- Success stories - Milano 1997
prize for his project on the "Preparation of Chromiferous
Coatings to Absorb Solar Energy". The competition gave him
the opportunity to get in touch "with fellow participants
from many European countries. The atmosphere was friendly
all through the five days of the EU Contest". It all started
in the spring of 1997, when he won access to the EU finals
from the Russian vast National Contest.
trip to Milano was the first time I travelled abroad. I remember
well the moment we landed in Milano, and how I realised the
fact that no one spoke Russian anymore around me. It was the
first time I experienced that".
Serguei recalls the warm welcome of the student-helpers and
the first dinner in a Milanese restaurant, where he was able
to taste pizza for the first time in his life. He was most
impressed by the close contact between organisers and contestants.
One of the brightest impressions he had was the visit to the
European Joint Research Centre in Ispra. The environmental
concern of the activities of the Centre had always attracted
him very strongly. And then the last days of the Contest arrived.
He felt mixed emotions: he was sad to be about to leave that
fantastic city but, on the other hand, he was satisfied by
the realisation of his dreams and expectations. When he was
awarded the diploma he felt as if he were a film star. He
still keeps in touch with very good friends he made at the
EU Contest. Communication amongst visitors, contestants and
members of the Jury was pleasant and very fruitful. It all
convinced me of the importance of my research. He believes
that technology transfer and co-operation amongst young scientists
are successfully promoted by events like the EU Contest in
Milano. Two years after, he still considers the EU Contest
as an unforgettable event and he wishes he could "return to
by means of a time-machine. Actually this could be my next
now a fourth-year student at the Astrakhan State Technical
University. His interest in environmental protection has swapped
from Solar Photo-Voltaic Technology to the study of ecological
and safe ways of removing oil from water surfaces.
The Russian tanker "Nahodka" sunk in the Sea of Japan in January
1997. Ecological catastrophes like that are numerous nowadays,
and they have forced the international community to take measures
to combat oil pollution once the disaster has occurred. He
is currently developing a system destined to recover oil from
water. He is utilising a material that he calls "Protector".
The process is simple but very effective.
the first part of the process, polluted water enters a solar
reactor, where it is then mixed up with Protector, which is
a porous material that absorbs the oil. Water is then filtered
and returned clean to normal use by means of a solar reactor
and a thermal processing. The second section of the device
deals with the remaining mass of oil and Protector. They are
split into usable oil for Petrochemical industries and Protector,
which is available for recurrent utilisation.
main components that Serguei has had to tackle are the Protector
and the coating destined to produce the required solar reaction.
Protector is a crystalline material, completely derived from
natural components. He describes it as ecologically safe,
cheap, capable of recurrent usage, and not soluble in water.
Besides, Protector does not alter the chemical and physical
characteristics of oil. Concerning the coating used for the
solar reaction, he assures that it does not make use of chemical
solutions whatsoever. The main component of the coating is
aluminium, which at the same time relieves the weight of the
device. Serguei describes this coating as cheap, steadfast
to corrosion, light, easily divisible without any deformation,
Prize and Travel Award to the Nobel Prize Ceremony for the
project called "Permanent Self-conducting Polymers".
He has kept in touch with some of the members of the German
and Swiss teams. The anecdote he remembers the best is that
his chair broke while he was sitting on it during the discussion
with the members of the Jury: "it was an obviously funny experience
to watch me reassembling and soldering the chair".
project studied the use of conducting polymers as a substitute
for standard metal-wires. Microchip and space industries would
be possible recipients of future improvements on these materials.
Eike has already patented his work and he does intend to further
improve it in the spare time he might have at University:
"there is still some trouble with obtaining a simpler synthesis
and a better conductivity. This must be solved and I have
got quite a lot of ideas to try out. The real problem is that
conductivity varies too strongly from synthesis to synthesis.
This is caused by the heterogeneous catalysing system. In
other words, conductivity has to be improved in order to use
the polymer in thicker films and/or longer connections such
as small wires".
been doing his PhD in Chemistry at the University of Konstanz
since October 1998. He will have finished by next spring.
From then on, he would love to find an occupation in a research
laboratory dealing either with organic and metallic chemistry
or pharmaceutical products.
was, according to him, a very attractive way of "exchanging
ideas with people from different countries" and of the same
won a third prize in Milan 1997 with a project titled "MATIKA:
The Game To Solve Your Mathematical Problems".
He admits that his project put an end to "a long research,
and at the same time it was the beginning of another long
way in order to obtain patents and managing the invention".
He obtained two patents in both Romania and Hungary: "at this
very moment there is a company in Romania that is distributing
my game. Next April the software will be available to the
public in Romania's stores. It will be exported to a few countries
Gábor was quite happy to attend the Youth Conference in Brussels
(1998). The meeting gathered together successful participants
in many European Commission programmes and "it became an occasion
to re-meet contestants from Milan 1997".
that the interdisciplinary nature of the EU Contest definitely
helps to popularise science, "thus increasing its attractiveness
and improving its understanding. Personally, the EU Contest
has had multiple impacts in my career. It is one of the highest
points of my CV, and I made lots of acquaintances thanks to
it. It was a big satisfaction after all the work I had been
after the EU Contest in Milano, he won another prize at a
scientific competition called EUREKA' 99 in Brussels. Gábor
is now studying mathematics at Löránd Eotvös University of
Science (Budapest). The fourth year of his degree almost completed,
he is thinking about going for the PhD: "the fields I am interested
in are statistics and probability".
Silva e Carmo (P)
won a Second Prize in Milan 1997, as well as the travel award
to the London International Youth Science Forum. His project
focused on "A Control Centre for School Experiments".
the assessment of the Jury as "one of the scariest moments,
but really paid off in the end!" Bernardo reckons that the
young scientists attending the Contest in Milano "were really
good in their own fields, and I learnt so much in terms of
excellence, relevance and motivation for research. It also
made me change from an industrial perspective towards a multidisciplinary
and more academic approach. This has later had a decisive
impact in my career choices".
after the Milano Contest, Bernardo organised his own school's
first science fair and founded a science club as well: "I
also prepared other activities, specially targeted at students
who are considering taking up a career in science. People
who, for various reasons, are not able to carry out their
currently studying Computer Engineering at the University
of Southampton (UK). He describes the coursework as challenging
and "extremely well prepared. I have had many chances to put
the project I presented in Milan to further use. Actually
some issues being taught now in my final year were part of
my project then. One of my lecturers said I had gained invaluable
experience and knowledge thanks to it". He has now received
a conditional offer to take up a PhD on Medical Ultrasound
Tomography at the University of Cambridge, which he plans
to start in September 2000. During the interview leading to
this offer, "the project and my participation in the EU Contest
were again a decisive factor".
Bernardo was also successful at the European Space Agency's
Contest, where he presented a proposal for a new approach
to supporting animal life in the International Space Station.
I am asked if the EU Contest for Young Scientists changed
my life and career decisions, the answer is an absolute yes".
Bernardo confesses that, while working on his project, he
made valuable industrial and academic contacts that would
not have been possible otherwise. He thinks science is a difficult
subject, but "thanks to the EU Contest I had the motivation
to approach it not as a struggle, but as something exciting,
fascinating and fun!"
no doubts about the pivotal role the Contest has played in
his life: "not only did it influence my plans, but it also
enabled me to carry out those very plans. In a more long-term
perspective, it has helped me to build a strong sense of European
citizenship and competitiveness, as well as a vision of the
Europe I want to live in. Having moved to England three years
ago, sometimes people ask me whether I am English or Portuguese.
And I always recall all those fond memories from Milan 1997
and answer that I am European".
about "The digestive system of carnivorous plants" won him
and his fellow participant, Antoine Wüthrich, a First Prize
in Milan 1997.
the EU Contest in a few sentences: "a unique event where I
made acquaintances with many people all over Europe, a lot
of interesting discussions with interesting people, and a
lot to eat".
ceremony is the memory he cherishes the best: "we sat inside
the impressive Town Hall of Milano. Many speakers developed
their speeches and the atmosphere became quite stressing.
Then they began to list the participants with no prices. My
colleague and I had not heard our names. We thought that they
had missed us. Then the Third Prize winners, the Second Prize
winners… We had not heard our names yet. We said to ourselves
that it could not be possible. There had to be a mistake.
And then the First Prizes, when we finally heard our names
being pronounced. It was like in a dream; we stood up, and
there was a big applause a lot of flashes from cameras. It
was a unique feeling. Then we heard we have won the Alumni
prize too. Quite difficult to describe with words".
EU Contest had its anecdotes for Christoph as well, like that
one in which a family came to visit their stand and asked
them if they could watch as the carnivorous plants in the
stand ate three mosquitoes they had caught at home. According
to Christoph, they were a bit scared and asked permission
to do it because "maybe it was too dangerous". But Christoph
has become a sort of authority in his field: he was even invited
to an International Carnivorous Plants Congress in Bonn (1998)
to present his project to the specialists meeting there.
after his First Prize, Christoph began to study biology at
the ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) in Zürich.
The first year he chose Chemistry, but in the second one he
opted for a mixture between organic chemistry, biochemistry
and biology. His current course deals with immunology, genetics,
biochemistry, cellular biology, etc. He will have finished
his degree by autumn 2001, and then he intends to undertake
he will be able to go to Maastricht in spring in order to
follow some practical training in genetics with professor
Joseph Geraedts. Mr. Geraedts was one of the members of the
Jury in Milano 1997. During the summer he expects to be able
to go to the University of Uppsala (Finland) to complete another
training scheme in immunology. And many more things, apart
from his remarkable scientific goals: "I want to experience
many new things and I want to learn about other languages
as well as about other cultures".
not been 100% sure about following a career in biology before
the First Prize in Milano.
He was specially shocked about the attention received by the
press and the media: "I suppose they realised that prize winners
were capable of doing a very respectable work". In his opinion,
the participation in the EU Contest makes it easier to find
interesting jobs afterwards, as well as being a very enjoyable
experience itself. Besides, he personally improved his presentation
skills by thoroughly explaining his research to the public
and to the Jury members.
guest. She presented a project alongside with her brother
Stéfane Filion: "Probing the Depths". It was the result of
a whole year of activity. They designed and created a submersible
probe analogous to an underwater satellite. Renée explains
that it is equipped with 8 sensors, and programmed using a
pen laser: "SPI (Submersible Probe with Intelligence) is non/tethered
and highly adaptable to different applications. For example,
you could tell SPI to dive to a depth of 20 metres, remain
at that depth and log the temperature of the water every minute
over a course of 10 hours. Then it could return to the surface
and download the information. SPI could also be used to map
water currents (a very beneficial knowledge in the case of,
i. e., a tral derailment near a water body or an oil spill)".
It could as well take precise water column readings, log important
characteristic information during spring and fall turnover
events, and search for underwater springs, among many other
shining a laser pen on a few LED's on the motherboard, you
can program SPI, without ever taking it apart, to dive to
a specified depth. It will then hover at that depth for a
specified amount of time while logging information from each
of its 8 sensors at intervals of 1 minute. The sensors onboard
are easily changeable, and so the versatility of SPI is widely
their experience at the EU Contest, she remembers that "it
was my first time across the Atlantic Ocean, and my first
trip to Europe". She and her brother were most excited because,
"coming from a small city in Northern Ontario (Canada), I
was really baffled and impressed by the incredible diversity
in cultures and languages. Being fluently bilingual in both
of Canada's official languages, it was a shock to find myself
in a situation where I no longer understood all the languages
spoken around me".
are both attending the University of Western Ontario, in Canada.
Stéfane is doing electrical engineering and she is following
an individually specialised science program called "Enriched
Combined Honours Program" in Physics, Mathematics and Computer
Science. Although only in her second year of university, she
plans to obtain her MSc and her PhD before heading into some
career in education. She reckons that "with this new insight
to added information and scientific breakthroughs, we are
finding it even harder to decide on plausible careers or even
areas of specialisation". She is actually studying all major
sciences and she finds it difficult to select one over the
other. She intends to continue to take as many as possible
into next year.
Contest was "without a doubt, the best experience of our lives
and a chance of a lifetime". Renée explains how did she and
her brother get to the EU finals: "In order to reach the EU
contest (the farthest you go in science fair competitions
in North America), we had to win numerous awards at several
independent fairs. Unless victorious at the regional level,
you cannot progress to the national level and, unless victorious
at the national level, you cannot progress to the international
were representing Canada, along with a few others, at the
INTEL International Science and Engineering fair. They won
one of the top awards, the Pinnacle Award, and that gave us
the opportunity to represent the ISEF at the EU Contest, held
in Milano the following fall. She thinks that "Stéfane and
I are the first Canadians ever chosen to represent ISEF at
the EU Contest. It was an incredible experience and we were
both honoured to be chosen as ambassadors for the ISEF, and
thrilled to have had the opportunity to participate in such
a well-organised, prestigious fair".
EU Contest "gave us the opportunity to meet other young scientists
with similar interests, and to learn from each other by sharing
our ideas and inventions. We learned a tremendous amount,
both socially and intellectually. Each participant had a different
background, a different story to tell.
from different countries, speaking different languages and
having different cultures, we all had something to share.
Although communicating was sometimes a challenge, we shared
one common interest: science. That, in the end, was the most
remarkable thing". She acknowledges that, regardless of their
diverse nationalities, they were all "keen young scientists
willing to share our ideas and learn from others". It "opened
my eyes to the world and made me realise that if we worked
together, we could promise wonderful new things to the scientific