The European Union (EU) Contest for Young Scientists is a science fair initiated by the European Commission. It was set up to promote the ideals of cooperation and interchange between young scientists, and provides an annual showcase of the best of European student scientific achievement, attracting widespread media interest. The EU Contest is hosted annually in a different European country in co-operation with the European Commission. Held in the Netherlands this year, the competition for young scientists aged 14 to 20 attracted 132 participants from 33 countries in Europe, as well as the USA, Canada, and Israel. From September 13 to 18, nearly 90 research papers were presented in the fields of biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics, medicine, physics, and social sciences.
The first prize at the 33rd EU Contest, announced at the award ceremony in Leiden’s Stadsgehoorzaal, went to Meda Surdokaitė from Lithuania for her project Optimization of the Synthesis of the Fluorescent Dye “Nile Red”. The second and third prizes went to projects from Czechia, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Canada, Greece, Belgium and Poland.
Lithuania’s Meda Surdokaitė not only won the first prize, but was also awarded a special prize, an invitation to the Nobel Prize award ceremony in Stockholm, the Ministry of Education announced. According to the ministry, this is one of the best results in Lithuania’s history.
The young scientist’s optimized production methods avoid the use of toxic substances used so far, thus ensuring accessibility, adaptability and safer handling. Surdokaitė said that “Through organic chemistry, we can protect oceans from microplastics, treat serious diseases and create a greener daily life. Through my work, I have contributed to [research on] safety and sustainability, and learned about new methods.” Her optimized synthesis dye has already been successfully used in research.
“During the competition, I was informed that a biotechnology company had successfully used my optimized fusion product to stain myelin-forming brain cells. Myelin staining allows us to study processes involved in diseases such as sclerosis or schizophrenia,” she said.
Surdokaitė started her studies in applied chemistry at Kaunas University of Technology this year.