Hard work pays off; the adage rings true for a group of young scientists who competed with the world’s best and emerged at the top.

Today is the second day of a two-day workshop organised by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) for eight young scientists who were selected to attend the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Germany in June this year.

The DST is hosting them as part of a send-off for them ahead of next month’s meeting, where they will meet over 30 Nobel laureates.

The successful participants are outstanding studentsunder the age of 35 in the field of physics, which is the focus of this year’s meeting. They were selected after a multi-stage international selection process.

Dr Luyanda Noto, a postdoctoral student in the physical sciences at the University of the Free State, is one of the eight young South Africans selected.

He described the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as something that could motivate other young scientists in the country to work even harder.

“This is a chance for us as young scientists to learn from the best so that we can improve the calibre of scientists in South Africa,” said Noto.

He said meeting with the cream of the world’s crop of outstanding scientists would boost his confidence and encourage him to emulate their example and become a future leader in South African science.

Nicholas Engelbrecht (North West University), Sphumelele Ndlovu and Adriana Marais (University of KwaZulu-Natal), Siyambonga Matshawule (University of the Western Cape), Agnes Mbonyiryivuze and Gregory Jackson (University of Cape Town), and Sidiki Zongo (University of South Africa) were also selected to attend the meeting.

Speaking at the send-off, the DST’s Dr Thomas Auf Der Heyde urged the students not to forget where they were coming from, and encouraged them to be ambassadors for science in South Africa.

Dr Auf Der Heyde said South Africa was working hard to be counted among the best in the world in terms of quality research outputs and innovation, and to meet the targets set out in the National Development Plan.

“You must embrace this opportunity and the value it can bring to the development of your careers,” he said, urging the young scientists to build networks, seek excellence to enhance their career opportunities, and be aware of the complexities of where they were coming from.

The group will leave for the meeting in June accompanied by the Association of Science of South Africa’s CEO, Prof. Roseanne Diab, and one of South Africa’s award-winning science journalists, Sarah Wild.

The meeting was also attended by Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting alumnae.  Dr Koofhethile Kegakilwe, who has a PhD in immunology, described her experienced there in 2014 as having site2016d her perspective on science completely.

With her interest in HIV research, she was excited to meet Nobel prize-winner Dr Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, a French virologist who performed some of the fundamental work in the identification of HIV as the cause of Aids.  Dr Kegakilwe said this meeting motivated her to persevere and succeed.

Her current research is focused on understanding HIV controllers ‑ people who have strong immune responses to HIV and who may hold the key to finding an effective HIV vaccine.