Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My impressions on the recent Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

I recently attended the 2010 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, a “globally recognised forum for the transfer of knowledge between generations of scientists”. This exciting and mind-broadening conference was enriching in many ways (with actual science being only one of the many fantastic things about it), and in this post I’d like to share with you my impressions of it.

First of all, the historic city of Lindau (Germany) is a beautiful place, located near the Austrian, German and Swiss borders. The 2010 edition of this meeting was the 3rd one to be formatted in an interdisciplinary way, bringing together Laureates and young researchers working in biology, chemistry and physics. This made it all the more interesting since I had the opportunity to meet people from different fields and with varied backgrounds. 

Aerial view of Lindau Island (Image credit)

The meeting itself has been going on for 60 years now and it was started  after the Second World War as a way for scientists to meet each other and exchange ideas. The concept of also inviting students was put forward by one of the meeting's founders, the late Count Bernadotte. Interestingly, it wasn’t until 10 years ago that non-German students have been invited to participate. This year, notably, 70 different countries were represented at the meeting (or maybe I should say 71, because for some reason I was enrolled as a Spanish instead of a Chilean student), highlighting the global nature of this conference.

The lectures are available online, so if you are interested in the scientific aspect of the meeting, I encourage you to take a look at 3 that I considered to be among the most interesting ones in the biology field: Roger Tsien’s lecture (Laureate in Chemistry, sharing the Prize for GFP), Jack Szostak’s (Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, for his work on telomeres) and I highly recommend watching Oliver Smithies’s talk, which in my opinion, was really inspiring (you can comment on it here after watching it online).

The famous harbour entrance of Lindau (Image credit)
Besides getting to know more about the science behind a Nobel Prize, the thing that I considered to be most fascinating was the humane side to all of it. How researchers stumble upon findings (and most will tell you was sheer luck), and basically, how they went after the things they considered interesting and fulfilling. The take home message is this, then: work on whatever makes you happy and forget about prizes, they rarely come and if they do it is not by following any guidelines.

The other major aspect of the meeting is getting to know other students (undergrads, grad students, post docs and occasionally a young PI) from all over the world, which is always something exciting. The mixture of cultures, lifestyles and even research topics was remarkable. On this note I’d like to add that if you ever have the opportunity to attend this meeting (or another one of similar characteristics, if there is such a thing) I highly encourage you to attend: you won’t regret it.

In a nutshell, I learned 3 things from this meeting:
1) Work on interesting problems that make you happy.
2) Don’t be focused on awards and...
3) Do NOT walk from Lindau to Austria at 3 am (it was a 7 km walk back to my hotel!)


(Top image credit)


1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

Non-German students were part of the meeting from the early 1960s on. It is right that the majority of the attending students came from German universities, but the number of others from all over the world has ever increased since. I attended the meeting for the first time in 1983 and guess that about 25% of the students were foreigners. Today, I guess that 25% are Germans...