Washington, D.C. – Most scientists, even the most experienced, never get a chance to rub shoulders or talk one-on-one with Nobel laureates. But now two graduate students from Georgetown University will be in a position to meet several Nobel laureates at a special assembly in Germany designed to allow knowledge to flow from wise brains to eager minds.
The students, Sonya Dumanis and Evan Gordon, both doctoral students in the Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience (IPN) at Georgetown have been selected to represent the United States at the 2011 Lindau Meeting, the 61st meeting of Nobel laureates in Germany. They are among only 85 students from the U.S. chosen to attend from June 26 to July 1, 2011.
At Georgetown University, a selection committee composed of faculty from the university campus and medical center reviewed nominations submitted by several of the biomedical and life sciences graduate programs. Dumanis and Gordon were among the six selected from the university to compete with 520 students nominated from other U.S. institutions for a seat at the meeting. The final selection of 85 U.S. attendees was made by panels that included scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), agencies providing the funding for travel. These students will be joined by 465 young scientists selected from around the world.
“We are extraordinarily proud that two of our neuroscience students have been recognized by this prestigious honor,” says Karen Gale, Ph.D., who chaired the Georgetown nomination committee. Gale says Dumanis’ and Gordon’s selection comes as no surprise based on their scholarly accomplishments.
Both students were supported by Gale’s NIH-funded training grant during their first year in the IPN. Subsequently, Dumanis was awarded a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation and Gordon was selected as a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award for Individual Predoctoral Fellow from the National Institute of Mental Health. Both awards are exceptionally competitive - recognizing the students’ accomplishments as well as their potential for future contributions to advance science.
“The chance to interact with Nobel Laureates in Lindau is a well-deserved treat for these very promising young scientists,” Gale adds.
Gordon’s graduate research is in the field of cognitive neuroscience. In his nomination letter, Gordon describes his desire to “understand the dispositions and approaches that would best prepare me to contribute to a revolutionary shift in scientific thought.” He says the Lindau meeting and the interaction with Nobel laureates would allow him to learn first-hand how elite scientists synthesize ideas to challenge accepted dogma, and how to model his own approaches to science.
“What distinguishes Evan from other stellar graduate students… is his scientific talent. By this, I mean, his incisive ability to parse the relevant from irrelevant with astonishing speed, be it in data, idea, or a scientific argument,” explains Gordon’s mentor, Chandan Vaidya, Ph.D, co-director of the graduate program in Developmental Science in the Department of Psychology. “He is supremely curious, always digging a little deeper, going steps further than what is adequate. These abilities are complemented by his superb quantitative and computational skill set. As a result, Evan’s body of work, so early in his career, reflects originality and methodological creativity.”
Dumanis’ graduate research is in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Specifically, she studies how apoE, the largest genetic risk factor for AD, increases ones susceptibility to the disease. In her nomination letter, Dumanis underscores the importance of strong scientific collaborations. “To be successful in my career, I will need to be able to interact and discuss science with my colleagues.” She looks to the Lindau meeting as an opportunity “to engage in conversations with researchers from all across the globe about various techniques that they have used and tried, of sharing stories of successes and failures, and of discussing our own ideas in research...”
“Ms. Dumanis was a great choice because she is so enthusiastic about science,” says G. William Rebeck, PhD, director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience and Dumanis’ mentor. “She is always looking for ways that she can do more and ways that she can help others do more. She is completely committed to the idea of science - that knowing more will be helpful.”
According to the Lindau Meeting organization, the annual gathering “provides a globally recognized forum for the transfer of knowledge between Nobel Laureates and young researchers.”
Since 1951, Nobel Laureates in chemistry, physics, and physiology/medicine convene annually in Lindau to have open and informal meetings with students and young researchers. The Laureates lecture on the topic of their choice (current scientific topics and present relevant fields of research of the future) and participate in less formal, small-group discussions with the students.
About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through MedStar Health). GUMC’s mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis -- or "care of the whole person." The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing and Health Studies, both nationally ranked, the world-renowned Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization (BGRO). In fiscal year 2009-2010, GUMC accounted for 79 percent of Georgetown University's extramural research funding.