Erika Moen and Leah Mayo, both graduate students at the University of Chicago, recently returned from Lindau, Germany, where they attended the 64th annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting: Physiology or Medicine. The two women were nominated, along with forty other young scientists from the United States to travel to the historic town of Lindau this past June, and attend lectures, discussion sections, and dinners with 37 Nobel laureates.
"It was very inspirational to meet the people who made monumental strides in medicine" says Erika, a cancer biology student working with Lucy Godley and Eileen Dolan. "I got to meet Francoise Barré-Sinoussi, the virologist who identified HIV and its role in AIDS and Peter Agre who discovered aquaporins, recently found to play a role in malaria. It was really an incredible experience." Other nobel laureates in attendance were Elizabeth Blackburn, the 2009 winner for her work on telomeres and Jules Hoffman, honored in 2011 for his discoveries in innate immunity. "Meeting people that have made such important achievements in so many different areas really broadened my perspective," says Leah, a neurobiology student in Harriet de Witt's lab. "It also forced me to explain my research in the larger context of my field and of medicine as a whole."
Both Leah and Erika are graduating within the next year and agree that this meeting came at the perfect time for them as they think about their next career steps. "I'm considering a postdoctoral position abroad," says Leah, "So it was great to spend some time in an international community. I met a lot of successful people who had moved countries over the course of their career." Another theme of the meeting was to work in a field you care about, on a project that really matters to you. "I'd love to do research more directly related to patient care, ideally working with patient data." says Erika who is considering a a postdoctoral position in clinical informatics.
Though their trip was mostly scientific, the attendees still found time to have fun. "We learned a traditional German dance," says Erika, "And had dinner every night with the laureates." Leah's favorite part of the trip was "a boat ride to the island of Mainau. We picked up the laureates and had a scenic trip while enjoying a really nice meal." Both women also appreciated hearing about the lives of the laureates outside of their award-winning work. "A lot of them talked about their current work, what they've been doing since their prize." Erika says. "And we got to learn a little bit about their personal lives. It's nice to know they're real people, in addition to being geniuses."
With only forty attendees chosen from the United States, the University of Chicago is proud to have sent two students to this year's meeting!
- Samantha Thomas, Interdisciplinary Scientist Training Program
- Photos by Erika Moen and Leah Mayo