This semester, AE graduate student Pranay Thangeda traveled to Singapore with nine other Ph.D. students from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. They were nominated to attend the Global Young Scientist Summit to discuss the latest advances in science and technology with prominent scientists including 21 Nobel laureates.
With the travel time from Illinois to Singapore being about 36 hours, Thangeda took the time to get to know the nine other students he was with.
“The other students I traveled with were very friendly,” he said. “There was a lot of time for us to talk and bond with each other. All of us got pretty close.”
Before the summit officially began, the group chose to explore Singapore and see what the city had to offer.
“By the time we landed, it was 6:00 A.M., and we decided we would try to overcome the jetlag by not sleeping. We left our bags in the hotel and went into the city,” Thangeda said.
Between everything in the city, Thangeda most enjoyed the food and the ease of getting around Singapore without a car.
“The food was great, the people were friendly, the transit network was very good, and we got to see the light show, which was pretty cool,” he said.
When the conference officially started, Thangeda was surprised at how welcoming the other graduate students on the panels were.
“It was a very diverse crowd — there were graduate students from around the world,” Thangeda said. “I’ve never seen such diversity before. Every student I talked to was from a different university and a different country.”
Along with his fellow students, Thangeda enjoyed the panel discussions they attended together. Professor Barry Marshall, who won a Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2005, specifically caught his attention during his panel.
“He drank a broth that contained the bacterium Helicobacter pylori to test a hypothesis that scientists had failed to prove for a century: that bacteria can live in the stomach,” he said. “He gave a wonderful talk about how bad luck, incompetence, and fraud, delayed this discovery by 100 years.”
With such a variety of graduate students at the GYSS, Thangeda was able to interact with people in fields he typically doesn’t engage with. He is glad he was able to break out of the cycle of interacting with people only in his field of research.
“One second, I was talking to a grad student working on drug discovery, and then I would turn around to see another one I met in the morning who works on challenging problems in crop sciences,” he said.
To those who are looking to be nominated for the GYSS, Thangeda said they should not worry about whether they are qualified or not.
“If you think you have something to gain from the event, you should apply,” he said. “When I applied for GYSS conference, my motivation was to expand my research horizons through engaging and genuine interactions with researchers, eminent scientists, and young peers alike, from diverse research areas.”
Throughout the entire conference, Thangeda is glad he was able to meet the people he did, including his travel companions. He is grateful he was able to befriend such talented grad students.
“I'll cherish all the great memories I have from the summit, and more than anything, the friends I made, from across the world and here at UIUC,” Thangeda said.