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.
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 5000.
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 (3000
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
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.