Sunday, July 1, 2012

Meet future Nobel Laureates in Lindau - Times of India (blog)

Narayani Ganesh
02 July 2012, 10:09 AM IST

“You are looking at future Noble Laureates,” declares 30 year-old Muhammad Noaman ul Haq from Islamabad who has keen interest in laser spectroscopy, having done an M Phil in the subject. He is referring to the 592 young researchers gathered here in Lindau from 69 countries, readying to interact with 27 Nobel Laureates who are here especially to spend quality time with bright young minds. The 62nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (Physics) in Germany has just been opened by Countess Bettina Bernadotte, President of the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings held every year since 1951, a tradition started by her father, Count Lennart Bernadotte.  This year’s theme being Physics, the topics discussed over the next few days will include particle physics, cosmology, energy and climate change.

I turn to the small group from Bangladesh â€" three members of faculty and just one student, Shah Bahauddin from the University of Dhaka. In the fourth and final year of an undergraduate course in applied Physics, Bahauddin is very clear about what he wants to do â€" he will proceed to the US for doctoral studies in nanotechnology and spintronics. He is currently taking all the relevant entrance examinations including TOEFL. He is eager to meet with Albert Fert who won the 2007 Nobel Prize for discovery of Giant Magnetoresistance (GMR).  “I am excited also to meet peer groups from around the world”. And what will he discuss with other students? “I will ask them what their plans are for the next 20 years,” says Bahauddin.

Yes, most of the students who are here are extraordinarily focused, and seem to know exactly what they want and some like Bahauddin, don’t think it is unusual to plan for the next 20 years!

In her opening speech, German Federal Minister of Education and Research Annette Schavan reminded the audience of Einstein’s words: “We need new ways of thinking if we want humankind to survive.” She added: “With policy makers facing great challenges, we need to turn to science to find sustainable solutions to overcome for instance the energy problem... we need to ensure that our actions don’t destroy natural resources that sustain us.” She also said that while science cannot create miracles, it can help build a solid foundation.

 In her opening speech, Countess Bernadotte â€" elegant in a rich mustard-coloured silk kurta and matching trousers tailored from a sari she bought in Chennai -- encouraged participants to experience “the spirit of Lindau”, “a shared enthusiasm for science and a shared desire to address challenges facing the world. She elaborated on the promise held out by their “Mission Education” that adds value to scientific programme of the meetings and to various activities and projects implemented beyond these areas in order to connect science and society.  Projects like the exhibition “Sketches of Sciences”, the “Nobel Labs 360°” and the new Lindau Mediatheque -- an online site containing all lectures delivered by Nobel Laureates at Lindau over the years â€" add value to the Lindau meetings to create opportunities where young as well as experienced scientists can exchange ideas and network. Mediatheque is funded largely by the German ministry of education and research..

Tony Tan, President of the Republic of Singapore, and Ferdinand K. Piëch, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Volkswagen AG, were welcomed as new members of the Honorary Senate of the foundation in recognition of their services to promote science and technology for sustainable development. Said President Tan: “Educate, inspire connect â€" these keywords highlighted at Lindau convey the fact that such meetings nurture generations of scientific talent by encouraging dialogue offering a unique opportunity to resolve problems that might impact the future.” He pointed out that the three main threats: Depletion of resources, destruction of environment and spread of infectious diseases are all connected and collaborative research across cultures and disciplines can help contain these problems. He cited the examples of Singapore’s CREATE â€" Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise â€" and SUTD, Singapore University of Technology and Design, that are striving to take an international, multi-dimensional and integrated approach to finding solutions to global problems.

Clicking group photographs by turn with President Tan, Nobel Laureates and with Countess Bettina, the Indian student group’s excitement was palpable. From tomorrow, they will be listening to lectures and participating in group discussions with brilliant innovators who have revolutionised science, and also have the opportunity to ask questions of Nobel Laureates, many of who will share with students the story of their Eureka moments.  All 18 of the group of Indian students are here after a rigorous selection process carried out by the Department of Science and Technology, the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Lindau Nobel Committee. Most of the funding for students from India and China is taken care of by DFG.

No wonder Chinese students Jinyon Long and Hua Lin are full of gratitude for the DFG and their government for bringing 24 of them here for the rare learning experience. And adds Charitarth Vyas, who studied Earth Science in Surat and who is now deeply interested in cosmology.  “ I have been researching the role of electrons distribution patterns in equatorial regions in predicting earthquakes. And now I am getting interested in particle cosmology!” Vyas hopes to get a fix on his specific area of research once he interacts with all the experts and students converging here over the next few days.

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