Dialogs Beyond Borders: conversations with Nobel laureates

Dialogues uncovering the great minds of the scientific world and exploring their stories, passions, and sources of inspiration: the ”Dialogs Beyond Borders” initiative, launched by Fondazione Menarini in 2021, presents a series of video interviews featuring prominent figures in the international medical and scientific community, including Nobel laureates like Louis Ignarro, Nobel Prize winner in Physiology and Medicine in 1998, Donna Strickland, Nobel Prize winner in Physics in 2018, and Barry Marshall, Nobel Prize winner in Medicine in 2005.

The Dialogs Beyond Borders project has recently released ten new videos, in addition to those previously published. The new video interviews feature Aaron Ciechanover, Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2004 and Emeritus Professor at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, Israel; Dov Feldberg, President of the Israeli Society of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, Israel; Marek Glezerman, Emeritus Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and President of the Gender Medicine Faculty at Tel Aviv University, Israel; Marla Sokolowski, Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto, Canada; Hermona Soreq, Professor of Molecular Neuroscience at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel; Marc Humbert, President of the European Respiratory Society and Professor of Respiratory Medicine at the University Paris-Saclay, France; Filippo Giorgi, President of the Earth System Physics section of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy; Dipti Itchhaporia, Clinical Professor at the University of California, U.S.A., and former President of the American College of Cardiology; Gianpiero Palermo, Professor of Embryology and Reproductive Medicine at the Ronald O. Perelman and Claudia Cohen Center for Reproductive Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, U.S.A.; and Semir Zeki, Professor of Neuroaesthetics at University College London (United Kingdom).

These virtual conversations weave together scientific questions with personal reflection, providing the viewers with the opportunity to learn more about the lives and inspirations of science luminaries and fostering a dialog that goes “beyond the professional roles” of the protagonists: the personal anecdotes of the participants are intertwined with discussions on important contemporary topics, such as the relationship between science and faith, gender discrimination in scientific research, the implication of war, nuclear proliferation, and much more.

For instance, Filippo Giorgi reflects on global warming and the need for collective commitment to address it.

Global warming is a global problem, and everybody is contributing to it. It’s not sufficient that Europe and the U.S. decrease emissions, or that so-called industrially advanced countries decrease emissions. Even more important is that the emerging countries start decreasing their use of fossil fuels.

Additionally, the Italian climatologist draws from his memories of the 1980s and the Cold War to discuss the risks of a nuclear winter for the climate.

In the 1980s, during the Cold War, the risk of a nuclear war was a possibility, so we were trying to understand the consequences of nuclear explosions on the global climate. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in ’89, these concerns faded into the background. […] But recently, I have noticed that there are a few papers on nuclear winter coming back. And this is not a good sign, because it means that maybe people are thinking that a regional nuclear war is possible and this would still have major effects on the global climate.” 

Professor Marla Sokolowski talks about her love for studying and observing the animal world since childhood, and explains the connection between genetics and behavior:

For a long time, people thought it’s either nature or nurture. Either you’re born as a blueprint and you’re gonna be like that all the time, or, you’re born as a blank slate and the environment writes on it. […] But now we know it’s not only more complicated than that, it’s more interesting. In fact, it’s an interaction: our genes give us a predisposition or a probability to behave in a certain way, but they adapt and change based on our experiences and environments (physical, social, communal, socioeconomic).

Professor of Respiratory Medicine Marc Humbert focuses on the importance of breathing healthily, an essential aspect of our lives that we often take for granted:

Breathing is life; from our first breath to our last, we breathe and breathe and breathe. Many people don’t care about it because they don’t feel it. However, you do feel it and there is a very important feeling called dyspnea, disturbed or uncomfortable breathing, that is like pain –  but you don’t really know what it is unless you experience it. With the recent COVID pandemic, many people have experienced it, and I think it was a unique opportunity to disseminate the message that healthy breathing is so valuable. I think it’s important to safeguard it even when we’re not sick, that is, in moments when we don’t realize how important it is to be able to breathe well: it’s like a gift.

Currently, twenty video interviews are available online. The project is part of a broader digital initiative by Fondazione Menarini, “House of Sciences,”: a virtual hub where physicians, healthcare professionals, students, and science enthusiasts can access up-to-date information. 

Dialogs Beyond Borders is an integral part of Fondazione Menarini’s overarching vision, dedicated to fostering dialogue and promoting international collaboration among experts and healthcare professionals, with the aim to catalyze innovative solutions. The hope is that these “virtual conversations” with some of the greatest scientific minds of our time will serve as a wellspring of inspiration for all, especially for young individuals considering a career in the life sciences sector.