Nature India | Indigenus

Lindau lessons: Self-motivation is the key to long research careers

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.

In the series today, we have Yashika Ghai, a second Year PhD student from Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar, Punjab. Yashika works in the field of theoretical plasma physics and was overwhelmed getting a peek into ideas that have led to Nobel winning technologies. She came back from the meeting brimming with self-motivation, something she realises is the key to arduously long careers is science.

Yashika Ghai

Yashika Ghai

So many Nobel Laureates and young scientists from around the world in one place — not only did it gave me a solid grounding on the global status of science but also a glimpse into the research motivation and commitment of the pioneers of science. We had the opportunity to interact with young scientists from around 80 countries which was a great way to understand different cultures and exchange ideas.

The lectures and discussions with Nobel laureates made me realise how strong the motivation and commitment behind the development of new technologies is. Today, we live in a tech-era where new technologies continuously strive to improve the quality of life. However, to get a peek into the fledgling ideas, the initial drive that led to creation of such technologies, was something else.

While talking to the 2015 Nobel Laureate Takaaki Kajita, whose team built the Super-Kamiokande experiment in a coal mine one km below the surface of a mountain, I learnt how important self-motivation and team work are to overcome difficulties in science and for a long and fulfilling scientific career.

The best part of the meeting was that the Nobel Laureates were so approachable and we could talk to them anytime during several formal or informal gatherings. We would take pictures with them, ask questions about their journey towards the Nobel Prize and even chit-chat on how they manage to remain so happy and calm when there is so much at back of their minds. They replied to all our queries — big or trivial — in great detail and told us their life stories with utmost enthusiasm.

With Nobel Laureate Takaaki Kajita

With Nobel Laureate Takaaki Kajita

Alongside the lectures and discussion, there were some illuminating panel discussions. One of them was on the problems faced by women scientists globally. It was a proud moment for me — while the whole world was discussing the issue of less number of women in science, there were ten women in our team of 21 young scientists from India.

I have seen women struggle hard to balance family commitments and scientific careers but I think the situation is changing now and I hope to see some women scientists as Nobel winners in science soon. One of the most practical lessons came during a discussion with the 1997 physics Nobel Laureate William D. Philips on how to be committed to science and research while maintaining a healthy family and personal life.

The poster sessions of young scientists and the master class, where a few young scientists got the opportunity to present their work in front of a Nobel Laureate, gave a flavor of the contemporary research going on globally. The meeting has left me feeling very positive — so many queries answered, lots of friends made and dollops of inspiration for my research work.

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