The best meeting you could ever attend…

Mario Ulises Delgado Jaime, participant 2013 // Or at least it has been for me. It was not only how easy it was to approach our most admired Nobel Laureates, but the general openness of all participants and the relaxed atmosphere that prevailed during the entire event, which promoted a lot of discussion and interaction.

It was comforting to find out resonance of my own thoughts with a lot of ideas brought up during the panel sessions and discussions with the Nobel laureates. It was also very inspiring to hear other ideas I never thought about before.  Based on the number of topics covered, I personally enjoyed the most the panel discussion entitled “Why Communicate?” which I think I could have been listening for another couple of hours without the need of any caffeine.  I truly believe that collaboration and sharing is the way to go in Science, especially in a climate where funding is very limited. More importantly, though, and putting aside the funding situation, I think discussion is really an essential part of doing Science and too much competition compromises this necessary element for the development of ideas that ultimately lead to innovation and to important discoveries. In this sense, It is always encouraging to find out I’m not alone in this reasoning and it was a nice surprise, for example, to learn about the work of Simon Engelke, the 22-year-old student of Maastritch University who has founded the on-line journal dedicated to energy storage and who has also created the data base to save open-access publications , an important resource to have as we slowly drift towards a new culture based on open access, all in the spirit of having science available to everyone. Along the same lines, comes the idea of publishing “negative results”, so to speak. Most experiments are unsuccessful, but only based on our own expectations. As Prof. Ada Yonath suggested, one should make an effort on identifying among these experiments, information that is still valuable to share and publish, I would say in any journal, because at the end of the day that information may be saving time and resources to many groups around the world engaged to similar tasks, to say the least.

And then, we had this very special trip to Mainau island, on closing day. In a way, a warm invitation of Countess Bettina Bernadotte to her home, that with her always simple and clean speech has made us feel exactly like that, at home. Then, the discussions in Mainau were perhaps not as dynamic as the one I mentioned before, but I think they were very important. It all started with the closing speeches that have highlighted how important it is to support research at its most fundamental level. Early on, in day one, Prof. Serge Haroche pointed out during his plenary lecture how his own research evolved, not overnight, but with enough time to work on it.  Central to his talk was then the idea of “Trust & time”, as a clear message to bring back that way of funding science that once lead to so much creativity and true innovation. A fascinating article I read last year in the newspaper  deals precisely with this matter putting as an example and role model the success story of Bell labs. In this regard, it was really nice to hear first hand from Prof. Steven Chu during his discussion session about the magic of this place and of his own experience while working on the Bell labs. During the last discussions in Mainau, I think it was also important that Mr. Jose Ramos-Horta have questioned the role that scientists have had in the development of weapons of mass destruction, mainly as a reminder that part of the nobelty of our profession lies in great values such as honesty, as was suggested in both discussions. While a lot of these developments are, in the words of Prof. Steven Chu, unintended consequences of important discoveries, I think we need to always remember to remain honest with what we are doing, with ourselves and with one another.

For all of this, I feel very lucky I was given the chance to attend this meeting. A truly unforgettable experience for which I hope I can stay in touch with everyone I had the chance to interact with. In one sentence, this is really the best meeting one can ever attend!

From time to time I have questioned myself if Science has been the right choice for me. But the fresh speech of eMalick has reminded me that I’m probably in the right track. In his own words, “Whatever it is that you enjoy doing, just keep doing it” J

Mario Ulises Delgado Jaime

Mario Ulises Delgado Jaime was born in Guadalajara, Mexico where he received his Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. He then moved to Vancouver, Canada and received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of British Columbia. After some hesitation to leave Canada, moved to Ithaca, New York to start a postdoc at Cornell University that he has continued at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion, where he is currently studying models relevant to catalysis in biology and chemistry using x-ray spectroscopy. He enjoys cooking, playing and watching football, and films.

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