Green Chemistry is this year's theme at the 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (June 30-July 5) where 600 under graduate and post graduate students - "next generation of leading scientists and researchers" -- from 80 countries will engage with 35 scientists, all Nobel Prize winners. The picturesque town on Lake Constance, Germany will host 22 students from India, sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology and the DFG (German Research Foundation). For the 22 students, the Lindau week will be followed by another week touring premier laboratories and scientific institutions and universities in Germany, including at Berlin, Munich and Heidelberg to expose them to high end research and facilities available for future aspirants in Germany.
The youngest in the group, 20 year-old Shwetha Srininvasan is doing her Masters' at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali. Her special area of interest is Protein Chemistry, particularly the biophysics of protein misfolding. She is working on the human prion protein the misfolding of which is implicated in a range of transmissible human disorders. She is keen on drug discovery and spectroscopy as tool in studying the dynamics of biomolecules. She presented a poster on protein folding at the Asian Science Camp in Jerusalem, Israel in 2012 where she met international scientists including Nobel Laureates for the first time. She is already in touch with Aaron Ciechanovar, the Nobel laureate from Israel, as "his work is in the same field that I'm interested in -- molecular biophysics" and she is looking forward to meeting him once again in Lindau. "I have started work on neuro degenerative problems using spectroscopic methods. Dr Ciechanovar too works on protein degeneration," she says.
Is there anyone else Shwetha is excited to meet? Yes, structural biologists like Kurt Wuthrich, Abram Hershko, Ada Yonath and Brian Kobilka. And what does Shwetha do to relax, away from her laboratory? She reads, both fiction and nonfiction - she's just finished reading Wings of Fire by APJ Abdul Kalam. "Truly inspirational!" she says.
Lagnmayee Mohapatra is all of 29 years and as Ph D student she is working for a doctorate in materials chemistry in Bhubaneshwar at CSIR-SRF. She dreams of pursuing post doctoral research at Humboldt University where her husband, also a researcher, currently in Taiwan, is planning to go to for higher studies. He is going to be in Lindau with her - a personal trip - where no doubt Lagnmayee will share with him first hand, her experiences with the Nobel community. Her favourite past time is reading Oriya novels. She is currently reading Jagysini by Pratibha Rai, Oriya author. But her first love (after her spouse) is fabrication of different catalysts (layered materials) and application towards environmental pollution abatement and energy production. According to Lasgnmayee, finding clean and renewable energy to solve environmental problems is her goal - which is also one of the major scientific and technological challenges we face in this century.
At the pre-departure briefing at the Technology Bhawan in New Delhi, T Ramasami, Secretary, DST, told the students that the trip is bound to change their lives forever. "In life we come across several situations and some can be life-changing experiences - one such is the Lindau experience. The exposure you will all get - meeting with 35 Nobel Laureates - is an investment for the future. In such get-togethers you learn from three sources: Engaging with and learning from your peer group from around the world; conversing and drawing inspiration from Nobel Laureates who ought to be seen not just as prize winners but as real people who have gone through difficult processes and enjoyed the pursuits; and benefit from the ambience Charged with the enthusiasm and unique scientific presentations that is bound to inspire everyone." However, he added, "Inspiration cannot be forced; it is an individual process that comes from within when you are ready to receive and be inspired. When that happens, you will have that life changing experience -- so go on that journey - not just to Lindau but beyond."
Arabindra Mitra, head, International Bilateral Cooperation Division, DST, informs that DST has launched the S N Bose Internship programme for 50 students to go to the US for higher studies.
"I hated chemistry in school," admits Phillips, of the German Embassy in New Delhi. At the first opportunity he dropped Chemistry and opted for Economics. "As an economist and administrator, I slowly discovered that the value drivers are those who do chemistry. We economists only do economic administration but it is chemistry that creates value. And the Lindau Nobel experience is another good way of strengthening the Indo-German relationship."
Torsten Fischer, DFG head, India, pointed out that the German House, a consortium of research intuitions in Germany, is a one point contact located in Delhi, where students can access information from a variety of universities and institutions that will present the scientific landscape in Germany to students in India.
The unique feature of the Lindau meet this year is that it will address and discuss renewable energy sources - solar cells, photosynthesis, photobiological hydrogen production and catalytic production of renewable fuels. In short, burning topics of our times - climate change, energy efficiency, waste, sustainable growth and the role of science - will be taken up both Nobel Laureates and the international group. Other discussions will centre around fighting infection with new antibiotics, the energy that keeps our body going, vaccination against cancer, the correlation between eating red meat and cancer and whether quantum computers of the future could compromise data security and privacy of individuals, corporations and governments.
Star Nobel Prize winning participants this year include Steven Chu, former energy secretary in the Obama government and champion of clean, renewable energy options for sustainable development, Harald zur Hausen, who discovered that the human papilloma virus causes cervical cancer and other diseases, opening the way to new medical intervention, Mario Molina who shared the Prize for his work on the ozone hole, and Peter Agre whose discovery of aquaporins has lead to a better understanding of "the plumbing system" in biological cells.