Bright minds tackle global health

Nobel laureates, young scientists meet in Germany to exchange ideas for fighting disease

 LINDAU, Germany — Top-notch scientists are overtaking Lindau, a small Bavarian village on Lake Constance. Situated near borders with Switzerland and Austria, Lindau used to be part of an important European trade route. These days, the village is brokering a new kind of trade — an exchange of scientific ideas — by hosting the 61st Lindau meeting of Nobel Laureates from June 26 to July 1.

The Lindau meetings bring Nobel laureates and young researchers together to discuss topics that have ranged in recent years from climate change and energy to the latest developments in physics.

The atmosphere is full of excitement as 566 exceptional young researchers — undergraduates, Ph.D. students and recent doctoral graduates — meet each other and 23 Physiology or Medicine Nobel laureates. Mornings are filled with talks by the Nobel laureates, and afternoons are spent in a range of seminars and activities designed to foster collaborations among members of the diverse crowd.

To get to Lindau, each of these young scientists was nominated by an academy of science, research institution or university and then cleared a rigorous application process. The hopefuls aren’t assessed solely by their academic achievements: Judges look for curiosity and a sense that the young scientists will contribute to the atmosphere of the meeting. Researchers who don’t have access to state-of-the-art lab equipment aren’t precluded, said Countess Bettina Bernadotte, President of the Lindau Meetings Council, in a June 27 press briefing. “The aim is to bring together many nations, many cultures,” says Bernadotte, daughter of the Lindau Meetings founder Count Lennart Bernadotte.

And that’s exactly what’s happening. This year’s cohort includes scientists from Azerbaijan, Estonia and Zambia, plus 74 other countries, making it the most international Lindau Nobel meeting to date. The United States delegation is the second largest here, weighing in with 90 young researchers and eight Nobel laureates. Plus diplomat Conrad Tribble; as the U.S. Consul General in Munich, Tribble came to the meeting to witness this intercontinental exchange of scientific ideas.

“For an American diplomat in Germany, it’s very important to support scientific cooperation at all levels: young students, Ph.D.s, Nobel laureates and everything in between,” Tribble told me after the press briefing. “Environmental science, climate change, feeding the poor, global health — those are all issues that diplomats didn’t worry about 20 years ago. Now, that’s what we talk about.”

The week promises to be full of insightful conversations. Find more information about the Lindau Nobel meeting, including videos of the laureate’s talks, here, and check back here at Science News in coming days to hear what’s happening.

Laura Sanders

Laura Sanders is the neuroscience writer. She holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Southern California.

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