An Institut Curie Alumnus at the 72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting
Daniel, Ming-Kang Lee, An Institut Curie Alumnus who was part of the Cofund IC3i (2nd batch) took part in the 72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in June 2023. Every year, this meeting gather around 30-40 Nobel Laureates and the next generation of leading scientists - 600 undergraduates, master students, PhD students, and postdocs from all over the world – in Lindau.
How did you come to take part in this event and why did you apply?
I was very lucky to receive an email from the Advanced Training Office informing me about it as a former IC3i PhD student/Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow. The Lindau meeting takes place every year in Bavaria. The focus of the meeting alternates every year between the Nobel Award Fields Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, and in addition Economics. This year, the topic was Physiology/Medecine which won’t be the case until 2027. For me, it was a very good opportunity to network with other young scientists. It was also a way of knowing what Nobel laureates think about the current and upcoming challenges we are facing.
Can you tell us more about the selection process? What helped you get in, according to you?
There are several rounds of selections. First, I had to submit my application to the European Commission with a letter of motivation. I explained that as a young scientist I’m always intrigued about what Nobel laureates think about the current challenges, knowledge and investments in science. For example, we know that technology has been evolving fast, but it’s also very interesting to exchange ideas with these Nobel laureates on how to be a responsible scientist and how to practice good science. For me, it could be very inspiring to have these kinds of exchanges.
Afterwards, I was nominated by the European Commission but it’s a very competitive process because they invite only 600 of the most promising young scientists from all around the globe. After the nomination by European Commission, I applied through the Lindau portal: they ask you not only all your scientific CV and publications but also your outreach activities. For example, any mentoring experiences and if you actively participated in certain campaigns, etc. So, I put all my experiences in Curie: I was the organizer of the International course on Cell Biology and Cancer. I did outreach activities with the European Researchers’ Night thanks to the IC3i International PhD Program I was in. I helped organize the Ratatouille Seminars as an ADIC member. I also had experiences in supervising students.
Overall, the process felt like another grant application, but I tried my best to put everything. And then, of course, a motivation statement in which I explained that what really interested me was exchanging ideas with different generations of scientists and that it was a great opportunity to network with our fellow scientists.
How was it? Can you tell us a bit about the program, the activities, the organization?
I think that the program was amazing. I was expecting a lot for sure but still I was surprised to see how very well organized it was. It lasted 6 days with scientists from very different domains. There were, of course, talks sharing scientific knowledge but also sessions where you could pick the topic you wanted, there were “Next Gen Scientist” events with postdoc & PhD fellows where you could present your research in 6 minutes to then stimulate further discussions. There were also a lot of networking, dancing and partying events. For me, especially after Covid, it felt like there had been 3-4 years of gap and as scientists we are already not very good at networking and so it was difficult to go back to the momentum, to know how to interact with people you didn’t know before. It was a good opportunity, I met so many fellows and some of them are potential collaborators, some of them are in Paris, it was really the chance of a lifetime to join the meeting.
What did you learn?
I gained experiences about how to be a responsible scientist for example, how we improve inclusion and diversity. There were panel discussions about diversity inclusion, AI, climate change. Sometimes, the discussed exerted several controversies. For example, some think that diversity is not important in making great science. There was also a 84-year-old white male Nobel laureate thinking that the meeting no longer focused on science but other stuffs such as diversity. He also thought that he felt discriminated by the meeting as a male. Of course, I’m rooting for diversity and inclusion because people from everywhere should have equal opportunity to do great science but this is what is lacking. It is interesting to learn how this past generation thinks about it. Also, it reflects why it is so difficult to allow every talent to have equal access to opportunities. I think that we, young scientists, are trying to make our system a better system regardless of your sex, ethnicity or disability for example. It’s interesting to see why it is not moving - it’s moving for sure but not fast enough.
What were your favorite moments?
I had a little chat with Emmanuelle Charpentier (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2020) during a breakfast session which was very nice. Although we do not have a similar background, we have similar paths: she’s French and I did my PhD in Paris and now we both live in Berlin. She actually had quite a few discussions with my current boss at Max Planck Institute. So, we could talk about the differences and our adjustment there, how do we foster a more interacting environment that allows all scientists to be able to have more networking. This could lead to more collaborations, creating a potential better vibe when people are happy with each other.
But really, every moment was a highlight. I liked the open discussion about diversity and inclusion. I actually attended a workshop where we discussed how we could put into action – not just theories – what we can do to improve the inclusion of these meetings or on a faculty level how can we improve the hiring system in a way that we don’t have any gender bias for example.
Do you think this event will help you in your research and/or career? Why?
Yes, because as a first-year postdoc, I am still trying to be more independent and I have to find my own niche because it is a very competitive field. So, this event has opened my horizon by talking to many different people in different fields, it also helped me establish potential collaborations. I also learnt a lot from the other postdocs. For example, one of them told me there’s this network that you can join.
The town where it takes place looks beautiful, did you do some sightseeing?
Yes, it is beautiful, the venue is on an island, I walked in the town, which is nice, you can go swimming in the lake, and you can take a ferry and visit three different countries in one day (Germany, Austria and Switzerland)!
Did you have a good time? Would you recommend attending the event?
There was a huge outdoor BBQ party and also an international night hosted by the Republic of Indonesia as well as a Bavarian night with traditional costumes, singers, dancing. It was really cool.
Anything else you would like to say?
I’d like to express my gratitude to the Advanced Training Office and Institut Curie for this great opportunity. The registration fees and travel costs were taken in charge by the institute and that was a relief because it was a bit expensive.