With Nobel Prize winners feted as global celebrities in the science world, it is no surprise that Dr Deepak Jain felt nervous when he approached Professor Donna Strickland at this year’s Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting.
The annual meeting in Germany provides an opportunity for the next generation of leading scientists from all over the world to be mentored by Nobel Laureates.
Dr Jain was one of thirteen Australian-based physicists awarded Lindau Fellowships this year by the Australian Academy of Science, thanks to funding from the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF). The ‘Lindau Aussies’ are well known at these meetings, in part due to the handing out of mini koalas to Nobel Laureates each year.
Dr Jain had been dreaming of visiting Strickland’s lab in Canada for some time. This dream only became stronger when Jain realised Strickland was attending the 2019 meeting, after she became only the third woman to win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018.
“At the meeting I plucked up the courage to speak with Professor Strickland and asked if I could visit her lab for a few months, to work under her mentorship,” said Dr Jain, who is a Research Fellow at the University of Sydney.
“To my surprise she said yes and now I am planning for the trip, but still need funding to get me there. To work with a Nobel Laureate would be a dream come true. I am really thankful to the Academy and SIEF for giving me this fantastic opportunity, which will add tremendous value to my research career and which I hope comes to fruition.”
SIEF has funded 80 young researchers to attend the annual Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting since 2013. Today the future of the program has been secured with the announcement of $1 million from SIEF to continue funding the Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting Fellowships and Heidelberg Fellowships for an additional ten years.
The announcement comes as 32 alumni of the Lindau Nobel Laureate meetings from the past six years gather for a reunion in Canberra today.
Australian Academy of Science President, Professor John Shine, welcomed the funding.
“The impact that this funding will have on the next generation of young scientists is best highlighted by the feedback of those alumni that have attended past Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings,” said Professor Shine.
CSIRO Chief Executive and SIEF Trustee, Dr Larry Marshall, said SIEF and CSIRO shared a mission to invest in the STEM leaders of tomorrow.
“When we invest in developing talented young scientists at the stage in their career where they are most creative, it is an investment in Australia’s future, and plants a seed, stirring them to win Nobel Prizes of their own,” said Dr Marshall.
“So it’s a genuine pleasure to extend SIEF’s support for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Fellowships and Heidelberg Fellowships with another $1 million over ten years, empowering early career researchers to do the science that will change the world.”
PhD candidate Melanie Hampel is researching nuclear astrophysics at Monash University. She also attended this year’s Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting and sat in on a lecture with Professor Strickland.
“In the open exchange that followed Professor Strickland’s lecture, she answered the questions of many curious young researchers by sharing more anecdotes and stories, from both her professional career and her personal life,” Ms Hampel said.
“To me it was very encouraging and inspiring to be in the presence of such a successful researcher, who is also a mother of two, and who left traditional academia to prioritise her private life before returning to an inspiring career in physics.”
“Meeting so many interesting and talented people has definitely sparked a lot of enthusiasm and inspiration in me, which I have brought back to Australia for my own research.”