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Campus - 26.04.2023 - 15:00 

"Swiss Youth in Science" at SQUARE – when young people pursue their scientific dreams

It was a celebration of curiosity, and it brought together what belongs together: Swiss Youth in Science and the University of St.Gallen. In mid-April, 126 young scientists from 17 cantons spent three days as guests at SQUARE, the place for dialogue and the exchange of ideas on the HSG campus.

The 126 young scientists from all over Switzerland spent one year working on their projects before coming to the event. As a grand finale, the HSG hosted in April the 57th national competition of the "Swiss Youth in Science" [Schweizer Jugend forscht] foundation. The public was also invited to the presentation of the results. The results were showcased with pride and the audience was amazed and engaged in discussions. The young scientists, aged 16 to 23, brought compelling topics from various fields such as "Biology and Environment," "Chemistry, Biochemistry and Medicine," "Design, Architecture, and Arts," "History, Geography, Economics, and Society," "Literature, Philosophy, and Language," "Mathematics and Computer Science," as well as "Physics and Technology." 

Image gallery

Welcome of the finalists at SQUARE

Address by President Bernhard Ehrenzeller

Public exhibitions

Public exhibitions

Public exhibitions

Public exhibitions

Making friends across disciplines

Excitement was already in the air on the first day on the ground floor of the SQUARE As the President Bernhard Ehrenzeller explained in his speech, the SQUARE building was built to promote lively exchange between students. It serves as a space for inspiration, new ideas and friendships. The finalists should also experience this during the three-day event. The president also encouraged the young scientists to continue exploring topics that no one had explored before.

At the public exhibitions, we mingled with the visitors and talked to a few finalists about their inventions and motivations as well as the mood at SQUARE. It quickly became clear that the young scientists were not only passionate about their own topics but also intrigued by the topics presented by their peers. 

Finalist Philipp Wegmann

"As for the knowledge transfer here, it's great. People are genuinely interested in each other," remarked Philipp Wegmann from Winterthur. He took a close look at the popular initiative "Micro-tax on cashless payment transactions" from an economic, legal and political point of view.

Finalist Apolline Vo

"I wanted to discover Latin American culture through literature," said Apolline Vo from Fribourg, explaining her research approach. She focused, in particular, on the role of mothers and their relationship with their daughters (in novels).

Finalist Antoine Willemin

"The number of satellites in space is growing at an ever-faster rate, which can disturb observers on Earth," explained Antoine Willemin from Bern. Using measurements and long-exposure photographs, he was able to identify light streaks caused by the movement of satellites. "What is exciting about this competition is that we get to learn about more than just our own discipline."

Finalist Mischa Weiss

"My main motivation for this project was to transfer the principle of a keyboard to a marimba. This allows me to play various instruments on my marimba, such as a saxophone, organ or a synthesizer," explained Mischa Weiss from Graubünden, who was able to combine two of his passions with his work – music and technology.

Finalist Gregorio Silvestri

"My algorithm generates randomised cards for video games based on various arguments such as colour or shape. This allows for countless variations that improve the gaming experience," said Gregorio Silvestri from Lugano. "Great people and projects" is how he described "Swiss Youth in Science".

Finalist Lauriane Ambrosini

"I collected feathers in nature and in the city," said Lauriane Ambrosini from Fribourg. To identify the feather as belonging to a specific bird species, she compared a naturalistic approach with a molecular-biological method using DNA. She particularly enjoyed the exchange with her peers as well as experts during the competition.

Following the "inner child" curiosity

At the eagerly awaited award ceremony on the third day, the finalists were honoured for their work with the grades "good", "very good" or "outstanding". In addition, 35 special awards were bestowed. 

"You are all winners, hold on to this feeling," said the President Bernhard Ehrenzeller to the young scientists before the award ceremony. Always remaining curious and taking risks are the traits of the "inner child" that anyone, regardless of their age, can tap into and reconnect with. 

"Innovation surrounds us, and it inspires us," summarised Jérémie Aebischer, project manager from "Swiss Youth in Science", and handed over the floor to the keynote speaker and former Ph.D. student at the HSG, Prof. Dr Bettina Maisch. "Start with what you love and follow your passion," she encouraged the finalists. "If plans do not go as desired, think about how you can get better and change your strategy." Based on her own scientific experience, Bettina Maisch recommended: If you want to create true "impact", you will find it in interdisciplinary teams.

Group image of the special award winners

Making dreams come true

Finally, we asked three of the special award winners. Joanne Azariah from Basel has developed a model for the education system that makes it easier to predict grades. With her research work, she wanted to bring artificial intelligence to schools. She was awarded the special prize from the "Swiss Innovation Forum (SIF)". Luca Charlier from Fribourg won the special award from the "Stockholm International Young Science Seminar" for his project in mathematics where he calculated the asymptotic density of several subsets of natural numbers. Anna Ilg from Zurich examined the past and future of Namibia in her project and explored whether land reform was a suitable instrument for overcoming societal disparities in the country. She won the special award from the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), which was a dream come true for her.

Special award winner Joanne Azariah

"I still cannot believe it. It was a great experience, I have never seen so many creative ideas in one place. There were many challenges before the project was actually finished, but I remained hopeful, also thanks to my family."

Special award winner Luca Charlier

"I am totally surprised. Being able to attend the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm is the opportunity of a lifetime."

Special award winner Anna Ilg

"This is incredible! I am pleased that the work has paid off and that it has also been recognised in professional circles. Finding interview partners was difficult in the beginning. My biggest supporters during the year were my parents, who helped me to keep going and always supported me even during night shifts."

Anyone who watched the young scientists for three days could not escape their enthusiasm. Curiosity is contagious. Let's hope that their fascination for the adventure of science will never dry up. As you heard at SQUARE, the heart is always a reliable companion on this journey. It knows the way.

Images: "Swiss Youth in Science" [Schweizer Jugend forscht] foundation

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