"Imagine the unimaginable" and other experiences of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting on Chemistry 2017

13 July 2017

A very inspiring environment full of very talented young people with lots of potential and energy, motivated and united by the same passion, coming from around the world to meet with Nobel Laureates on Chemistry was the scenario in Lindau (Germany) during the Meeting with Nobel Prizes that took place from June 25th to 30th, 2017.

Daniel Samoilovich, Executive Director of Columbus, went to the meeting to accompany for a few days the young researchers nominated by Columbus. He met with them to exchange their views and opinions about this experience. Here are their testimonies.



Antonella Coccia: "The aspect that surprised me the most was the diversity of the participants. I never thought the event was going to be so diverse, and that I would meet people from so many parts of the world. I was also struck by the contrast of how science is done in different parts of the world. "

Diana Montes: "I expected a greater distance between the Nobel laureates and the participants, but in fact I found them very close to the public. Many of them were empathic with the participants, and they have given us advice and suggestions about the problems of everyday life and how to confront our scientific careers. I also found it very interesting how with their attitude they have taught us the value of humility. They are people who have told us their life history and despite having been recognized with the highest distinction in Science, they are simple people and  they recognize the limitations of knowledge that each one has."

Felipe Jimenez: "What struck me the most is that while the Nobel Prize is conceived as something unattainable I also realized that it is possible. The science behind is not impossible to realize, you need  to be ingenious to solve the problem. Most of the stories we heard in this meeting start from a problem that seems impossible to solve but through very simple systems and ideas that at the beggining might seem basic, that no one else could think of, they could solve the problem. I was also impressed to see how the process of producing an investigation can take many years, ten, twenty years to arrive at a solution to the problem they posed. Daniel: Is scientific development only a matter of will? "On the one hand, it depends a lot on the will, the self-effort and the perseverance. But also on the other side one must have the necessary resources to carry out the research. This is where Latin Americans are at a disadvantage and where we have more problems. But essentially the problems are solved with ideas not with money so with the basic materials of a laboratory an investigation can be carried out.

Oleksandra Trofymchuk: "I thought there were going to be more undergraduates, but on the contrary, I met a lot of knowledgeable and experienced doctoral and postdoctoral students. I also thought I would find people working more in synthesis and other areas but in reality there were a lot of Biochemistry people. "

Vanessa Arteaga: "I was surprised by the diversity of participants as well. There are participants from all over the world, even from South Africa who are in a difficult political situation. In addition they came with super interesting projects, one of them on solar panels that impressed me a lot. "



Diana: "That moment was when I was doing the interview with Nobel laureate Johann Deisenhofer that determined the three-dimensional structure of the mechanism of photosynthesis, which is the most important chemical reaction on earth. He was giving some inspirational words to the undergraduate students of the Universidad Tecnológica de Bolívar and said that when we are in the laboratory we are all the same, scientists. It does not matter if you are from Germany, Argentina or Lebanon all the labs look alike and in the end we are all doing Science. Despite the socio-cultural and economic differences between countries, the language of Science is one language and the goals behind it are the same. "

Felipe: "It was when during John Walker's talk about the structure of how the energy in the human body is synthesized. Since during my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry this was one of my favorite subjects. Being there and listening first hand about this from the person who managed to discover this mechanism that was later embodied in a book that I read during my studies and that is fundamental for students of Chemistry and for the study of the human being was incredible. Even more incredible, being able to talk, interact with him, and ask him questions face-to-face."

Antonella: "I think this day in general (referring to the fourth day of the meetings - Wednesday) has been very significant for me. It started with Mars's breakfast, which I really wanted to attend, and ended with a dinner that was about the chemistry of food. I arrived in Lindau with the aim of finding a field to develop myself in Sciences. And I think I just found it. I have always liked food chemistry but in Lindau I could realize that this is truly my path in science and for me this is very significant."

Vanessa: "Something that made me very happy is that I got two proposals for masters, one in Czech Republic and one in Sweden."

Oleksandra: "I knew that Richard Schrock and Ei-ichi Negishi were coming and I wanted to talk to both of them. Luckily I had the opportunity to dine with both. With Negishi I had the opportunity to share three hours in which he told us about his life. He is someone very simple and told us amazing details of his life and answered all our questions. When leaving we had the impression of meeting him after a very long time. It was the same with Schrock, I had the opportunity to present my work, to talk to him and to collaborate. The objectives that I set myself when coming to this event were fulfilled by having met these two figures. "

Get Together


Felipe: "It is an honor to have been chosen to attend this event, it gives us a status, without wanting to be pedantic. When approaching a University Proffesor to propose to be our tutor to do a doctoral or a postdoctoral degree, we have a little more advantage because being selected to attend Lindau shows that you are a good scientist. It speaks well of you and it can open more doors. Also for the curriculum is also very important, it is a validation to our scientific career. "

Diana: "The philosophical learning behind all the lectures and their testimonies of how they overcame all the difficulties in their lives I think it will help us a lot in our careers in the laboratory, how to cope with things and how to learn to think. Many of them told us to start working in fields of science that are not so developed, a field where not everyone is working. You have to have really authentic and innovative ideas. They reccomend us to work in this innovative field that we might choose, regardless of what society says, what other scientists think or the opinion that this field is not important now. Their views impact our conception of Science we had before coming here."

Antonella: "In the same sense that Felipe expressed it, I think it was a privilege to be in Lindau and this in a way it gives us the obligation and motivates us to set ourselves more important goals, more ambitious than the ones we had before."

Vanessa: "Personally, I got a lot of advice from Nobel laureates and the other young scientists participating in the meeting. I was informed of certain scholarships that I did not know existed for continue my postgraduate studies. This motivates me a lot to be able to continue my career in Science. "

Oleksandra: "I learned about many scholarships that exist for postdoctoral studies. This is not only for postdoc studies, but for other research opportunities that exist in Europe."



Felipe: "Many Nobel laureates gave some advice to improve our careers in science and why not get a Nobel in the future, among them I highlight:

• It is essential to find our passion.

• You must keep your eyes open to surprises. Many times the unexpected leads to new paths / results.

• Mistakes are important too and failure is an opportunity to learn something.

• Ask always how things work, question everything, and use unconventional wisdom.

• Science will help us understand how the world works and where we are going in the future.

• Have fun and get excited about what you are doing."

Antonella: "Something that struck me a lot is what Ben Feringa said:" Imagine the unimaginable. " I think this is very important. Perhaps we focus on what is already known. The scientist must go beyond the conventional to find different solutions to the problems of every day. I think this is the goal of science. Beyond the passion we can have for science, the goal is to solve the problems of daily life and improve our quality of life. Imagine the unimaginable describes perfectly what a scientist must do and the path we must follow."

Diana: "The most important messages I get from this experience is to be tenacious, to follow our intuition, to be passionate and above all to feel happiness on doing Science. Many of them say they never imagined winning a Nobel Prize. This was never among their plans, goals or aspirations. They were just having fun in the lab and they were looking for the answers to what they really believed."

Vanessa: "Something that struck me a lot was the message of never giving up, no matter how difficult the road is. Also, they highlight the importance to figure out what we really want. If we want to do something great, we have to choose to work on an issue that many people believe is impossible and for this they do not work on it. They incited us to do the impossible, possible."

Oleksandra: "I liked how at the dinner, Negishi told us that you have to persist in your ideas even though the other scientists consider that what we do is wrong or silly or not important. It happened to him and in spite of it, he continued his investigations and could get to obtain remarkable results. To hear this from him struck me a lot because for me he is one of the most important figures that exist in Chemistry."



Diana: "It is important that these experiences are shared with our institutions and to spread this knowledge. For example, I have been recording videos with the Nobel laureates, especially to encourage undergraduates to become involved in the Sciences. I am also doing a blog where I will post the most important lessons of every day of the meeting. I also recorded the full talk of Prof. Mario Molina, Mexican Nobel Prize laureate in Chemistry, who discovered the reaction of chloroflorocarbonates with ozone. This discovery saved us from the disaster because the ban on these compounds allowed to stop the deterioration of the ozone layer. This presentation will be shared with the group of research on Environmental Sciences of the university in order to generate a discussion based on the presentation of Prof. Molina. Check Diana's blog here: https://lino17blog.wordpress.com/

Felipe: "I am taking note of everything I have learned every day and then I will make a press note that will be broadcast in the university media. I want everything I have learned to be transmitted to the entire university community. Thus generate a positive change in the perspective on the Sciences within the University. I would also like to meet the people at the university in charge to generate this opportunity and to give visibility within the institution to Columbus and the Lindau Meetings so that other students and young teachers can take advantage of this great opportunity that I had.

Antonella: "Beyond transmitting knowledge and concepts in Chemistry, what I would like to offer is a talk to share my experience coming to Lindau, meeting people from all over the world, having the opportunity to chat with the Nobel Prize laureates and to inspire students about hard work and perseverance. The Nobel laureates achieved these goals because they sacrificed many things, they were always constant and always believed in what they were doing, apart from being at the right time and place. My idea is to convey this and promote these events within the university so that students take advantage of these opportunities, go out into the world and learn."

Vanessa: "Once I return to Mexico, my role will be to spread this event. We had already spoken with my university to hold a conference in the Faculty of Chemical Sciences and in the Faculty of Medicine to promote this event. Many are intrigued to know what it was like and how the whole event is. I have lived a very enriching experience. I am going to transmit this message. "

Oleksandra: "Universidad de Talca has already asked Felipe and me for a report of activities with photos to be published in the university media. I think this is going to motivate a lot of people to want to participate in the next meetings. Also this event allowed me to make contacts to make scientific collaborations. I met a scientist with whom we have already talked about working together. I also believe that it has given visibility to our university since with Felipe we have been promoting the university and talking about the research projects that we carried out in the university. "

Academic Partners 2

Photo taken during the Academic Partners Luncheon on Wednesday. 

General information

Columbus Association
114, rue de Rhône
CH - 1211 Genève 3
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 




Maison de l'UNESCO

75015, Paris





Connect With Us