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Nobel meeting, noble cause

The 57th Meeting of Nobel Laureates in Germany was dedicated to medicine and physiology. Varupi Jain tells more.

india Updated: Aug 26, 2007 19:34 IST
Varupi Jain
Varupi Jain

The 57th Meeting of Nobel Laureates took place from July 1st to 6th in Lindau, near Munich in Germany. This year's meeting was dedicated to medicine and physiology where 18 Nobel Laureates and over 500 young scientists from around the world participated.

India sent a team for the seventh time. India's Department of Science and Technology (DST) launched this programme in 2001 for participation of young Indian Scientists in this Annual Meeting of Nobel Laureates & Students in Lindau, which is jointly sponsored by the DST from the Indian side and the Committee for the Meeting of Nobel laureates & Students and German Research Foundation (DFG) from the German Side. The Indian team comprised 21 young researchers and students in their early science careers.

This year, the interaction focused on the dialogue between natural sciences and the humanities to mark the German "Year of Humanities 2007". As a part of the opening ceremony, a panel discussion "Science and Humanities" was organized, in which the heads of the European Research Council, Royal Society, German Science Council and other noted academicians participated. The Meeting was inaugurated by the President of the Lindau Council, Countess Sonja.

Over the next few days, Nobel Laureates lectured on wide ranging topics in a very informal atmosphere. Topics included: Nitric oxide as a messenger molecule and its role in drug development; the cell cycle and cancer; Oxygen, energy and life; Biofuels - sense or nonsense; Protein crosstalk in cell signaling; Grey matter(s); the ubiquitin system and its roles in the control of cell division; Darwinian evolution as understood by scientists of the 21st century; Why do we not have a vaccine against TB or HIV (yet).

The innovative "Science Bazar" was held in the afternoons, facilitating direct interaction among students and laureates. In one of her addresses at the gathering of Nobel laureates and students, India's Ambassador to Germany, Meera Shankar emphasized that such meetings "humanized the Nobel Laureates". Normally they are surrounded by a halo of achievement which distances them and they seem to inhabit a different universe. But in an atmosphere of free debate and discussion like this, it was possible to meet them as they are - as ordinary human beings with immense curiosity and a daunting sense of dedication and discipline. The Ambassador hoped that the close interaction with the laureates over a week will stimulate that extra energy in the students and inspire them. She also expressed satisfaction over the fact that the India is usually well represented in this unique meeting. Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, she also reminded the young researchers that whereas flow of knowledge and culture from any corner of the world is welcome, one's feet should be firmly rooted in one's own soil.

Parul Tripathi, who was part of the Indian delegation says, "Our overall take-home was that there is no substitute for good, original and ethically sound research that is of great benefit to mankind. After all, that is what Alfred Nobel wanted as well - to award individuals whose work has been of greatest benefit to mankind".

After the meeting with the Laureates, the India team proceeded on the DFG sponsored tour of various German scientific institutions. These included the Max Planck Institute for Immunobiology, DKFZ Heidelberg (Germany's largest Centre on Cancer Research), University Clinic, Mainz and the Max Planck Institute of BioPhysics in Frankfurt.

On their return to Delhi, the students met the Hon'ble Minister for Science and Technology & Earth Sciences Shri Kapil Sibal. He congratulated the team and said that the purpose of the programme was to get inspiration from Nobel laureates, who are simple persons with a great sense of purpose. After listening to the experiences of each young scientist the Minister gave an assurance that his Ministry will facilitate a Lindau like meeting soon in India so that more Indian students get the opportunity to interact with the great minds in science.

First Published: Aug 16, 2007 17:16 IST