Counting flower petals, dissecting pig’s feet, manipulating genes: at the Swiss Biology Olympiad, young talents face various challenges. From April 19 to 24, the best 17 of the original more than 1,800 candidates took part in the national final in Bern.
A week in a lab coat
In addition to knowledge, the participants of the Biology Olympiad must also have one thing: motivation. During the final week, they complete four to six hour-long internships per day, which are included in the assessment. Assignments cover many different disciplines, from plant physiology to protein analysis to paleontology. Formulas and programming languages are as much a part of the tools of youth as microscopes and pipettes. For example, there is a bioinformatics practice or an assignment in which the biodiversity of an island is mathematically calculated. Young biologists must not shy away from dissected pig legs and starfish or stuffed grasshoppers. Despite the busy days, there is still time for a break at the barbecue or for a game of billiards.
A trilingual dream team
The closing ceremony will take place on Sunday afternoon. After reflecting on the last week, university professor Benjamin Towbin talks about the daily life of a scientist. The tension builds until the results are finally announced. “What a dream team!” exclaims one participant and congratulates the members of the IBO delegation. They are surprised by their own success. “Before the Olympics, I would never have thought that I would be so good at biology!” says Zora, who was persuaded to participate by her teacher. “The tasks were complicated, I thought: Why didn’t you prepare better? I really didn’t expect it to work,” says Mathilde. Later she wants to be a veterinarian. But first she goes to the IBO. Dominik approaches the international challenge calmly: “I don’t know much about Armenia and I allowed myself to be surprised.” “I hope it will be great week like last,” says Zora. What did the national finalists like the most? “The best experience was the internship with E.coli bacteria,” answers Davide, who took first place, holding a stuffed animal he had just received as a gift from of volunteers at the Biology Olympiad: the fluffy bacterium E.coli.
1st gold: Davide Petraglio / TI
2nd gold: Mathilde Rolle / FR
3rd gold: Dominik Rožman / AG
4th gold: Zora Althaus / BE
5. Silver: Nathan Böhler / AG
6. silver: Silvan Mayer / ZH
7. Silver: Finn Mühlbauer / AG
8. silver: Carla Reuter / AG
9. Bronze: Anton Weiss / Gimnazija St. Antonius / AI
10. Bronze: Katya Georgieva / SZ
11. Bronze: Livia Fischer / Sargans Canton School / SG
12. Bronze: Niki Kaslin / BE