Dr Rebecca Power attends the 72nd Lindau Laureate Meeting
Posted: 28 August, 2023
The influential Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings date back to 1951 and provide an important opportunity for young and early career researchers to join Nobel Laureates from their fields in workshops, lectures and cross-generational exchanges of ideas, these meetings take place in the idyllic setting of Lindau in Germany on the shores of Lake Constantine. Dr Power, a postdoctoral researcher in South East Technological University (SETU) was selected through a panel process to attend the 72nd Lindau Laureate Meeting representing Ireland. This Irish Research Council is a strategic funding partner with the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting.
Dr Power shares below her experience of attending the prestigious Nobel Laureate Meetings which took place from 25th – 30th June 2023.
Tell us about your academic research and why you wanted to apply to participate in Lindau Nobel Meeting?
I’m interested in the role of dietary patterns and specific nutrients in maintaining brain health, improving cognitive performance and reducing our risk of Alzheimer’s disease. More recently, as part of my Marie Skłodowska Curie Action fellowship, my research has involved understanding the parts of the brain and neural networks that are strengthened by nutrition. This is achieved using state-of-the-art methodologies and technologies from the fields of nutritional epidemiology and cognitive neuroscience. Having reviewed articles, videos and testimonials from previous gatherings, I was well aware that participating in the 72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting would be a profoundly enriching experience. My hope was to take inspiration from the many men and women who have achieved the pinnacle of scientific recognition – to learn from their personal journeys, challenges, and breakthroughs, and to listen to their valuable insights about navigating a successful research career.
What did it mean for you to be selected for Lindau?
I am delighted to say that my aspirations and expectations for the Nobel Laureate meeting were not only met but were exceeded in every conceivable way. Being chosen to attend the prestigious meeting in Lindau held significant personal and professional importance for me. Gathering at Lindau was also a chance to experience diverse cultures (e.g., the wonderful social events hosted by the Republic of Indonesia and the Free State of Bavaria), build international friendships, and gain a broader perspective on global scientific challenges. Moreover, opportunities for discussions with Nobel Laureates, fellow postdocs, and distinguished researchers from various disciplines has helped me to build connections for collaborations, mentorship, and potential future research partnerships.
Have you attended any notable meetings during the course of the Lindau Nobel Meeting and can you give an account of them?
The week-long event at Lindau includes a jam-packed and versatile scientific programme. While many sessions are held via traditional formats (e.g., lectures and panel discussions), the Lindau meetings are unique due to the multiple opportunities to speak and interact with many of the Nobel Laureates. These include Open Exchanges, Science Walks, Laureate Lunches and Agora Talks.
Agora Talks are flexible and interactive by design. One or multiple Nobel Laureates give a short talk or presentation about a topic of their choice. This is followed by a questions and answers session with the audience, which is led by a moderator. I really enjoyed listening to Harold E. Varmus speak about the principles that have governed his life in science. While noting that working hard is a given, he spoke about the importance of choosing a scientific question that is interesting, long-ranging (takes many years), technically feasible and one that may, someday, have societal benefit. For him, it was important to view and practice science as a team sport instead of a solitary activity. The final point in his presentation has lingered in my thoughts the most, resonating with its message that “science has the power to inspire, unite, and teach us about our humanity”.
Open exchange events offer additional opportunities to have informal discussions and interactive dialogues between Nobel Laureates and young scientists. In an intimate and informal setting, ideas, insights, and perspectives are freely shared and debated. I thoroughly enjoyed the open exchange event with Michael Levitt where he spoke about the value of embracing changes, even uncomfortable ones, as it offers opportunities for growth. He also spoke about the importance of confronting mistakes and adversity with resilience as being crucial, as they too hold valuable lessons. This sentiment was echoed by Frances H. Arnold in her equally inspiring open exchange event, where she spoke about embracing challenges and pursuing her interests even when met with failure.
Did you participate in any one to one meetings and, if so, can you tell us how you participated?
The Lindau Guidelines 2020 are based on an initiative first introduced by Elizabeth H. Blackburn during the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. The guidelines are proposed as a universal ethical code for science and research. They aim to develop and support a new approach for global, sustainable and cooperative open science where data and knowledge are freely shared. During the week at Lindau, I was involved in a group workshop that was concerned with discussing and developing points for action that were related to Goal 7 (of 10) entitled “change reward systems”. Topics for discussion during the workshop included forms of rewards that we would like to see emphasised in the current academic system, and the stakeholders that should be involved to facilitate potential changes of reward systems.
Have you met any Nobel Laureates during your time at Lindau and, if so, what was the experience like?
Impromptu one-to-one interactions with Nobel Laureates are a frequent yet special occurrence at the Lindau meetings. Many Nobel Laureates are delighted to converse during coffee and lunch breaks, while others are happy to be approached during the many social gatherings that are held in the evenings. Aside from these surreal yet enjoyable encounters, I had the honour of taking part in a science walk with Michael W. Young. With the foothills of the alps and glistening Lake Constance as our picturesque backdrop I, along with 9 other young scientists, listened intently as Professor Young willingly answered technical questions about his research, shared his views on future directions for science, and recounted stories of how animals frequently escaping from local private zoos in Miami and greeting him in his backyard when he was a child sparked his early interest in animals. It was an extremely humbling experience and a memory that I will treasure for a very long time.
Have you met any fellow researchers, what was the experience like?
Throughout the course of the week there are ample opportunities to meet and speak with fellow researchers. Lounge areas, refreshment stations, and open spaces (including a ping pong table!) at the Inselhalle convention centre encourage impromptu discussions with fellow scientists and creates an environment that is conducive to forging meaningful connections. While these interactions offer a chance to exchange ideas, share research insights and challenges, and explore potential collaborations, on an informal level they spark the sharing of laughter and the development of friendships.
Can you sum up your experience at Lindau and why do you think it is important?
Participating in the Lindau Nobel Laureate meetings is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It has been a unique opportunity to engage with Nobel Laureates, exchange ideas with peers from diverse fields, and forge connections with fellow researchers. In true Lindau spirit, I believe that this experience has empowered and inspired us as young scientists to drive meaningful progress in research practices, science and society.