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Rich rewards for young scientists

Encrypting secret information to be sent via the Internet, analysing the properties of galaxy clusters, and estimating urban pollution are all problems tackled by the winners of the 11th European Union Contest for Young Scientists.

Background

Science and technology may prov...
Encrypting secret information to be sent via the Internet, analysing the properties of galaxy clusters, and estimating urban pollution are all problems tackled by the winners of the 11th European Union Contest for Young Scientists.

Background

Science and technology may provide the keys to solving major problems, often of a global nature. Therefore, it is important to encourage bright young people to pursue scientific careers. This is the spirit of the European Union Contest for Young Scientists, currently sponsored by the European Commission Research DG's Improving Human Potential Programme. This yearly event is open to winners (15- to 20-year-olds) of national young scientist competitions. It aims to identify and encourage scientific talent, to provide a stimulus for the development of promising young scientists, and to promote a spirit of innovation and interchange.

Description, impact and results

The winning projects were selected from 57 entries submitted by more than 30 countries. The international jury of eminent scientists included, as guest member, the vice-president of the European Patent Office in Munich. During the event, the young scientists were also offered valuable advice on the practicalities of patenting and IPR issues.

First prizes were awarded to projects in mathematics (Sarah Flannery, Ireland), physics (Sverrir Gudmundsson, Pall Melsted, and Tryggvi Thorgeirsson, Iceland), and environmental science (Michal Ksiazkiewicz, Poland). Sarah Flannery compared a new cryptographic system, the `Cayley-Purser algorithm', with the widely used RSA system. Expert cryptographers have already shown interest in her work. The Icelandic team used two existing data sets to analyse the properties of a galaxy cluster. They discovered a ring-shaped region of overdensity and have proposed a gravitational lensing effect as a hypothetical explanation. Michal Ksiazkiewicz developed a methodology for using lichens that grow on plants as indicators of urban air pollution. He was commended for his hard work, clear ideas and good laboratory skills.

Working partnerships

The 11th contest was hosted by the Technology Museum of Thessaloniki under the supervision of the Greek Ministry of Education. There were contestants from the EU, Central and Eastern Europe, the US, the Republic of Korea, and Japan. In addition to the first, second, and third prizes (worth 5 000 euro, 3 000 euro, and 1 500 euro respectively), there were honorary awards from the International Youth Science Forums in London and Stockholm, an Alumni Prize and, for the first time, special awards enabling their recipients to participate in research led by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (Ispra, Italy), the European Northern Observatories (Canary Islands), and the Royal Geographical Society (Seychelles).

The 12th EU Contest for Young Scientists will be held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on 18-24 September, 2000.


Source: European Commission, DG XIII/D.4 - Information and dissemination of scientific and technical knowledge
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