It sounded like a dream: having discussions over dinner in a pub on Lake Constance with scientists you’ve been citing since your undergraduate days. But, this was a reality for a group of Helmholtz Research Fellows selected to attend the 65th Nobel Laureates’ Meeting on the island of Lindau. As part of the week-long event the Helmholtz Association held a dinner for its fellows and invited Nobel Laureates to meet them. Kurth Wüthrich (chemistry, awarded prize in 2002), Jean-Marie Lehn (chemistry, 1987) and James W. Cronin (particle physics, 1980) chose to come along. The informality initially lent itself to a discussion about the menu and what to drink but all gradually turned towards the importance of freedom of expression for scientists, how the Laureates’ careers developed and the social and intercultural challenges facing today’s young researchers. These contextual issues inevitably made way for NMR spectroscopy (Wüthrich), nanotechnology and supramolecular chemistry (Lehn) and subatomic particles’ sensitivity to the direction of time (Cronin). Since receiving their Nobel Prizes, the Laureate’s passion for their subjects had clearly not diminished.
Meeting in a social setting helped show the Helmholtz Fellows that their current experiences are not so very different from the early experiences of Nobel Laureates and that if they maintain their drive for discovery their careers might take a similar path.
by Andrew Tweedie