- Success stories - Sevilla 1992
Spiller - Frithjof Küpper - Hendrik Küpper (D)
Prize in Seville 1992. Their project was titled "Environmental
Relevance of Heavy Metal Substituted Chlorophylls". Their
interest in plant pigments dates back to autumn 1986, when
they started to investigate the autumnal colouring of leaves.
The three of them had remained friends and classmates for
years, so they decided in 1988 to submit their findings to
Schüler Experimentieren, a German competition for young scientists.
explains that: "then we were sent to the second round, the
Jugend Forscht, which would take place in Leverkuse, although
we were not able to fully participate because we were too
confess they owe a lot to their physics teacher's encouragement,
Mr. Brennemann. In spite of that, the scientific equipment
available at school was unsuitable for experimental work,
and "apart from a few chemicals we found there, we had to
choose other options. Early in 1987 we started establishing
a laboratory in the basement of our house. In order to obtain
technical equipment and chemicals, we repeatedly asked a local
company and sent request letters to manufacturers or suppliers
of laboratory products. We wanted donations, borrowing deals
or reduced prices. In many cases, their support was instantaneous
and generous. That is why we recommend to university researchers
to try to obtain used materials from the research departments
in industry. Such technical stuff is often thrown away despite
the fact that it may still be quite functional".
specific interest in chlorophylls and their derivatives dates
back to 1988, when Frithjof spent autumn at De la Salle College
in Dublin. Michael Doyle, one of his Irish friends, drew his
attention to what would become the topic of their project
in Seville 1992: "in heavy metal chlorophylls, the central
atom of natural chlorophyll (magnesium) has been replaced
by certain elements like copper or zinc. Copper chlorophyll
derivatives are of widespread use as dyes for cosmetics and
foodstuffs. After a few experiments on such isolated pigments,
we soon asked ourselves to what extent they might also be
formed naturally in living plants".
The three daredevil researchers discovered that the exchange
of magnesium for certain toxic heavy metals (copper, mercury,
cadmium, nickel, zinc, etc.) in vivo seemed to have a major
damaging effect on stressed plants. Frithjof explains that
the substitution "prevents light harvesting in the affected
chlorophyll molecules, finally resulting in a photosynthesis
breakdown. We demonstrated that damage symptoms depend on
light intensity. Low light means that a large part of the
total chlorophyll is accessible to heavy metal substitution.
Intense light prevented heavy metal chlorophylls from properly
forming. However, unknown reactions prevail in this case".
Martin and Hendrik obtained another award by means of this
project at the Young Europeans' Environmental Research Competition
(November 1992). They believe that the EU Contest opened up
the gateway to Europe concerning their careers. Correspondingly,
they developed a "strong interest in European languages".
Apart from German, Hendrik speaks English and has a basic
knowledge of Czech, French and Russian; Frithjof is fluent
in English, modern Greek and French; and Martin speaks English
Judges in both that one and the European Contest recommended
publishing their findings and, eventually, this was made possible
on the Journal of Experimental Botany.
moment, both Frithjof and Hendrik are studying biology at
the University of Konstanz; Martin is doing physics at the
RWTH (the Institute of Technology of the State of Nordrhein-Westfalen)
of Aachen (Germany). But how did they get there? In 1993 they
visited young scientists in Greece and Cyprus. They produced
a program for the Greek TV channel Antenna 1 in Athens, and
gave a lecture for students of a grammar school in Paphos
(Cyprus). Hendrik, in particular, gave another lecture at
the last joint Czechoslovak Young Scientists Competition in
Jihlava (June 1993). The following winter, they gave another
talk at the European Young Scientists' Conference called "Science
and Technology, the Lever of the New European Development"
way, visits to other European countries became longer and
longer sojourns. A contact from Greek young scientists and
their supervisors enabled Frithjof to work at the National
Centre for Marine Research in Athens (1994). Later on he got
the opportunity to work on the biochemistry of seaweed at
Station Biologique de Roscoff, which is one of the oldest
marine laboratories in Europe. He has therefore studied, amongst
other things, the metabolism of iodine and oxygen-activated
species as well as the defence reactions of marine brown algae.
This project first became his diploma thesis and then developed
into his PhD. And he is still connected to the DG Research
of the European Commission since a Marie Curie Research Training
Grant (MAST III Programme) is financing his PhD.
Martin, he did his diploma thesis at the RWTH of Aachen, and
currently works on his PhD thanks to the co-operation between
that institution and the Institut Mécanique des Fluides (Toulouse).
His interest currently focuses on numerical and experimental
studies of reactive transport processes, particularly in large-scale
but not least, Hendrik received an invitation to the Czechoslovak
competition in Jihlava, which provided him with the opportunity
to work at the Institute for Autotrophic Micro-organisms of
the Czech Academy of Sciences in Trebon. He spent three months
there, in total, between the years 1996 and 1997.
finally completed his diploma project in a joint programme
between the University of Konstanz and the Czech Academy of
Sciences in Trebon. He now does his PhD thesis by means of
a co-operative scheme between those two centres and the IACR
of Rothamsted (Institute of Arable Crops Research), in England.
And his thesis is actually a sort of development of their
project at Seville 1992. It deals with a comparison of heavy
metal hyper accumulator and non-accumulator plants.
consider their chances of remaining in the fields of active
research either at universities or scientific institutions
very optimistically. The EU Contest, they confess, has definitely
been "an important contribution to this".
Bellot Rubio (E)
Prize winner alongside with Antonio Román Reche and Gustavo
Román Reche. Their project was titled "Analysis of visual
observations of the comet Levy".
now part of the Research Staff of the Instituto Astrofísico
participated in the EU Contest of Sevilla 1992 with a project
titled: "The fourth world". This project was specially peculiar:
his programme combined mathematics, phsyics, psychology, history
and religion in order to simulate the behaviour of populations
from the standpoint of mass psychology. In brief, the programme
designed by Salo could calculate the evolution of a chosen
population year by year and taking into account that population's
standards of living, culture of political situation.
that his academic background in Seville was somewhat different
from the others'. At the time of the EU Contest, he was profoundly
involved in musical composition at the Sibelius Academy of
Helsinki. However, his participation in the Contest allowed
him "to meet other young people and scientists with similar
interests, which made me concentrate my efforts on science
rather than music: "that was a really good choice for me.
And here I am now, quite devoted to science and having nothing
else to do but research in cognitive science".
his personal recollections of Seville 1992, he affirms that
"despite the fact that I did not actually obtain an overwhelming
success in there, which was understandable because my work
was not really one of the best, I felt that my enthusiasm,
devotion and originality was noticed and encouraged by the
senior scientists around". He is very grateful concerning
the way he was treated by the members of the Jury, and their
"intense curiosity that they showed towards my project. I
specially recall one old mathematics professor whose attitude
was really supporting and warm. I had rather long discussions
that "the EU contest changed the course of my life for better.
It meant to me, as it did to anybody else involved in it,
a brilliant experience that we will remember throughout our
is quite assertive about the relevance of competitions: "I
think that a science contest like the EU one, attracting young
people to the realms of science to a degree that can hardly
be matched by any other day-to-day circumstances, must absolutely
be sustained and supported in the future. I just wish there
could be more events like that". He insists that "potential
scientists need a model and a lot of encouragement. That is
something one cannot easily find in a high school or a University.
At least in my case, I would have not experienced if it had
not been for the EU Contest".
working on his PhD in Cognitive Science at the University
of Helsinki, he admits that his studies are basically interdisciplinary
and multi-faceted. Besides his studies, he is also involved