Davide Franchina, PhD researcher at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) in the lab of FNR ATTRACT Fellow Dirk Brenner was among two researchers from Luxembourg to be selected to attend the 2018 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, dedicated to physiology and medicine. We spoke to the Italian national about the experience and how he got the chance to discuss his own project with a Nobel Laureate.
You were selected to attend the 2018 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, can you describe this overall experience?
“The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings (or LiNo) represent a one of a kind conference, scientifically fulfilling and culturally enriching. It takes place in Lindau (Germany) and gathers Nobel Laureates and young scientists from around the world.
“This year, the LiNo18 was dedicated to physiology and medicine. Besides the lectures (and life lessons) given by the Laureates, most of the time was dedicated to networking and interaction achieved by several formats, such as group lunch or walk, breakfast and Agora talks.
“The meeting exceeded my expectations and I feel so grateful that I had the opportunity to attend LiNo18 at this stage of my scientific career. I am now thrilled to be part of the Lindau Alumni community and I hope to meet more Alumni in future meetings.”
What were your impressions of the Nobel Prize winners?
“At LiNo18, Nobel Laureates were waiting for us young scientists. In fact, this is why they join the Lindau Meetings. Laureates are extremely curious about current topics in medical sciences and society. It was an extraordinary experience to discuss mentorship, big data, career paths and common lab experiments with Rolf Zinkernagel, Michael Bishop and Louis Ignarro.
“Nobel Laureates like to trigger young scientists with lots of questions to spot cutting edge science and foster critical thinking. I take the view that Nobel Laureates represent inspirational examples for scientists. Yet, they do not back out from engaging in small talks, which to me are not small at all since networking and collaboration is a basic pillar of progress in research.
“I want to emphasize that “Educate, Inspire, Connect” are the goals of LiNo meetings, which are all linked to the process of science and were all successfully accomplished.”
Were there any questions frequently asked by the young scientists when speaking to Nobel Laureates?
“Time and balance. Those where the most recurrent questions asked by young scientists. A combination of multiple factors may set the stage for successful stories.
“Still, research requires a deep investment in time and money, but there is no right recipe to discoveries. Work-life balance counts and requires sacrifices too. Happiness and familiar well-being matters and a balance of all these variable have to be taken into account.
“Also, perseverance is a key factor. It is easy to take classes and read papers to understand the topic you are working on, but that helps you define where the boundary of science lies. Discovery is about extending that boundary, which preludes to the onslaught of failure and uncertainty. We (young scientists) were repeatedly warned about such matters.”
Did you find any inspiration at the meeting, for your work or outside?
“The words that made a positive difference were those of Rolf Zinkernagel, whom I met walking to the hotel for a master class. He works on adaptive immunity and received the Nobel Prize in 1996 for his discovery of how immune cells can sense virus-infected cells. I am currently studying B cells and I got valuable feedback from him.”
Was there anything specific you took away from the meeting?
“Excitement for science. It was truly inspiring how new and older generations of scientists share ideas, discuss new frontiers and learn from each other.”
What do you work on as part of your PhD, and what are the aims of your specific project?
“During my PhD studies, I want to understand how metabolic stress in the form of reactive oxygen species interferes with the B cell functions. By using animal models, I plan to investigate the dynamics of the B cell response. The final goal is to better understand B cell biology and the metabolic regulation of B cell activation.”
About Davide Franchina
Davide Franchina is a PhD student in the Experimental and Molecular Immunology Group group of FNR ATTRACT Fellow Prof Dr Dirk Brenner at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH). As part of his PhD project, funded through the FNR’s AFR Bilateral Call with RIKEN (Japan), Davide wants to understand how cellular stress in the form of reactive oxygen species interferes with the immune response. In particular, he will dissect the functionality and metabolic profile of B cells at the steady state and in B cell-related humoral responses. In early 2018, Davide was first author on two reviews in the journals Trends in Cancer and Trends in Immunology of Cell Press, where he reports on current knowledge on immune metabolism.
Davide has also taken the FNR’s course on Science Communication, where students learned how to write a popular science article for a lay audience, how to present their research in an “elevator pitch” or a short video, and how to design an interactive educational workshop around their research topic.
Davide also spoke to the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) about his Lindau experience. Read more
FNR & Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings
Ahead of each Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, the FNR launches a Call open to Luxembourg researchers, as well as researchers based in Luxembourg (any nationality). Candidates must be under the age of 35, and at Masters, PhD or early Postdoc level, in the field of the topic of Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting (Physiology / Medicine; Physics; Economics; Chemistry). The FNR selects up to two candidates, which are then proposed to the Lindau Committee. Successful candidates receive co-funding from the FNR to attend the Meeting. The 2019 Lindau Nobel Meeting will be dedicated to Physics – the FNR Call launched in early September 2018.