(Editor’s note: Sarah Lucht was the eighth student from Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota to be an SCA Glenn T. Seaborg Scholar. At the time she was selected for this honor, she was a senior with a double major in Chemistry and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and a 4.0 GPA. While she did some undergraduate research in bioinorganic chemistry and clinical bioinformatics, her main interest was in the field of genetic variation with and emphasis on genetic epidemiology. Sarah grew up in Minnesota, where she would visit her grandparents often. She remembers sitting on her grandfather’s lap while he read letters from his relatives in Småland and Värmland.)
I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude for the opportunity provided to me by the SCA Glenn T. Seaborg Science Scholarship to attend the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar (SIYSS) during December 2013. I cannot begin to describe the life-changing experience it was to participate in an international science conference of such prestige as well as to attend the Nobel Prize festivities.
My week in Stockholm was filled with wonderful opportunities to learn about Swedish science and culture, my fellow international participants, and the history of the Nobel prizes. We visited several world-renowned universities in Stockholm, including Karolinska Institute (KI) and the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH). Both visits included tours of the science facilities as well as informative lectures on current research projects. I gave a short presentation about my research to university students at KTH concerning my research and found them to be a very receptive audience.
Before we attended the Nobel Prize festivities, we learned about the history of the prizes and the 2013 winners through a lecture by Gören Hansson, the director of the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institute. We also visited the Nobel Museum in Gamla Stan and were given a tour by one of the staff there. While at the Nobel Museum, we participated in an ethics discussion with several leaders in the medical field and discussed areas in science that pose difficult ethical questions.
For the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar, I presented my research to several hundred Swedish high school students and talked to them at my poster station for several hours before and after my presentation. It was very enjoyable to share my work with future scientists and to inspire them to continue working towards increasing our knowledge of the natural world. I was very impressed by their knowledgeable questions and interest in my research on hereditary breast cancer.
In addition to the academic and Nobel aspects of the week, we also learned about the importance of the paper-making industry in Sweden. We got the opportunity to travel outside of Stockholm to visit the Holmen AB company’s paper mill in Hallsta. While there, we learned about the history of paper in Sweden as well as getting a tour of the factory. It was also a great opportunity to see more of the Swedish countryside.
The Nobel Prize festivities spanned the entire week. We had the opportunity to attend a press conference with the three winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine as well as the Nobel Lectures by the Economics, Chemistry, Literature, and Physics winners. It was inspirational to hear pioneers in each field talk about their research. We also attended the Nobel Reception at the Nordiska Museet, which was a time to mingle with the Laureates and other notable invitees. I especially enjoyed seeing Gustavus Adolphus College’s current President Ohle there! In addition to the group SIYSS activities, the American citizens were invited to the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden’s residence for a reception honoring the American Nobel Laureates. It was surreal to meet the Laureates in such an intimate environment and I was able to ask them questions one-on-one.
While the lectures and receptions were incredible events in themselves, they cannot compare to the Nobel Prize Ceremony, Banquet, and Night Cap. After a day getting ready and taking photographs, we went via limo to the Stockholm Concert Hall for the Ceremony. It was a beautiful sight to have everyone dressed up in ball gowns and tails! After the Ceremony, we traveled to the Stockholm City Hall for the Nobel Prize Banquet. I have never been to such an elaborate and fancy dinner! The food was wonderful and had a lobster theme. An opera trio performed in between courses and afterwards we moved up to the Golden Hall to dance. This time was especially fun for me, as my birthday is December 11th and I celebrated turning 23 while dancing in the Golden Hall! It may prove to be the most memorable birthday of my life! After the Banquet, we progressed to the Nobel Night Cap, which was held at Karolinska Institute and was travel-themed. After a few hours exploring Japan, France, Kenya, Italy, Morrocco, and many others, I called it a night!
During the entire week, the SIYSS staff was very intentional about teaching us about traditional Swedish customs. Throughout the week, we were treated to a Swedish-style dinner, including a smorgasbord, as well as a St. Lucia pageant complete with St. Lucia, star boys, attendants, and tomten. The SIYSS staff also helped foster international connections between the participants by hosting an international dinner where each country presented information and gave small gifts from their home country. I enjoyed getting to know the other participants as well as the staff!
Overall, this experience was indescribable and memorable. I will forever be grateful to the Swedish Council of America for choosing me to receive the Glenn T. Seaborg Science Award. I made many connections with other young scientists that I plan to stay in touch with and was inspired to continue working diligently in science! If you would like any other details or thoughts about my week in Sweden for SIYSS, please do not hesitate to contact me at. I am very happy to respond to any inquiries!
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