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Europe's top young scientists chosen in Brussels

Brussels, 19 September 2016

The European Commission today awarded top prizes to 45 young scientists for their outstanding science projects. Cash prizes totalling €49 500 were handed out at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists award ceremony in Brussels, along with other valuable prizes such as science trips to Europe's leading research laboratories.

The three first prizes were awarded to Ane Espeseth (18) and Torstein Vik (17) from Norway for “Motivic Symbols and Classical Multiplicative Functions”, Valerio Pagliarino (16) from Italy for “LaserWAN: laser broadband internet connection” and River Grace (17) from USA for “Shining a Light on the Blind: Evolutionary Regression and Adaptive Progression in the Micro-vertebrate Ramphotyphlops braminus, a Model for Understanding Brain Organization and Complex Neurological Disorders”. The second prizes went to projects from Germany and Canada, in the areas of computing, physics and medicine. The three third prizes were given to projects from Ireland, Czech Republic and South Korea. A detailed list is available online.

Carlos Moedas, European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said: "This year's winners were picked in a tough competition involving 138 young researchers, who all came to Brussels with brilliant new ideas. It is reassuring to see that Europe has so many bright young minds, who also have the determination and skills to turn their dreams into reality. I hope to see many of them in a few years' time as part of the next generation of top scientists, working hard to solve the multiple challenges Europe and the world are facing."

The contestants, aged between 14 and 20, presented their projects to an international independent jury in the hope of picking up one of the 36 prestigious prizes. They all had previously won first prize in their home country's national science competitions in their specific field. The projects covered a broad spectrum of scientific areas, including biology, physics, chemistry, computing, social sciences, environment, mathematics, materials, engineering and medicine. This year's jury was chaired by Dr Lina Tomasella from the Astronomical Observatory of Padova.

Non-cash prizes included trips to the London International Youth Science Forum and the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar as well as prizes from corporate sponsors including trips to Intel ISEF in the US, and visits to the European Commission's in-house science service, the Joint Research Centre, and the eight organisations making up the pan-European research group Eiroforum. This year five new prizes were awarded under the umbrella of the Bioeconomy. The Food industry donated four awards and the Bio-Based Industries Public-Private Parthership operating under Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014-2020) also awarded a prize.

Background

The European Union Contest for Young Scientists was set up by the European Commission in 1989 to encourage co-operation and exchange between young scientists and to give them an opportunity to be guided by some of Europe's most prominent researchers.

The contest seeks to support national efforts to attract young people to study science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and to eventually choose careers in science and research. The number of participating young scientists has grown from 53 in the first competition in 1989 to 138 this year.

Female participation in the contest reflects the broader issue of underrepresentation of women in STEM. This year, 31% of the participants were female (53 participants vs. 85 male participants). Over the 28 years, 272 young women and 837 young men have won prizes in this contest.

More information

Press contact

EC Spokesperson for Research, Science and Innovation