Meet junior technologist Lara Kuntz from TU München, inspired by no less than Nobel prize laureates. Here is her interview about her experience in Lindau.
Lara Kuntz, 27, is a student of Molecular Biotechnology at TUM (Technische Universität München). She is currently working on her dissertation, conducting research on connections between soft and hard materials. She and Leone Rossetti, her team-colleague at the IGSSE (International Graduate School of Science and Engineering), are trying to understand why the tendon-bone junction of the Achilles tendon is so strong and what structures are involved.
The results of her researches will not only be of interest in the scope of Medicine (for example when soft tissue has to be sewn to the bone after a tumor surgery), but also for the engineering sciences, concerning connections between steel and concrete in the construction of bridges.
To be able to visit the Meeting of the Nobel Laureates in Lindau: At the beginning of June, Lara Kuntz managed to fulfill this wish of hers. She was among the 650 junior researchers who were able to talk to the award-winning researchers at the meeting in Lindau. The discussions were not only about her own field of study, but also about socially relevant topics such as genetic engineering, infectious diseases or the aspect of climate change.
Lara, how come you were invited?
A friend of mine who had been there told me about it. She was really enthusiastic about it and felt inspired – so I wanted to share the experience. I figured out how to try to get nominated and submitted my resume. Then, I was nominated by TUM directly. Once you’re nominated, you can apply officially. Luckily, I was accepted.
Was there a Nobel Prize Winner who you really wanted to meet?
LARA KUNTZ Yes, I was really looking forward to meeting Professor Stefan Hell, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, because I work with the STED microscope. He developed it, and that’s what he won the Nobel Prize for last year. I also spoke to quite a few others, for example to Harald zur Hausen, Robert Huber and Peter Agre.
What impressions did you take home?
LARA KUNTZ I’m still enthralled by the whole event. It was absolutely fascinating – not only the talks of the Nobel Laureates. No matter what time of day, you could always approach them. There was a lively exchange, a lot of inspiration. Apart from that, it was really great to be able to exchange views with the other junior researchers. There were people from all kinds of scientific disciplines and from all over the world; chemists, physicians, physicists … and the discussions covered a wide range of topics. We didn’t only talk about science, but also about philosophy and politics.
What topics were especially memorable?
LARA KUNTZ We discussed the political situation in Africa, since there were many African doctoral students present. Another thing I found to be interesting was to learn more about the Nobel Laureates personally – for example, whether they had to deal with a lot obstacles at first; rejected papers, for instance … or established scientists who doubted the laureates’ research findings, because the laureates weren’t known yet.
What tips did the Nobel Laureates have for you?
LARA KUNTZ If you are really enthusiastic about your research, if you’re really having fun with what you’re doing, you’ll manage to deal with challenges. The notion that “it must be fun” was omnipresent. Another thing I thought was absolutely great was that the two female Nobel Laureates, Elizabeth Blackburn and Ada Yonath, emphasized that it is possible to have a family and still be engaged in excellent scientific research.
What is your conclusion about the 65th Lindau Meeting?
LARA KUNTZ There was a very interesting exchange of ideas. The Nobel Laureates showed a lot of interest in the juniors and were very open to discuss anything with us. The conversations were fascinating and inspiring.
Sounds like you would like to visit again…
LARA KUNTZ Definitely! However, as a junior researcher, you can only go once – unless you win the Nobel Prize yourself.
Are you working on it?
LARA KUNTZ (Laughs) I’d say it’s best to be realistic.