Author: John Schwab

Headshot of John Schwab.

Before his retirement in May 2011, John handled grants in synthetic organic chemistry, natural products chemistry, and high-throughput chemistry. He was heavily involved in chemical methodologies and library development, including a related NIH Roadmap initiative.

Posts by John Schwab

Nominate Your Top Student for 2010 Nobel Laureate Meeting


A select number of graduate students will have the unique and exciting opportunity to meet and learn from dozens of Nobel Prize winners next summer in Germany during the annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Now’s your chance to nominate Link to external web site your most outstanding students.

If you are unacquainted with this program, you can visit the official Web site Link to external web site or watch a video about the 2009 meeting. The 2010 meeting will feature Nobel laureates from chemistry, physics and physiology/medicine.

Photo taken by Erika Milczek, a graduate student at Emory University who attended the 2009 meeting.
Photo taken by NIGMS-supported 2009 meeting attendee Erika Milczek, a graduate student at Emory University.

Last year, NIGMS was a sponsor of the meeting, and we are pleased to be one again in 2010. As I described in an earlier Feedback Loop post, the 2009 meeting gave students the opportunity to meet 23 chemistry laureates.

The 2009 U.S. delegation included about 65 graduate students, and I attended as the NIGMS representative. The energy and talent in our group of students were extraordinary! The students, who came from universities all over the country, found this to be a uniquely rewarding experience, with extensive opportunities for networking and international community-building in addition to one-on-one and small-group discussions with the Nobel laureates. Here are a couple of comments from NIH-supported students:

“[It] was an amazing and life-changing experience that is hard to put into words. The meeting gave me inspiration, motivation and hope for my future in science. I was able to learn secrets of success from some of the most highly regarded individuals in the field of chemistry and meet other young researchers [who] will help shape the future of scientific research. Most of all, it helped me realize that being in science is the correct choice for me and that I can, and will, accomplish many things throughout my scientific career.”“Such an experience drives people to reach for the big ideas in science. The short-term effect is a comprehensive shaking up of our perception of chemistry, but the long-term effect is the higher standard we set for our research and ourselves.”

The nomination and selection process will be exceptionally competitive, as the scientific coverage will be much broader than last year. Each university may nominate only one student per sponsoring agency (NIGMS, NSF and DOE). Keep in mind that nominees for NIGMS sponsorship must be involved in projects supported by NIGMS or supported by an NIGMS training award. Additional information about the meeting, including student eligibility and the nomination procedure, may be found at this Web site Link to external web site. Nominations are due by October 30 and should be submitted directly to the Lindau organization using an electronic submission form.

Please contact the organizer of the U.S. delegation, Sam Held, with questions about the 2010 event or nomination procedures. You may also e-mail me or Mike Rogers at NIGMS, especially with questions about eligibility for NIGMS support.

Inspiring the Next Generation of Chemists: Snapshots from the Meeting of Nobel Laureates

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John Schwab here, reporting from the 59th Meeting of Nobel Laureates on the Island of Lindau on Bodensee, near the point where Germany, Switzerland and Austria meet. Since 1951, the annual Lindau meetings have sought to educate, inspire and connect generations of scientists. There are 583 young scientists here from around the world, including about 70 graduate students from the United States. NIGMS is sponsoring the participation of 16 of these students, and this is the first year that NIH has joined DOE, NSF and others in supporting graduate students to attend.

Live Stream of the 59th Meeting of Nobel Laureates.  Watch the opening ceremony, lectures and the panel discussion live. Starting on Sunday, June 28th.This year’s meeting is dedicated to chemistry. As you know, NIGMS supports lots of basic science, which includes different “flavors” of chemistry. Many chemistry Nobel laureates are, or have been, NIGMS grantees. Several of them—such as Robert Grubbs, Richard Schrock and Roger Tsien —are among the 23 laureates attending the Lindau meeting.

During the week-long symposium, our students are networking with their international colleagues, being exposed to the entire spectrum of chemistry laureates and participating in discussions about science and society. The students are generally in their second or third year (some are in their fourth). They’re a very bright and motivated group. They’re experienced enough to understand much of the science, and they’re really excited to be here.

The talks so far have covered quite a range. Here are a few highlights:

  • Gerhard Ertl spoke about surface science and showed time-resolved images of individual atoms moving around and self-organizing on a surface. Amazing!
  • Sherwood Rowland and Paul Crutzen spoke about atmospheric chemistry, greenhouse gases and global warming. This was the science behind the project for which Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize. Very exciting yet sobering.
  • Ryoji Noyori gave a pure science talk about asymmetric catalysis.
  • Hartmut Michel spoke about the structure and function of cytochrome C oxidase, a membrane protein.

One of the most interesting and unconventional talks was given by NMR spectroscopist Richard Ernst and titled “Passions and Activities Beyond Science.” He talked about the inspiration and pleasure he has gotten from his study of Buddhism and Tibetan art. His interest ranges from history to culture to fine art to the science of restoration of ancient artwork. His message was an important one for the students: that science need not be the only passion of a productive and creative scientist—that being a scientist doesn’t have to mean being narrowly focused!

I’ve been enjoying “spreading the word” about what NIGMS is all about, and I’m looking forward to yet more stimulating science and fun interactions with a group of bright, creative students.