Changing Planet

Nerd Heaven Has a Name – Lindau

By Alaina G. Levine

If there is a nerd heaven on Earth, it’s in Lindau, Germany. That’s where I am this week, honored to participate in the 62nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, with 27 Nobel Laureates in physics and 596 young researchers from all over the world. This annual week-long love affair with science, takes place on the tiny island of Lindau in the southwest corner of Germany on Lake Constance. From the harbor, we have views of the Alps into Austria and Switzerland. But enough about geography.

The Lindau Meetings are the largest gathering of Nobels outside of Sweden. Every year, the congress focuses on one particular subject and this year, physics is taking its turn. The purpose of the enterprise is to Educate, Inspire, and Connect, and it gives young scholars who compete to attend the rare opportunity to meet with individual Nobels and discuss the craft of science in small groups in semi-private -no press allowed! Later in the week the Young Researchers, as they are called, have Master Classes with Laureates as well, in which the emerging scholars present their research for the established scientific leaders for critique. There are also public lectures given by the Laureates everyday as well as panel discussions and other networking events.

I must admit that the mere thought of standing in a room, let alone interacting with 27 Nobel Laureates has caused me to salivate for the last month as I have prepared for this event. I was fortunate enough to be one of only two American journalists to receive travel fellowships to attend, which are sponsored by the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and the National Association of Science Writers. But enough about me.

The opening ceremony, held on Sunday 1 July, was a celebratory endeavor. Besides the scientists, there are quite a few dignitaries in attendance. Every speaker addressed the audience “Your Excellencies.” Were they referring to me and the other journalists in the back row? I suspect not, given that the President of the Republic of Singapore, Tony Tan, was present to be formally inducted into the Honorary Senate of the Foundation Lindau Nobelprizewinners Meetings at Lake Constance. But enough about kings and queens and politicians.

Holy Nobel, Batman. The best part of this first day was watching the Laureates enter the main chamber. “And now, please welcome the Laureates!” boomed an announcer, and from our corner of the room and via various camera angles, we watched as more than a score of Physics Nobels filed into the hall, as their pictures were projected onto a screen in the front. It was literally the March of the Nobels:

March of the Nobels

How many can you ID?

Stay tuned for the week’s full report, which includes personal interviews with selected Nobels and an inside look at this amazing gathering.

And dear readers this conference is not without controversy. This is to be expected, given that many of the Laureates are speaking not just about their own research and findings that led to their grand award, but additionally they are addressing issues of great societal importance like climate change and where the heck the Higgs is. But I digress. Enough about the society. Until Tomorrow!

Alaina G. Levine is a freelance science writer, professional speaker, corporate comedian, and President of Quantum Success Solutions, a leadership and career consulting enterprise. She can be contacted through her website at www.alainalevine.com.

Alaina G. Levine is science journalist, professional speaker, corporate comedian, and science and engineering careers consultant. As President of Quantum Success Solutions, a career consulting enterprise with a focus on advancing the professional development expertise of scientists and engineers, she has been advising emerging and established scientists and engineers about their careers for over a decade, and has personally consulted with hundreds of early- and mid-career scientific professionals. The author of over 100 articles pertaining to science, science careers and business in such publications as Science, Nature, Scientific American Online, IEEE Spectrum, New Scientist, and Smithsonian, she was recently named a Contributor to National Geographic, where she writes articles and blogs for NatGeo News Watch. Levine also writes the Careers Column for The Euroscientist and the Profiles in Versatility career column for the American Physical Society's national publication, APS News. Previously, she directed a master's program in science and business and taught entrepreneurship to science graduate students at the University of Arizona. She has given over 450 workshops and seminars around the country and in Europe. Levine holds degrees in mathematics and anthropology from the University of Arizona, studied abroad at the American University in Cairo as a DoD National Security Education Program/Boren Fellow, and pursued grant-funded research in cosmology and mathematics history. Recently, she was honored with a travel fellowship to cover the 62nd Lindau (Physics) Nobel Laureates Meeting in Lindau, Germany (which she used to cover the meeting for National Geographic and APS News), during which she broke the Higgs news for NatGeo. She also has been honored as a Logan Science Journalism Fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory, Robert Bosch Stiftung Science Journalism Fellow and an Institutes for Journalism & Natural Resources Fellow. In addition, Levine is an award-winning entrepreneur, winning more than 20 business and leadership awards in under a decade, including being named one of the youngest YWCA Women on the Move winners; the Tucson Leader of the Year, an honor previously bestowed upon former US Surgeon General Richard Carmona; and a Tucson 40 Under 40 Leader, an honor she shared with former US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Read her complete bio at www.alainalevine.com.

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