What do you get when 420 young scientists and 30 Nobel Laureates from around the world converge on a quaint
Bavarian island for almost a week? The prestigious annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting.
The 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting – dedicated to chemistry – took place in Lindau, Germany, from 25 to
30 June 2017. The annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings bring together over 400 early career scientists from
all over the world, along with approximately 30 Nobel Laureates, to promote scientific exchange and engagement.
The motto of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings – ‘Educate, Inspire, Connect’ – typifies what transpires at these
events. Started in 1951 to facilitate post-war reconciliation among scientists, the first meeting was a great success
and lead to periodic meetings of Nobel Laureates. A few years later, young researchers were invited to join the
dialogue, and this format has since been fostered into an annual event which is now attended by participants from
over 70 countries.
To attend as a young researcher, most applicants must first be selected and nominated by an academic partner,
and then pass the Lindau Nobel Laureate Council’s final selection process. The Academy of Science of South Africa
(ASSAf) is the academic and nominating partner in South Africa and provides a travel grant through support from
the Department of Science and Technology for a young researcher to attend the Meeting. For participants hailing
from Africa, funding to attend the Meeting is also provided through the Horst Köhler Fellowship Programme run by
the Robert Bosch Stiftung.
For many of the Nobel Laureates, the meeting is the highlight of their year, as they get to meet with enthusiastic
young researchers who look to them for advice about their research, advice about their careers, and even advice
about non-scientific matters. Some of the Nobel Laureates joke that the young researchers ‘keep them young’.
Simply having the Nobel Laureates present is a cornerstone of the meetings; their presence inspires the young
researchers, and inspires the conversations that transpire, giving an opportunity for the young researchers to
converse with peers from different backgrounds without prejudice or discrimination.
The participants of the Meetings are afforded the option to either stay in a hotel or to be hosted by a local Lindau
family. Being hosted by a local family allows for greater immersion into German culture, and the host families
eagerly await the week that they host their guest.
Two of the participants from South Africa were Dr Nolwazi Nombona and Dr Mark Williams-Wynn. Nolwazi Nombona
has a PhD in Chemistry from Rhodes University and currently works at the University of Pretoria where she
designs nanomaterial sensors to detect harmful chemicals and organisms in the environment. Mark Williams-Wynn
completed his PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where he developed a process to
treat oil sludge using novel solvents. He is currently completing a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where he is developing processes for the recovery of valuable materials from electronic waste.
These young researchers share their personal experiences from the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting below.