Saturday, June 30, 2012

18 Indian students head for Lindau to meet with 27 Nobel Laureates in Physics - Times of India

LINDAU: Sixteen year-old Sahal Kaushik is definitely excited. But he is quite cool when you ask him how come he is so young and set to enter third year of the MSc Integrated Physics course at IIT Kanpur? "Oh I was home-schooled till the age of ten when I enrolled in the ninth standard at a school in Delhi. That's how," he says as he gets ready to meet and converse with as many as 27 Nobel Laureates in Physics at Lindau, Germany, between July 1 and 6. Sahal, with a special interest in astrophysics, is the youngest in a group of 18 outstanding students from India including three from Punjab and two from Kerala who leave for Germany today, selected by the DFG and DST of the ministry of science and technology, government of India, to participate in the annual Lindau Nobel Lectures where they will interact with the creme de la creme of cutting edge science as part of the group of around 500 students selected from across the world for this unique experience.

Once the Lindau meeting concludes, Indian students will spend a week touring premium laboratories in Germany and interact with experts, thanks to generous DFG funding.
"The outlook for Indian science is very positive with a 20-25 per cent increase in R&D funding over the past five years," says the Cambridge-educated Arabinda MItra, advisor and head, international bilateral cooperation, DST. "India has moved to ninth position from 15th in world ranking in R&D and soon we will be fifth," he says. Torsten Fischer, director of DFG-India and member of the DFG-DST Fellowship panel, is more optimistic. He thinks India will soon be Number One; so impressed is he with Indian youth's collaborative skills and scientific talent. "Indo-German cooperation is also all about friendship - students talk with not just Nobel Laureates and other experts but also interact with their peer groups from around the world and form lasting associations. Such networking provides a wide range of opportunities for scientific paper writing as they will establish contact with institutional heads and research students," he says.

The DFG will give grants to five students out of the 18 on a first come, first served basis to stay in Germany for three months and work in a lab of their choice from among the ones they will visit during their tour.

"For students, the Lindau meeting is an achievement, challenge, commitment and huge opportunity - and the DFG will follow their career for the next couple of years, ready to facilitate deserving students planning on higher-end research," says Dr Fischer.

Plans are afoot to open an integrated German House of Science and Innovation (DWIH) in New Delhi in October this year that will bring under one roof all German scientific, academic institutions and universities and research funding organisations like the DFG, Max Planck Society, Humboldt Foundation, DAAD and others. The DWIH will act as facilitation and information centre for students aspiring for higher research with German collaboration either in Germany, in India or both. A virtual version of the one-stop shop will offer the same services for those unable to make the trip to Chanakyapuri, Delhi, where DWIH is to be located. More ambitious plans are under way including setting up a web-based forum for Lindau Alumni, A Science Slam and a science workshop funded by DFG and coordinated by Max Planck.

The picturesqueBavarian town of Lindau in Germany facing the Swiss and Austrian Alps is becoming more known now for its annual intellectual samvad between Nobel laureates and students, presenting a unique learning and networking opportunity. The language of communication? Why, science of course! Physics is the theme of this year's 62nd meeting of Nobel Laureates at Lindau, and experts are slated to discuss not just pure scientific theory but also share their solutions to problems of world energy shortages and the challenge of climate change. For instance Carlo Rubbia, Matinus Veltman, George Smoot and David Gross will discuss particle experiments at CERN to better understand dark matter; Carlo Rubbia and Robert Laughlin will discuss the future of energy supply and storage; Harold Kroto will speak of the need to simplify scientific language and content for popular understanding; and Dan Schechtman will impress upon students the importance of perseverance in the face of disappointments in research.

"We will be adding 10,000 more new positions in scientific academic institutions, so we need to nurture talent in science, and the Lindau meeting is sure to change their lives forever. The DFG-DST Lindau venture is part of the DST's efforts to connect with the younger generation," says Dr MItra. "The DST pays for students' airfare while the DFG foots other expenses in conjunction with the Lindau Committe," says R K Sharma, who has accompanied student groups at least nine times to Lindau as head of the German international division at DST. The students are right now too excited to express their thoughts other than say they are terribly excited and grateful for the opportunity; they do need to focus and conserve their energy for the big occasion when they will come face to face with great minds that are going to be their captive audience once they finish with their lectures.

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