UW–Madison Students to Attend 2015 Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates

The public must understand what we do for scientific progress to continue, and by attending the Lindau Meeting, I can play a greater, more lasting part in that understanding.

—Julia Nepper

At the Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting I hope to learn about how to put my current research into a broader context, to gain a keen appreciation for the cutting edge of research in chemistry and physics as a whole, and to learn from the Laureates how to better conduct research and disseminate results into the scientific community.

—Kevin Heylman

2014 Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences. Photo by C. Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

UW–Madison graduate students Julia Nepper and Kevin Heylman will be traveling to Lindau, Germany this summer to participate in discussions with the Nobel Laureates, as well as with other graduate students and junior researchers from around the world.

Since 1951, Nobel Laureates in chemistry, physics, and physiology/medicine convene annually in Lindau to have open and informal meetings with students and young researchers. Laureates lecture on the topic of their choice in the mornings and participate in less formal, small-group discussions with the students in the afternoons and some evenings. In addition to this valuable interaction, the participants enjoy the picturesque island city of Lindau. This medieval city—rich in central European culture—is located at the eastern end of Lake Constance, just north of the Swiss Alps, at the common border of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Students and young researchers are nominated and selected by several sponsoring agencies and organizations.

Julia Nepper, UW–Madison Biochemistry Department

Cardiolipin (CL) is a unique, intrinsically curved anionic phospholipid found in bacteria and eukaryotic mitochondria. In the model organism Escherichia coli, there are 3 enzymes responsible for the synthesis of CL.

I have found that these enzymes are important for the formation of bacterial communities known as biofilms. Biofilms are common sources of hospital-acquired infections, but can also serve as useful bioremediators. This finding that lipid composition affects biofilm formation in E. coli has important implications for human health and environmental studies.

– Julia Nepper, Ph.D. candidate, Biophysics Program
Advisor, Douglas Weibel

Kevin Heylman, UW–Madison Chemistry Department

We are developing a single-molecule absorption spectrometer. Optical absorption spectroscopy is widely employed in chemistry, molecular biology and materials science for characterizing molecular energy levels but has not yet been reliably extended to the single-molecule limit at room temperature. We plan to use ultrasensitive optical microresonators to detect single-molecule absorption by measuring the local rise in temperature upon optical pumping.

Early results with conducting polymers have been promising, revealing that subtle differences in formulation can lead to stark differences in the nanoscale electronic structure that are invisible to bulk measurements. In the future we plan to measure the dynamics of single metalloenzymes and map the energy landscape of organic photovoltaic materials at the single-molecule level.

– Kevin Heylman, Ph.D. Candidate, Physical Chemistry Program Advisor, Randall Goldsmith

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