History - Success stories - Copenhagen 1990

Marco Ziegler (CH)

First Prize for the project titled "Drinking Water Examination with Special Consideration of Corrosional Aspects".

From Copenhagen 1990 he remembers the many social events taking place and the satisfactory results of the award: "my project definitely helped to understand the source of problems and design measures for improvement within my community. After the EU Contest, a number of other communities inquired about water analyses, and finally even companies turned to me and asked for advice. I then established my own "official" laboratory, which I first set up in the cellar of my parent's house. Clients included local companies but eventually people from Germany, Japan and Syria also. I still receive e-mails and messages inquiring about corrosion analysis today"
He assures that, amongst others, the EU Contest has definitely helped him to pursue a career in science and to obtain two prestigious fellowships such as Schweizerische Studienstiftung and the Miller Fellowship.

After his participation in the EU Contest he kept on running the Water Analysis Laboratory he had founded in 1986. As he did in the project he presented at the EU Contest, Marco studied the effect of corrosion in drinking water pipes. He consulted companies and local communities in order to help identify and solve corrosion problems in those pipes. And this not only in Switzerland, but in some areas of Germany and Japan as well. He sold his laboratory in 1996 and completed his degree and, afterwards, his PhD at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland), specifically in the Institute of Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry. He completed it with a "cum laude" mention in July 1998). Having finished that, he then succeeded in his application for a Miller Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley (1998-2000), where he is currently investigating and studying supra-molecular chemistry and combinatorial methods.

Graham Miller (UK)

He won the Second Prize at Copenhagen 1990, alongside with Ian Thompson. Their project was titled: "Investigation of oils used in soap manufacture". He remembers that "there was lots of interesting science at the Copenhagen event, from laser-based acupuncture, through to seaweed found in the coast of Ireland and the various activities in the week". These activities included a trip to Hamlet's castle and a trip to "probably one of the best breweries in the world -Carlsberg". He considers, though, that "the best bit of the competition was surely the people. For many, like myself, it was our first time away from our home countries on anything other than a summer holiday. The chance to meet such a fun loving, diverse, but like minded group of people helped to break down a lot of prejudices, and forge valuable friendships".

The Second Prize in Copenhagen "really boosted my self confidence and helped me to gain sponsorship through University by Unilever Research. The EU Contest is a prestigious event and is held in high esteem by employers. He is sure that he has "certainly benefited from the European perspective that participation in the EU Contest gave me. In European businesses today, managers who focus on their own national interests at the expense of European co-operation will flounder".

Although no patents were forthcoming from the project he presented, his investigation on soap manufacture was utilised by Unilever Research's Port Sunlight Laboratories, which is one of the premier research organisations on the subject of detergent technology.
Following University he went on to gain a place on Unilever's management training scheme, where he has had the opportunity to work throughout Europe and also on a one year secondment to China. He works now as a Project Manager on a Europe-wide systems project working alongside team members from Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Waltraud Schulze (D)

She won a First Prixe at Copenhagen 1990 with a project on "The Effect of Assimilatory Starch for The Growth of Arabidopsis Thaliana". She remembers that "when I took part in the EU Contest in Copenhagen, I was still a high school student. I was glad about any event that could give me a few days off from school, especially if it was something official like a science contest. Apart from having a week off from school, it was extremely interesting to meet other students from all over Europe. The diversity of interesting people and projects was amazing". She assures that she is always fond of looking back to her memories from Copenhagen 1990, and she is still in touch with two of her fellow contestants from that edition.
Concerning her project, she mentions that two years after the EU Contest, she completed a more extended version using the same mutant plants, trying always to answer some of the questions that had been posed at Copenhagen. This revision allowed her to win the German National Contest for Young Scientists (Jugend Forscht) and she was awarded a six-week practical course with the Organisation of Tropical Studies in Costa Rica.

She reckons that "even now, as I am working on sucrose transport, my old research project on storage of starch is still of some importance to the understanding of these mechanisms. I learnt from this early project how to approach, in general, a scientific investigation: how to evaluate data, how to set up an experiment, and finally how to write it up. I am still enjoying the great advantages of having learnt all that so early in my life".

Her participation in the EU Contest made her, in her own words, "feel like a real scientist at some kind of very important meeting. There was a wonderful atmosphere there, and I guess it helped me to confirm my decision to become a scientist". Waltraud is currently working as a graduate student at the Centre for Molecular Biology of Plants in Tübingen, specifically within Prof. Dr. Wolf Frommer's team. Her research group has focused on the physiology of plants, and particularly on genes involved in sucrose transport and sucrose sensing. She explains that "I am now in the second year of my PhD research project on the regulation of sucrose transport, but before I started that, I did my diploma-thesis on transports for nitrogenous compounds expressed in the capturing organs of the carnivorous plant called Nepenthes". Carnivorous plants, such as Nepenthes, are adapted to a nutrient poor environment and supplement their nitrogen budget by the capture and digestion of insects. The contribution of insect nitrogen can amount up to 70% of the plant's nitrogen content. At the same time the plant invests a substantial amount of resources into the development of special trapping organs and digestive system. Both the uptakes of nutrients from the pitcher fluid and the transport to other plant organs are important steps in the nitrogen acquisition from pitchers. However, very little is known about the molecular mechanisms involved. Some of Waltraud's findings were published in 1999, and she has contributed as well to specialist journals such as The Plant Journal, Oecologia, and Plant Physiology.

Still in the same field of investigation, she is now developing independent research projects such as the analysis of the nitrogen status of various carnivorous plants by using stable nitrogen isotopes. She explains that "I am actually writing a research paper about the amount of nitrogen derived from the insect prey in the Venus Flytrap species".

However, she has undertaken many different tasks: "I joined a few international expeditions to Siberia I order to analyse the boreal pine forest's CO² budget. I had to manage to do it during the semester breaks I had while taking courses as an undergraduate student". One of her hobbies consists of exploring remote places of the world by bike: "in the last few years I have visited Patagonia, Mongolia, Namibia, etc.".

Nikolaos S. Papaspyrou (GR)

He participated in the EU Contest at Copenhagen 1990, with a project titled "DGRAPH. Drawings for Dot-matrix Printers".

His current situation can be summarised like this: "I finished my PhD at the National Technical University of Athens in February 1998. The research area was the Semantics of Programming Languages. Right after that, I had to do my military service. I have now applied for a teaching position at the Technical University of Chania and I am most likely to be employed there for a few semesters. I am interested in continuing my research and I am looking for an academic position in Greece".

He is now researching on the field of "executable intentional languages and intelligent applications of multimedia, hypermedia and virtual reality".