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Guanbo Wang, Kaltashov group, attends the 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Chemistry

Left: Steven Chu and Guanbo Wang. Middle: Guanbo Wang and Aaron Ciechanover. Right: Guanbo Wang and Harry Kroto.

Graduate student, Guanbo Wang (Kaltashov group) was selected to attend the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany. Below is his first-hand account of the meeting.

This year 34 Nobel Laureates (a few in Physics and one in Peace, the rest are in Chemistry) and about 600 students attended the meeting. While about half of the students were from Germany, the other half were from many countries all over the world. We had a pretty tight schedule during the week of meeting: scientific breakfast in early morning, which were held by the academic partners and featured discussion on various topics of significance (global energy and environment issues, etc.); presentations given by the laureates in the morning; discussions and workshops in the afternoon; and social events in the evening.

What impressed me most were the characters of the laureates. Their characters are quite diverse: talkative, shy, humorous, enthusiastic... but almost all of the laureates are pretty humble and they displayed great tenacity in their research. Many of them attributed their success to "luck", but from their presentations we could definitely feel how much effort they made. Dan Shechtman, who discovered quasi-crystal, spent 3/4 of this presentation in describing how he was squeezed out by the "main-stream" of academia in his early career. Surprisingly some laureates are still active in research. Just like the cases in other labs, they may also encounter obstacles in research, and may also be bothered by some trivialities. Their description of the environment of their labs and their daily life made me feel that we are living in the same world.

In the conversations with some other attendees of the meeting I learnt that not all the institutions had spread the information about this meeting widely enough - actually many students got the opportunity of attendance simply due to the networking with some important person, or someone involved in the organization of the event. In some other cases, in some countries like China, students have to go through more competitive selection procedures and additional training to win the opportunity. This made me further realize how lucky I am that I could receive so much support from our department and eventually received such a valuable opportunity as an international student in the US.

During the meeting I got to know a lot of friends from different countries around the world. In our conversations I learned much about the scientific climate in their countries. This information is very helpful for my career planning.

In my opinion the biggest benefit offered by this meeting is not the research presented by the laureates; instead, it should be the ways of thinking, behaving, and living, displayed by the laureates, and the smart young researchers who sat beside me. These ways may not lead to a Nobel prize, but I believe they help to lead a fulfilling life, in whichever field. Such a meeting is a great opportunity for one to jump out of the small circle of one's own research to look at the bigger world and think differently.

Once again I greatly appreciate the support offered by our department. Such an opportunity is far more than an item listed in resume.

I am attaching some pictures I took with the Laureates. They are: Steven Chu, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his research cooling and trapping of atoms with laser light and became United States Secretary of Energy; Aaron Ciechanover, who won the Nobel prize in Chemistry for characterizing the method that cells use to degrade and recycle proteins using ubiquitin; and Harry Kroto, who won the Nobel prize in Chemistry for the discovery of fullerenes.

Guanbo Wang (now at Utrecht University, Netherlands)

(September 2013)