Grad student among young scientists chosen to meet Nobel laureates

HERSHEY, Pa. — When he started his studies at Penn State College of Medicine, Robert Nwokonko never imagined his research would land him in the company of 43 Nobel laureates.

The fourth-year biomedical science graduate student from Downingtown, Pennsylvania, will travel to Lindau, Germany, for the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting from June 24-29. He will join 600 students, doctoral candidates and post-doctoral scholars under the age of 35 competitively selected for the rare chance to hear from some of the world’s most lauded scientists and researchers.

This year’s meeting is dedicated to physiology and medicine and will set two records — the most Nobel laureates ever assembled at a medicine meeting and the most diverse set of participants who represent 84 countries of origin, according to meeting organizers.

“To be among most of the living Nobel laureates and hear them talk about the future of research and their sciences — that’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” said Nwokonko, the first College of Medicine student to attend the event. “I was really excited and surprised when I found out I was chosen.”

More than 130 academic academies, universities and foundations worldwide nominated candidates for participation. Nwokonko was first selected as the representative from the College of Medicine and then chosen by the Graduate School of Penn State to represent the University in the selection competition for the Lindau meeting.

“I have rarely had the pleasure of evaluating such a diverse and high-quality group, which made the selection difficult,” said Stefan H.E. Kaufmann, professor of microbiology and immunology at the Charité in Berlin and director of the Max Planck Institute of Infection Biology.

Nwokonko looks forward to hearing from 2017 Nobel Laureates Michael Rosbash and Michael Young, who were honored for their research on circadian rhythm. He is most excited to meet Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie, who discovered parts of the cellular pathway that Nwokonko is currently studying.

Nwokonko works in a lab under the direction of Donald Gill, professor and chair of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology at the College of Medicine, studying calcium signaling in cells. These signals are critical for the proper functioning of many cell types such as immune cells, muscles and neurons.

Read more about Nwokonko in this Penn State Medicine article.

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Last Updated May 31, 2018