UW-Madison grad student to meet with Nobel laureates

by Renee Meiller, UW-Madison Communications

University of Wisconsin-Madison nuclear engineering doctoral student Rachel Slaybaugh never dreamed she’d have the opportunity to chat with a Nobel Prize-winning physicist — much less several of them.

Photo of Slaybaugh

Yet, from June 29 through July 4, Slaybaugh will join nearly 500 young researchers from around the world at a unique meeting in Lindau, Germany, that draws 25 Nobel laureates for lectures, panel and roundtable discussions, and social and networking events.

Since 1951, the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting has created a forum for dialogue and scientific collaboration among participants from more than 60 countries.

Led by UW-Madison Engineering Physics Assistant Professor Paul Wilson, Slaybaugh’s research group nominated her to attend the meeting. The selection process included application screenings at the university, national and international levels. The U.S. Department of Energy is sponsoring Slaybaugh, who, coincidentally, is in Germany to conduct Ph.D.-related research at Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe, a research laboratory in Karlsruhe.

Slaybaugh, who also is pursuing a Ph.D. minor in energy analysis and policy, is studying the total statistical error present in computer simulations of nuclear systems. She says she is excited about the number of opportunities she will have to talk with the Nobel laureates.

“I hope to expand my perspective and reexamine my focus,” she says. “I hope to learn things that I am not anticipating I will learn — really new and interesting ideas. I also hope to come away with some new friends and contacts within my own scientific peer group.”