Young leaders learn from Nobel Laureates at Science and Technology in Society Forum

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Mark Herrmann, Kelli Humbird, Chris Young, Brian Giera, Kim Budil and Ashley Bahney attended the Science and Technology in Society Forum in Kyoto, Japan. (Photo courtesy of Ashley Bahney/LLNL)

Early-career staff scientists Kelli Humbird, Chris Young and Brian Giera connected with Nobel Laureates and discussed important global issues ranging from AI to climate change at the 20th annual meeting of the Science and Technology in Society (STS) Forum in Kyoto, Japan.

Lab Director Kim Budil, Acting Chief of Staff Ashley Bahney and Strategic Deterrence Associate Director Mark Herrmann also attended the annual meeting in early October, along with nearly 1,000 scientists and leaders from across the world in the fields of politics, business and technology.

“It is an honor for representatives of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, especially our ‘young leaders,’ to participate in these important discussions about the impacts and implications of science and technology from a long-term perspective, looking far into the future,” Budil said.

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Lab Director Kim Budil, seated third from the left, represented LLNL on a panel about fusion energy. (Photo: Ashley Bahney/LLNL)

Budil was a speaker on a panel on fusion energy chaired by Pascal Colombani, former chairman and CEO of the Atomic Energy Agency. The panel also featured Satoshi Konishi, co-founder and chief fusioneer of Kyoto Fusioneering Ltd.; Pietro Barabaschi, director-general of the International Fusion Energy Organization (ITER); and Zensho Yoshida, director general of Japan’s National Institute for Fusion Sciences.

Other speakers and panels covered artificial intelligence, preparation for the next pandemic, digital equity, healthy aging, deep-sea exploration and exploitation, human activity in space, climate change and international collaboration. Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Thomas Mason chaired a panel on action for net-zero emission. After each panel, attendees participated in small group discussions of relevant topics.

Giera, Humbird and Young also participated in the Dialogue between Young Leaders and Nobel Laureates, in which they were each able to meet two Nobel Laureates. Bahney, who previously attended the STS Forum as a Young Leader, joined an alumnae group. Young Leaders must be 40 years or younger, have strong leadership roles and have a Ph.D., M.D. or equivalent degree.

“The meeting was a unique experience. Unlike many scientific conferences that are usually focused on a single field of research like plasma physics, this event had a diverse set of attendees. There were folks from all over the world, some researchers, some CEOs, government officials and more, so the conversations on specific topics were quite fascinating with such a wide array of perspectives,” said Humbird, a team lead for inertial confinement fusion (ICF) cognitive simulations.

Both Humbird and Giera were inspired by Wolfgang Ketterle, an MIT professor who won the 2001 Nobel Prize in physics for creation of the first gaseous Bose-Einstein condensate, a phase of matter.

“A key takeaway from our conversation with Nobel Laureate Ketterle was to take big risks, but to believe in yourself while doing so,” said Giera, director of the Data Science institute.

Young met with J. Georg Bednorz, winner of the 1987 Nobel Prize in physics for his work at IBM Zurich developing new oxide materials that demonstrated superconductivity at higher temperatures than was previously possible, and Ada E. Yonath, winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in chemistry for her work studying the structure and function of the ribosome.

“Both described how their work went against the common thinking in their fields at the time and required extensive persistence in the face of failure before eventually producing their respective breakthroughs,” said Young, lead designer for the Hybrid-E 1050 Coupling campaign on the National Ignition Facility.

All three of LLNL’s Young Leaders say they will carry forward the experience of the STS Forum into their daily work.

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Young leaders and Nobel Laureates at the 20th annual STS Forum.