28 August, 2023
Aidan Buffey represents Ireland at the 72nd Lindau Laureate Meeting
Posted: 29 August, 2023
Aidan Buffey was selected to attend the 72nd Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany this summer. Aidan is a PhD candidate in the University of Limerick. Below he share his experience of attending the week long meeting.
Tell us about your academic research and why you wanted to apply to participate in Lindau Nobel Meeting?
I am currently a PhD Candidate at the University of Limerick, funded by the Health Research Institute and Postgraduate affiliate member of the Physical Activity for Health Research Cluster. My research focuses on the design and evaluation of interventions to reduce sedentary behaviour and improve health in older working adults. The overall aim of my research is to design, pilot and implement a workplace health promotion initiative to interrupt sedentary behaviour with light-intensity physical activity in older working adults, with emphasis on improving cardiometabolic health markers. The findings from this body of work will hopefully provide a foundation of evidence, improve awareness, and begin discussions on the need for policies to support regular active breaks in the workplace for employee health and wellbeing.
Some of my research, which investigated the difference between prolonged sitting versus frequent brief interruptions of standing and light intensity walking has been featured in the New York Times and the frontpage of The Times and also Springer.
I applied to attend and participate at the 72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting after nomination from my PhD Supervisor, Prof. Brian P. Carson and Head of Department, Prof. Giles Warrington.
Upon being nominated, I was extremely excited to work on my CV and statement of motivation to attend the Lindau Meeting, I knew that this would be an incredible opportunity for my future career to learn and network with other young scientists and Nobel Laureates.
Attending the Lindau Meeting is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity, unless, as I found out during my time at the 72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, you are invited back as a Nobel Laureate.
What did it mean for you to be selected for Lindau?
I was extremely grateful, honoured and overwhelmed to have been selected to attend the 72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. The three-stage selection process, both within my institution (University of Limerick), the Irish Research Council and the Lindau Review panel, saw greater than 20,000 young scientists apply, worldwide, before a final-selection was conducted by the Lindau Review Panel.
I was therefore extremely proud to represent myself, my supervisors (Prof. Alan Donnelly and Prof. Brian Carson), the Health Research Institute, the Physical Activity for Health Research Cluster, University of Limerick, and the Irish Research Council.
Have you attended any notable meetings during the course of the Lindau Nobel Meeting and can you give an account of them?
I attended many notable meetings during the 72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting but there was one Agora Talk (a talk where the Nobel Laureate shares on any given subject and a Q&A session ensues during the session) in particularly which, I feel I really came away from seeing the bigger picture within Science and Academia. This Agora Talk was the Advice for Next Generation Scientists with Prof. Martin Chalfie and Prof. Randy W. Schekman.
During the Agora Talk both Nobel Laureates provided their advice to next generation scientists and answered questions from the audience. Some of the advice I have taken away and hope to follow through my career includes:
- There is no one path to success
- Be open to change and do not be afraid to swap and/or learn new disciplines early in your career
- This was also echoed by Francis Arnold in her Open Exchange Session (discussed below)
- Be passionate about what you are doing
- To connect with other researchers to interact to help science and not just perform the act of “connecting”
- This was discussed further, highlighting the need for long and intimate collaboration with respect shown to other researchers approaches
Did you participate in any one to one meetings and, if so, can you tell us how you participated?
A highlight of the conference was the Open Exchange sessions that were regularly held in the late afternoons of the conference days. These Open Exchange sessions allowed us as young scientists to meet the Nobel Laureates. These sometimes started with a brief background provided by the Nobel Laureate of themselves and their research journey or would open into a Question-and-Answer session from the start.
A highlight for me was the Open Exchange session with Prof. Francis Arnold, in which during the Q&A we covered topics such as starting, running, and managing your own independent lab group, working as Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, family life and academia, and Prof. Arnold’s appearance on Big Bang Theory.
But my biggest takeaway from the Open Exchange session with Prof. Francis Arnold was her statement here:
“…we are the sum of our experiences.”
Have you met any Nobel Laureates during your time at Lindau and, if so, what was the experience like?
It was impossible not to meet any Nobel Laureates during my time at the 72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. What did strike me during the first day of the meetings was how approachable and kind the Nobel Laureates were. Although during the Lectures the Nobel Laureates sat in their own section amongst each other, as soon as the lectures would end or during the open exchanges, meals, and evening festivities the Nobel Laureates were more than happy to discuss their research and also engage to learn about the young scientists research and answer general questions about life and academia. Often crowded by young scientists, the Nobel Laureates were revered but humble and would often be more than happy to sign the Lindau Meeting Program or take a selfie (some with their Nobel Laureate Medal).
I myself struck up a conversation with Prof. Martin Chalfie during the Science Picnic on the Arboretum Lawn on Mainau Island, in line to collect our lunch. We discussed the academic job market and in particular reference letters, Prof. Chalfie provided this advice:
“Have the reference letter focus on who the person is and not what the person has accomplished.”
This advice was echoed during a few of the Q&A sessions during lectures and the Open Exchange discussions as the Nobel Laureates often preferred a friendly and collaborative lab group than a competitive one.
Have you met any fellow researchers, what was the experience like?
Yes, I met many young scientists during the 72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, many of whom had completed their PhD and are now in Postdoctoral positions or beginning their journey as Principal Investigators of their own lab group. It was fascinating to hear about their journeys post PhD and the variety of funding opportunities available post PhD. It was also great to discuss the transition from PhD into academia.
I was lucky enough to travel over with Dr. Rebecca Power, who was another representative of Ireland and the Irish Research Council from South East Technological University, Waterford, Ireland. We arranged a call prior to our arrival in Lindau and by coincidence we had both booked the same flight over to the 72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. It was great to meet Dr. Power as our research interests align in terms of measurement of physical behaviours, so we had a lot to chat about and discuss over the week.
There were many more young scientists who I was able to meet over the Lindau Meeting as there was ample opportunity to meet and have discussions with other young scientists and Nobel Laureates during the evening social events, meals, breaks and Open Exchanges. Whether this was dancing during the International Get-Together hosted by the Republic of Indonesia or chatting during the Grill and Chill hosted by the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and supported by the City of Lindau.
Can you sum up your experience at Lindau and why do you think it is important?
Throughout the 72nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting there was discussion and a short film produced on the “Lindau Spirit” (found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fvckeaxZ7A) and how difficult it is to describe and recreate.
However, I will try my best to sum the experience within this blog. I think why the Lindau Meetings are important and an incredible opportunity for young scientists is the sense of community amongst the young scientists. Everyone was open to discussing their research but also engaging in conversations about academia and science and how we as young scientists can improve and facilitate more research which is inter-disciplinary and benefits a whole population and not just the research of the Global North.