Lindeaublog 2017

Michael Lerch, Universiteit Groningen

Michael M. Lerch, is currently pursuing a Ph.D. degree in Groningen under the supervision of Nobel Laureate Ben L. Feringa. Michael's research focuses on controlling biological systems with light and the development of photoswitches for functional applications.

The 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Chemistry2017  was an incredible experience. Over 400 young scientists (Undergraduates/Ph.D. students/Post-Doctoral scholars) from over 78 countries were gathering at the 'Bodensee' (Lake Constance) on the small island of Lindau to meet 30 Nobel Laureates and to discuss current topics and perspectives in chemistry.


The conference consisted of 30-min. lectures from the Nobel Laureates present with question and answer sessions later the same day. On panel discussions, chemistry was put into perspective (future, career-perspectives and ethics) and in poster sessions young scientists could present and discuss their work. The scientific programme was complemented with science breakfasts hosted by international companies and offers to do sports activities together. The last day was dedicated to visiting the island Mainau of Count Bernadotte where people could stroll around the flower gardens and enjoy a picnic on the castle lawn.

The Netherlands’ current Nobel Laureate Ben Feringa turned out to be the 'Publikums Liebling' with so many people wanting to attend his question and answer session that people had to wait outside of the conference room. He has come across as lively, committed and visionary and has been relentlessly talking to young scientists from all over the world discussing chemistry passionately.

One of the most fascinating things was to attend lectures on topics that chemistry students all know very well from textbooks in chemistry, physics and biology. It was delightful to realize that behind the things one learns from books, there were actually people that came up with it and that they are still alive. Many of the Nobel Laureates have already changed the world for the better within their life-time (examples: viruses, NO, aquaporins, and cross-coupling, to name a few).

Many of the Nobel Laureates present are culturally and socially engaged beyond their scientific work. The conference began with a speech from Prof. Steven Chu on climate change and current political climates around the world and the US specifically. Although he could not be present due to personal reasons, Prof. Moerner delivered his speech marvellously and we all hope that the message from this lecture will prevail and will be heard internationally. Other Nobel Laureates are fighting for human rights, fundamental science and fighting diseases and for better living conditions across the globe.

However, the biggest highlight of the meeting was without any doubt the quality of the other young scientists. we have all met many inspiring peers and discussed chemistry but also many other things and have made friends for the future. The conference itself was neatly organized with dedicated staff working around the clock to achieve a successful meeting. Overall the conference has put many things into perspective, not onlyscientifically but also career-wise and regarding life besides chemistry. The discussions and encounters with everyone involved have been inspiring and they made this meeting life-changing for many of us.

May many of us take impetus from this week and change the world for the better!

This blog was first published on the blog of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings.

Michael Lerch develops molecular photoswitches that can control biological functions. Photo/Credit: Dusan Kolarski