Completing my PhD in Molecular Biology of the skin at D-BIOL at ETH Zurich was already a significant milestone in my career. Another highlight of my academic journey occurred recently as I had the opportunity to participate in the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Medicine/Physiology in June 2023. This meeting aimed at exploring established and novel scientific concepts, and fostering cultural and generational interchange. It offered more than just scientific input, providing career advice, networking opportunities, and a platform to discuss pressing topics like diversity, climate change, and artificial intelligence.
Frances Arnold: A multi-faceted Nobel Laureate
On the first day, Nobel Laureate Frances Arnold, renowned for her groundbreaking work on the directed evolution of enzymes, gave a remarkable lecture. With an excellent and entertaining presentation, she shared insights into her scientific journey, her role as advisor on science and technology of the Biden administration, and even her appearance as a self-personating actress in “How I met your mother.” Frances Arnold’s message went beyond her impressive achievements. She emphasized the vital importance of promoting values like “Hope over fear, unity over division, science over fiction, and truths over lies.” Her words resonated with me and many of my fellow colleagues and inspired us to do our best in communicating science understandably to the public and advocate for these principles.
Revolutionizing healthcare with mobile technology
Computer scientist and entrepreneur Shwetak Patel delivered another thought-provoking talk, focusing on the emergence of mobile phones and wearables for health purposes. His brilliant idea centered around leveraging the widespread adoption of smartphones as medical device substitutes or aids. Among others, Patel discussed the use of smartphone cameras to detect anemia through color-sensitive apps and applications to differentiate cough types and monitor diseases like tuberculosis. These smartphone-based concepts, though straightforward, carry tremendous potential to transform healthcare accessibility on a global scale. It left a profound impression on me as it unveiled possibilities I had never previously considered.
Boundless connections: The impact of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting
The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting provided a unique setting that encouraged connections to transcend superficial borders. Discussions with researchers from diverse nationalities allowed us to compare not only our academic and scientific environments, but also share personal dreams and challenges.
Amidst the memorable moments, one incident sparked intense discussions: Nobel Laureate Kurt Wüthrich’s declaration of “male discrimination” in an all-white male panel. Initially, I joined others in expressing concern that this incident would overshadow the true essence of the Meeting. Upon deeper reflection, I realized the importance of such moments as catalysts for transformative societal change, encapsulating the very essence of the Lindau Meeting. Bringing hidden discriminatory beliefs to the forefront and subjecting them to media scrutiny is a step in our journey towards progress. I find myself applauding those who stood up and I personally engage wholeheartedly in these discussions.
Although the incident may dominate collective memory, my experience at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting was defined by much more. Surrounded by the stunning Lake Constance and inspired by the Lindau sun, me and my fellow young scientists felt grateful for the Lindau opportunity. Equipped with new motivation, we are ready to take on our responsibilities as scientists to communicate and advocate for science, and for everything else we believe in.