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“Jugend forscht 2021”: These two finalists report on their innovative research projects

| von Julia
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“Let there be a future!” – is the motto of the 56th national competition, which the Jugend forscht e. V. foundation is organizing this year as an online event together with experimenta gGmbH in Heilbronn from May 26 to 30, 2021. Among the participants are once again numerous children and young people with extremely exciting, innovative research projects. Lisa Bräutigam and Johannes Lodahl are two of the up-and-coming young researchers, and we were lucky enough to talk to them about their promising projects for MedSolut.

The national competition from 26 to 30 May 2021

The national competition is the highlight of the “Jugend forscht” competition round. During this period, all youth researchers who have won first place in the various disciplines at the state competitions take part – in other words, the best of the best. Our MedSolut team was able to speak with two finalists about their work. Lisa Bräutigam convinced the jury in the Saxony state competition in the subject area of biology. The issue of 16-year-olds is highly topical: She compared different test methods for the detection of antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus with regard to their mode of operation as well as effectiveness and, in particular, addressed the question of which viral proteins are best suited for this purpose. Johannes Lodahl (18) from Saxony-Anhalt presents his project SHD (Smart Helmed Display) to our medsolutTV presenter. He integrated an on-board computer into a motorcycle helmet and is currently working on making all important data visible at a glance in the helmet – from time to GPS.

Lisa Bräutigam_Jugend Forscht

Lisa Bräutigam (16) during her research in the lab.

Interview with Lisa Bräutigam, participant in the “Jugend forscht” national competition, biology department

Ms. Bräutigam, with the corona pandemic and the fight against the corona virus, you have chosen a very topical issue for your project, which will certainly occupy us for quite some time to come. Can you tell us more about your research goal and your motivation for the project?

Lisa Bräutigam:My research goal is, on the one hand, to find out which protein, whether the S protein (envelope protein) or the N protein (core protein), as the antigen coating of an ELISAS, can be used to better detect the antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. I was also interested to know if a rapid test can compete with such antibody ELISA tests or if it is the most non-specific as expected. I was inspired by my mother, who works in virology herself and often tells me about it. Of course, the current occasion also aroused interest in me, since the antibodies also mean a certain protection.

How did you approach the work? How did you prepare?

Lisa Bräutigam: At the beginning, the question regarding the working materials had to be clarified. For this purpose, I asked the University of Leipzig for different antibody ELISA tests, which were newly developed at that time. As a result, two antibody ELISA tests coated with the S protein and two others using the N protein as antigen coating were made available to me. After increased inquiries, I was finally also provided with a rapid test, as I am particularly interested in this research.

In addition, 32 different patient materials were still available to me for testing. Twenty of these sera were from 2018 and the first quarter of 2019 and thus could not have had SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, in advance, infection with an endemic corona virus was detected in all of them; nevertheless, it should not be possible to identify antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. Ten additional sera were from 2020 and were shown to have SARS-CoV-2 infection, so specific antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 should be detectable here.

The last two serums are attributable to my mother and me. These sera were carried out of interest and since there was no infection with SARS-CoV-2 in our case, a negative result is also to be expected here. Then in the summer of 2020, I had the opportunity to work as an intern in virology for a week, so I could do all my hands-on research.

What challenges did you face with your project?

Lisa Bräutigam: I faced a few challenges with this project. For example, there was the fact that during the pandemic, research and thus access to virology was made more difficult, especially for “outsiders.” In addition,it turned out to be complicated to understand and also to be able to explain all the correlations with regard to the test principles, structure of the virus, antibody formation, etc. The results of the test were very promising. I also had to learn how to work in the lab beforehand. At that time, however, there was a lot of work in virology, which forced me to work very quickly on my own. Another hurdle is school, because I’m a 10th grade student at the moment and had to do this project on top of all my schoolwork. In such difficult times, however, it’s the will and interest in the project that counts, and where there’s a will, there’s a way.

What did you enjoy most about your research?

Lisa Bräutigam: In my research work, I enjoyed performing the individual tests in the laboratory the most. It was incredibly exciting to be able to try my hand and see how and, above all, according to which principle such antibody ELISA tests and also rapid tests work. Of course, it was all the more exciting to look at the results and to evaluate them afterwards.

Please tell us about the current status of your research. Werden Sie auch nach „Jugend forscht“ noch weiter an dem Projekt arbeiten?

Lisa Bräutigam: At the moment, the detection of antibodies is also becoming more important with regard to vaccinations. Some time has passed since the tests were carried out. During this time, tests were withdrawn from circulation, but others were also newly developed or optimized, so that today, for example, the antibody ELISA test from the company “Euroimmun” is used in the diagnostic laboratory.

At the moment, however, my personal focus is on the “Jugend forscht” competition. However, since I am also well occupied with school at the moment, there is not enough time to actively research this project further. Nevertheless, there are other exciting starting points in the work that are also worth researching and I am very excited about what the future holds.

What is your assessment of the current pandemic situation? What is your view on the current situation?

Lisa Bräutigam:The current situation is very critical, because I think a lot of time has been wasted with the many partial shutdowns. I think that the right thing to do would have been to close all the doors for a month so that no one could get out and in and the virus would not have a chance to multiply. Nevertheless, I currently have high hopes for vaccinations, as the results in the UK, for example, really give a ray of hope. For this reason, I think it is important to vaccinate as soon as possible, because then many people will have antibodies and thus a certain immunity, so hopefully the pandemic will soon be over. How long the antibodies will last, however, still needs to be clarified.

Have you known for a long time that you would like to take part in the “Jugend forscht” competition or did the idea come up at short notice? Feel free to tell us more about it.

Lisa Bräutigam: The idea of “Jugend forscht” came from the teacher who supervises my research with a lot of commitment. At the beginning, I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about “Jugend forscht” because it meant a lot of extra work and commitment for me besides school. Nevertheless, I fortunately got involved in this exciting adventure and so far I have not regretted taking part. I didn’t get really interested in research until I started looking into it intensively, but I’m still enthusiastic about it and there are many other topics that have piqued my interest. The focus is on biology. I could definitely imagine my professional future in this direction.

What do you want to achieve by participating (or at best winning) in the contest?

Lisa Bräutigam: By participating, I would like to achieve that other people, preferably young people, also pursue their interests and seek answers to exciting questions by doing research. In addition to this aspect, I would of course also like to make a small contribution to research. Also in the future I would be happy to participate in projects concerning research by taking part in “Jugend forscht”. In addition, this participation enabled me to exchange information about my project with other professionals. Most importantly, I think that this participation has taught me many things, also with regard to the future.

The STEM field encompasses many exciting areas of work that are becoming increasingly interesting, especially for young women. What advice do you have for other young people, especially young women, who are interested in science and research?

Lisa Bräutigam: If you are interested in research in any field, you should definitely pursue it. Young women should dare to do what may be atypical and not a matter of course, because that’s what makes them unique and special. No profession or field of interest is assigned to one gender and for this reason it is important to follow your own interests. Even if there are setbacks, it is especially important not to give up and to stay strong, because the rockier the road, the better the result. You are often rewarded by success in the end.

We would like to thank you very much for the exciting interview and the insights into your research work, Ms. Bräutigam!

Those interested in Lisa Bräutigam’s work can also take a look at the videothe young researcher made for the “Jugend forscht” competition.

Video: "Jugend forscht" 2021 | Interview with Johannes Lodahl about the SHD (Smart Helmed Display)

medsolutTV presenter Vincent Schneider had an exciting conversation with Johannes Lodahl, who is competing for Saxony-Anhalt in the “Jugend forscht” national competition. With its innovative SHD (Smart Helmed Display)it aims to make the riding experience safer for motorcyclists. See for yourself …

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