Picture hundreds of chemists taking over a tiny island. It may sound bizarre, but that’s pretty much what’s happening in Lindau, Germany right now.

I’m lucky enough to be at the 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, an annual event that sees Nobel laureates summoned to the beautiful Bavarian island of Lindau, along with 600 of the world’s most promising and passionate young researchers, all hoping to meet their heroes. This year, it’s chemistry’s turn. Brian Kobilka, Harry Kroto, Akira Suzuki and Ada Yonath are just some of the 35 science legends who will be taking to the stage this week.

It’s a conference like no other, with one specific goal: To build bridges. Bridges across generations, across cultures and across disciplines. As all the speakers have achieved remarkable things in different areas, the talks and discussions will cover a mish-mash of topics, from drug discovery to quantum theory. Many will focus on grand challenges such as sustainability or energy production, and broader topics such as science communication are also on the agenda.

But the scientific programme is only half the fun of the Lindau meetings. If you’ve been to many conferences you’ll know that often the most valuable networking opportunities come not from the formal sessions, but from the coffee breaks in between. The organisers at Lindau know this too, and the busy social programme aims to create an informal setting and get people talking. Throughout the week there is plenty of free time and tons of events – dinner parties, themed get-togethers, a concert and even a boat trip on the last day. With researchers from nearly 80 countries it is a unique chance for scientific and cultural exchange, as well as a chance to mingle with some of chemistry’s biggest stars.

During yesterday’s opening ceremony, participants were urged to make new friends, express their opinions, talk, share, argue and make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Everyone seems to be embracing the Lindau spirit so far. Outside the conference centre, television cameras capture the arrival of Laureates, government ministers and international guests of honour. Inside, scores of ‘fans’ are queuing up to have their photo taken with Robert Grubbs, and all over the island gaggles of chemists can be overheard talking about their work, as they explore the cobbled streets and take in the stunning views of nearby mountains.

The atmosphere is one of excitement, intrigue, anticipation. I’m certainly looking forward to hearing from some chemistry greats, and will post about some of the highlights. In the meantime, there are some great online resources via the official website’s Mediatheque, including info on all the Nobel laureates attending this year, and the genius Nobel Labs 360° hub, where you can take a virtual tour of some of their labs. For live updates keep an eye on the #lnlm13 Twitter hashtag.

For decades the Nobel Laureate meetings at Lindau have inspired great things. I’m sure this year will be no exception.

If you’re in Lindau, let us know! Post your experiences and highlights below – what are you most looking forward to?

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Lindau 2013: a conference with a difference, 9.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
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