We need to inspire tomorrow's young scientists and researchers - not solely out of a sense of altruistic duty, but because they will be the people making world-changing discoveries when we are retired. They will be the ones improving our medicines, curing our diseases and, in turn, inspiring us.
Utrecht University organises an annual competition for young students with their Schools Network (an organisation that aims to strengthen links between high schools and universities). Every year it focuses on one of UU's core themes, and this year it was Life Sciences, with the top prize being a study trip to Singapore, packed with excursions and meetings to various institutes.
In October 2015, secondary school students from across the region were invited to submit essays on topics of their choice, covering everything from biology to botany and genetics to biochemistry. To help spark their curiosity, all participants were invited to attend master classes given by renowned scientists on subjects like 3D bioprinting and antibiotic resistance. The students who submitted the most promising entries were allocated UU researchers relevant to their field who gave them advice on completing their entries.
At the end of January, five winners were announced. All were girls in their final year of school, aged between 16 and 18 and planning to attend university next year. One wants to study veterinary medicine in Utrecht next year, and the other four are going to study medicine.