Technological Innovation and Climate Change: 2018 Prize in Economic Sciences

Today, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has announced their decision to award the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2018 to William D. Nordhaus “for integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis” and Paul M. Romer “for integrating technological innovations into long-run macroeconomic analysis”. 

2018 Laureates in Economic Sciences William D. Nordhaus and Paul Romer. Ilustration: Niklas Elmehed. Copyright: Nobel Media AB 2018

From the press release of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences:

“William D. Nordhaus and Paul M. Romer have designed methods for addressing some of our time’s most basic and pressing questions about how we create long-term sustained and sustainable economic growth. At its heart, economics deals with the management of scarce resources. Nature dictates the main constraints on economic growth and our knowledge determines how well we deal with these constraints. This year’s Laureates William Nordhaus and Paul Romer have significantly broadened the scope of economic analysis by constructing models that explain how the market economy interacts with nature and knowledge.”

Read more about the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2018 here

 

Bau des Lindauer Nobelpreisträger-Stegs wird fortgesetzt

Am Therese-von-Bayern-Platz vor der neuen Lindauer Inselhalle wird der Nobelpreisträger-Steg entstehen. © Ingenieurbüro Sabine Wiederer

Am Donnerstag, den 4. Oktober 2018 sind die Bauarbeiten für den Lindauer Nobelpreisträger-Steg fortgesetzt worden. Der neu entstehende Steg bildet künftig die zentrale Station des Lindauer Wissenspfades und ehrt die rund 400 Nobelpreisträger, die seit Gründung der Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagungen 1951 in Lindau waren.

Weitere Informationen zum Stegbau lesen Sie in unserer Pressemitteilung.

2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

2018 Nobel Laureates Frances H. Arnold, George P. Smith and Sir Gregory P. Winter. Illustration: Niklas Elmehed. Copyright: Nobel Media AB 2018.

On Wednesday, 3 October 2018, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2018 to Frances H. Arnold “for the directed evolution of enzymes”  and to George P. Smith and Sir Gregory P. Winter “for the phage display of peptides and antibodies”.

Find out more about the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry here.

The Power of Evolution: Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2018

Today, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the 2018 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry. Frances H. Arnold (USA) received one half of the prize “for the directed evolution of enzymes”; the other half of the prize was awarded to George P. Smith (USA) and Sir Gregory P. Winter (UK) “for the phage display of peptides and antibodies”.

2018 Nobel Laureates Frances H. Arnold, George P. Smith and Sir Gregory P. Winter. Illustration: Niklas Elmehed. Copyright: Nobel Media AB 2018.

From the press release of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences:

“The power of evolution is revealed through the diversity of life. The 2018 Nobel Laureates in Chemistry have taken control of evolution and used it for purposes that bring the greatest benefit to humankind. Enzymes produced through directed evolution are used to manufacture everything from biofuels to pharmaceuticals. Antibodies evolved using a method called phage display can combat autoimmune diseases and in some cases curemetastatic cancer.”

Read more about the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry here.

New Principle for Cancer Therapy: Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology 2018

Today, the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation.

2018 Nobel Laureates James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo. Ilustration: Niklas Elmehed. Copyright: Nobel Media AB 2018

From the press release of the Karolinska Institutet

“Cancer kills millions of people every year and is one of humanity’s greatest health challenges. By stimulating the inherent ability of our immune system to attack tumor cells this year’s Nobel Laureates have established an entirely new principle for cancer therapy.

James P. Allison studied a known protein that functions as a brake on the immune system. He realized the potential of releasing the brake and thereby unleashing our immune cells to attack tumors. He then developed this concept into a brand new approach for treating patients.

In parallel, Tasuku Honjo discovered a protein on immune cells and, after careful exploration of its function, eventually revealed that it also operates as a brake, but with a different mechanism of action. Therapies based on his discovery proved to be strikingly effective in the fight against cancer.

Allison and Honjo showed how different strategies for inhibiting the brakes on the immune system can be used in the treatment of cancer. The seminal discoveries by the two Laureates constitute a landmark in our fight against cancer.”

Read more about the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Learn more about the possibilities of immunotherapies in our topic cluster. 

The Road to a Nobel Prize

How does an economist choose their area of research? What are the influences on how they pursue their goals? What do they see as the next steps in their chosen fields? The answers to these questions will be central to the way that young economists – and indeed academics from any discipline – will take decisions in their own careers.

Three Nobel Laureates who won their prizes for separate work on contracts, incentives and organisations took part in a panel at the 6th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences. They discussed the personal academic journeys that led them to make the intellectual findings for which they were recognised – and the people and research that had influenced them.

 

Panel Discussion: Contracts, Incentives and Organisations duirng the 6th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences. Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Panel Discussion: Contracts, Incentives and Organisations at the Lindau Meeting. Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Oliver Hart, who won the 2016 prize for his work on contract theory, was motivated to look at incomplete contracts after a conversation with Sanford Grossman in which they asked why one firm would ever buy another firm rather than just trading with it. As trained microeconomic theorists, they decided that they could add to the informal existing literature. After grappling with issues such as the role of authority and the idea of requirements contracts, they realised they were thinking about it in the wrong way.

‘The penny dropped that we were thinking in complete contract terms when we realised it would be better to think about it in incomplete contracting terms,’ Hart said. ‘In complicated relationships that take place over many years, it is very hard for the parties to foresee the future and write the idealised state contingent contract.’ Hart and Grossman went on to write the highly influential paper Incomplete Contracts and the Theory of the Firm.

Bengt Holmstöm, who shared the prize with Hart in 2016, took a less direct path towards economics, gaining an undergraduate degree in mathematics at the University of Helsinki and a masters in operations research and doctorate at Stanford. While working later for a large conglomerate in Finland, he was asked to implement a corporate planning model.

‘It didn’t take before I realised that this did not look like the right thing to do’, he said. ‘That ignited my interest in incentives and provided an endless source as a sounding board – I don’t get enthusiastic about anything that does not match with the reality. If the apple falls up rather than down, then I’m not interested in that model.’

Jean Tirole, who won the prize in 2014 for his work on market power and regulation, said that he believed it was impossible to develop thoughts in a vacuum. Although he admitted he found it hard to codify his own research, he focused on three routes.

The first was intensive research on gaps that he had identified in the current theory. He mentioned his close reading of papers produced in the 1980s on principal-agent theory by Holmstrӧm – who was sat next to him on the panel. ‘It was a full tree but there were holes and we had to fill in the branches that were missing.’

The second route was to be motivated by the research of other academics, which included the work of Hart and another fellow laureate, Eric Maskin, who was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when Tirole was there as a doctoral student. Tirole went on to write a paper, Unforeseen Contingencies and. Incomplete Contracts, with Maskin who had earlier supervised his PhD.

His final route was engagement with practitioners who worked on issues relating to contracts on a daily basis and who asked Tirole questions as an expert that he found he could not answer, motivating him to do further research. ‘My research does not come in a vacuum but it comes from interactions, from being in the right place at the right time,’ he said. ‘We have to listen to people if we are going to learn about our own ignorance.’

The young economists in the packed theatre hall put a range of questions to the laureates including: whether university tenure was an optimal contract; how their subject area had evolved and future areas for research; and bank compensation in the wake of the global financial crisis. Two questioners asked the laureates about who had influenced them and what were the inconvenient questions that young scholars needed to ask.

Hart cited a number of economists including Kenneth Arrow and Gerard Debreu, laureates of an earlier generation who gave their names to the theory of general economic equilibrium, as well as another laureate, Ronald Coase.

Holmström urged young economists to focus on finding answers to small questions that can then be expanded. ‘I have tried to answer some big questions but they have never gone anywhere,’ he joked.

Tirole struck an inspirational final note saying that the Nobel Prize had turned him into a somewhat reluctant public intellectual in his home country of France. ‘You have to help design institutions that are going to be resilient in case a bad president comes to power. Mechanism design is very important,’ he said.

‘You basically get the economic policies that you deserve and our role as economists is to try to explain in simple terms what economics is about. We will get good policies if public opinion is well informed about economics – with all its uncertainties.’

 

 

#LiNo17 Daily Recap – Friday, 30 June

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

 

Video of the day:

 

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

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

Hlamulo

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

 

Picture of the day:

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

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

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

 

Blog of the day:

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

Sauvage

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

 

Tweets of the day:

 

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

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

On the Trail of Nobel Prizes

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

Picture/Credit: Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

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

 

The Lindau Spirit for everyone

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

 

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

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

 

The Knowledge Pylons – Something for Everyone

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

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

 

Virtual Science Trail: Discovering Science With the App

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

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

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

Download the App here.

 

Experience the Lindau Science Trail Back Home or in Your Classroom

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Den Nobelpreisen auf der Spur

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

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

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

 

Der Lindau Spirit für Alle

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

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

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

 

Für jeden etwas dabei – die Wissenspylonen

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

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

 

Virtueller Wissenspfad: Mit der App auf Entdeckungstour

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

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

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

 

Der Wissenspfad auf dem Sofa oder im Klassenraum

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

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

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

 

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

Sheela Chandren Never Wanted a Routine Life

Interview with #LiNo17 young scientist Sheela Chandren

This interview is part of a series of interviews of the “Women in Research” blog that features young female scientists participating in the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, to increase the visibility of women in research (more information for and about women in science by “Women in Research” on Facebook and Twitter). Enjoy the interview with Sheela and get inspired.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Sheela Chandren

Photo: Courtesy of Sheela Chandren

Sheela Chandren, 33, from Malaysia is a senior lecturer at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. Her current research focuses on the development, characterisation and application of titania-based photocatalysts in various chemical reactions. Among the photocatalysts that have been successfully prepared are well-ordered titania by using magnetic fields, titania encapsulated in hollow silica shell for organic synthesis and titania on stainless steel for outdoor applications.

 

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

Growing up, science has always been the only field for me. Perhaps it was due to the education system in my country when I was growing up. Science was seen as the field for smart students, for those that were important. So I pushed myself to study hard just so I could get good results and get into the science stream.

 

 

 

Who are your role models?

As cliché as this sounds, one of my biggest role models would be my mother. She is not very educated – she did not even finish her high school studies. But she worked so hard by crossing the borders to Singapore every single day in the week (I live in the most southern part of Malaysia, right next to Singapore), coming back when it is dark, repeating the whole process every single day just so she can send all five of her children to school. How can she not be my role model after what she has done till I am a PhD holder today? The other two role models I have would have to be my supervisor for my master degree, Prof. Hadi Nur, and my supervisor for my doctorate studies, Prof. Bunsho Ohtani. They showed so much faith in me, even though my results weren’t good to start with. They keep on pushing me and guiding me. I owe it to them where I am today.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Sheela Chandren

Photo: Courtesy of Sheela Chandren

 

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

I did not always wanted to be a lecturer in Chemistry (my current job). Teaching has never been my thing. At least that’s what I thought. After finishing my undergraduate studies, I did not want to work in the typical jobs available, like being a chemist in factories. I did not want to lead a routine life. So I decided to pursue my master degree. During my masters, I was exposed to what research is all about. I quickly fell in love with it. Towards the end of masters, I was presented with two chances of furthering my PhD abroad: one at Queen Mary University of London and the other one in Hokkaido University. I am very lucky as I was accepted into both with funding, but after thinking it through, I chose Hokkaido University. I enrolled under the Asian Graduate Schools of Chemistry and Materials Science, under GCOE of Japan. And I have never looked back. I would not have done any of this if it wasn’t for my masters’ supervisor, Prof. Dr. Hadi Nur, who helped me with all the processes and gave me all the encouragement I needed. Many times, as a lady in a foreign country, I wanted to give up. In fact, the first year of my PhD in Japan, all my results were negative. To make things worse, I lost my father due to cancer that year. It was a really tough time for me, as the passing was really sudden. But thanks to my family and my supervisor, Prof. Bunsho Ohtani, I managed to force myself to pull through. My supervisor taught and guided me really carefully till I managed to finish my PhD in exactly three years, while fulfilling all the requirements.

I would really like to be one of the top scientists in my field.

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

The freshest one that I can think of is entering the FameLab Science Communication Competition organised by the British Council, Malaysia, about a couple of months ago. Basically, what the contestants have to do is to explain a scientific concept to a general audience in just three minutes. Going for oral presentations in scientific conferences and seminars may be normal for me. But explaining a scientific concept in three minutes to an audience that is not made up of scientists was something completely new to me. But I thought it will be quite fun to try it out. Instead of talking about something in the field of my research, I decided to talk about something even closer to my heart: the chemistry of cosmetics, as I am a self-proclaimed makeup enthusiast. I have to admit, although it was only three minutes, it was really nerve-wrecking. I took forever to come up with a speech using terms and analogy that a layman can understand. In the end, although I did not get to proceed to the finals, I am glad I entered. It was eye-opening for me and I finally understood how important science communication is. It felt really nice to step out of my comfort zone. So this may not be cool to others, but for someone who has mostly talked about science to either scientists or science students exclusively, it was definitely cool to me.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Sheela Chandren

Photo: Courtesy of Sheela Chandren

 

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

My mother is someone who does not openly show her love or affection. She almost never praised any of us, no matter how well we did in something. But one day, I caught my mother talking to her friends about me. About how I obtained my PhD in the field of Chemistry from Japan and I am a senior lecturer in a public university now. I saw that her face was gleaming with pride and joy. I was so touched and proud that tears actually started streaming down my eyes. So yeah, I guess that was when I felt proud.

 

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

I wish I have something exciting to write about but my day is usually filled with very academic stuff. I will start my morning by giving some lectures in the field of Inorganic Chemistry, usually followed by some admin meetings. Then I will see a few of my students to discuss about their research, pop by the laboratory to check on some students, then proceed to sit in front of the computer replying emails, preparing lecture slides and admin paper works. My work day will usually finish around 10 p.m.

 

What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?

Although this may seem a bit far-fetched for now, I would really like to be one of the top scientists in my field. To be able to continue doing what I love, while being recognised for it.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Sheela Chandren

Photo: Courtesy of Sheela Chandren

 

 

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

As we already have to read so many journals and academic books every day, in my free time, I enjoy reading books that do not require me to think too much, such as romantic literature. I am also a big, big fan of Harry Potter.

 

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

I guess the most important thing is to know what you want and just go for it. I think the world is changing and the taboo of women in science is almost disappearing. So they should be no more limitations for women to go as far as possible.

It felt really nice to step out of my comfort zone.

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

This is a tough question. I wish I really knew so I could be the one making the breakthrough, but what I wish would be the next great breakthrough would be something that, instead of curing cancer, can prevent human from even getting it. This is of course my bias opinion, as I mentioned above, I lost my dad to cancer. And we see so, so many people suffering from cancer. Not to mention how more and more articles are popping out every day about how almost everything can cause cancer. After all, prevention is always better than cure.

 

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

Providing a working environment and facilities catering for women. Such as nurseries and feeding-rooms. I know many places have started providing these, but even more have not. Extra incentives for women would also be great because I believe in equity, instead of equality. So perhaps, more research grant or funding specially for women would be great.