A young scientist from UT elected as the only Estonian to meet the Nobel laureates
The laureates of the Nobel Prize for science met with the young researchers and post-graduates at the beginning of this month in Lindau, Southern Germany already for the 64th consecutive year. Tanel Visnapuu, a young UT scientist dedicated to research, was chosen from Estonia to meet the Nobel Prize laureates of the disciplines of Physiology or Medicine.
37 laureates of the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology and more than 600 top scientists and researchers of the new generation from more than 80 countries took part in this year’s Lindau meeting.
The students and young researchers to participate in the meeting are elected from the top in their country. In Estonia, the short-list of candidates for the Lindau conference was submitted by the Estonian Academy of Sciences and the final selection was made by the Lindau Council workgroup. The workgroup chose Tanel Visnapuu, a Doctoral candidate of the Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine and a specialist of the Chair of Physiology at the University of Tartu as the Estonian representative.
Tanel Visnapuu applied for the Lindau meeting on the recommendation of his supervisor, Professor Eero Vasar. “The concept of the whole event sounded fascinating, not to mention the fact that the conference addressed my area of activity and the performers included the laureates that I had read so much about,” said Visnapuu, whose daily work is research into the physiology of the central nervous system.
Visnapuu speaks of meeting the laureates in the superlative, as it was such a versatile and intellectually enriching experience for him. “I was looking forward to hearing the best researchers talk about the way of thinking that lead them to a Nobel Prize. It seems that consistency is the trait that pays off – this means that you must never give up. The existence of ups and downs in a scientist’s work is inevitable,” said Visnapuu, extremely inspired by the Lindau meeting, as it taught him to take a different kind of attitude towards research problems.
The young researcher was most looking forward to meeting the Swedish professor Torsten Wiesel, who discovered in cooperation with David H. Hubel that the primary visual cortex contains extremely specialised cells which only react to a specific kind of external stimulus. “I have read about him in my textbooks of neuropsychology and neurophysiology, so this meeting was somewhat more special to me. Professor Wiesel spoke for a long time, but he emphasised that in science, one should ask questions that are as simple as possible and then try to answer them – then you can also use convenient tools and plenty of creativity in scientific experiments.” To the joy of Visnapuu, it became clear during his talk with the Professor that Wiesel and several other Nobel laureates know quite a lot about Estonia and its researchers.
Visnapuu’s daily research aims to establish the biological and neurochemical changes that appear in the brain with neuropsychiatric disorders (i.e. anxiety or depression). His aim is to explain the essence of these discords to such a thorough extent that would allow finding the best treatment, as psychiatric disorders are a massive burden to the people suffering under them and their close ones, and also to the society.
Marco Kirm, Vice Rector for Research at the University of Tartu, commented that Visnapuu’s meeting with the Nobel laureate’s was a significant event to the university, as it shows the high level of this young scientist and his area of activity: “This is a great acknowledgement, as only the best of the best are elected for the Lindau meeting. I am happy to see the development of a new generation of young and inspired researchers at the University of Tartu, including Visnapuu who met the Nobel laureates, who want to change the world with their research. Through this, they also raise the bar of the field of medicine, in which the University of Tartu has stayed in the top 1% of the most-referenced research areas.“
The meeting of the Nobel Prize Laureates and young researchers has been organised since 1951. More information is available at the event’s home page.
Additional information: Tanel Visnapuu, Doctoral candidate at the Institute of Biomedicine and Translational Medicine and a specialist of the Chair of Physiology at the University of Tartu, tel: 7374 335, 5254461, e-mail: tanel.visnapuu [ät] ut.ee.