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Web Date: July 2, 2013

Science’s Superstars Challenge And Inspire

Meetings: Nobel Laureates mingle with grad students and postdocs at Lindau Meeting
Department: Science & Technology
Keywords: Lindau, Nobel, meeting, education
Ju Yuel Baek (right, with two other young South Korean chemists) is aiming higher as a result of meeting and listening to the Nobel Laureates.
Credit: Alex Scott/C&EN
Photo shows Ju Yuel Back (right) with two other young South Korean chemists.
Ju Yuel Baek (right, with two other young South Korean chemists) is aiming higher as a result of meeting and listening to the Nobel Laureates.
Credit: Alex Scott/C&EN

The 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting is underway in Lindau, Germany, with 34 chemistry and other Nobel Laureates gathered to lecture and discuss science with more than 600 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The meeting is designed to engage and inspire young scientists who are accepted to attend after a rigorous selection process.

The young scientists at this year’s weeklong gathering are being urged to find their own path in science: The Laureates are challenging them to consider how certain fields of science could develop and what applications might emerge. The approach is hitting home and the event is proving to be inspirational, some of the young scientists say.

Discussions—such as one this morning on how science can drive better use of the planet’s resources and featuring 1997 Nobel Laureate in Physics, Steven Chu—are lively and exciting, many of the young scientists say. There is a buzz of excitement around the meetings, and interactions during coffee breaks are noisy. Autographs are being sought and supplied. The Laureates are living up to their billing as the science world’s superstars.

The meeting’s main themes this year are green chemistry, chemical energy storage and conversion, and biochemical processes and structures. But the range of lecture topics is even broader.

For instance, 1987 Laureate Jean-Marie Lehn, from Strasbourg University, in France, outlined the development of supramolecular chemistry for making self-healing polymers, and 2009 Laureate Ada Yoneth of Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Sciences guided the young scientists through the development—and future—of antibiotics. Along with her fellow Laureates in Lindau, Yoneth knows how to pitch her lecture to a younger audience.

“What came first—the chicken or the egg? We think it was the proto-ribosome,” Yoneth said to her chuckling audience as she embarked on her biology-rich lecture.

Aaron Ciechanover, a biochemist from Technion—Israel Institute for Technology and the 2004 chemistry Laureate, raced the young scientists through the history and future of medicine in a lecture titled “Are We Going to Cure All Diseases?” He left them with a trail of intriguing facts about the serendipity and importance of various scientific breakthroughs and how we stand at the beginning of a new world of personalized medicines.

“Are we going to cure all diseases? Probably not,” Ciechanover said. For young scientists interested in this field of chemistry there will still be plenty of work though, he assured. “Even if we did cure them there may be more diseases waiting around the corner.”

This year’s event is not yet half over but already appears to be succeeding on all fronts. Before the meeting, for example, Ju Yuel Baek, a young scientist from South Korea, didn’t contemplate making a significant contribution to world science, let alone that he himself could one day possibly become a Nobel Laureate. Three days into the meeting he tells C&EN: “Now I think I can.”

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © American Chemical Society
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