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2023 Lindau Meeting: “A unique experience that I will never forget”

For each Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, the FNR runs a Call for promising young researchers with a connection to Luxembourg to attend. Dr Henry Kurniawan was one of three young researchers selected for the 2023 Lindau Meeting, dedicated to physiology & medicine. We speak to Henry about the experience of attending the event and learning about how even Nobel Prize winners did not have a clear path when they were young scientists.

Find out more about FNR calls for Lindau meetings
Photo: Henry with Jules A. Hoffmann, a Luxembourg-born French biologist, co-recipient, with American immunologist Bruce A. Beutler and Canadian immunologist and cell biologist Ralph M. Steinman, of the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries relating to the activation of innate immunity (the first line of defense against infection).

You had the opportunity to hear from and/or meet Nobel Prize winners and hundreds of other young researchers, can you describe the overall experience?

“The overall experience at LINO23 was amazing. Attending the Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting was a unique experience that I will never forget. As a young scientist, it surely was a one in a lifetime experience to be able to join this meeting, unless you win the Nobel Prize. The program was designed to allow maximum exchange between the Nobel laureates and the participants. Overall, it exceeded my expectation and I am very grateful to have the opportunity to attend this meeting and be part of the Lindau Alumni.”

What was your impression of the Nobel Prize Winners?

“The nobel prize winners were very open and approachable. They were extremely passionate to talk about science and their discovery. However, they were also willing to share their personal life, where many of them did not have a clear ideas and scientific career path when they were young. It was very inspiring to listen to them how they could achieve the highest recognition in so many different ways.”

Photo: Henry with Mario Ramberg Capecchi, molecular geneticist and a co-awardee of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering a method to create mice in which a specific gene is turned off, known as knockout mice. He shared the prize with Martin Evans and Oliver Smithies.

What were your highlights of the scientific programme?

“I really enjoyed the open exchange with the nobel laureates. This is a form of informal exchange between young scientists and the laureates in smaller groups like 50-100 people. We could talk about almost everything from their research, early life, career paths, and other topics in general. Unfortunately there were only limited sessions, so we had to carefully select only few of the laureates.”

Were there any current topics that came up from several Laureates or researchers in attendance?

“There was significant interest about the need to address climate change. As this is one of most pressing threat for the generations to come, the scientific community has to unite and provide tangible roadmap to tackle this issue. Furthermore,  diversity and equality in research where there is still significant gap and inequality between the involvement of women in research was also an ongoing discussion.”

Photo: Henry with Sir Martin Evans, British scientist who, with Mario R. Capecchi and Oliver Smithies, won the 2007 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for developing gene targeting, a technology used to create animal models of human diseases in mice.

Did you find any inspiration at the meeting, for your work or outside?

“For me personally, hearing the personal stories of the laureates about their passion for science was very motivating and inspiring. Furthermore, the young scientists I met and connected with, were important for potential collaboration.”

Can you tell us a bit about your research, what do you study and why is it important?

“I am a postdoctoral researcher in the Developmental and Cellular Biology group of Jens Schwamborn at the LCSB. Our lab is focusing on Parkinson’s Disease, which is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder.”

My project is centred on the role of microglia in the pathogenesis of PD. I use patient-derived human induced pluripotent stem cells as a basis to model microglia and brain organoid interaction. We want to understand how modifying microglia functionality via the rewiring of their cellular metabolism, affect the disease outcome. The final goal is to better understand its mechanisms of action in PD neuroinflammation and to devise novel strategy to treat the disease.
Dr Henry Kurniawan Postdoctoral researcher