Nature India | Indigenus

Lindau lessons: Finding a role model

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.

Today’s blog features Jasmin S. Shaikh, a DST Woman Scientist from Shivaji University, Kolhapur, Maharashtra. Jasmin’s experience has been full of inspiration — she ended up finding her idol, someone who sets a shining example of the path she wants to follow.

Jasmin Shaikh

Jasmin S. Shaikh

The high point of my Lindau stint was meeting Ada E. Yonath, the Israeli crystallographer who shared the 2009 chemistry Nobel Prize with Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas A. Steitz for her studies on the structure and function of the ribosome. She is the first woman from the Middle East to win a Nobel in the sciences, and also the first woman in 45 years to win the Prize for chemistry. I have been deeply influenced by her research aimed at introducing innovative techniques in cryo-biocrystallography. In a profession with few women, I was extremely happy to have found the role model for my scientific carrier in Ada Yonath.

Ada Yoneth

Ada Yonath

Christian Flemming / Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

When I asked her about her success, she said women are strong but also kind and sacrificing. Women always have thoughts about the family and humanity. But as women get clarity on who they really are, they are able to achieve what they want. If you want to succeed in research you must teach yourself, “I am a great scientist. Whatever happens, I will work hard with passion. I am confident, smart and beautiful in my own soul”. As I saw her confidence, one thought came to my mind – a successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at her. Women must always remember that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. So instead of feeling weak, you need to feel strong yet soft, powerful yet spiritual.

Albert Einstein said about women, “The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before”. This thought aptly fits women in research. During the meeting, we had discussions on Marie Curie, whose University application was rejected because she was woman. She went on to become the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics and the first person to win two Nobel prizes in Physics and Chemistry. Quoting her here won’t be out of place: “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” She proved from her life never to limit oneself because of others’ limited imagination.

For over a week with the Nobel Laureates, we discussed different problems in doing science and their unique solutions. One of the laureates Carl Wieman, the Nobel Prize winner of 2001, discussed which principles and methods one should use to think like a physicist. He told us how to attain expertise in anything by exercising the ability to monitor one’s own thinking and learning. By asking some simple questions to self, such as “Do I understand this?” or “How can I check this?”, one can develop new ways of thinking. Hiroshi Amano, the 2014 Nobel Laureate, shared his unique story on how he and his associates came up with the solution for white LED, which was impossible for decades.

I liked the many master classes because young scientists were able to ask questions directly to the Nobel Laureates, not just about their research but also about what life – how life changes with recognition and added responsibilities.

I am now connected with some of the people from the meeting as research collaborators and friends. We have shared photos and memories. I now realise the most powerful lesson from the meeting: “Science is the peaceful connector of countries, and education for all is necessary.”

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