Lindeaublog 2018

Listen to nature, be kind and never say never

Hanna van Loo is Postdoctoral Fellow; Resident in Psychiatry, University Medical Center Groningen, the Netherlands.

I was very pleased to be invited to the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting and spend a week on an idyllic little island in Lake Constance with 40 Nobel laureates and 600 fellow young scientists from 84 different countries. Our meeting was dedicated to physiology and medicine and aimed at connecting young scientists and Nobel laureates. It was a very inspiring, thought-provoking and stimulating week.

Encouraged to ask questions

First, I learned about the most important scientific discoveries in physiology and medicine of recent decades. The Nobel laureates gave animated lectures about their work. It was fascinating to hear what they had discovered about the workings of cells, viruses, the circadian rhythm, and so forth. How is DNA translated into proteins? How do we know where we are? Why do we sleep? These questions were addressed during lectures, open exchanges and science lunches, but also during coffee breaks with other young scientists. We were encouraged to ask the Nobel laureates questions and to discuss the scientific issues we are facing in our daily work. It greatly enriched my knowledge.

The meeting focused not only on the Nobel laureates’ factual discoveries but also on how they made their discoveries. Without exception, they were driven by curiosity. They were curious about how cancer develops, how cells age, how life started. They also made clear, based on their vast experience, that science isn’t easy. Most Nobel laureates had worked for decades before getting close to an answer. They spent many years in their laboratories, working on data collection, new methods and experiments. They emphasised the importance of perseverance, hard work, critical and creative thinking and interaction with colleagues. One piece of advice that I will long remember from this meeting is ‘listen to nature, be kind and never say never’.

Hanna van Loo (6th from left) and fellow young scientists together with Nobel Laureate Elizabeth Blackburn (4th from right)

A desire to understand how the world works

What inspired me most at the Lindau meeting was our shared passion for science. It was very special to meet people from all over the world – from many different disciplines and cultural backgrounds – and to share this curiosity, our desire to understand how the world works and solve important problems. We talked a lot about our own research and the things we were learning during the event. This sharpened my ideas and provided many new insights. I can't wait to get back to work!