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USF grad student chosen to attend conference with Nobel laureates

Fiona Kearns represents USF and is one of 3 Floridians to participate in a global conference.

USF doctoral student Fiona Kearns, was one of 400 students from across the globe chosen to attend the 67th Annual Lindau Nobel Laureates and other Young Scientists meeting.

Kearns who is pursuing a PhD in chemistry in the USF College of Arts and Sciences, was among 23 delegates from the U.S. who attended the event, held June 23, 2017, in Lindau Germany.

Kearns said she “was honored and humbled to represent USF at such a global event.”

The USF Chemistry department nominated Kearns for the event.

Seventy nationalities, 28 Nobel Laureates and 400 students attend the conference. The first conference was held in 1951 with the intent to rebuild Germany’s international relationships after World War II. The first meeting concentrated on physiology and medicine, attendance included 7 Nobel laureates and physicians from Europe. The program now held annually, is in its 67th year, hosts attendees from all over the world, and has grown to include a different scientific discipline each year. This year chemistry was the focus of the conference.

Kearns has said her experience was “wonderfully immersive and eye opening.

“We talked for hours to Nobel laureates, and sometimes not even about science!” she said.


From Left to Right: Amanda Buchberger (Ph.D. student, University of Wisconsin Madison), Dr. Ada Yonath (Nobel Prize 2009 for the “studies on the structure and function of the ribosome”), Andrea d’Aquino (Ph.D. student, Northwestern University), Fiona Kearns (Ph.D. student, University of South Florida). The young scientists meet and discuss with Dr. Yonath before her presentation on tackling anti-biotic resistance by targeting bacterial ribosomes.  

Kearns credits learning the most from past Nobel Prize winners for chemistry, including: W.E Moerner (2014), Mario Molina (1995), Ada Yonath (2009), and Bernard Feringa (2016). She says of Moerner and Molina they “taught us the importance of communicating science to public law makers, Feringa taught us the importance of finding balance between family and work.” Kearns noted a highlight of the conference was meeting Ada Yonath, the second woman after Dorothy Hodgkin in 1964 to win the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Kearns said of Yonath “she is incredibly strong willed and focused on chemistry, she wanted her science to be center of discussion rather than gender, and I very much admire that.

Story by Ercilia Colon, USF Health Communications. Photos courtesy of Fiona Kearns. 


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