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U. of I. graduate student in chemistry invited to Nobel laureates meeting

5/29/2013 | Jeff Unger, News Bureau | 217-333-1085;

[ Email | Share ] CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Anna Jean Wirth, of Charlottesville, Va., a doctoral student in chemistry, has been selected to attend the 2013 Lindau meeting of Nobel laureates in Lindau, Germany, in June.

Only 73 graduate students from the United States were selected following a national competition. The meeting, held annually, brings together select graduate students from around the world in chemistry, economics, medicine, physics and physiology for a week of lectures by and informal discussions with Nobel Prize winners.

 Awardees in the U.S. delegation are selected and sponsored individually by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences, and Oak Ridge Associated Universities. Each recipient receives an expenses-paid trip to the meeting.

“The Lindau Nobel program offers awardees an unparalleled opportunity to meet face-to-face with the most celebrated leaders in their fields,” said Ken Vickery, the director of external fellowships in the Graduate College. “What better way to inspire young researchers than by granting them extended, up close and personal access to Nobel laureates. It’s an honor granted only to a small group of the nation’s most outstanding students.”

Wirth conducts research on protein folding under the guidance of chemistry professor Martin Gruebele.

“My work focuses on how proteins transform from floppy strings of amino acids into the uniquely shaped workhorses of our cells, a process known as protein folding, and how this process sometimes goes awry leading to diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s,” Wirth said.

“Specifically, I study how the dynamic environment inside of a cell influences healthy folding, and I use high pressure experiments outside of cells to watch the earliest steps in the misfolding process of a protein associated with Parkinson’s disease, Alpha-Synuclein.”

The opportunity for a student at an early stage learn from the top scientific thinkers in the world is a rare opportunity, Gruebele said. “She'll make full use of it, I'm sure.”

For additional information on the Lindau Nobel laureate meeting, visit

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