The European Union (EU) Contest for Young Scientists, an initiative of the European Commission, was set up to promote the ideals of co-operation and interchange between young scientists.

The EU launched the Contest for Young Scientists back in 1989, with the aim of encouraging young people to get involved in science and eventually embark on a career in research. Every year since then, young researchers aged 14 to 21 from across Europe and beyond have gathered to present their work and compete for the top prizes. All of the entrants have already won prestigious science awards in their home countries, making this international contest one of the toughest competitions for young scientists in the world. The event also offers the participants a fantastic opportunity to get to know other young scientists and discuss their work with some of the world’s leading researchers, including Nobel Prize winners.

The participants in the EU Contest for Young Scientists are already winners! To enter the contest, participants must have previously won a competition for young scientists at the national level. This high standard sets the EU Contest for Young Scientists apart from similar competitions. Entries from both individuals and small teams of up to 3 people are allowed, and the students must be aged between 14 and 21.Most of the entrants are from within Europe, but in recent years the contest has attracted students from as far afield as the US, China, the Republic of Korea and Japan.

The week-long event, which is held in a different European city every year, is a true celebration of the talents of the young scientists. At the venue, each participating team is allocated a stand in an exhibition area to display its findings to the jury and other visitors. The project must both conform to the strictest safety requirements and be suitable for public display.

A project that in any way can be construed to be a threat to either animal or human health will be withdrawn from the Contest. In particular experiments that involve radioactive substances, dangerous equipment, toxic and carcinogenic materials are all excluded from public display.

Over the course of the week, the jury members visit the stands and quiz the entrants on their research, their findings and their conclusions. The questions are often extremely detailed, and the experience is made all the more difficult for many students by the fact that the interviews are conducted entirely in English.

The jury is made up of leading scientists from both academia and industry. Before the event, the jury carries out a preliminary assessment of the entries. At the event, each team is grilled by at least three jury members.

During these intense interviews, the jury is looking for the following:

  • originality and creativity;
  • skill and thoroughness in the way the project has been carried out;
  • reasoning and clarity in the interpretation of the results;
  • top class presentation of the project, both in the written work and during the interviews.

The judges also take into account how much support a team had from teachers and other mentors.The core prizes are:

  • Three first prizes worth EUR 7 000 each
  • Three second prizes worth EUR 5 000 each
  • Three third prizes worth EUR 3 500 each

Other awards include:

  • A trip to the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar, which includes attendance at the Nobel Prize ceremonies
  • A trip to the London International Youth Science Forum
  • A five-day visit to the European Patent Office in Munich, Germany

A week-long stay at some of Europe’s leading research centers:

  • CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research)
  • EFDA (European Fusion Development Agreement)
  • EMBL (the European Molecular Biology Laboratory)
  • ESA (the European Space Agency)
  • ESO (European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere)
  • ESRF (European Synchrotron Radiation Facility)
  • ILL (Institut Laue Langevin)

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