Two young scientists working in South Africa, both of whom were participants in the Novartis and University of Basel Next Generation Scientist programme, have been awarded the honour of being invited to attend the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting.
Once a year, about 30 Nobel Laureates convene at Lindau, Bavaria, to meet the next generation of leading scientists, including 400-500 undergraduates, PhD students, and post-doctoral researchers. This year’s meeting is dedicated to chemistry. This rare opportunity to gain insights from the world’s leading scientists is hotly contested by young scientists from around the world.
South African Madichaba Phuti Chelopo, who recently completed her PhD while working at the Encapsulation and Delivery research group at the CSIR in Pretoria, and Kenyan-born Mathew Njoroge, a post-doctoral fellow at the UCT Drug Discovery and Development Centre, were selected from among hundreds of applicants to attend this year’s Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting for chemistry. The event was staged at Lake Constance from 25 – 30 June. The two have also been invited to meet their former mentors from the Next Generation Scientist programme at the Novartis Research & Development headquarters in Switzerland for discussions on their research career progress.
Colin Pillai, Head: Global Scientific Capabilities at Novartis who is responsible for the Next Generation Scientist programme, said Novartis is delighted that its programme participants had been awarded this opportunity. “Novartis had the opportunity to write recommendations for young scientists to be considered to attend this event, and it is reassuring that our African nominees were selected during the competitive process,” says Pillai.
The Next Generation Scientist programme, which was launched in 2011, benefits around 20 international Masters, PhD and post-doctoral students from low and middle-income countries every year. The programme is jointly run with the University of Basel who provide certification and academic credits. Promising students selected to participate in the three-month programme are hosted at the Novartis campus in Basel, Switzerland, where they are given opportunities to collaborate with Novartis experts on projects in their field of study.
“Novartis and the University of Basel jointly identify a bespoke research project and matching scientific mentor for each individual, who then has access to Novartis’s state of the art equipment and laboratories during the project,” says Pillai. “Participants benefit by learning from renowned experts in their field, while going through a practical leadership and communication program on leading and working in multicultural teams from around the world. Their mentors also learn from the students e.g., via first-hand accounts of health priorities in under-served communities that are expected to ultimately improve global health.”
The Novartis Next Generation Scientist programme, now on its seventh annual intake, has benefited 143 scientists and clinicians from 25 countries to date. 50% of the participants have been women, and the median participant age is 29. Thus far the program hosted 62% African participants, of which 57 participants were SA based.
“This initiative not only enhances the skills of our young scientists, it also actively encourages collaboration among South African scientists and their peers across Africa and around the world,” says Dr Thomas Kowallik, Country President of Novartis South Africa. “This contributes to ongoing skills transfer and knowledge-sharing; which is aligned with the goals of the Novartis Memorandum of Understanding with the South African Department of Science and Technology to support and promote the development of South African research capabilities,” says Kowallik.