Each year hundreds of the best and brightest researchers gather in Lindau, Germany, for the Nobel Laureate Meeting. There, the newest generation of scientists mingles with Nobel Prize winners and discusses their work and ideas. The 2013 meeting is dedicated to chemistry and will involve young researchers from 78 different countries. In anticipation of the event, which will take place from June 30 through July 5, we are highlighting a group of attendees under 30 who represent the future of chemistry. The following profile is the 12th in a series of 30.

Name: Thomas Lunkenbein
Age: 29
Born: Lichtenfels, Bavaria
Nationality: German

Current position: Postdoctoral researcher at the Fritz-Haber-Institute of the Max Planck Society
Education: Bachelors and doctoral degrees, both in chemistry from the University of Bayreuth

What is your field of research?
“Many small people who in many small places do many small things can change the face of the world.” This African saying summarizes the functionality of heterogeneous catalysts. For example, heterogeneous catalysts can consist of many metallic nanoparticles anchored on many places of a metal oxide support. Those catalysts can help to build up efficiently small organic molecules that can be used for energy storage or for the synthesis of medicaments and fertilizers. Thus, catalysts can help to improve our quality of life.

In this respect I try to understand and correlate the activity and structure of catalysts using transmission electron microscopy.

What drew you to chemistry, and to that research area in particular?

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In ten years I hope I still will work with the same passion and enthusiasm on scientific projects like I do now. Furthermore, it would be my dream to have my own chair at a university or direct an institute. Specifically, I want to help solve the puzzle of heterogeneous catalysts.

Who are your scientific heroes?
Leonardo DaVinci and Robert Boyle.

What activities outside of chemistry do you most enjoy?
Travelling, soccer, running, reading, and good food.

What do you hope to gain from this year’s Lindau meeting?
Lindau is more than a conference. First of all, it is an honor to participate. The Lindau Noble Laureate Conference has a special atmosphere – it’s a place where senior scientists meet young researchers. It’s the place where you can meet the personified milestones of science. Where else do you have the opportunity to speak face to face with a Noble Prize winner? I hope I will never forget this experience.

Are there any Nobelists whom you are particularly excited to meet?
It is always exciting when you meet people who are responsible for passages in your textbook. No matter which Nobel Prize winner I meet, I’m sure I will appreciate it. If I  had to choose one, it would be Gerhard Ertl, who worked with passion and enthusiasm in the field of heterogeneous catalysis. I like how he had so much success with his life’s work but still remains down to earth.


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11. Aniket Magarkar
30 Under 30:
Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting
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13. Chantal Pia Lorbeer