only scientific results but also the nature of scientific investigation to the public. Huge numbers, provoked in particular by the politics of US president Donald Trump, also felt moved to take a visible stance in support of science. A worldwide March for Science took place on 22 April 2017, in which people from more than 600 cities around the world took to the streets. This year, supporters all over the world will march again on 14 April 2018. A prominent supporter of this initiative is Helga Nowotny, Vice-President of the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and former President of the European Research Council. Nowotny was the first signatory of the Vienna March for Science, and gave the closing speech at the event in 2017. 

 

More than 2000 people participated in the Vienna March for Science on 22 April 2017. Photo: © March for Science Vienna

More than 2000 people participated in the Vienna March for Science on 22 April 2017. Photo: © March for Science Vienna

Why have you given your support to the March for Science?

Helga Nowotny: For a long time, it has been said that science has facts and society deals with values. It is finally time to abolish this separation – it no longer applies! Because science is also based on values. One of these values is the freedom to ask questions and to step into the unknown. At the same time, facts don’t fall from the sky, but are the result of a long process of scientific investigation. As scientists, we need to better convey how we arrive at facts. We should have more confidence in people’s power of judgement, whilst also helping them to acquire this power. This is necessary if we want to transform information into knowledge.

 

Do scientists then need to communicate more? Has their reticence contributed to the current situation?

HN: Of course, one can always communicate more. However, I would like to stress that science cannot be isolated from what is happening in society, and when politicians push science to the side or try to instrumentalise it, then this creates space for populists of all kinds. The scientific community needs to understand that it cannot fully insulate itself from political events, because it is part of society. It is important to realise that science is not the primary target of ‘alternative facts’. However, it is confronted with considerable collateral damage. Around 2,000 people participated in the Vienna March for Science. In total, an estimated 1.1 million people worldwide took to the streets in support of science on 22 April 2017.

 

The initiative for a March for Science came about as a direct reaction to the politics of US President Trump. Why have people now in parallel also taken to the streets in Vienna or Munich?

HN: It is important to stress that this was a march FOR science and was not a march against something. Of course, the current political situation in the USA played a subliminal role, but the march cannot be reduced to an anti-Trump demonstration. Rather, the intention was to raise the profile of science. A post-truth mentality appears to be characteristic of these troubled times.

 

 

Helga Nowotny was speaking as a panellist at a press talk on 'Science in a Post-Truth Era' during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Helga Nowotny during a press talk on ‘Science in a Post-Truth Era’ at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

What dangers does it pose?

HN: Above all, through the constantly changing positions of US president Trump, we can see how unstable and volatile the geopolitical situation has become. This has effects worldwide. One element of the post-truth mentality is the irresponsible handling of solid findings. Such an attitude is particularly dangerous at present due to the enormous problems that we face, not least climate change.

 

Is the current situation unique in history?

HN: What is unique is the strong entanglement with economic processes. The pursuit of economic growth is, as before, a driving force in society, and from the point of view of politicians, science and technology are the engines of this growth. The great progress that has been made, for example, in smart technologies, is quite remarkable, but we need to address the problem of the jobs that are being lost in this way.

 

Where do things go from here after the March for Science? Are you optimistic this current movement will change anything?

HN: This is the beginning of a process. I think all who took part in the March for Science agreed on that point. As the Vienna City Marathon took place the day after the march, I would like to use it as a metaphor. One march won’t do it: Science should prepare for a marathon!

 

 

Read More

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

#LindauForLife: Leverage Lindau for a Long and Beloved Career

Young scientists at the Lindau Meeting. Photo/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Hi Lindau Nerds! If you are reading this, you are either heading to the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (#LiNo18) or are a Lindau alum. Or perhaps you are merely a fan. I get it! I’m a Lindau Lover, too! There’s something so special about this annual conference of established and emerging Nerds, held every summer in the quaint town of Lindau, Germany. For 68 years, this charming hamlet has hosted Nobel Laureates (and a few Nobles too!) along with upwards of 500 young scientists from 80+ countries. It is a knowledge and networking jubilee, where nerds from the four corners of the Earth and at least three parallel universes get to engage with laureates, hear their wisdom, and exchange ideas to improve the human condition. It is truly #NerdHeaven!

But there is a problem here. Once you get a taste of Lindau, you want more. #NerdHeaven sticks with you – it burrows into the deepest part of your heart, and it inspires you to be brighter and better. It’s the culture of Lindau that has made the biggest and longest lasting impression on me, and it’s why, after having the privilege of attending three times, I still look forward to experiencing, participating in and partaking of this nexus of creativity.

So how to solve this lust for Lindau? As a Lindau alum, you should continue the leitmotif of Lindau – Educate, Inspire, Connect – throughout your career. When you do, you will help other scientists and engineers, you will be able to solve humanity’s grand challenges, and you can and will change the world. And in doing so, you will find intense professional satisfaction.

But to change the world and achieve career bliss, you have to start by recognising your own power that you have as a STEM-educated professional, understanding your value to employers and collaborators, and realising your career options are limitless.

Indeed, scientists and engineers have a wealth of career potential – there are myriad and diverse jobs you can pursue, professional paths you can take, and organisations that covet, hire and pay people like you (handsomely!). But to access these career opportunities and land these jobs you have to think strategically about the value that you offer.

And as we move forward, endeavouring to advance your career, I want to offer you a few fundamentals to ponder. These are concepts that will help you design your own professional path and land the career and job of your own making.

 

  1. You, and only you, define and decide on what your career will be. This is an extremely important mantra to always remember. It can be a challenge to realise that you are the one in the driver’s seat of your career and you alone get to make the decisions about how your professional experience will play out and transpire. I know that in science, particularly when you are early in your career, everyone seems to be doing the same thing – grad school, postdoc, research, publishing, presenting at conferences. You are all on the same road together, seemingly going towards the same goal. And yet, this is merely an illusion. Look to your left and right – your peers will take different roads to find professional bliss and you will too. No one’s career looks the same. Furthermore, your career is up to you – it is not your PI’s career or your parent’s career, it is yours. So you get to make the rules and define success for yourself.

 

  1. You are a rock star. You are of enormous value to many, many ecosystems. Your career and job search are not limited by the discipline of your degree or the title of your department. You have extensive technical skills, but you also have talents in project management, business, communications, teambuilding, marketing and even negotiations. These hard and soft skills contribute to the extensive value you provide any organisation that is lucky enough to get you as their employee. And as a rock star, this contributes to you having even more choice of careers.

 

  1. You are a problem solver. This is the central component of your value. Know what kinds of problems you can solve and where those problems exist. Since the core of every job is to solve problems, you give yourself a competitive advantage in the job marketplace when you can elucidate this critical information.

 

  1. You must understand and be able to articulate your brand. A brand is simply a promise of value, and your promise of value is your promise to deliver excellence, dependability and expertise in whatever you do. Your brand consists of your STEM education and training and all of the skills and expertise that you have acquired in pursuit of your degree. Communicating your brand to others via appropriate self-promotion channels is what will open doors to professional advancement.

 

  1. You must network. Networking is the most honourable enterprise that you can undertake, because it is about crafting win-win alliances with other parties, where you are both providing value to each other in various ways over time. Networking is NOT me trying to take something from you; rather, networking is about exploring what I can offer you and what I can do to inject value into your team. With this positive definition of networking in mind, you can begin to appreciate that the action of networking must be done all the time to ensure you find collaborators with whom you can partner and for whom you can solve problems. The Lindau Alumni Network is just one of the many networks you have access to that can help you access hidden career opportunities.

 

The extent of the value that you offer and how you can leverage this to craft your dream career is one of the many topics we discussed in the first webinar for Lindau Alumni and #LiNo18 participants, as part of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings Alumni Network Initiative. The webinar, ‘What Should I Do With My Career? Recognising Your Passion and Catalysing Your Potential’, took place on 22 March at 1700 CET. You can watch a recording of the full webinar below. 

 

 

We discussed how you, as a science-educated professional, have a lot more career opportunities than you realise. The key is being able to identify and articulate your unique value and problem-solving abilities to diverse decision-makers and build and nurture strong networks to create career opportunities for you and those around you. When you do this, everyone wins. Even science wins!

With tens of thousands of Lindau Alumni worldwide, the Lindau Team is taking on an ambitious scheme to Educate, Inspire and Connect alumni, to enable your success and to assist you with your career explorations and examinations. Indeed, you should think of Lindau as your strategic career partner, and over the next year, you’ll see some very exciting projects and events launched all designed to help you be a better you. So stay tuned! More webinars abound, as do career advice articles and blogs and a special career development presentation taking place during the European Science Open Forum (ESOF) this July in Toulouse. I am very excited and honoured to be a part of this initiative!  

You’ll be hearing more from me and my colleagues in the Lindau Alumni Network. And we want to hear from you! How can we help you achieve professional victory? In the meantime, remember that you move mountains – your energy and dedication to improving the world, which allowed you to experience Lindau in the first place, is what will enable us to address our Grand Challenges, improve the human condition, and peer through the mist of knowledge to know our place in time, space and history. I can’t wait to see what your future has in store for you, and the Lindau Alumni Network will be right there with you! #LindauForLife

 

Author’s Note: Some of these concepts have appeared in other works by the author, including her book, Networking for Nerds, career columns in Physics Today and Nature Astronomy, and other publications.

 

 

Read More

Breaking the Shyness Barrier

Sir Christopher Pissarides discussing with young economists during the 6th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences. Photo/Credit: Lisa Vincenz-Donnelly/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Sir Christopher Pissarides in discussion with young economists during the 6th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences. Picture/Credit: Lisa Vincenz-Donnelly/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

When I was growing up as an economist, first at Essex University and then at the London School of Economics, I was hearing about the Nobel Prize and all the gossip around it and I thought those winning it must be some kind of superhumans, that every word that came out of them is a word of wisdom. I guess in economics in my formative years, there were indeed some superhumans around: Samuelson, Hicks, Arrow, Friedman, to name a few who made the subject what it is. But it is still puzzling to me why, as human beings, we attach so much importance to the few who have the medal in their hand. And it’s not new: in Classical Greece, a city would destroy part of its city walls when one of its young men got the Olympic wreath because with men like him it did not need walls to protect it. What would I not have given in those days to be in the company of the Nobel Laureates (or the Olympic athletes, for that matter) for a few days? Lindau does just that for a few hundred lucky young people. 

Lindau succeeds in breaking the shyness barrier between young people still struggling with degree studies and silver-coloured gentlemen.

 

Sir Christopher Pissarides during a Press Talk at the 6th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences. Picture/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Sir Christopher Pissarides during a Press Talk at the 6th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences. Picture/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Of course, today, being on the other side of the fence, I also count myself lucky to be in the company of so many bright young people and so many of my fellow laureates. In Lindau, I enjoy most the quiet discussions around the dinner table or talking with a cup of coffee in hand until the coffee gets cold and undrinkable (please, next time hire an Italian barista!). Lindau succeeds in breaking the shyness barrier between young people still struggling with degree studies and silver-coloured gentlemen who have forgotten what it is like to study for a degree (regrettably, there are no living women laureates in economics), to the extent that the organisers feel they should set aside certain times where the laureates can be on their own. Credit should go to the organisers, Countess Bettina Bernadotte and the staff of the executive secretariat.

I decided to lecture about my more recent interests rather than the work that won me the prize: the future of work in the age of automation and robots. It is a fascinating topic, which has attracted a lot of attention on both sides of the argument – the doom and gloom scenario that there will be no meaningful work left for humans and all the profits from the robots will go to a few wealthy individuals and the optimists who claim that society as a whole will be better off and the sooner the robots take over the work the better off we will all be. I belong to the second category but not unconditionally. A lot of jobs will no doubt be taken over by robots but many more will be created, ranging from software engineers who will develop and feed the robots with data and instructions to carers who will look after the children and ageing parents of men and women engaged in the new economy. But inequality and the question of who will get the rewards from the robots’ work is a big unresolved issue; governments need to work hard to come up with credible policies for how to reduce poverty and achieve more equality if the optimistic scenario is to materialise. These last topics were hotly debated both at the side gatherings and in the final panel session of the meeting, of which I was fortunate enough to be a member, on a beautiful day in the lush gardens of Mainau Island.

 

Pissarides talking to young economists during the 6th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences. Photos/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Pissarides and young economists during the Lindau Meeting in 2017. Photos/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Lindau has been going on for a long time but it is an evolving organisation. This year, we had several 5-minute presentations by graduate students, which are much better than poster sessions where you wander around a room with posters hanging on its walls and students standing by them in the hope that someone will pay attention. The 5-minute presentations put laureates and student participants into the picture, enabled the students to say what their research objectives were and generated lively discussions afterwards in the gardens and coffee rooms of the island. If I have a grievance, it is that despite the length of the meeting (arrived Tuesday and left Sunday) there was still no time to visit the other attractions of Lindau Island, including, from what I am told, a wonderful old library. A free afternoon would have been welcome! This year, there were also more journalists with requests on one’s time for interviews, which interfered with participation in other laureates’ presentations, which is a shame given how much you learn from them. Journalists can reach many more people than can be present in Lindau so their presence should be welcome, but where one strikes the balance between time taken up in interviews with them and attendance at the scheduled events is something not easy to resolve. 

Overall, this was an excellent meeting; regretfully, we have to wait three whole years for the next one.

 

 

More reviews and highlights of the 6th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences can be found in the Annual Report 2017.

The Joy of Discovery

Zur deutschen Version

Bernard L. Feringa

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

An Opportunity Not to Waste

Zur deutschen Version

 

I must admit to being incredibly intimidated about attending the 6th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences. About twenty of history’s greatest minds coupled with hundreds of the world’s most talented young scholars on one island – I felt like a stowaway on a celebrity cruise, and I wondered how on earth I’d participate in their conversations without being discovered for the imposter I was.

David Smerdon (right) with Countess Bettina Bernadotte and laureate Jean Tirole. Picture/Credit: Lisa Vincenz-Donnelly/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Countess Bettina Bernadotte, laureate Jean Tirole and David Smerdon. Photo: Lisa Vincenz-Donnelly/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

But in hindsight, my fears were ill-founded. From the very first interaction at the airport arrivals, everyone I met was enthusiastic, approachable and, above all, friendly. I discussed how to best measure teacher quality and swapped job-market war stories with Chicago-based Nathan in the taxi ride from the airport and was amazed by the developments in climate finance after meeting Veronika, a Russian physicist, in the hotel lobby. Rushing off to dinner, I sat opposite Banji, who educated me about the consequences of Nigeria’s trade policy on its energy markets, and Eleni, who detailed the early results of a cash transfer pilot study in Ethiopia. On the bus, Roxana from Romania taught me a form of econometrics I didn’t even know existed. By the time I fell asleep that night, my notebook already had pages full of scribbles about the people I’d met and the conversations I’d had – and the official programme hadn’t even begun.

But it was the interactions with the laureates themselves that really surprised me. I had expected these esteemed statesmen to be cordial and pleasant – which they were – but I had not expected them to go so far beyond their official obligations (for lack of a better word). The laureates were not only tirelessly willing to acquiesce to our floundering flattery and sycophantic selfies, but were eager to interact with us on an intellectual level, engaging in stimulating conversation with different groups of scholars at every possible break in the programme. They actively encouraged us to ask the big questions, whether it was about their work, our own careers or the state of the science itself. They listened to our views, not dismissively or with well-crafted rebuttals but with real consideration. And while it was hard to ignore their obvious intellectual aura, on several occasions the laureates showed us their human sides and let their hair down (who knew they could dance like that?). One common thread of advice I picked up from the laureates was their earnest desire that young economists take up relevant, welfare-improving research topics, rather than just playing the classic publishing game. Coming from a policy background and thus a ‘late-starter’ to the world of academia, I very much appreciated hearing this admonishment – though one could imagine it is easier to dish out, let alone follow, with a Nobel Prize hanging in one’s office… Having said that, I found that this idealism was echoed by my fellow scholars, and it was a delight to listen to their presentations and the laureates’ comments in the parallel sessions – not to mention the many animated conversations we had over dinners, coffees and even swims in the lake. Judging by these short snapshots of research, it was even possible to imagine a few of them standing in front of the Swedish monarch at some point in the future.

I didn’t anticipate such positivism in a room full of economists, but on reflection I guess that’s what the Lindau Meetings are all about.

I particularly enjoyed chatting with people from vastly different streams of research to mine – including, mind you, other attendees such as the laureates’ and scholars’ partners, members of the Lindau Council and its executive secretariat and industry partners. In the cut-throat world of academia, it’s so easy to lose one’s self in the narrow silos into which we now specialise, so it was an unexpected pleasure to have such stimulating debates that combined all branches of economics and policy, joined by a common focus on real-world issues (I’d forgotten that macroeconomics can actually be fun). More importantly, there appeared to exist a collective motivation among the scholars that our careers should matter in some tangible way to the ‘outside world’ and that the investment made by ourselves and others in our education deserved to be returned with real contributions to improving welfare. To be honest, I didn’t anticipate such positivism in a room full of economists, but on reflection I guess that’s what the Lindau Meetings are all about.

It was surprisingly sad to leave Lindau after such a brief but hectic event. Sure, I’d been running on caffeine and naps for a week, visited the first-aid tent twice and had run out of clean socks, but attending the Lindau Meeting was, pardon the cliché, an unforgettable experience. I landed home with a folder overflowing with lecture notes, research ideas scribbled on napkins and crumpled business cards of the scholars and other attendees, all thanks to the wonderful opportunity that the Foundation and the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings provided. It’s an opportunity I’m not going to waste.

 

David Smerdon gave the farewell address of #LiNoEcon alongside Nobel Laureate Jean Tirole.

 

More reviews and highlights of the 6th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences can be found in the Annual Report 2017.

The World at Home in Lindau

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

How did you decide to become a host family?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

How was it to see each other again?

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

 

Is he the same as you remember him?

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 The First Access to the World – Host Family Ober

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Our son also became enthusiastic about the visitors

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

Lindau Family for Life – Host Family Heller

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

 

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

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

 

Why did you decide to host young scientists?

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

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

What is it like to be a host family?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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