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Brushing shoulders with Nobel Laureates
Author: Dr Nabila Ismail
Published: 15/08/2023

Dr Nabila Ismail is a research scientist in the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics at Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. She was selected to attend the 72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting in Lindau, Germany, in June this year. She gives a first-hand account of her experience at this auspicious event.

From 23 to 30 June 2023, over 600 young scientists from around the world attended the 72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting in Lindau, Germany (#LINO23). These meetings are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet with Nobel prize-winning scientists, fellow young scientists, and the broader scientific community to engage, understand, inspire, connect, and educate one another on the true meaning of being a scientist in this day and age. 

In order to be invited to this meeting, young scientists under the age of 35 who are among the top 5% of their class and show excellence in their research, go through a multi-stage application. I applied for this meeting in 2019 and I was initially accepted for the 2020 meeting, which had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The invitation was then rolled over to the 2023 meeting. I was one of nine South African scientists that were selected and sponsored by the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) to attend the meeting. 

I feel extremely honored to be one of the 635 scientists globally to attend this year's meeting, and furthermore, to be one of the 40 scientists selected and trained to present my work in the Next Generation Science talks at the meeting. 

During the week-long gathering, the entire island of Lindau was transformed into a science extravaganza – from lectures in the city theatre to meetings with Laureates on the streets or in a restaurant. The island was alive and buzzing with scientific discourse and ideas! 

The research on display was diverse, and so were the scientists – there were scientists from 89 nationalities present! I am fortunate to come from a diverse background: I am a Muslim, Indian, female, South African scientist, and a mother, and I could connect with a range of different individuals relating to each of these defining characteristics.

My research focuses on the bacteria associated with tuberculosis (TB), a disease which results in the deaths of over 4 000 people daily. To attend a meeting and remind other scientists of the impact a micro-organism can have, reiterates the impact of my research on drug-resistant TB. ​

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Photo captions: 

  • Nabila Ismail with Nobel Laureate Frances Arnold (left).
  • Nabila Ismail with South African born Nobel Laureate Michael Levitt (top middle).
  • Nabila Ismail with Nobel Laureate Morten Meldal and his wife, Phaedra Marie St. Hilaire (top right).
  • Nabila Ismail presenting at the Next Generation Science Talks (bottom).