Friday, July 20, 2007

Great encounter between Nobel Laureates and young scientists

Sutapa Barua, back from Lindau, Germany

I am honoured to be nominated as one of the young scientists from Bangladesh in the 57th Physiology/Medicine meeting in 2007. The meeting was not completely a scientific meeting rather it was an interactive meeting to know about the worldwide scientists at a personal level. This was the first time when Bangladesh was represented by six selected students. It was an amazing experience to me to interact with the present and future scientific researchers from all over the world. I came from the meeting with added excitement for my research, communication and networking skills that will aid me in the future. Here I am trying to highlight the important perspectives of our six days meeting with the Nobel Laureates and international students.July 1st, 2007, Sunday We, the six Bangladeshi students, registered for the meeting in the morning. Then we joined the meeting at 4:00 pm local time. Dr. Md. Zafar Iqbal and A. Fattah were there. Mr. Fattah introduced us to the scientists from different countries. We talked with them as well as some young researchers from India, USA, London, Sweden and many other countries. The meeting was opened at 4:00 pm local time with the introductory lecture from the President of the Council, Countess Sonja Bernadotte. She thanked 17 Nobel Laureates and 560 young researchers from 62 different countries who joined the meeting. She did not forget to mention that this year about half of the young researchers were women. As soon as she said that, everybody in that big hall clapped for a minute. She acknowledged the people who contributed a lot to arrange this meeting. She awarded Lennart-Bernadotte-Medal to Michael Sohlman, Executive director of the Nobel Foundation, Stockholm, Sweden. There was a panel discussion among Prof. Dr. h.c. Otfried Höffe (Eberhard-Karls-University, Germany), Prof. Dr. Fotis C. Kafatos (FMRS, President and Chairman of Scientific Council of the European Research Council, Brussels), Professor the Lord Rees of Ludlow (FRS, President of the Royal Society, London), Prof. Dr. Peter Strohschneider (Chairperson of the German Scientific Council, Cologne, Gremany) about the difference between natural and cultural sciences. There were some interesting points in the distinction between these two sciences. One important point was that natural science was independent of human but cultural science was totally created by human. This seemed to me very interesting. A cultural scientist can utilise his intelligence in any sector of cultural sciences and bring the message to general public who have no scientific background. At night we had a dinner in a tent with other students. That was a fun. We talked with some Indian students there who were studying medical sciences in India. We shared our experiences and insights of how we can take our researches and knowledge to the society.July 2nd, 2007, MondayThe whole day was rainy. In the morning, three Nobel Laureates, Dr.s Craig Mello (Physiology/ Medicine, 2006), Ferid Murad (Physiology/ Medicine, 1998) and Hartmut Michel (Chemistry, 1988) presented their works. Dr. Mello presented RNA silencing and interference while Dr. Murad talked about the role of nitric oxide in preventing disease like cancer and Dr. Michel said about the future of biofuels.After the morning session, we had a nice city trip with a German lady, Heidi Achmann. She showed us the oldest building in the city, oldest building used for cultural activities in this city, a building that was used only by unmarried women, a lighthouse which is the centre point of France, Germany and Netherland and a lot of idols representing historical meanings. In the evening, we joined a dinner with the Laureates. It was a great opportunity to talk and take pictures with the Laureates. Besides students had the chance to dance with the Laureates with the rhythm of drum by a local Band group. Students had questions like how the Nobel Laureates started their experiments for which they won the prize. Most of them thought that they found the experiment accidentally. In that dinner party, I talked with Dr. Timothy Hunt who achieved the Nobel Prize for cell cycle regulation experiment. I asked him if I would like to start the similar kind of experiment in Bangladesh, what my approach should be. He said that since developing countries do not have enough resources and equipment, it is kind of difficult to do cell cycle experiments in Bangladesh. So we should start thinking of how we can utilise reagents that are available in Bangladesh rather than buying chemicals from outside which could be very expensive. Khademul invited him to Bangladesh to stimulate our young researchers in the country. Dr. Hunt said he would be willing to that if any of the participants would contact with him by email.Talking with these topmost researchers in the world, it seemed to me that the Laureates were very normal social being like us but they are smarter than us in sense of intelligence and wisdom. For example, while I was talking with Dr. Hunt, it was announced from the stage addressing the Nobel Laureates that they were invited to dance with young scientific researchers. Dr. Hunt acted like he was shivered hearing the announcement and then he said 'may be I should go under the table so that I can hide myself'- that was funny. July 3rd, 2007, TuesdayOn this day, we started with the lecture from Dr. Tim Hunt (Physiology/ Medicine, 2001) followed by the lecture from Dr. Edmond Fischer (Physiology/ Medicine, 1992). Dr. Hunt talked about cell cycle regulation and its implementation in cancer disease. He said that tumour cells are a mixture of damaged and undamaged cells; they are not only always tumour cells. The cells proliferate at certain stages and then stop growing. He is trying to understand how the control of the cell cycle relates to the treating cancer. Dr. Fischer presented cellular regulation by tyrosine phosphorylation in cell growth.After these two lectures, we had a round table discussion from 11:00 am. Dr. Günter Blobel (Physiology/ medicine 2001), Dr. Leland Hartwell (2001), Sir Dr. Timothy Hunt (2001), and Dr. Craig Mello (2006) joined to this discussion. Students threw questions to the Laureates in different aspects. In order to answer the question of Laureates' contributions to the society, Dr. Craig Mello (Physiology/ medicine, 2006) said that the Laureates' discovery will be worthless if it cannot be implemented. According to Dr. Blobel, political leaders should take initiative to carry the Laureates' works to the general public. He said 'Scientists cannot solve everything'. To make it humorous he said 'scientists can only educate the politicians' to remove public ignorance. There was one question to the Laureates from one of the students asking 'what they do when they fail in their work'. To answer that they said, 'Fail a lot then successes.' To learn something 'you have to have failure,' Dr. Blobel said this. Failure is the heart of your success. In the lunch, Dr. Zafar took all of us in an informal lunch invited by the American people. It was a joint lunch programme with the students from USA, India and Bangladesh. We scattered into different tables to get the opportunity talking with the students. I joined a table where we talked about individual view and belief in God. How we think about our religion and God, and then analyse the religion from the perspective of science. I invited them to Bangladesh to see the longest seashore in the world and the view of sunshine and sunset at Kuakata. At the end of the lunch, Dr. Zafar introduced us with a researcher named Shuvendu Bhattacharya from India who received the best researcher prize few days ago. This is another fun part of this meeting; you have always a wide choice in front of you to talk with people, introduce yourself and request them for any future opportunity in his/ her institution if it works.From 3:00 pm there was a 'scientific bazaar' where we got one more chance to talk with the Laureates and asked them the questions what we had. I joined Dr. Ferid Murad (Physiology/ medicine in 1998) in the Bazaar. Dr. Murad said not only about his research but also his social observations, family perspectives and provided a human aspect to the research world.July 4th, 2007, WednesdayOn the 4th day of our meeting, there were presentations from Dr. Bert Sakmann (Physiology/ Medicine, 1991), Dr. Avram, Hershko (Chemistry, 2004), Dr. Werner Arber (Physiology/ Medicine, 1978), Dr. Günter Blobel (Physiology/ medicine 2001) and Dr. Robert Huber (Chemistry, 1988) in their respective fields. In the afternoon, I joined to the discussion panel with Dr. Avram Hershko. In the discussion he said that mentorship is very important for a student to do his/ her own research. A researcher should use his/her own judgment to pursue the importance of the work that he/ she has been doing. He also talked about balancing between research and family life which seemed to me very important as a human being.In the evening, we joined to a special concert in the City Theatre along with the Nobel Laureates, academic, ambassadors and other renowned scientists.July 5th, 2007, ThursdayIn the morning, we heard about Dr. Richard Roberts (Physiology/ Medicine, 1993), Dr. Aaron Ciechonover (Chemistry, 2004), and Dr. Rolf Zinkernagel (Physiology/ Medicine, 1993) s' works. Like the previous round table discussion, I enjoyed another round table discussion with Drs. Fischer, Hershko, Murad, Neher and Roberts about medical sciences and society. Dr. Roberts said that the scientists have voices to influence a society but the diplomats do not take science seriously. Dr. Murad told that they were interactive but journalists should publish news accurately. In this regard he told us one of his experiences in Hong Kong. Once when he was there, a journalist came hurriedly to his escalator and asked him "Are you the father of Viagra?" Dr. Murad said, "No". On the following day, Dr. Murad found that the local daily newspaper had a heading saying that 'Dr. Murad said Viagra is not his son'! Regarding the journalisms, Dr. Murad focused on the importance of the clarity of news. Also the laureates said that to be a good scientist, you should love science and need to create a hybrid between other scientists. In the evening discussion session, Dr. Roberts said that no politicians should take any decision without any scientific background.July 6th, 2007, FridayIt was the last day of our journey. We joined with the Nobel Laureates on a ship for the last moment. The farewell ceremony took place in the 'Isle of Mainau'. Countess Sonja Bernadotte concluded the 2007 ceremony standing in front of the palace. We spent several hours in Mainau to see a variety of trees, flowers and other attractive places. Overall, I learned a lot of things from this meeting. It was a greatest experience in my so far life. The diversity of scientific disciplines, cultures and people provided a very rich experience. It has shown us the way how to choose a research area, think, analyse and troubleshoot a problem. The Laureates told us stories about their lives as graduate students. Also they mentioned that if anyone works targeting to receive a Nobel Prize, it is kind of tough for that researcher to achieve it. Because if we know our goal before approaching to a problem, it will no more be a discovery at all.

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