A Long Road to Becoming a Chemist

The path to my professional career as a chemist was not easy but constructive and challenging in some ways. I grew up in a small, quiet and traditional town in the state of Mexico Texcoco. Both of my parents had to overcome severe economic difficulties to pursue their own career in biology. Thankfully, I was blessed with their pledge to provide me a good education.

I attended a private school to learn English and because the academic programme was more challenging. During my basic education, I participated in several science and academic contests and I enjoyed the school profoundly. My generation was the first that stayed at home, there were not more chances to play in the streets or the neighbourhood, because of the numerous cars in the streets and the worsening of security. Then, in the middle school, I attended a math workshop where I learned tricks to do arithmetic operations in a flash and to solve math puzzles. With that training, I was selected to participate in Math Counts and the Pierre Fermat contest. Later, I enrolled in the EPT-UAEM public high school and was benefitted with a scholarship. During my last year there, I was invited to train for the regional Chemistry Olympiads. I was selected to continue to the state and furthermore the national contest.  That stage was meaningful for my further decision to study chemistry since I was selected to attend Mexico’s National Olympiad of Chemistry. This privilege implied a strong commitment by means of travelling two hours to the school of Chemistry of UAEM-Mexico to be trained for the competition, and then two hours more for the way back. I travelled with my mother after the school in an old van provided by the principal two or three days a week during some months. We arrived at home almost at midnight, exhausted but enthusiastic about my training and the hopeful support within my family. I valued that experience greatly because other peers and I received fascinating lessons with devoted teachers and scientists.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Ana Torres

Ana Torres in front of the Rudder Fountain on the Texas A&M University campus, Photo: Courtesy of Ana Torres

 

After the enriching experience of attending the national contest and motivated by my teachers I decided to study chemistry in the School of Chemistry of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. So therefore, I spent four hours on a round-trip each day to Mexico City to pursue my bachelor degree. Sometimes I travelled by car with my father before dawn, but other days I had tiring trips in the overcrowded subway and the bus, which arrived in the middle of nowhere, where my parents picked me up. Fortunately, quantum chemistry captivated me and I joined a theoretical research workgroup after I had my first course in that subject area.

One year later, I got my bachelor degree with honours and continued my postgraduate studies in chemistry supported by a grant of the National Council of Science and Technology. Usually, there are very few students willing to pursue a career in Theoretical Chemistry in my program. It is worth mentioning that while I studied, my advisor and other theorists designed the Quantum and Computational Chemistry post-graduate courses – indeed some of the lectures were given for the very first time. Furthermore, at that time I started my own family and I had to organise my time efficiently to get a functional balance between motherhood, research and teaching. Therefore, through family shared efforts, hard-work and passion for science I graduated with honours, gaining the M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry, whereas my son developed a love for math.

 

Ana Torres with her parents, Photo: Courtesy of Ana Toores

Ana Torres with her parents, Socorro Hernandez and Pablo Torres, at the National Autonomus Unviersity of Mexico, Photo: Courtesy of Ana Torres

 

I became a teacher and mentor for undergraduate students just after I got my Master’s degree. Then, for the Ph.D., I moved to the Materials Research Institute where Prof. Serguei Fomine became my advisor. From him I learned a strong discipline of work and a structured way to analyse the chemical problems. This contributed positively since I graduated in less time than my postgraduate program demarked. After I graduated, I was accepted for a postdoctoral position within the group of Prof. Perla Balbuena in Texas A&M University. Thus, I dealt with almost six months of paperwork to get a scholarship and arrange the immigration documentation for my son, my husband and for me. I arrived in the US one month later than the start date of the programme given the migratory issues. At present, I am grateful for the support and academic guidance of Prof. Balbuena and committed to work hard on my research project. My family and I are partaking this opportunity to grow in academic and personal areas and I shall respond to their great effort. Science has opened me the doors to travel to countries abroad and to build collaborations and friendships. Currently, I am member of the Graduate Women in Science organisation, the Toastmasters club as well as the group of Bible studies for women and I enjoy sharing Spanish classes.

 

Lindau Alumni 2017 Ana Torres and Octavio Saucedo, Nobel Laureate Mario Molina, former President of the Mexican Academy of Sciences Jose Franco and Director of International Cooperation CONACYT, Arturo Borja (from left to right) after a discussion on Public Policy at the 67th Lindau Meeting, Photo: Courtesy of Ana Torres

Lindau Alumni 2017 Ana Torres and Octavio Saucedo, Nobel Laureate Mario Molina, Jose Franco, former President of the Mexican Academy of Sciences, and Arturo Borja, Director of International Cooperation CONACYT, (from left to right) after a discussion on Public Policy at the 67th Lindau Meeting, Photo: Courtesy of Ana Torres

 

The main goal of my current research project is to perform a theoretical study of the interfacial phenomena relevant for the development of new generation rechargeable batteries. Likewise, I will address the confinement effect exerted by molecular sieves, solvents, nano-structured materials or an inert gas matrix over the chemical reactions, which are important for chemical catalysis. It is expected that the outcome of this project would support experimental research that has been developed for both the description and design of battery materials and catalytic systems. Nowadays, it is important to assist the novel frontier materials design (with enhanced features) using theoretical methods and computational calculations before being synthetised in the laboratory. This could be very helpful to optimise resources and facilitate the materials implementation for the manufacturing process of technological devices.

Lessons Learned at the Lindau Meeting

My main goal for the Lindau Meeting was not to discuss specific scientific matters (although I must confess that I did), but it was to discuss general problematic issues in science and in society. The meeting exceeded all of my expectations. The Nobel Laureates gave amazing lectures, which were  followed by insightful and enriching discussions. My take away messages were: work hard and pursue your goals, keep your eyes wide open for unexpected results, be flexible and do not fear the unknown, always question yourself and your observations.

 

Matías Acosta with other young scientists and Nobel Laureate George Smoot during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Matías Acosta with young scientist Jeffrey Poon and Nobel Laureate George Smoot during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

The first lesson learned: science is not a separate entity from society. We, young scientists, should communicate science to broad audiences. As pointed out by chemist Michael Lerch, we should remember our role within society and clarify the expectations of our work. This is especially true if our project is financed by public funding. We should not forget though that there are scientific reporters quite eager to communicate our work. So we have not one but two approaches to improving the disconnection between science and the public.

Young scientists are facing a constantly growing pressure of having to publish. Publishing for the sake of publishing rather than a mean to transmit knowledge has become a reality in many research groups. We are not in a strong position to combat this issue. However, there are some aspects that we should keep in mind to combat it and also improve the quality of publications.

For example, we should always stay ethical. Young scientist Karen Stroobants proposed that an important complement to our doctorate would be to receive ethical training, which received general support. We can also ask senior colleagues in case we have ethical issues or even search for ethical guidelines such as proposed by the National Academy of Sciences. Staying ethical is, in fact, part of our responsibility to help us establish a trustful connection with the public.

 

Karen Stroobants, Michael Lerch and Director-General of the OPCW Ahmet Üzümcü during a panel discussion at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo/Credit: lvd/Lindau Nobel Laureate Mettings

Karen Stroobants, Michael Lerch and Ahmet Üzümcü, Director-General of the OPCW, during the panel discussion Ethics in Science at the 67th Lindau Meeting, Photo/Credit: Lisa Vincenz-Donnelly/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Furthermore, publishing scientific work does not need to be limited to journals. Preprints precede journal publications and offer an attractive complement. Martin Chalfie highlighted the importance of preprints for open access, a fast time-stamp and potentially a more transparent reviewing process. The preprint archive arXiv has been accepted in the physics community since the 1990s. Currently, analogous preprint archives are being created in other communities too, so we should give them a try.

Martin Chalfie also taught us a remarkable exercise that he carries out in his group: a member of his group selects a preprinted paper on a cutting-edge topic related to their own research. They discuss this study during their group meetings, and constructive comments are sent to the preprint authors. This exercise raises new ideas in his group as well as in the authors’ one. It also helps to improve the quality of the future journal publication. This seems like a great scheme to adopt.

 

Martin Chalfie during his lecture at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Martin Chalfie during his lecture at the 67th Lindau Meeting, Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

The atmosphere of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting was unique. I met inspiring colleagues from all over the world, with whom I shared very nice experiences. Taking part in the Lindau Meeting made us feel privileged. We do science because we are curious; we want to understand more about the universe. But we also should keep in mind that our work can have a long-lasting impact in society. I believe that many of the young scientists that I met will become future leaders. So, as young scientist Florencia Marchini said, “when one becomes conscious of the social and economic impact that our work can create, to take action is a matter of responsibility more than an obligation or a choice.” We do not need to open our eyes too wide to see all the problems that science and society are facing; it is our responsibility to get involved to solve them. We learned valuable lessons during the Lindau Meeting; now is the time to put them into practice and share them.

Why Every Young Scientist Should Apply for the Lindau Meeting

Over the last two months I have interviewed several young scientists who participated in #LiNo17 for my “Women in Research” blog – a blog to increase the visibility of women in research. Now after the meeting I contacted them again and they shared their #LiNo17 highlights and impressions with me. Enjoy!


Andrea d’Aquino from the US 

As I sat through each of the Nobel Laureate’s talks, I found that there was a common thread among each of their stories and lessons: persistence, tenacity, creativity and enthusiasm are key ingredients to success. With or without the Nobel Prize, each of these individuals persevered through challenges and remained curious about science; it was with a bit of luck and an immense amount of hard work that these scientists were able to achieve great discoveries and earn the Nobel Prize. Their stories have resonated with me and inspired me to never give up and to never lose sight of why I pursue science: to better understand the world. The Lindau Meeting was a unifying and inspiring experience. The chance to meet these great scientists in person allowed me to better understand and appreciate them not just as Nobel Prize winners but as people who have overcome many of the same obstacles we all face in science every day. They have shone a light on both scientific and political issues facing our world, and have addressed the many personal hurdles they have overcome throughout their careers.

Photo: Courtesy of Andrea d’Aquino

Nobel Laureates and young scientists including Andrea (front) during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Andrea d’Aquino

Along with meeting these inspiring scientists, I am so grateful for the many friendships I have made with students from all around the world. On the final day of the trip, we travelled to Mainau Island and back. On our way back, students from all around the world joined together for an afternoon of dancing and celebrating. This experience was clear evidence of the great friendships and bonds we had built on our trip. Students from all around the world connected over science, food and dancing, and I will always deeply treasure those friendships I made.   

This experience has made a profound impact on me and on my outlook on science and research. I think it’s incredibly important that young scientists — and in particular women and underrepresented minorities in science — have the opportunity to be involved in such an inspiring event. 

Read more about Andrea


Anna Eibel from Austria

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

Anna on a panel with Nobel Laureate Ben Feringa during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

For me, the Lindau Meeting was a very special meeting. Here, we did not discuss any particular research field in detail, as is typically done at scientific conferences. Instead, we discussed the global issues we face in science – ranging from climate change, green chemistry, carbon dioxide recycling and renewable energies to personalised medicine, antibiotic resistance and many other globally relevant topics, as well as science careers. The broad diversity of research topics introduced in the lectures of the Nobel Laureates gave the input for these “big picture” discussions, and I was impressed by the motivation and passion most of the laureates still show after many decades of doing research.

I particularly enjoyed connecting with the other young scientists, and I became aware of many interesting research fields and opportunities for potential future collaborations and career steps. I think participating in the Lindau Meeting is an excellent opportunity for getting inspired and connecting to scientists all over the world.

Read more about Anna


Antonella Coccia from Argentina

No words can describe the week at the Lindau Meeting. Well, maybe there is one that keeps sounding in my head: inspired. I feel highly inspired after my week at Lindau. The young scientists and the Nobel Laureates have inspired me in so many ways to pursue my career goals. 

Antonella with Nobel Laureate Mario Molina. Photo: Courtesy of Antonella Coccia.

Antonella with Nobel Laureate Mario Molina. Photo: Courtesy of Antonella Coccia

I attended as an undergraduate student, looking for – among other things – fields where to focus my graduate studies. I have found it, and I have found so many people willing to give me advice about it. 

It was the most unforgettable week. I am impressed by how approachable the Nobel Laureates were. They have shown to be incredibly humble even though they were awarded the most relevant prize in science.  They were always happy to answer my questions and to give me advice for my career.

 I am happy that I had the opportunity to share a week with people who have the same interests as me. I made friends from all around the world who taught me about their culture and were always open to discuss current issues taking advantage of our own different perspectives.

I feel so fortunate that I had the chance to experience the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting and I encourage every young scientist to attend it. It will give you a broader perspective of your career and it will give you the unique chance to be surrounded by the best of science.

Read more about Antonella


Diana Montes Grajales from Columbia

Diana Montes Grajales and Jana Kobeissi during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Diana Montes Grajales

Diana Montes Grajales and Jana Kobeissi during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Diana Montes Grajales

The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting is extraordinary; it is designed to share the experience and knowledge of the greatest leaders in science, the Nobel Laureates, with the next generation of scientists to encourage us to work hard for the benefit of the world and society. We live in convulsed times in terms of environmental depletion, violence and diseases; and we young scientist are called to help to address all these issues and pursue for a better world. When I applied for this event, I was a young researcher at Universidad Tecnólogica de Bolívar, in Cartagena-Colombia, and I never imagined to be accepted because I thought I was in the periphery of the world, but this is really an international meeting; this year, there were people from more than 70 countries with whom you have the opportunity to talk and plan collaborative work. The organisation and structure of the meeting is great: each of us had a personalised agenda, we had lectures, panel discussions and small group discussions with the Nobel Laureates from key topics in science to life experiences as well as many social activities in which you have the opportunity to interact with both Nobel Laureates and young researchers. Highlights of the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Chemistry were: the importance of developing environmental friendly technologies, working with green chemistry and facing the climate change problem as well as to link society to science, in terms of divulgation and pertinence of the research. There are also specific soft skills to pay attention to in science such as perseverance, passion and ethics. This is a unique experience, I hope you will apply and be the next young researcher in a Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting!

Read more about Diana


Emma Danelius from Sweden

Participating in the Lindau Meeting was certainly a great experience in many ways. First, it was truly inspiring to listen to and talk to the Nobel Laureates. They generously shared their exceptional research as well as their life experiences and advice for us young scientists, and I feel really fortunate that I was given the opportunity to partake in this event. 

Photo: Courtesy of Emma Danelius

Emma with Astrid Gräslund, member of the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and secretary of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, and other young scientists during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Emma Danelius

The academic dinner was great, with only a few students we got a lot of time to talk to some of the laureates and this was such a memorable night. What I had not expected before attending the Lindau Meeting was the impact that meeting the fellow young scientist would have on me. I was so inspired talking to young scientists from all over the world, all of whom shared the same drive, ambition and passion for science. All these warm, friendly, motivated and interested people created a unique and engaging atmosphere in Lindau, and that together with a great organisation made the meeting so exceptional. I had high expectations before the meeting, yet, they were surpassed. I would encourage every young scientist to use the opportunity to participate in future meetings, it really is a once in a lifetime experience. Especially young female scientist, go to Lindau and meet with other likeminded women like yourselves, with the same ambitions and future goals, it is such an inspiring event and maybe you will end up making some friends for life.

Read more about Emma


Eva Maria Wara Alvarez Pari from Bolivia 

The Lindau meeting has been a long standing intellectual legacy and an opportunity to interact with young scientists from more than 70 countries.  This whole week has reinforced my scientific focus and increased my emphasis in social issues. It gave me the most rewarding experience in my personal life. Nobel Laureates gave me advices to grow intellectually and personally. Running risks in scientific life. The diversity of this meeting has opened me the chance not only to exchange scientific topics of our own research, but it also has allowed me to switch from mine to other fields.

Oleksandra Trofymchuk	and Eva Maria Wara at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Eva Maria Wara

Oleksandra Trofymchuk and Eva Maria Wara at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Eva Maria Wara Alvarez Pari

I was fascinated to get to know more about the Nobel Laureates since I was a child. Unfortunately, in South American countries the chances to meet Nobel Laureates closely are unusual or a matter of luck. Last year, I have heard about eight women who participated in the previous event and it changed my life since then. Now, I cannot believe I belong to that select group of women who have taken part in this meeting. I invite every young scientist around the world to become part of this networking, creating links of scientific cooperation projects. I am pretty sure this event will give your life a 180 degree turn. It is a marathon week of interacting, discussion events with young scientists and laureates which believe it or not, could be extended until midnight.  I reiterate my invitation, and don’t hesitate or tell yourself you don’t feel up to this event. Just apply and give yourself a chance to experiment a transcendental meeting which is waiting for you.

Read more about Eva Maria Wara


Florencia Marchini from Argentina

Before coming to Lindau, I had the silly idea that I was attending a fancy conference and Nobel Laureates were some kind of celebrities that everyone would like to take pictures with. The Lindau Meeting couldn’t have been farther from that. Nobel Laureates not only have enlightened me with their bright ideas but also have touched my heart by revealing their most human side. Every time they showed pictures of themselves as young scientists at the end of their lectures, or talked about being rejected or not having enough money or even of having few time to share with their families and friends, I couldn’t help seeing myself. It was then when I got to understand that they came to tell us that we all are the same, that we all walk in the same direction if we are passionate, if we never give up, if we become experts in what we really like and if we continue in this path even after reaching the top of our careers. 

Florencia (front right) with other young scientists at the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Florencia Marchini

Florencia (front, right) with other young scientists at the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Florencia Marchini

But close exchange with Nobel Laureates has not been the only amazing experience I have had in Lindau. Sharing one entire week surrounded by young scientist from all over the world and learning that even coming from such different places and cultures we all have similar curiosities, same questions, same difficulties and that we are worried about the same issues, gave me enormous hope and gratitude, as it showed me that science connects us beyond borders and languages, because science is a language itself.

On Saturday at the registration, we were complete strangers to each other. But one week after that, when we left the boat at the end of the meeting, we all felt the power of the wind starting to blow. Something had changed us. We were physically exhausted, mentally blank, emotionally overwhelmed but with the eyes full of pictures and the heart full of hope. We connected, we felt each other.

I am sure that none of us wanted to leave Lindau, but I also think that it was the right time to do it, as we were taking with us the Lindau legacy. Don’t stay locked in the lab, share, connect. Have political awareness as well as social and environmental commitment. Be as persistent as passionate. Don’t feel guilty, feel responsible. Take action, there is plenty of work to do at home. And enjoy science because, as Nobel Laureate Peter Agre said to me, “Science is an amazing trip you will never know where is going to take you”.

Read more about Florencia


Hannah Noa Barad from Israel

I really enjoyed my experience at the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. It was an amazing conference, in every aspect.

Hannah Noa during a zeppelin flight at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Hanna Noa Barad.

Hannah Noa during a zeppelin flight at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Hanna Noa Barad

First, the fantastic lectures given by the Nobel Laureates and the discussions that followed, where we were really able to get to know them on a personal level and hear about their life experiences as well as getting good advice from them for our careers. Second, the great networking and willingness to discuss science and get to know young scientists from all over the world was really a wonderful idea, and was truly felt everyday throughout the meeting. Third, the fun dinners and sponsored activities that were held throughout the conference certainly added so much to the whole event, including the panels that were held, which indeed were eye-opening. I feel that if a student or postdoc gets the opportunity to apply and go to the meeting they should do it. I have gained so much knowledge and new friends as well as potential colleagues from this conference, and I feel like a whole new world has opened up to me. Don’t miss out on this chance to benefit from getting to know the most amazing scientists and people from around the world, as well as see the beautiful city of Lindau which has been the home of the conference since it was first established. 

Read more about Hannah


Hlamulo Makelane from South Africa

Hlamulo Makelane made closing remarks as a representative of the young scientists at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: lvd/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Hlamulo Makelane made closing remarks as a representative of the young scientists at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: lvd/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

The 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting was a great opportunity that I will treasure forever in my career path. The Nobel Laureates’ talks, discussion sessions and panels were very informative, interesting, inspiring, and motivated me to continue with my research in sciences. Meeting young scientists from around the world working in different areas of chemistry was amazing. It has broadened my knowledge in the field and made me think about how we can integrate our research through collaboration and explore more ideas that we could apply to our research problems, or ways we could build something together that can be applicable to societal issues. I was not only inspired by the research of young scientists, I also found it exciting to meet people from different countries and cultural backgrounds because in this one week I learned a lot from different parts of the world and I had the pleasure to talk about life itself, not only science. I have made many new friends during the meeting and I would like to keep the network going by staying in touch with them. I did know that the meeting will host young scientists from about 70 countries and around 30 Nobel Laureates; however, being there and experiencing it, I felt like I was surrounded with people who see greatness in one another even when we didn’t see it in ourselves. I was humbled by the opportunity given to me to make closing remarks representing the young scientist at the closing of the 67th Lindau Meeting. This meeting has been truly a wonderful experience for me professionally and personally.

In conclusion, I was impressed by an equal number of women participating in the meeting, and I will strongly encourage other young scientists, especially women, to look forward to this career- and life-changing meeting and apply to participate.

Read more about Hlamulo


Jana Kobeissi from Lebanon

The 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting had everything that a scientist could ever wish for. Over a course of a few days, you get to attend lectures by and afternoon discussions with the Nobel Laureates themselves, and if you’re lucky enough, you can even share a table with one of them for dinner. The laureates not only discussed science, but also exposed their life experiences leading up to and after winning the Nobel Prize. They emphasised that even they made their own mistakes – had their own ups and downs – but they did not give up. Rather, they pursued projects even if the topics were not “hot” at that moment or even if others did not “believe” in their work. In short, they give you hope and inspiration. You’d even feel the urge to go to the lab RIGHT NOW and carry out experiments.

Jana with Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie. Photo: Courtesy of Jana Kobeissi

Jana with Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie. Photo: Courtesy of Jana Kobeissi

Furthermore, ever since day one, you are surrounded by enthusiastic – and extremely friendly – young scientists who are just as passionate about science as you are. You meet others from very different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, with whom you click right away, and as you converse with them and get to know more about their research, you realise just how international science is. The diversity of the participants sharply contrasts with the singularity of the main issue at hand: science!

I urge all scientists to apply to the Lindau Meetings, regardless of age. I am an undergraduate student, myself, and I found the meeting to be tremendously valuable: Now, I am connected with other undergraduates, PhD students, Post Docs, and even an assistant professor from all over the world. I was also fortunate to get worthwhile advice from some laureates regarding my future career in science. Getting this exposure early on, I believe, is very important. Finally, all of the above took place in one of the most beautiful and peaceful areas I have ever seen. All in all, the Lindau experience is perfect!

Read more about Jana


Julietta Yedoyan from Armenia 

Julietta and Nobel Laureate Ferid Murad during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo:  Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Julietta and Nobel Laureate Ferid Murad during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

I heard I lot of great opinions about the Lindau Meeting from different sources, although I would have never imagined that nowadays there exists such a perfectly organised meeting, which brings together so many inspired and motivated people from all over the world to share their ideas and experience. It is an incredibly amazing and unique meeting where the young generation gets a chance to meet Nobel Laureates from different disciplines, getting involved in discussions about research and science in general as well as personal experience of the success which changed the world for the benefit of mankind. Before participating in the Lindau Meeting, I was not sure about the decision to stay in the science, being aware of all the obstacles that I should overcome in the future to establish myself as a scientist, and I was looking for some opportunities in industry, which is not an easy path either but a more or less stable field. However, during the discussion with some Nobel Laureates I got so impressed and inspired by their personalities and their research that I made the decision to totally change my plans about my future and to stay in science. I think being a scientist it is a vocation, it is not an easy path, but well respected. Moreover, the facts that your research can be important and that it can one day change the world to the better motivate me to sacrifice and struggle for the benefit of mankind.

Beside all the Nobel Laureates, I should mention the nice expression of all smart and well educated young people that I had a chance to meet; hopefully, to meet them again in the future and possibly cooperate and collaborate by sharing and exchanging ideas.

Special thank you to DAAD for my scholarship and for this great opportunity as well the whole Lindau staff for their very polite, thoughtful and super nice job!

Read more about Julietta


Karen Stroobants from Belgium

Karen with young scientist Michael Lerch and General-Director of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Ahmed Üzümcü on the Discussion Panel on 'Ethics in Science'. Photo: Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Karen with young scientist Michael Lerch and Ahmed Üzümcü, General-Director of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, on the Panel Discussion on ‘Ethics in Science’. Photo: lvd/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

What I did on Friday 30th of June 2017, also my 30th Birthday? I woke up very early to walk to the harbour of Lindau, where a three-story boat was awaiting me, and 419 other young scientists. We set off to pick up 28 Nobel Laureates before continuing our trip to Mainau Island, which traditionally hosts the closing sessions of the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meetings. As I had been invited to be a panellist in the final discussion on ‘Ethics in Science’, I was slightly nervous. I was seated between laureate Martin Chalfie, and young scientist Michael Lerch, and I had the time of my life, answering questions in this amazing setting, and company.

And this was just the end of what became an amazing week, rising well beyond my expectations. Since that Monday, we had all been educated and inspired by the talks and discussion sessions with the laureates; we had truly connected with them, and with each other. Personal highlights were my short talk in Aaron Ciechanover’s Master class, the very kind interactions with Peter Agre and John Walker, but also the many inspiring conversations with fellow young scientists.

Such a unique opportunity, such an inspiring event, and a 30th Birthday I – without doubt – will never forget.

Read more about Karen


Melania Zauri from Italy

Melania and Nobel Laureate Hartmut Michel at the Bavarian evening of the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Melania Zauri

Melania and Nobel Laureate Hartmut Michel at the Bavarian evening of the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Melania Zauri

Lindau (#LiNo17 for the twitter fans) was an extraordinary and unforgettable experience. I had the opportunity to meet the brilliant minds that shaped most of the science that I learned from the textbooks and to do so in a super informal and friendly environment. Moreover, there were about 70 nationalities and I felt that science provided us with a unified message for the society: facts have to come from good science and politics has to come afterwards. There was only one female laureate and she behaved marvellously showing that what matters is not your gender, but the passion and the curiosity that you can put in what you do. If you have those there will be no barriers to hold you back. I admired the humble attitude of the laureates – great people that in some cases made me cry. For example, Prof. Agre with his family history and the oil pump of his town showing a message of congratulations for the award of his prize, which, as he commented, usually shows only beer advertisements. I appreciated the energy of all of them and the willingness to engage in dialogue with the young scientists. Almost everybody displayed a slide in their presentations with advices for young scientists. The Lindau team was just amazing and for everything you needed they were there with an answer. I would recommend this meeting definitely to everybody who is willing to play the game, to share his/her experience and to get a power charge for the next decades. I think whenever I will think at those moments I will judge them as worth every second and thinking that if these people, despite their old age and their busy schedule came to Lindau for us, my energy and enthusiasm as a young scientist should be enough for the next decades.

Read more about Melania


Monika Patel from India

Monika with Nobel Laureate Ben  Feringa at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Monika Patel

Monika with Nobel Laureate Bernard Feringa at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Monika Patel

The 67th Lindau Nobel Meeting dedicated to chemistry was a week full of joy, knowledge, motivation, experiences, and inspiring people. Every professor shared their experience of being a Nobel Laureate and they guided the young scientist “how they can become a Nobel Laureate in future”.  It was great to receive tips from Prof. Bernard L. Feringa on being creative: think beyond someone’s imagination, and never give up. However, there is no substitution for hard work.  Prof. Richard R. Schrock was one of the coolest Nobel Laureates, who shared his positive attitude towards life and finding balance in the different phases of your life.  In addition, the meeting comprised several informal events such as the International Get-Together hosted by Mexico at the Dornier Museum, Friedrichshafen, cultural diversity at the Bavarian Evening and a boat trip along with a Science Picnic to the flower island Mainau. These events gave a platform for personal discussions with the laureates and other young scientists from different parts of the world.

But the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting was not only academically oriented, it was also a great platform to network with people from all across world. Events like these are really inspiring and give you energy to achieve your goals.

It’s one of the rarest opportunities that one can get in his/her carrier. Therefore, I strongly recommend other scientists to be part of this meeting and to fulfil your dreams.

Read more about Monika


Sheela Chandren from Malaysia

Do you still remember how your first day of school went? Only this time, instead of teachers and new first-graders, the class was filled with the most brilliant people in the world and classmates that are so enthusiastic, you feel like the smallest person in the world. That was how I felt at the beginning of the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. However, as I attended more and more sessions, my opinion started to change. Don’t get me wrong, the Nobel Laureates are indeed wonderfully brilliant and the other young scientists are just pleasant to be around. But through the different sessions carried out, I realised a very prevalent common thing among all of us: the thirst for knowledge.

Sheela Chandren during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Sheela Chandren

Sheela during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Sheela Chandren

Although my level is nowhere near theirs, through their really interesting lectures, it was so fascinating to see how passionate they are in their own fields. I was thoroughly surprised that I enjoyed and understood the lectures that were quite unrelated to my research, such as cells, enzymes and diseases. Many of the laureates were really funny and I especially love how they tried different approaches to make their talk more relatable to us young scientists.

If I had to pick a favourite part, it would definitely be the afternoon sessions. During these sessions, not only were we allowed to ask questions to the Nobel Laureates of our choice, we were also able to get up close to them, hearing about their life experiences and journeys that led them to where they are now. While I am still in awe of them, we realised that they are also humans like us. These sessions managed to give me a new drive so that I am more motivated than ever to try my very best in my research.

So after these six wonderful days on the beautiful island of Lindau, did I get any smarter? Most probably not, although I really hope I did. Have I successfully predicted the next big thing in the world of science? Unfortunately, not yet. However, now I know for sure that I am one step closer to all that. Through this meeting, I found a renewed motivation for my research and I am more passionate than ever to continue exploring science. The other important thing that I came to realise is each and every one who identifies themselves as scientists is part of a very large community, through which we foster the exchange of knowledge.

Hopefully one day I will return to Lindau again – this time as a Nobel Laureate perhaps. Well, a woman can only dream!

Read more about Sheela


Thao Ngo from USA

Thao (front, left) with other young scientists and Nobel Laureate Richard Schrock during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Thao Ngo

Thao (front, left) with other young scientists and Nobel Laureate Richard Schrock during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Thao Ngo

The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting was incredible. More than one week after and I still cannot believe I had the opportunity to attend it. During the meeting, I met the most amazing group of people — the laureates, their spouses, young scientists and the organisers of the meeting. I was intimidated at first by the laureates and was afraid of making a fool out of myself. But after talking to them, I realised that there was nothing to be intimidated by because the laureates were there to talk to young scientists like myself to spread ideas and to inspire the next generation of scientists. During the meeting, social issues such as climate change and the current political climate came up quite often; I was extremely privileged to have heard in person the laureates’ opinions. In addition to discussing sciences and social issues with the laureates, I enjoyed talking with their spouses about their backstory. I tend to think of Nobel Laureates as super humans so having learned about their struggles, both in their scientific work and in their lives, I was put in perspective. I especially enjoyed meeting and making new friends from all around the world. I learned so much about research activities and research culture in different countries. One thing I really loved was every time I met a new young scientist, he/she would often say “I’m from here but I’m doing research there.” That was proof that science knows no boundaries and knowledge cannot be stopped at borders. If given the chance to, every young scientist should participate in a Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. The meeting truly is eye-opening and inspiring, in addition to being held on the beautiful island of Lindau.

Read more about Thao 

Some Surprising Words of Wisdom

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Faster Progress for Everyone

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

 

Credit: exdez/iStock.com

Credit: exdez/iStock.com

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

#LiNo17 Daily Recap – Friday, 30 June

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

 

Video of the day:

 

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

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

Hlamulo

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

 

Picture of the day:

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

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

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

 

Blog of the day:

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

Sauvage

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

 

Tweets of the day:

 

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

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

From Copper Photocatalysts to Chemical Topology

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

#LiNo17 Daily Recap – Thursday, 29 June

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

 

Video of the day:

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

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

 

Picture of the day:

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

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

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

 

Blog of the day:

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

Sketches of Science Slider

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

 

Tweets of the day:

 

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

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

 

Für die Wissenschaft einstehen, bis es “klick” macht

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Podiumsdiskussion zum Thema

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

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

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

“It’s Important to Show the Achievements of Women in Science Through the Media” – Antonella Coccia

Interview with #LiNo17 young scientist Antonella Coccia

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

 

Antonella_1

Antonella Coccia, 22, from Argentina is an undergraduate student and researcher at University of Belgrano, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Antonella is working in biotechnology. More specifically, she is studying how to obtain Lysine (amino acid) through bacterial fermentation. Her country is a food producer and it is looking for more effective ways to feed cattle; however, Argentina doesn’t produce any amino acids (they are imported).

 

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

I was a very curious girl. I was always making my parents tired with the why’s, how’s and for what questions. My father noticed how passionate I got when I learned something new, especially when it was related to science, so he bought me a chemistry set for my birthday. I loved it. It was my first contact with science and I felt that that game satisfied my voracious curiosity. Later, I started high school in a science orientated school. Those years were of a lot of importance to decide my future career. I had the opportunity to visit the school chemistry laboratory for the first time, and it was love at first sight. I started to participate in every science fair, to show my experiments to other kids and to inspire them to join science orientated classes.

 

Who are your role models?

I do not think I have a single role model to follow. In the years that I have been involved in the sciences, I discovered many people and figures who have inspired me in many ways and taught me very valuable things. Like many girls interested in science, Marie Curie is a significant role model for me. I was impressed by how she could set her goals beyond what was known at that time. I admire her ability to build a family along with her scientific career, and how she succeeded in inspiring her daughters so much that one of them later received a Nobel Prize. Finding the balance between having a family and engaging in science is something that I’ve always admired. On the other hand, my parents are also a role model. They have shown me through their years of work how sacrifice and hard work pays off. They are also a major example of overcoming difficulties by believing in themselves. Other role models for me were my teachers, especially my current research director and professor Dr. Pablo Raul Castello who has shown me day by day that the possibilities are endless if one is inspired and passionate enough about his work.

I admire […] how she succeeded in inspiring her daughters so much that one of them later received a Nobel Prize.

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

When I finished high school, I decided to apply to universities in the United States. Therefore, I had to take the SATs but I felt that there was a great gap between my school and the contents of the exams. I had to be an autodidact and work hard to achieve my goal. I was accepted but I couldn’t start my studies abroad due to economic difficulties. I felt that everything had been in vain. Then I entered the University of Belgrano where I am currently studying for the third year of my chemistry major. I found that the knowledge that I had acquired and, moreover, the qualities as a student that I developed as well as the maturity I had gained, positioned me differently compared to the rest of my classmates. I took risks, I wasn’t afraid of that and I sought for what I thought my career needed. That’s how in the second year of my career I was already participating in an investigation in the university laboratory. Those experiences have shown me that sometimes things don’t go the way I want but everything that I’ve learned stays with me and makes a difference in future situations.

 

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

I think that the coolest project I’ve ever participated in is the one that I am part of right now. This project is very dear to me because it’s the first investigation that was entirely entrusted to me. I am working in Lysine production through bacterial fermentation. This is a well-known process around the world; however, we have a different approach and it already has intellectual property. I really like this project because it is applicable to my country’s industry and it could be the answer to the current dilemma of how to produce more and better food. Argentina is a food producer; however, it does not produce the required supplements to enrich the cattle food. Our project can provide those supplements making food production cheaper and creating an inexhaustible source of food enrichment.

 

Antonella_2

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

The first time I inoculated the medium with the lysine producer bacteria. I was very nervous and excited at the same time. I even texted my mom to tell her as a joke that my little babies were growing. Even though the formulation of the medium was the most important part, the bacterial growth was the most decisive stage. I was about to find out if the formulation was correct.

 

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

So, a day in my life starts at 5:30 am when I get up and start to prepare to go to university. I take a bus and a subway which usually takes me an hour. Then I get to University and start my classes. I take classes until 13:00 hrs when it’s time to take a lunch break. At 14:00 hrs I start working at the laboratory, I check on the bacterial growth and the Lysine production. I answer some emails and work on some projects. When I come back home I try to go for a run or to take a gym class. I find it very relaxing. I always eat dinner with my family because it’s very important for me to save some time to share with them. At the end of the day, I study for my classes and complete course assignments.

sometimes things don’t go the way I want but everything that I’ve learned stays with me and makes a difference in future situations

What are you seeking to accomplish in your career?

Even though I am focusing on finishing my undergraduate studies, I’m looking forward to starting my postgraduate studies, I really want to get a doctorate degree. As for my research goals, it may sound cliché but I would really love to work on a project that causes an impact on society or that gives me the chance to leave something good to the world.

 

Antonella_3

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

When I am not in the laboratory or taking classes I really enjoy going to food truck fairs with my mom or baking for my family. I also like taking dance classes and running because I end up very relaxed and with a clearer mind. Something that keeps me going is doing activities with friends, having a coffee or going for a walk – it’s always great to spend some time with them.

 

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

I think that the most important thing for a woman interested in science is never underestimating herself. There will be people that will discourage you or even yourself will, but it’s important to keep in mind why you are doing what you do. It happens to me sometimes that it feels like I haven’t achieved anything. Other times, I am really lost with my investigation or I get frustrated with grades after extended periods of study but I surround myself with people that really support me and remind me of how much I have achieved and how much I love what I do.

 

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

I don’t think there is a certain answer to this question but if you ask me what I hope will be the next breakthrough in science I would say that I wish a cure will be found for illnesses that cause many deaths around the world such as cancer, leukaemia or AIDS, to name just a few. I think that a lot of research is being done in those areas and it is probable that the next great breakthrough will go in that direction.

 

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

From my point of view, there should be more encouragement for little girls. It’s important to show the achievements of women in science through the media because it avoids the myth that there are not so many women involved in science careers. The young women should see that we are more and more female scientists every day, it’s the best way to inspire them. Another thing that I haven’t seen or heard (at least in my country), and I think could make an enormous difference, is offering science lab as an extracurricular activity. I particularly discovered my love for science when I experienced what it was like being in a laboratory and the endless opportunities that it represented.