Ivan Schuller received the Gothenburg Lise Meitner Award

On Thursday, September 17, professor Ivan Schuller from University of California San Diego, received the Gothenburg Lise Meitner Award and held an inspirational lecture about life as a physicist.

Professor Ivan Schuller expressed that he was very honoured to receive the prize in the name of a woman in whose life he could in some way mirror himself. Apart from them both being physicists, Schuller shares the experience of moving from country to country with Meitner. He left communist Rumania for Israel, then moving to Chile and finally settling in the States.

– It’s not easy coming to a new country, but as Lise Meitner said “Life need not be easy, provided only that it is not empty”, said Schuller, who is in the process of writing a fictional play about Lise Meitner.

Dinko Chakarov, Chairman of the Gothenburg Lise Meitner Award Committée introduced the ceremony.

The award was handed over by Mats Viberg, Chalmers' First Vice President.

Together with colourful slides, personal photos and clips from his educational movie “When things get small” he talked about what fascinates him as a scientist – from universal behaviour of power laws to experiments to understand human intelligence triggered by seeing his infant son reach for his toys.

In comparing the human brain with computer transistors lies a fantastic opportunity for young scientist, according to Schuller, to investigate how computing done in a completely different way in the future.

– For example I think there are interesting connections to be drawn between the narrow temperature range at which the human brain functions, compared to the broad temperature range of the computer. But it could also be an accident, I don’t know!

When talking about how research is born out of these kinds of ideas, proven experimentally and finally can be picked up and used in the most unexpected ways he also warned about research targeted towards predefined goals and applications.

– Especially in Europe there is a lot of push to do research that is going to be relevant socially and revolutionize the industry. But we have to resist this because that’s not how science works. Revolutionary technology arises unexpectedly from basic science. You have to allow freedom of thinking and going in all kinds of directions.

Text: Karin Weijdegård
Photo: Sabina Johansson

Published: Fri 18 Sep 2015. Modified: Thu 25 Feb 2016