Young Australian scientists meet Nobel Laureates in Japan

May 16, 2018
Australians James Aridas, Kathryn Leslie and Paddy Dempsey with the Japanese Science Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and his wife Professor Yuko Hayashi at the HOPE meeting in March. Not in the photo are Lisa Alcock, Tara Boulding and Jacquiline Romero.

Six Australian PhD students and young researchers attended the 10th HOPE meeting with Nobel Laureates held in Tokyo, organised by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). The program covered chemistry, physics, physiology/medicine and related fields.

HOPE meetings provide a valuable opportunity for the participants to engage in interdisciplinary discussions with Nobel laureates and other distinguished scientists, as well as peers from other regions.

Lecturers at the meeting included Professor Takaaki Kajita, Nobel Laureate in Physics 2015, Professor Ada Yonath, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry 2009, and Sir J Fraser Stoddart, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry 2016.

Dr Aridas was a member of the group that won Best Group Presentation, with the award presented by Dr Kobayashi, the Chair of the 10th HOPE Meeting.

Funding for the participants to attend the meeting was provided by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

What the participants learned

The six successful students and young researchers were nominated by the Academy. They were selected by a committee of Academy Fellows from a highly competitive field of 38 applicants.

Ms Lisa Alcock—PhD student, College of Science and Engineering, Flinders University

‘The benefit of attending the HOPE Meeting was the opportunity to meet and discuss research with other enthusiastic scientists from similar and different fields. This allowed for inter-disciplinary discussions which assists in applying my own research to other fields, particularly medicine and physiology. This type of interaction is not typical since conferences and meetings are usually field specific.’

Dr James Aridas—The Ritchie Centre, Hudson Institute of Medical Research, Monash University

‘The meeting was an excellent opportunity for PhD candidates and early post-docs to independently expand their scientific experience from their own scientific community, and to explore the potential utility that world-class researchers in other fields of science may bring to their own research.’

Ms Tara Boulding—Biomedical Sciences, University of Canberra

‘The most important thing I gained from this meeting is the desire to conduct the best possible science I can—specifically, to make decisions that will allow me to be a better scientist and to push boundaries in my field. I would like to thank the Australian Academy of Science for this amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity.’

Dr Paddy Dempsey—Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, and Swinburne University of Technology

‘The unique experiences I gained from the meeting were that I was pushed outside of my comfort zone in various ways, from discussing science with peers and colleagues from a variety of disciplines and cultural backgrounds (something I would not usually do), to thinking more about the bigger picture possibilities and challenges of science, including its future within modern society.’

Ms Kathryn Leslie—School of Chemistry, University of Sydney

‘One of the main things that I hope will influence my own future research is the affirmation of the value of basic science. In a climate that often values science with clear and immediate applications, it was encouraging to hear from Nobel laureates how some of their discoveries have influenced and contributed so positively to the world, without knowing at the outset how they would do so.’

Dr Jacquiline Romero—University of Queensland

‘Hearing the lecturers talk about the science that they faced then, and how the field looks like at present, made me realise just how dynamic science is! The opportunities then are not the same opportunities now. In a career that will span 40 or so years in average, really, the most important skill is the ability to adapt and navigate yourself in an ever-changing sea.’

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