COLLEGE STATION --
Brandi Schottel, a Texas A&M doctoral student in chemistry, said she has always believed that science is at its best when researchers across disciplines work well together. The opportunity for her to practice this principle came this summer when she met several Nobel laureates.
As one of 25 students selected by the National Science Foundation to meet Nobel laureates at the 55th Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates and Students in Lindau, Germany, Schottel said she got the chance to exchange ideas not only with top minds in chemistry but also physics and physiology. Schottel said the annual meeting, which began in 1951 at the island city of Lindau, is designed to allow Nobel laureates, students and young researchers from around the world to discuss future peaceful endeavors in science in a relaxed atmosphere.
Schottel said that in the past, the meeting rotated between focusing on chemistry, physics and physiology/medicine. This year, it was decided that Nobel laureates of the three disciplines should come together to meet with young researchers, making this year's meeting multi-disciplinary.
"I have the distinct feeling that I was chosen due to my broad academic background -- I have a bachelor's of science in both chemistry and biology," Schottel said. "Most science degrees do not extend to any other field despite the fact that most jobs and research projects are starting to require multi-disciplinary backgrounds."
Kim R. Dunbar, Schottel's adviser and Davidson Professor of Science in the Department of Chemistry, said Schottel's projects, both as an undergraduate and graduate student, have centered on topics that involve supramolecular interaction that goes across biology and chemistry.
"Science is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary," Dunbar said. "No one researcher is able to understand everything. To solve really big problems, we need to collaborate. We must strive to bridge the gulfs between mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and the engineering sciences."
Schottel said she was very impressed that the Nobel Prize winners seemed just as anxious to talk with her as she was to speak with them.
"They were genuinely curious about me and my research," Schottel said. "I am very flattered by their attention, and I feel very lucky to have gotten it from them."
Schottel said after World War II, Count Lennart Bernadotte, a member of the Swedish royal family, adopted the idea of having Nobel laureates meet with young researchers to discuss about peaceful use of sciences at Lindau, an island nearby his home at island of Mainau.
"At the conference I attended, representatives of Count Bernadotte's family, including his wife, one of his daughters and his two sons, were present at many of the festivities," she said. "All the traditions from the first meeting were still intact, including a visit to Mainau Island, home of the Bernadotte family. The preserved history, along with the excellent science discussed at the meeting, truly made the experience exceptional."
Emile Schweikert, head of the Department of Chemistry, said meeting with Nobel laureates is a fantastic opportunity for a student who wants to devote himself to the sciences, and young researchers should heed the trend of sciences turning interdisciplinary.
"Once you are in science, you will find that your research constantly gets interdisciplinary," Schweikert said.
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