The day starts early at the Nobel laureate meeting: the Science Breakfast begins at 7 AM. Over the days of the meeting, there is plenty of talk about topics outside science, too.
Lake Constanceis still covered by a layer of fog. The city seems to be sleeping. The streets of Lindau’s old quarter are empty.
But the guests of this year’s meeting are up early. At 6:45 they can already be seen hurrying through the narrow lanes to get to the breakfast meeting, easily identifiable by the red shoulder bags provided this year for the young researchers.
A relaxed start to the day
Once they’ve reached the Forum am See, the venue of the Science Breakfast meetings, the early morning peace and quiet is gone. Now that the young people and the Nobel laureates have spent several days together, the atmosphere is relaxed, and there are smiling faces as they munch on their rolls at the buffet tables.
“You were up late, weren’t you?” one young researcher asks an American colleague. She replies that it wasn’t that late, but that she had a long discussion with her roommate. “It’s possible that we were laughing a bit loudly. Sorry,” she apologizes for the disturbance. Even this elite group isn’t quite ready to get down to the day’s business.
“We have been put up in groups in guesthouses or host families,“ says 25 year old Thea Hering, who has begun her doctoral work at the University of Regensburg. Most of the German researchers were given quarters on the outskirts of Lindau, while the foreign scientists are lodged more centrally. “That makes sense in terms of orientation; it’s easier for us ‘locals’ to commute by bus or train to the meeting hall,” she says. Still, Thea thinks it is a shame that encounters with foreign colleagues only take place during the meeting program.
“Have you tried the strawberries?” asks Shaji Varghese from India, and scoops up the rest of his fruit salad. “I’ve never had such good ones!” Vegetarians are at something of a disadvantage at this meeting, he adds with a smile.
After the researchers have plundered the breakfast buffet and finished analyzing the previous evening, the first discussion session of the day kicks off. Today it’s about tackling the energy challenges of the future. The young researchers are seated here at round tables, with paper covers intended for scribbling and brainstorming. And the scientists do seem to enjoy scribbling.
"Doing research here would be my dream"
At the Science Breakfast we meet Richard Taylor, a young academic from Trinidad and Tobago. He researches new materials with a small group of students at the University of the West Indies. They are trying to find solutions for more efficient energy conversion. What does he like best about Lindau? “The lake is beautiful! The streets! The architecture!” He says he’d never would have thought Germany had such lovely cities.
Richard will be taking something home with him from the meeting, something he absolutely wants to show his students. “Now I know how I can inspire my students and get them enthusiastic about chemistry,” he says. Once he’s back at his university he will watch the videos of the Lindau lectures again.
He also says he is planning to apply for a fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. “Doing research here would be my dream! There are such fantastic institutes. And Germany is world-class in science,” says the 34 year old.
Colleagues from every continent
By afternoon it is raining cats and dogs. Young researcher Arslan Ali from Pakistan seeks shelter in one of the tents during the coffee break between two lectures. There are so many young scientists attending that the organizers had to come up with a way of taking care of them. So the lunch tables and the internet café were moved out of the main conference hall into big tents.
His smartphone loses its WiFi, giving him some time to chat. He tells us he’s been getting to know young scientists from many different countries. They’re all roughly his age. “Great, we’ll stay in contact, and we’ll all be looking for jobs around the same time,” says the bearded young Pakistani. “Then we’ll be doing research together – but spread out all over the world.” So Lindau could mark the start of an international collaboration.
Highly motivated young people
“The passion among the young scientists is palpable here at the meeting,” says Mario Molina. He is one of the 34 Nobel laureates attending this year’s gathering in Lindau. The Mexican chemist is nursing a Cola Light in the Bavarian restaurant in the main hall. .
“The young people’s enthusiasm is the greatest reward for me and my work,” Molina declares. For him this passion is not only good for scientific progress, but for the happiness of the individual scientists. Understanding and learning is essential at all ages.
At the Lindau Nobel laureate meeting the much-vaunted passion of the young researchers is plain to see – and hear. One group stands out particularly: Renana Gershoni-Poranne, Raz Zarivach and Ben Maoz all come from Israel, but have met for the first time here at the conference.
“The people here are great, the city, ok, the weather is tolerable, finally getting a chance to meet the Nobel laureates….” He and his companions list the things they like about Lindau. “And the beer,” adds Ben.
Many Nations, Many Traditions
The guests enjoy beer and pretzels at the meeting’s traditional Bavarian Evening. Many have come in traditional costumes, like Robert Huber. The Nobel prizewinning chemist held his welcome speech wearing a Bavarian hat with a traditional tuft of chamois hair as a decoration.
Other guests come clad in African robes, kimonos and Nepali hats. The international atmosphere of the meeting very much in evidence at the party, despite the Bavarian theme.
But this time scientific debates take the back seat. Everyone is out to have a good time. The young researchers dance into the night - between Schuhplattler groups and Nobel Prize winners.