Matt eating an apple

Me between lectures outside of the meeting hall.

In the summer of 2011 I traveled to Lindau, Germany to meet Nobel Laureates and other young researchers.

The Nobel Laureate Meeting at Lindau was attended by 23 Nobel Laureates and 566 young researchers from 77 countries.

The 61st Meeting of Nobel Laureates was dedicated to Physiology and Medicine and took place from June 26th to July 1st, 2011.

I am a physics PhD student working in the area of biophysics (CV). In my current research I focus on the role of the actin cytoskeleton in cell motility. I have worked to developed models to understand experiments from collaborators such as Naoki Watanabe (Tohoku University) and Erdem Karatekin (CNRS/Yale). This meeting has helped to expand my view on the ways I can contribute to research, and provide new opportunities for the next step in my professional development.

A Brief Overview of the Meeting

The meeting is hosted by The Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. Countess Bettina Bernadotte of Wisborg is President of the Council.

Countess Bernadotte addressing the guests

Countess Betina Bernadotte during the opening ceremony.

Each meeting is topical: The Laureates are invited based on the field for which they received their Nobel Prize. The young researchers are chosen based on their field of study. This year's topic was dedicated to Physiology and Medicine, which included a range of researchers from MD-PhD candidates to biophysicists and biochemists.

Application Process

I travelled to Lindau with a group of researchers who were sponsored by four separate institutions: Mars, ORAU, DOE and NIH. The application process was a multi-stage nomination process. First I was selected by Lehigh University to be nominated to the NIH. Then NIH selected only one in six applications to nominate for the meeting. I was eligible to be sponsored by NIH because work in my group had been funded by NIH.

Additionally, there are other organizations that sponsor researchers traveling to Lindau and some people used their own grants to sponsor themselves. A majority of the researchers that attended the meeting are from Germany.

American Delegation Sponsors

Waiting in the lobby to leave for the airport (transitional)

Waiting in the lobby to leave for the airport (transitional)

There were 80 researchers that travelled with our group, mostly senior graduate students from a wide range of fields. Orientation in Washington, D.C. provided logistics about the meeting and it gave our sponsors the opportunity to present some material regarding available jobs and grants.

The Mars corporation funds a lot of science, and is looking for researchers to work on very important projects worldwide.

NIH has some great programs with grants for new investigators and computation programs such as MIDAS.

DOE has labs across the nation.

ORAU provided some useful insight as well.

The Meeting - Events

The meeting was a week long very carefully organized. Meals were setup to meet other young researchers and often Nobel Laureates were present too. There were large meals accompanied by an event, such as Bavarian night, or an American Dinner. These dinners included the Nobel Laureates and gave pretty much everybody a chance to ask some questions.

Researchers from all over the world.

Researchers from around the world on Bavarian Night.

Each Nobel Laureate gave a lecture related to their research. The Laureates also participated in parallel discussions, where one Laureate would host a discussion at the same time as other Laureates. This would create a smaller venue, and the audience could choose to attend a discussion that was most pertinent to their own work. A couple of other interesting formats were also used, such as panels that mixed with Laureates with young researchers. Even Bill Gates participated in a panel discussion.

The Laureates

The Laureates covered a wide range of backgrounds and specialties. Their talks are available online, so I will only outline some of the differences in approach.

Oliver Smithies delivering lecture

Oliver Smithies giving his lecture - "Good enough for Oliver"

Oliver Smithies gave a very anecdotal talk. He showed pages from his notebook and discussed processes that got him through his research. He mentioned a lot of tools that he had to build and develop. Some of these tools, the auto-pipette and gel electrophoresis, are used in biology laboratories on a daily basis today.

HZ Hausen giving lecture.

Harold Zur Hausen presenting - "Infections and Cancer"

Harold Zur Hausen presented work from his Nobel Prize winning research and the work he is currently doing to help find the relationship between viruses and cancers. His talk was much more focused on the research itself instead of the process used to get there.

Harold Kroto posing with researchers after dinner

Harold Kroto displaying his stylized phylogenetic tree

Harold Kroto put a lot of focus on outreach and life as a scientist. He promoted his work with Global Educational Outreach for Science Engineering and Technology, GEOSET, and suggested some things we can do to help our career.

The talks were left to the presenter to decide what their focus would be on. I encourage anybody interested to look at the videos.

Minau Boat Trip

The meeting was capped with a great boat trip to the lovely island of Minau

Castle on Minau

A view of the castle while approaching the island Minau

We were ferried across the Bodenzee (Lake Constance) in a spacious boat to the island of Minau. This trip was a pleasant cruise and a great place for socializing with everybody before the end of the meeting.

Guests loading onto the boat at Minau

Guests getting back onto the boat after visiting Minau


I would like to thank the NIH and ORAU representitives Sam Held and Linda Holmes. I also would like to thank Alan Snyder and my advisor Dimitrios Vavylonis at Lehigh University for their nomination.

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Vavylonis Research Group