Some Kenyan scientists attended the Nobel Laureates Meeting in Lake Constance last month and this is what they shared the The Star. The article was published on Tuesday 17th July 2012.
Kenyan scientists Albert Juma and Anthony Kiroe were among 592 young scientists from across the world who attended the 62nd Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting dedicated to physics in Lake Constance, Germany. The two were the only Kenyans in the week long meeting which was attended by 27 Nobel Laureates and young scientists from 69 countries. The meeting’s main topics were particle physics, cosmology as well as energy and climate change.
Kiroe, 36, and Juma, 32, are physics PhD students in Germany. Juma is a second year heterogeneous material systems student at Helmholtz Centre for Materials in Berlin while Kiroe is a third year student at the Federal Armed Forces University in Munich doing satellite navigation. Juma, a former assistant physics lecturer at Maseno University in Kisumu, is fully sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) while Kiroe, a former lecturer at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, is sponsored by the Ministry of Higher Education and DAAD.
The two scientists shared their experiences about attending the historic meeting to the Star on the sidelines of the one week conference held at the famous Inselhalle Hall in Lindau. Juma, a former student of Musingu High, said: “It is a dream come true for me to meet the laureates and young scientists from across the world. It is a big achievement to be here and I consider myself lucky.”
He added: “We have had interesting, challenging and fascinating lectures which have helped me understand and broaden my knowledge. The meeting was not fixed on one topic and I have learnt a lot.” Juma further noted that attending the meeting had helped him create a rapport with young scientists and exchange ideas with them. He was particularly inspired by Nobel Laureates Ivan Giaever who gave a lecture on the strange case of global warming and professor William Phillips who gave a lecture on creating artificial magnetic fields to act on natural atoms.
The President of Singapore Tony Tan also motivated Juma. “Singapore is a classic example of using scientific approach to solve problems. It is a noble idea to have a government that is committed to research and development,” he noted. President Tan attended the meeting. Juma noted that Singapore had developed immensely after investing in science and research.
Juma is looking forward to a person from a developing country winning a Nobel Prize in sciences. “I’m looking forward to it and maybe I will be the one.” On his part, Kiroe termed the meeting a nice opportunity to interact with scientists of all fields and know the current trends in research. The father of two was born and raised up in Ruai, Nairobi. He admired the presentations of Nobel Laureates John C. Mather, George Smoot and Brian Schimidt.
Mather gave a lecture on seeing farther with new telescopes, Schmidt on observations and the standard model of cosmology and Smoot gave a lecture on mapping the universe in space and time. “I have learnt a lot from the meeting. To succeed in science, you have to dedicate more time on research,” he said. He notes that the government should empower young scientists. “The government and DAAD sponsored me. This is the way to ago,” notes Kiroe who did his masters degree in Italy.
Juma hails DAAD for fully sponsoring him and challenged them to expand their programme to benefit other young scientists who cannot pay for themselves. “Our government should also do something by funding research projects and research equipment. We should not entirely rely on funding from outside,” added Juma. Juma and Kiroe are looking forward to coming back to Kenya. “I will definitely come back to Kenya,” says Juma while Kiroe added: “I’m looking forward to finishing my course and returning home.”
Speaking on the sideline of the conference, Margaret Wintermantel, the President of DAAD challenged society to embrace science and innovations. She said DAAD embodies a crucial component of innovation in science and research in global knowledge society namely internationality, exchange and networking. Speaking during the opening ceremony, Countess Bettina Bernadotte, the President of the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting, told the young scientists: “Gain inspiration and establish valuable new contacts and networks.”
She told the participants to experience “the spirit of Lindau” – “a shared enthusiasm for science and a shared desire to address challenges facing the world. You will discuss research questions and relevant issues, just as generations of Laureates and excellent young scientists have done since 1951.” German Federal Minister of Education and Research Annette Schavan challenged countries to take financial and structural measures to pave way for research and science.
The minister noted that climate change, energy supply, the fight against poverty and health care are the major challenges facing researchers and policy makers. President Tan agreed with Schavan and called for more collaboration in research to tackle emerging global challenges. President Tan asked scientific communities and academia to work together with industries and governments to address challenges facing the world through partnerships spanning across countries and disciplines.
Tan said the future lies in international and multi-disciplinary collaborations. “Emerging global challenges such as depletion of non-renewable resources, disruption of ecosystems and transmission of infectious diseases are becoming increasingly connected and complex,” the President said. Tan noted that his country had established research collaborations with universities from different parts of the world. President Tan was honoured for his contributions to research and education by being inducted into the Lindau Foundation Honorary Senate.
He said he was deeply honoured by being inducted and hailed the Lindau meetings, saying they have a long and illustrious history and have played a vital role in nurturing generations of young scientific talent. President Tan and Ferdinand K. Piech, the chairman of the supervisory board of Volkswagen AG, were inducted to the honorary senate of the Lindau Nobel Prize Winners Meetings. President Tan was recognized for his devotion to science and education and his dedication to social and charitable initiatives while Piech was recognised for his innovation and excellence.
According to the chairman of the foundation, Wolfgang Schurer, President Tan was recognised for fostering education and research most of his life, making his country a global hub of science and education in Asia. On Piech, Schurer said his devotion to advancements in engineering has exceeded the tradition of his family and has created a legacy of his own. Each year, Nobel Laureates of relevant discipline and approximately 550 young scientists from around 70 countries meet in Lindau for a week to learn from each other, exchange knowledge, ideas, and experience, to share their enthusiasm for science and to make valuable contacts. The 63rd Meeting of Nobel Laureates dedicated to Chemistry will be held June 30 to July 5 next year.