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  5. Two engineering students invited to prestigious Nobel conference

Two engineering students invited to prestigious Nobel conference

Laura Jamison

Laura Jamison 

Two University of Wisconsin-Madison engineering students and two physics students will meet with more than 30 Nobel laureates and 580 young researchers from around the world July 1-6, 2012, at the 62nd-annual Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting held on Lake Constance in Lindau, Germany.

The meeting provides a globally recognized forum for knowledge transfer among generations of scientists. Nobel laureates freely choose their lecture topics, which range from retrospective to cutting-edge. Lectures are held in the mornings, while afternoons are reserved for discussions with young scientists. The 2012 meeting is dedicated to physics topics.

Materials Science Program doctoral candidate Laura Jamison says she is looking forward to discussing her work and career with laureates and peers. “Making contact with people from institutions around the world will be extremely valuable,” says Jamison. “I want to hear how the laureates developed their careers to become such well-rounded scientists. I want to hear their insights on the politics of science and working with institutions both public and private.”

Engineering physics fusion researcher Lauren Garrison studies materials for use in fusion reactors. She says she was motivated to apply to the meeting, in part, by the story of Maria Goeppert-Mayer, the third women ever awarded the Nobel Prize in physics. Goeppert-Mayer developed the nuclear shell model of atomic nuclei. She shared the prize with J. Hans D. Jensen, who had independently developed a similar model, and with theoretician Eugene Wigner.

Lauren Garrison

Lauren Garrison

“I would ask the same questions to the different laureates, but a female laureate’s perspective on what they’ve had to overcome might be more in line with things that I’ve experienced,” says Garrison, who is blogging about her experiences at “I think I could relate on a different level. The women who did win the Nobel Prize in physics overcame crazy odds. Maria Goeppert-Mayer had trouble finding a school that would take her. Those conditions have certainly changed, but there is a disproportionate number of men to women in the sciences. It would be interesting to talk someone who, in the 1940s and 1950s, overcame such incredible odds and was able to accomplish such great science.”

In addition to Jamison and Garrison, UW-Madison physics grad students Walter Pettus and Alexander Carr also will attend the Lindau meeting.

The students see themselves on the front end of big scientific challenges, while the laureates can look back on how they overcame obstacles, and can speak to how they were inspired and how they developed creative ideas or came up with theories that were counter to the thinking of their time.

With a meeting of minds, the doctoral candidates hope to apply similar strategies to their own work. 

Jim Beal