EUCYS prize – interview

EuChemS special donated prize: Karen Slavin (EUCYS Project Officer), Leandra Marie, Viktoria Zinke, Katarina Juhart, Sofia Quitter (European Schools), Tony Fagan (President of the Jury) (c)European Commission

Since 1989, the European Union organises the EU Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) to “promote the ideals of co-operation and interchange between young scientists”. EuChemS has encouraged and supported the contest, and awards a prize for the best Chemistry project presented at EUCYS.

In September 2018, three young aspiring scientists made their way to Dublin, Ireland for the 30th award ceremony where they were presented with the EuChemS prize for the best Chemistry project for their work on “Anti-Bacterial Silvernanoparticle Coating”.

The awardees, Leandra Zinke (German), Katarina Juhart (Slovenian-Serbian) and Sofia Quitter (German-Greek), aged between 17 and 18, currently study at the European School of Munich. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to speak to the three winners on their work and their projects for the future. But first, I wanted to know more about their project – so asked them to explain.

Silvernanoparticles (nanoparticles of silver – as the name suggests, also known as AgNP) turn out to be antibacterial – notably because they release silver-ions which affects bacteria in many different ways. Silvernanoparticles are used in a variety of everyday products, especially in clothing and cosmetics. But what if they could have a more versatile use? What if they could be used as an antibacterial coating? So, we tested the door handles at our school, and the results showed that these were more than dirty, which led us to the idea of coating the handles with a silvernanoparticle coating.

We looked at the theory and tested a few approaches to create the best coating method. In order to create the silvernanoparticles, we used chemical synthesis. Different silver- and glucose concentrations were produced to study their effectiveness. The different AgNP solutions were coated on three different substrates and to test their functionality, we tested them using probiotic bacteria.

Our research was conducted both in the laboratories at school but also at the Munich University of Applied Sciences where we received a lot of support.

The result: after bacteria has been placed on the coating, we took swabs at different time intervals, and were pleased to see that there was indeed little to no bacterial growth!

If further developed, this could provide useful antibacterial protection for schools, or public transport, and so on.

The three awardees expressed their appreciation and honour of having been selected and the opportunity presented by the EUCYS prize and the invitation to Dublin.

More about the EUCYS EuChemS award here.

Alex Schiphorst, EuChemS
Interview with: Leandra Zinke, Katarina Juhart, Sofia Quitter

Obituary: Remembering Sergio Facchetti

Sergio FacchettiIt is with a heavy heart that we have learnt the news of Sergio Facchetti’s passing on the morning of Saturday 30 March 2019.

Sergio Facchetti, born in Borgo Ticino (Novara – Italy), was a leading scientist who gave outstanding service to the field and image of chemistry in Europe, as well as to EuChemS and its predecessor FECS, and for this we are eternally grateful.

His life’s work has had major and influential consequences, and his contributions to the field led to concrete transformations in science. Sergio worked in the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre laboratories in Ispra, firstly in the Radiation Chemistry Group of the NUCLIT corporation (1959-61), and subsequently as a European Official (1961-97) becoming the head of a division of over 100 people and coordinator for the Environmental Research Agency. His main work was on the identification of environmental pollutants – and it was through studies carried out in connection with the Seveso disaster of 1976 that he made his most far-reaching contributions. His work led to his appointment as adviser to the United States Government and originated the lead isotope experiments which eventually led to the banning of lead in fuels – an achievement he later recognised as one of his proudest moments. He was later coordinator of the Eureka project 674 on “Advanced Mobile Analytical Laboratory” – a project intensively used in many field investigations.

In addition to his work, Sergio was able to play a crucial role in the support of Chemistry as a whole, serving on the board of the CNC (1998-2017) and the Italian Chemical Society, founding in 1971 its Mass Spectrometry Division and serving as Vice-President from 1996 – 1998. He also occupied the posts of Vice-President of the European Chemistry Council and of the European Chemist Registration Board.

Sergio retired from the EuChemS Board in 2017 after an astonishing 47 years of continuous work on the Board of both FECS and EuChemS. Sergio was a highly active member of the community, continuously proposing new ways in which EuChemS could broaden its scope and increase its impact, whether through the organisation of major conferences, including the hosting of seven lectures during the EXPO Milan, or other initiatives.

In 2018, Sergio was awarded the EuChemS Award for Service for his tireless efforts and success in promoting chemistry and EuChemS’ work over the years. Whilst he was unable to make his way to Liverpool where the prizes were announced at the 7th EuChemS Chemistry Congress, his colleague and fellow Award for Service awardee Francesco De Angelis read out a letter Sergio had written. In it, he expressed his surprise and gladness at the award, but insisted that his work throughout the years was in his eyes, his duty.

Sergio was not only an inspiring scientist, whose work was characterised by a strong belief in ethical attitudes, but he was also a true gentleman, kind and thoughtful. Sergio’s passing is sad news for chemistry in Europe and sad news for the many people who knew Sergio, and he will be very much missed. But his work and contributions will not be forgotten, nor his incessant work in helping EuChemS and the community it represents be where it is today.

We send our most heartfelt condolences to his family.

Franco de Angelis,
Honorary Fellow of ChemPubSoc Europe
University of l’Aquila