Nature India | Indigenus

Lindau lessons: Collaborations are the future

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.

Tejal Agarwal, an integrated PhD student at IISER Pune amassed a lifetime worth of experience going around Germany’s best Universities and learning from a rich culture of innovation and collaborations.

Tejal Agarwal

Tejal Agarwal

As I am in the early stage of a research career, the stories of hurdles in the research path of Nobel Laureates were the most valuable for me. The mantra they gave us at the Nobel Laureates Meeting was: in research, everybody has to face ups and downs, but you need huge amounts of patience and determination to sail through. Don’t get depressed by unexpected results, try and find the reasons behind them — this may lead you to an important discovery.

I also came to know the scope of different fields of physics — what is it that Nobel Laureates and senior scientists expect from young scientists like us. Discussions with young scientists from different countries led us to think of future collaborations, research opportunities, PhD and post doctoral positions in different countries.

With 2005 Nobel Laureate Theodor W. Hansch

With 2005 Nobel Laureate Theodor W. Hansch

After the Lindau meet, we had the opportunity of visiting many German Universities and labs.  Among them were the celebrated University of Heidelberg, the University of Dusseldorf; Peter Grünberg Institute (PGI) Electronic Properties, Jülich; RWTH Aachen University and the Surface Physics Phillips University, Marburg. At Aachen, Prof. Matthias Wuttig introduced us not only to the labs but also to the historical importance of the city during World War II. In Hannover, we visited the Max Plank institute for gravitational Physics and Institute for Quantum Optics. In Max Plank, we saw the prototype of the LIGO detector (which detected gravitational waves in February 2016) and the super computing facility Einstein@Home.

We also interacted with officials from the German Research Foundation (DFG) in Bonn. We got a fair idea of various funding opportunities to pursue PhD, postdocs, internships and collaborations between Indian and German institutes.

On the last day of the trip, we visited the Technical University at Berlin and got a hang of all the programmes run by the India government at the Indian embassy in Berlin, which also fosters a strong climate of investment and collaborations for Indian innovators and researchers in Germany.

The one important networking opportunity that merits special mention was with fellow Indian scientists who came along on the trip — we form a lifelong bond now, sharing research experiences from different institutes of the country and becoming part of an alumni group that can support and encourage each other.

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