On our way to Germany, reflections on D.C.
June 25, 2010 | 11:24 PMTanya Petrossian
Let me paint the picture of this morning: My alarm went off at 5:00am EST (yes, that’s 2am PST/my internal clock), yet somehow I was able to peel the lids off my eyes. When I regained a certain level of consciousness, I realized that the room was noticeably warm. I would later find out that this was only the beginning of the weather that would greet us. I think the official weathercast recorded a high of 100°F with a bazillion percent humidity. As a native Southern Californian, I have never experienced weather like this in my life. I finally gained a full understanding of the difference between "dry" and "wet" heat: magnitudes of discomfort.
Despite the temperature challenge, I found the strength to doll myself up for the 6:30am photo op. Hopefully I forced a believable smile in the group photos.
Afterwards, the entire U.S. delegation headed to the Department of Energy (DOE) building for a series of lectures beginning at 8 a.m. As we stood in line for security, I flashed my Lakers cell phone cover to the other graduate students and received a few boos and eye rolls. That’s okay, I wasn’t expecting for all of my colleagues to have great taste in sports!
Even though the air conditioning was broken in the DOE building, I still survived to hear all of the morning lectures. The first topics discussed were the origins of the Meeting of the Nobel Laureates and the Nobel Prize. It was interesting to hear that even a hundred years ago, the media attempted to speculate who would win the Nobel Prize. The most infamous prediction was in 1915 when the New York Times, Literary Digest, and The Electrical World of New York announced that Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison would jointly share the Nobel Prize for Physics. However, a few days later, the Nobel Committee actually awarded the prize to Sir William Henry Bragg and his son Sir William Lawrence Bragg.
Next, we were given an overview of each organization that supports our graduate student delegation in the Lindau Meeting. This included my sponsor, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which has a $31 billion budget, dedicating over half of the funds supporting research and project grants. NIH has supported 119 Nobel Laureates to date.
Lastly, we received a quick orientation on Lindau, Germany and some advice for the meeting. Before the trip, I had received quite a bit of advice from just about everyone around me. However, I think that Linda Holms, the Associate Director of Science Education Programs in the Oakridge Institute for Science and Education, gave one of the most interesting suggestions: “If you are presented with an opportunity to sit next to the wife or husband of a Laureate, grab that seat! I guarantee you will find some great stories.”
After lunch, we quickly went back to the hotel to change into comfortable clothes for our flight to Germany. I put on my black, one shoulder romper and noticed that my outfit was missing something. My equally fashionable friend recommended that I borrow her red belt, and she was right! It was the perfect accessory to complete the look. "So cute!" another girl confirmed. Conversations quickly turned into pastimes, and I was excited to find that my friend too enjoys a morning run. We agreed to be running partners for the Lindau trip and I can’t wait to hear her running tips based on her marathon experience.
As I boarded the plane, I realized that this was definitely a special group. Although we have been named some of the best scientists in the nation -- in fact, the world -– we still were able to break the stereotypical, scientific mold. Today we spent the entire day together, and we didn’t use our spare time playing Dungeon and Dragons, making socially awkward comments, complaining constantly, or acting in a way to confirm the notion that scientists should be locked up in laboratory with their bacteria. Instead, this group of exceptional young scientists is passionate, open-minded, collaborative, and multidimensional.
I have no doubt that the United States will be proudly represented in the Meeting of the Nobel Laureates. Germany, here we come!