Big Opportunity For UWC Nanochemist: Dr Sarah D’Souza to attend Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau
Skill and hard work have driven Dr Sarah d’Souza, postdoctoral researcher in the University of the Western Cape’s Department of Chemistry, to succeed - but it’s also her passion for the science of nanomaterials that will take her to the 67th Nobel Meeting in Lindau, Germany, from 25 to 30 June 2017...where she will have the chance to share ideas and inspiration with over 400 of the world’s brightest young researchers, and dozens of Nobel Prize-winning scientists.
“I love how versatile nanomaterials are,” Sarah says. “They’ve changed the way we make advances across all fields of research, opening up new possibilities and providing alternative solutions to problems. They’re fascinating.”
The Lindau Nobel Lindau Meetings have taken place every year since 1951, and are designed as a forum for exchange, networking and inspiration. Participants are chosen worldwide by a high-level scientific review panel from thousands of PhD candidates and post-docs in all three natural science Nobel Prize disciplines: medicine and physiology, physics, and chemistry.
The selected young scientists will experience a six-day programme with numerous lectures and panel discussions, and will also get the opportunity to discuss their own work at one of the master classes or poster sessions.
This year’s meeting (#LiNo17) is dedicated to the field of Chemistry. Bernard Feringa and Jean-Pierre Sauvage, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 (together with Sir Fraser Stoddart) for the design of molecular machines, will discuss their work, and other key topics will include big data, climate change and the role of science in a “post-truth” era.
“This is a unique opportunity for the young scientists to present their research in front of an international audience and receive invaluable feedback from Nobel Laureates,” says Wolfgang Lubitz, Vice-President of the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and scientific co-chairperson of this year's meeting.
Sarah’s Road To Lindau
Born and raised in the small town of Mutare, Zimbabwe, on the border with Mozambique (where her sister and parents still live), Sarah was fortunate to experience both private, co-ed (Hillcrest Junior) and public uni-sex (Mutare Girls High) schooling, which helped her develop a broader perspective on education - and life in general.
“Coming from a small town made moving to Grahamstown to study at Rhodes University easier,” Sarah says, “and living in res gave me the opportunity to make lifelong friends, and to help newly-arriving students adjust to their new life and get involved in community engagement projects.”
Her work at Rhodes involved quantum dots - semi-conducting nanoparticles which produce a range of amazing colours when they fluoresce, and have potential application for transistors, solar cells, LEDs, quantum computing, medical imaging and more.
“Their range in applications got me hooked onto materials science,” Sarah notes, “and I never looked back.”
Sarah came to Cape Town, and UWC specifically, to do her post-doctoral fellowship because of the excellence of the nanomaterials programme at the University - and to work with Dr Edith Antunes in the Department of Chemistry, who had been her co-supervisor at Rhodes. Now she’s co-supervised by Dr Antunes and Prof Denzil Beukes at the University’s School of Pharmacy.
“I got lucky and am currently working with both Dr Antunes and Prof Beukes. My heartfelt thanks for the guidance and moral support they’ve provided, which kept me going through my studies and now with my post-doctoral fellowship.”
The appreciation is mutual.
“Sarah has been a wonderful addition to the lab, and a great help to the students - and to us as supervisors,” Dr Antunes notes. “She shows initiative, she’s very skilled, and she’s one of the most determined individuals I know - if she hits a wall in her research, she keeps thinking and trying until she succeeds. I have no doubt she will make excellent contacts when she meets other young researchers and leaders in the field - and I hope she comes back with many ideas for research.”
Sarah is also grateful to her former supervisor, Prof Nyokong - who helped her hone her skills as a developing researcher - to her former colleagues at Rhodes - who provided support and camaraderie - and to her funders, the National Research Foundation, for her postdoctoral fellowship, and also the African Academy of Sciences and the Lindau Foundation, for sponsoring her participation in the upcoming Meeting.
And to her family. “To my family - my deepest thanks. Without their love and support, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Chemical connections: Learning, sharing, growing
In addition to the scientific programme, the meeting offers many opportunities for the young scientists to socialise with the Nobel Laureates, and of course with each other, in a relaxed atmosphere.
“I’m really excited to meet my fellow chemists and find out what research is being carried out by some of the most innovative thinkers from around the world - and I’ll have the opportunity to share ideas, meet potential collaborators, and make new friends.”
There’s more to life than lab work, of course - and Sarah is making the most of it.
“There’s no limit to what you can do in Cape Town,” she enthuses. “Hanging out with friends in all sorts of environments - gardening, nature walks, or even just exercising or reading or relaxing with some movies and series - there’s always something to do.”
But her love for nanomaterials is as strong as ever - and unlikely to fade anytime soon.
“I am really motivated to be at the top of my field,” she says. “I hope I’ll always have the chance to grow my skills, take on interesting projects, and collaborate with people I can really learn from.
“And who knows? Maybe in ten years I’ll be on my way to winning the Nobel Prize - and one day I’ll come back to the Lindau Meeting to share my discoveries with the next generation.”