Nature India | Indigenus

Lindau lessons: Science is a journey, not destination

In June 2016, 21 young Indian scientists made a trip to the beautiful island of Lindau, in south west Germany, to attend the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting, dedicated this year to physics. In this sunny side of Germany, 29 Nobel Laureates met with 400 young scientists from 80 countries in an informal setting, which has come to be celebrated as the hallmark of these meetings.

On a boat trip from Lindau to Mainau island, Nature India caught up with the Indian delegation consisting of master’s students, PhDs and Post-docs, freshly chosen every year since 2001 by India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) in collaboration with the German Research Foundation (DFG) to be part of this science extravaganza. In this blog series ‘Lindau lessons‘, Nature India will bring to you the unique experience of some of the young scientists from India who basked in the Lindau sun this yearJoin their online conversation using the #lindaulessons hashtag.

For Niyti Sharma, a young faculty member from the physics department of Kurukshetra University in Haryana, the biggest driver for a career in science is the constant learning. She was pleasantly surprised by how much remains to be known in her long road ahead as a scientist.

Niyti Sharma

Niyti Sharma

Science is the study of the past, the present and the future. It tries to explain the formation and evolution of our surroundings, how we humans and other living and  non-living forms came into being and the phenomena which led to present form of earth, solar system and on the whole, this universe. It tries to describe various phenomena taking place around us and to predict what is going to happen as a result of these processes.

Having spent 10 odd years in research, I thought I knew a lot about science in general and physics in particular. This myth was shattered on the very first day of the Nobel Laureates meeting where the legends themselves admitted to learning new things everyday and that there were still innumerable things for them to learn! After my interactions with them and the young scientists at the meet, I had a deep realisation — that science is a journey to relish and not a destination.

With Nobel Laureate

With Nobel Laureate Takaaki Kajita

On a personal note, I got an opportunity to see how enthusiastic and passionate the Nobel Laureates have been about their research even after facing numerous obstacles and repeated failures. Though I found the talks of all the Nobel Laureates thought provoking, the lecture by Prof. Takaaki Kajita struck a chord. He was awarded Nobel Prize in Physics in 2015 for his work on neutrinos and neutrino oscillations, a topic which has always fascinated me. After his lecture, I interacted informally with him and was floored by his humility.

Apart from the privilege of interacting with 29 Nobel Laureates at a single event, discussions among young scientists provided a great chance to forge new global collaborations. The informal setting helped us learn a lot of physics and a lot more than physics from these amazing personalities.

I came back from the meeting with a huge sense of responsibility: that of taking the baton of research forward by working harder. The expectations are high — we are now part of a special community — a network of excellence. I hope that I make myself worthy of the legacy I have inherited as a Lindau Almuni and hope to make this community proud.

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