It has become somewhat of a yearly tradition that the Embassy of Sweden in Washington D.C. welcomes the American Nobel laureates to House of Sweden for a Nobel symposium and gala dinner. This day is dedicated to celebrating the laureates who have been awarded prizes that recognize their achievements for “the greatest benefit to humankind” within physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace. This day is also a chance for people to learn about science from the laureates themselves and to understand how their work will affect us in our daily lives.
Almost every year, at least a handful of the Nobel Laureates are American or affiliated at American Universities, which is a true testament to the outstanding research powerhouse that the US is. This year, eight of the laureates were American: Professor John B. Goodenough and Professor M. Stanley Whittingham, recipients of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Mr. Abhijit Banerjee, Ms. Esther Duflo, and Mr. Michael Kremer, recipients of The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Professor Gregg L Semenza and Professor William G Kaelin, recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, and Professor James E Peebles, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics.
The Embassy of Sweden had the honor of welcoming the three last-mentioned on November 13th. Together, these laureates show an interesting breadth in their research; from the smallest components, how the cells in our bodies behave and adapt, to the biggest entities, the discovery of new planets outside our own solar system.
The day started with a symposium together with the three laureates and Dr. Alan Leshner, chief executive officer of AAAS and executive publisher of Science, who moderated the discussion. The newly appointed Swedish Minister for Foreign Trade and Nordic Issues, Anna Hallberg, was also present to give welcoming remarks, as were H.E. Ambassador Karin Olofsdotter.
The day continued with the first ever high-level moderated Nobel lunch dialogue at the Ambassador’s residence, together with the laureates and the leaders from American and Swedish research funding agencies. Among the participants were Sven Stafström, Director General at the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet), Andreas Göthenberg, Executive Director at The Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT) and Birgitta Bergvall-Kåreborn, president at Luleå University of Technology (LTU). The theme of this year’s lunch was “Leadership fostering Nobel Prize-level research”. Lastly, the Embassy hosted a gala dinner in the evening in House of Sweden with distinguished guests present.
To summarize, this day tied together the academia and the public by bringing the Nobel Prize laureates into the spotlight and inspiring us, the audience, to further discuss these topics. Knowledge and science have a big role in uniting people and the discussions throughout the day showed how collaboration creates opportunities for great scientific discoveries.
Agnes Wiberg, intern at the Office of Science and Innovation in Washington D.C