Grad student travels to Nobel meeting

By Deborah Wormser / September 2011

Robert Orchard, a graduate student in microbiology, was one of more than 550 young researchers from 77 countries who were selected to meet one-on-one with some of the world’s most honored scientists at the 61st annual Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates, held recently in Lindau, Germany.

Robert Orchard

The conference provided a place for researchers to exchange ideas with 24 Nobel Prize winners and to create international networks. The theme of this year’s meetings was physiology and medicine.

While growing up in Abilene, Mr. Orchard was fascinated with how things worked. That fascination continued at Texas A&M University, where he earned a degree in microbiology. This fall he begins his fourth year as a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Neal Alto, Assistant Professor of Microbiology, where Mr. Orchard studies the interactions between bacterial pathogens and their hosts.

To qualify for the Lindau event, Mr. Orchard passed a three-stage selection process: He first was nominated by faculty members at UT Southwestern, after which he applied at the national level for the National Institutes of Health-sponsored trip. Once he had been chosen as a potential U.S. representative, he then competed at the international level for a spot at the conference.

Each day during the seminar, the laureates lectured on the topics of their choice in the mornings and later participated in small-group discussions with the students. Mr. Orchard said those discussions, which presented an opportunity for young researchers to interact with the laureates as colleagues, were his favorite part of the conference.

“My experience at the Lindau conference definitely showed me how to identify important problems, how to approach these problems and how to take my findings and present them to the world,” he said.