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Student from Heidelberg wins two awards

Celia Viermann, an 18-year-old student from Neckargemünd came second in the 43rd ‘Jugend forscht’ competition in the field of biology. She received the award in Bremerhafen on the 25th May 2008.

The “Jugend forscht” prize, worth 1000 euros, was donated by the Max Planck Society. Jugend forscht (“Youth researches”) is a German youth science competition and the biggest youth science and technology competition in Europe. Celia Viermann also received a prize (€500) from the German Neuroscience Society for a scientific project carried out at the Institute of Physiology and Pathophysiology at the University of Heidelberg in which she investigated the effect of epilepsy drugs on nerve cells.

The first prize in the field of biology was awarded to Lisa Schowe (17) and Anja Massolle (16) from Münster, North Rhine-Westphalia, for their work on the topic “Chlorophyll fluorescence as a marker for the dimensions of plant damage”. Federal Research Minister Dr. Annette Schavan awarded the prizes to the young students in Bremerhafen. “Jugend forscht is an excellent instrument for the promotion of young talents in Germany,” said Schavan in recognition of the achievements of the young students. All Jugend forscht winners will be invited to a reception with Germany’s chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel in Berlin on the 15th September 2008 and are also invited to take part in a recruitment seminar held by the German National Academic Foundation (“Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes”), Germany’s largest and most prestigious organisation sponsoring the academically gifted.

“Hectorian“ with scientific curiosity: “a unique opportunity”

Celia Viermann received two prizes in the ’Jugend forscht’ competition. (Photo: Jugend forscht)
“This is an outstanding success,” said Celia Viermann and her supervisor, Professor Dr. Andreas Draguhn, Director of the Department of Neuro- and Sensory Physiology, both clearly pleased with the result. “The work in the laboratory was great fun. It was not at all stressful, instead it was a unique opportunity,” said the student from the English Institute in Heidelberg who will leave school in 2009. Celia Viermann is also a member of the Hector Seminar, a unique project in Germany founded by SAP co-founder Dr. Hans-Werner Hector in 2000. This project enables scientifically or technically highly gifted students from the Heidelberg, Mannheim and Karlsruhe areas to further develop their abilities in addition to their normal school classes. The project at the University of Heidelberg was also part of the Hector Seminar.

“This project has encouraged a young scientist to undertake brain research and has also led to an interesting scientific result,” said Viermann’s supervisor, Professor Dr. Andreas Draguhn. “We will be continuing with the work and it will be published.” This means that Celia Viermann will not only have received the ’Jugend forscht’ awards but will have published her first scientific paper before even leaving school.

Risks and side effects of epilepsy drugs

In her award-winning project, Celia Viermann investigated the effect of epilepsy drugs on nerve cells. Epilepsy is a serious chronic neurological disorder characterised by abnormal, excessive or synchronous neuronal activity. Many epilepsy drugs therefore enhance the inhibition of nerve cells. This leads to the death of individual cells, a process known as apoptosis. Celia Viermann succeeded in investigating the details of this effect using nerve cell cultures. Under laboratory conditions, cellular death seems to be the unwanted side effect of epilepsy drugs. However, from this research it would appear to affect only cells with specific properties.

Source: University Hospital Heidelberg - 27th May 2008
Website address: https://www.gesundheitsindustrie-bw.de/en/article/press-release/student-from-heidelberg-wins-two-awards