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image European Research News Centre > Research and Society > The new generation
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image image image Date published : 05/11/2001
  image The new generation
  It was 20°C in Bergen at the end of September. Prince Haakon and his young wife lent a special sparkle to the event, as did the presence of five Nobel prizewinners - Ivar Giaver, Sir Harold Kroto, Ben Mottelson, Jen Skou and Gerardus 't Hooft. With visits to Bergen Aquarium, scientific lectures and a reception at the university, a symposium on European research, and a concert at Grieg's house, there was certainly no shortage of activities.

This was a celebration of young people, aged between 15 and 20. Some would describe them as 'model students', but they were more than that. They were young people with ideas, ready to bring real enthusiasm to a job they believe in. In fact, they were the researchers of the future.

It was the 13th Contest for Young Scientists to be organised by the European Union. Prior to the European competition, more than 30 000 students had participated in national competitions. A total of 95 successful students then travelled to Bergen to present their 65 projects to a discerning international jury.

Pauline Slosse, the jury president, is a lecturer at Brussels University (BE) and also works at the Centre Universitaire Didactique pour l'Enseignement de la Chimie. 'The quality of the projects made the task more difficult than ever this year. I am sure all the jury members will long remember this unique experience and the passionate dialogue with young scientists from all over Europe and beyond.'

For the young competitors, the experience was no doubt equally memorable. In this city lying somewhat on the 'fringes' of Europe - it is not a capital, is not situated in a Member State, and for many evokes images of the Far North - the young scientists suddenly found themselves plunged into a scientific and European maelstrom, communicating with other like-minded young people and meeting adults who were prepared to take their work seriously.

Launching pad

With many competitors from the Central and Eastern European Countries and a few from as far afield as Israel, Japan and the United States, this was far from being an exclusively EU event. The fields of study (environment, health, mathematics, astrophysics, biology, etc.) were many and the research topics varied. Three projects won the first prize of euro sign5000. Thomas Aumeyr and Thomas Morocutti, two 19-year-old Austrians, won with their digital camera and radiotherapy device which is connected to a computer enabling a precise calculation and dosage of radiation to be made in the treatment of skin diseases. Sebastian Abel, an 18-year-old German student, was rewarded for his analysis of satellite pictures of clouds, providing meteorologists with a tool with which to distinguish cloud masses from snow- covered terrain. Finally, James Lee Mitchell, a British student (18), won first prize for his study of the causes of resistance to the effects of azole, a drug used to combat Candida tropicalis, a common cause of fungal infections, especially in patients with deficient immune systems.

Second prizes (euro sign3000 per project) were awarded to three projects, presented by Hungarian and Polish students, while a Dane, an Irish team and two British students won third prizes. A number of special awards were also made, including an invitation to attend the 100th Nobel Prize award ceremony and the chance to attend training courses at the European Southern Observatory on the Canary Islands, the European Space Agency and the Norwegian Polar Institute.

Although pleased at having brought together so many young scientists at such an event, Director-General Achilleas Mitsos of the European Commission nevertheless pointed out that 'the principal difficulty today is probably to encourage young people to take up the challenge of embarking on a career in science and technology'.

No doubt he could find some reassurance in the fortunes of some former prizewinners, such as Henrik Moouritsen from Denmark, a winner in 1991, whose passion is ornithology. Today he travels the world to observe the movements of certain birds and monarch butterflies and has just been awarded more than _1 million from the Volkswagen Foundation to continue his research. More recently (1999), the young Irish researcher Sarah Flannery presented a new algorithm whose applications in the field of cryptography are currently opening up some very concrete opportunities in terms of patents and innovative applications.

The next young scientists meeting will be held in Vienna in September 2002.



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