2015 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

4 August 2015

From the 28th of June to the 3rd of July 2015, four Croucher fellows, Kwok Chun Kit, Leung Chuen Yan, Ng Wai Lung, Wong Man Yan were invited as Young Scientists to attend the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting on the island of Lindau, Germany.

Since 1951, the Lindau Meeting has inspired, educated, and connected young scientists from around the world. However, the 2015 Lindau Meeting was a special one for at least two reasons: firstly, the meeting was quinquennial interdisciplinary (during other years the theme rotates between the three natural Nobel Prize disciplines: physiology/medicine, physics, and chemistry); secondly, it culminated in the signing of the Mainau Declaration on Climate Change by 36 Nobel Laureates; outlining the scale of the threat of climate change and providing advice to governments on this issue. This was the second Mainau Declaration in history – the first being an appeal against the use of nuclear weapons in 1955.

Over the course of the week, a record number of 65 Nobel Laureates and more than 650 young scientists from 88 countries convened to engage in scientific dialogues by attending lectures given by Nobel Laureates, discussion sessions and networking events – in the words of Wong, “it was like a collection of interactive mini-autobiographies by laureates from different scientific eras and disciplines with diverse personal backgrounds.”

The theme: ‘climate change’, extended the scientific nature of the meeting to include social and political issues; issues in which scientists are of vital importance, as they provide the data that the world acts on, but may seem secluded from. The clout that Nobel Laureates carry, however, means that they do have influence on decision makers on governmental policy, as demonstrated by the creation of the Mainau Declaration.

Other issues were also touched on, such as culture and communications within the scientific community; overcoming dogmas in science and education; and the internationally relevant issue of limited faculty positions for qualified and brilliant young scientists.

Perspectives from Croucher fellows, Dr Kwok Chun Kit and Dr Wong Man Yan

For both Kwok and Wong, the meeting was a once in a lifetime experience and full of highlights. Kwok remarks that although he initially expected to approach Nobel Laureates and young scientists who had worked in his field of expertise, he found that this intention changed and was reshaped over the course of the week:

It’s really not just about the science and the research in this unique meeting… It’s also about the interactions with the Nobel Laureates and young scientists, and hearing their life stories.
Dr Kwok Chun Kit

Both Kwok and Wong found hearing about the hurdles and setbacks that Nobel Laureates went through to be highly inspiring and motivating. Kwok shared several important key messages that he learnt from the Lindau meeting: “When you are stuck working on a problem it may be hard to think outside the box, but it is important to follow your passion and when possible, not to unduly worry about papers, career and money… It is important to ponder on the questions that you are trying to answer rather than focusing only on the tools and knowledge that you already possess.” He added: “Take risks while you are young and relatively autonomous; do not fear failure as it is inevitable and part of the scientific process; and when something unexpected happens, see it as a chance that you may reveal something new and extraordinary.”

Wong points out another important aspect of the meeting – PhDs are trained to be extremely specialised and focused on their particular subject, but this often makes their work unreachable to those with other areas of expertise. As an inter-disciplinary meeting, Wong, was reminded of the importance of “being able to reach out, collaborate and be open-minded, as these are the key ingredients in generating ‘novel’ ideas.”

To access The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings website, please click here.

For more information on Croucher Scholarships, please click here.