Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) students from Thiruvananthapuram interact with Nobel laureates at the Lindau Meeting in Germany.

For a young student who has just embarked upon professional education in science and research, the mere thought of brushing shoulders with a Nobel laureate can seem overwhelming. Better still, imagine being witness to 36 of them walk into the same hall where you are seated or delving into the prospects of research in the field you are interested in while seated at the same dinner table.

Three students from the city, among 22 chosen from across the country, did manage to tick these seemingly unattainable wishes off from wish bucket list as they attended the Lindau Meeting at Germany this year.

Every summer, this island on the Lake Constance rolls out the red carpet for the world’s scientific heavyweights who congregate here to address students whose learning has been premised on the discoveries they made.

They hold nothing short of a celebrity status and Reshmi Thomas, Athira George and Jimmy Joy from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) here are still reeling and starry-eyed from the two-week long experience in Germany.

Jointly sponsored by the Indian Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the German Research Foundation (DFG), the conferences and excursions to German research institutes have proved invaluable in cementing the students’ focus to pursue research professionally.

Words fail Jimmy Joy as he recollected meeting 1992 Nobel laureate Rudolph Marcus credited with his contributions to the field of electron theory. Meeting him in the flesh was a surreal experience for Jimmy considering he is a student specialising in photo-chemistry, a field where Marcus’ theory bears enormous significance.

The most striking experience for the two girls was the address delivered by Ada Yonath. An Israeli scientist, her professional life is marked by several incidences of discrimination, all of which she overcame and emerged triumphant. “Aside from her anecdotes on how she was constantly dismissed by male scientists, she also spoke about how it is possible for women to juggle both personal life and intensive research. It is a myth that women have to choose she had said,” recalled Athira. “The point that came across in all our interactions was that we cannot limit our field of vision and know what we are looking for. We have to keep an open mind, be opportunistic and explore subjects that have been relatively left alone so far,” said Jimmy, who also noted from all the visits to facilities in Germany that India really is not far behind.

Considering IISER is a fledgling organisation that is spearheading science education coupled with research in the country, the level of instrumentation here was found hardly lacking. In fact, most of the Nobel laureates during their addresses made some mention of Indian scientific research institutes and professionals on stage, they said. IISER had the highest representation among the 22 students from India. Next year, the meet will be dedicated to medicine and physiology as this year’s was chemistry. The German government has increased its support for the meet.

Again, opportunities from IISER are high as five students stayed in Germany for two months for another programme called DAAD-WISE. Atul Mohan, Anu Thomas, Pooja Agarwal, N. Jishnu and Ranjit Vishwanathan had the privilege of working in state-of-the-art laboratories and developed their own strong fundamental theories on the subject.