Big discoveries usually starts with the smallest ideas. The answer to one question often leads to a set of new, perhaps better, questions and moves our imagination another step forward.
Molecular Frontiers will award prizes to those who ask the BEST QUESTIONS! The winners are announced once a year at a Molecular Frontiers Symposium - where top scientists and young people meet! WHO ORGANIZES THE PRIZE?
If you are up to 17 years old and have a question about molecules, send it to us.
Your question may not have a simple answer – some of the most important questions of our time are impossible to answer...yet!
Molecular Frontiers will award prizes to those who ask the BEST QUESTIONS, announced once a year. The winners of the 2020 competition have now been announced below, and we are now collecting entries for the 2021 competition. No deadline has yet been set for submissions for 2021, so keep sending questions! We welcome all questions - the only rule is that you have to be under 18 at the time of submission.
WHAT CAN I WIN?
Is there a correlation between an organism’s genome size and complexity?
Ioan-Nicolai Joita, 17, Romania
What genetic machinery helps the “immortal jellyfish” T. dohrnii reverse its life cycle and potentially escape death?
Nitya Ayyagari, 16, United States
How can living organisms such as some single-celled organisms or the mimosa plant remember without having a nervous system? What is the learning procedure in a molecular level?
Efthymios Rafail Angelis, 16, Greece
Why do many more primitive organisms age slower? Will humans eventually evolve to live even longer, healthier lives, and how can we accelerate evolution in regards to biologically slowing or being able to reverse the human aging process today?
Nicole Bui-Poulakos, 16, United States
If humans are made up of atoms and molecules, how did we develop the ability to imagine and differentiate fantasy from reality? Can other organisms, both micro and macro, imagine like us? And why are some people more imaginative than others?
Ankur Sarkar, 15, India
Are there any molecular biological mechanisms behind the placebo effect of open-label placebos?
Samantha Burley, 17, United Kingdom
What is the molecular basis of consciousness?
Andrés Muedano Sosa, 16, Mexico
Despite living long lives, elephants rarely get cancer because they have multiple p53 tumor-suppressor genes. Could humans eventually evolve or be genetically edited to increase the number of p53 gene copies, ultimately preventing cancer?
Angelina Xu, 17, United States
Why are some people curious to learn and some people are not?
Isaak Kostis, 12, Greece
Is it possible to completely inhibit cellular senescence in hopes of preventing aging and age-related diseases?
Catherine Diyakonov, 15, Canada
Why do different musical chords register as having different “moods” in our brain. Such as how a major chord “sounds happier” than a minor chord. Does our brain associate pitches with feelings?
Cayla Copeland, 16, USA
When we forget something, do we actually lose the memory, or is it just that we cannot access to the information stored in it?
Jiwoo Izawa, 17, Japan
The salt glands above the eyes of seagulls and in the rectum of sharks assist the kidneys in conducting osmoregulation by removing excess salt from the body. Could it be possible for humans to eventually develop a similar structure that could enable us to drink saltwater and survive?
Imtisal Imran, 16, USA
Is human ability (intelligence, talents, skills, personality characteristics) partly genetically inherited, with maximum human achievement limits set by our genes?
Vivek Sreejithkumar. 15, USA
Why does the human brain have two hemispheres? Previous research on this topic suggests that it helps in better distribution of cognitive tasks. However if having more subdivisions makes the work easier then why does the brain not have four or six hemispheres? Why is two the optimal number?
Anwesha Das, 16, India
Could certain chemicals complement/replace surgical tools, such as a chemical to cut better than a scalpel, or to cauterize a bleed more safely and effectively?
Yoyo Liu, 12, Canada
If emotions are chemicals and electrical impulses why can't we quantify them? Would it be possible for humans to create biosensors that would show us how much happiness/sadness/fear a person feels at a certain moment?
Natalia Kokoromyti, 15, Greece '
Why do humans dream?
Jaimeen Shah, 17, USA
What is it in our brains that make habits so important for our wellbeing and keeping stress levels down?
Elin Sun Cao, 17, Sweden
What are “events"? Where are they stored in the brain and what component/components contain the memories? When we forget one event actually what happens to the memory of that specific event? How does the function of “Selective Memory” work like sometimes we can remember events from 10 years ago but we can't remember what happened 10 minutes ago?
Anik Dey, 17, Bangladesh
How does the brain build connections between tone of voice and the inherent meaning and intended mood of the expression? When does this develop?
Kylie Long, girl, 14, USA
How do dopamine and serotonin make a person 'feel' emotions? Could artificially intelligent systems 'feel' emotions the same way as us?
Aayush Arya, boy, 17, India
Could it be possible to insert images and colors into the mind of a blind person?
Araceli Franco, girl, 13, USA
How did life form from nonlife matter?
Felix Nelson, boy, 11, USA
Where did the first DNA molecule come from and what was the first molecule containing DNA which reproduced to create life today?
Melanie Guerra, girl, 16, USA
Is there a more stable molecule for storing information than DNA that could be used in cells?
Samuel Paulini, boy, 18, Slovakia
If the goal of any species is to produce more offspring why are most of them restricted to two genders that are only compatible with each other?
Sreenidhe Navaneethakrishnan, girl, 12, India
How do cancer cells manage to bypass natural aging processes?
Paul Roman Bertsos, boy, 13, Greece
Could impressive life events imprint on genes and be passed down or cloned to next generations?
Xinyi Lu, girl, 12, USA
Why are cells so limited in combating viruses which are non-living and cannot survive without cells? Could that showcase a connection between the origins of the first viruses and living organisms? Could viruses have once been created by cells for multiple cell functions?
Konstantinos Konstantatos, boy, 17, Greece
How does the brain create mental images of scenes or objects that are not in front of us?
Bela Gupta, 10, USA
Plants and microorganisms generate energy from the solar radiation from processes like photosynthesis and chemosynthesis. Is it possible to create renewable energy in this way?
Muzaffar Mohamed, 14, USA
Why is it harder to recall smell than other senses like hearing and sight?
Deanna See, 17, Singapore
How does the placebo effect work?
Yue Sheng Ooi, 14, Malaysia
Is the evolution of humans completed or will there be further advancements in the human race?
Romi Rozenbaum, 15, USA
In the brain what happens when a sensory neuron sends a signal to the interneurons for processing? How does the brain evaluate the signal?
Vishnu Chakroborty, 17, USA
How can consciousness be measured, if not through introspection?
Lotoya Willis,14, USA
Turritopsis dohrnii or the immortal jellyfish can reverse aging when it is sick or old to live forever. Can we genetically modify human DNA to have the same ability?
Aditya Gupta, 13, USA
Could we utilize stem cells of non-human species for human application?
Sangita Vasikaran, 16, USA
As chemistry is advancing and the human mind is "just" a highly complex chemical reaction, will chemists in the future be able to control or accurately alter the behavior of or evoke a specific action in a human being?
Jakob Ricken, 17, Sweden
How was the concept of time developed, and how do our brains perceive time?
Yuki Agarwala, 13, Japan
As humans are made of numerous of atoms, how are humans able to have consciousness and self-awareness?
Kah Sengphay, 16, Malaysia
How do we know that the laws of physics are valid in places that we cannot reach or perform experiments on? Such as a distant galaxy.
Isabel Babun Casas, 15, United States
Can ATP be harvested for energy outside Biology, like in Physics and Chemistry?
Devansh Shah, 17, Singapore
Is it possible to genetically modify human cells to allow them to regenerate to repair body parts, like an arm of a starfish?
Milee Patel, 14, United States
How can we extract memory from a living brain? And how can we calculate and store it?
Ooi Wei Chern, 16, Malaysia
Abalone shell, from calcium carbonate, is many times stronger than chalk because of its structure. How can we manipulate the structure of particles at nanoscale to produce a stronger material?
Christine Ling ,16, Malaysia
What are the evolutionary origins of laughter in humans and what is the purpose of the emotion from a survival perspective?
Christian Gonzalez, 16, United States
What makes positive and negative charges attract?
Natasha Kowshik, 15, Singapore
How do human beings perceive, compare or generate randomness?
Boyuan Chen, 16, China
Why do humans often make irrational choices despite our high level of intelligence?
Luo Dan, 13, Singapore
Can we suppress and reverse thermal as well as extreme pH denaturation of enzyme by binding of nanoparticles to allosteric sites of enzyme?
Zheng Xin Yong, 17, Malaysia
Would it be possible for the humans to become immortal in the future?
Elin Israelsson, 16, Sweden
Is it possible to insert chloroplasts into human cells and genetically modify them such that photosynthesis can occur in humans and other animals?
Anlai Zhou, 15, Singapore
How is time represented by our brain, and how is it interpreted?
Emily Wang, 13, United States
What is the difference between learning something new and having an original idea? What are the activities/processes in the brain when each of the above occurs?
Haaris Alam, 9, United States
How does one know that the colours they see are the same as the colours that others see?
Jenny Simmons, 15, Canada
Is there a limit to how many memories a person can have?
Kiho Kwon, 15, United States
Are we born with an inherent need for social division?
Xinyi Teoh, 16, Singapore
Why is it hard to think of absolutely nothing?
Foo Yan Rong, 15, Singapore
Why does life need water? What else that creatures can use instead of water?
Min-Kyung Lee, 11, South Korea
What is life? If all living and non living matter is constructed of atoms, and atoms are non living, where does life come from?
Matthew Chew, 15, Singapore
What is the maximum memory capacity and limitations of human brain?
Leong Pui Yee, 17, Malaysia
Distribution of energy in response to an expanding universe: does new energy appear to fill in gaps or does the total gets spread so thin that “holes” may appear?
Ryan Prasad, 17, Malaysia
Is it possible to create our own chlorophyll to filter pollution, create energy and solve global warming?
Chew Tian Wei, 16, Singapore
Various DNA structures (such as a triple helix) are used by life, can a genetic code be made of silicon?
Jun Soo Kim, 16, S. Korea
Why can't we access all 100% capacity in our brain?
Katie Kerl, 12, USA
Outer space is deemed cold and devoid of matter. How can “nothingness” have the ability to be cold?
Arjun Chandrasekar, 15, Singapore
Why do human cells not regenerate to repair the body like a lizard's tail?
Shermaine Si Ying Ying, 16, Singapore
Why is it difficult to find blue fruits compared to blue flowers?
Jaesol Ahn, 16, S. Korea
What makes some people more inquisitive than others?
Faith Choo, Girl, 15, Singapore
Is the creation of artificial, self-conscious brains possible?
Siew Rui-Xian, Boy 16, Malaysia
Why does music have the ability to convey emotions to humans?
Yuan Li, Girl, 15, Singapore
How can a non-living chemical compounds generate self-replicating complex life forms?
Abhi Parikh, Boy 16, Singapore
What makes a person develop empathy and how come some people don’t have it?
Rachel Rochecharlie, Girl, 13 United States
Can diseases be diagnosed by sniffing?
Yong Zheng Xin, Boy 15, Malaysia
How come no other molecules are as important for living creatures and Earth as the water molecule?
Timea Vitos, Girl, 17, Sweden
Are there phenomena, such as black holes or wave function collapse which destroy information about their prior states?
Perek Keng, Boy ,13, Malaysia
Why does our body protect us from extraordinary pain, like the victims of the 2013 Boston marathon bombing experienced, but not from chronic pain such as extreme back pain and migraines
Lauren Simenson, Girl, 17, United States
Why do some people have a clear sense of morality, of what’s right and wrong but some people don’t?
Tan Chuin Wei, Boy 15, Malaysia
Why do short naps leave you feeling more refreshed than longer naps?
Nancy Le, Girl, 13, USA
Why are our teeth made of calcium compounds which are weaker than metal or diamonds?
Jeong Hyun Nam, Boy 17, South Korea
Why is the color blue so scarce in the natural ecosystems and what accounts for that?
Martyna Petrulyte, Girl, 17, Lithuania
How can we define the human soul?
George Agavanakis, Boy 16, Greece
Even though we can forget something, sometimes it pops back into our head. Is there a way to have no probability to recall a certain memory?
Lee Keum Young, Girl, 16 South Korea
When I’m hurt or ill, only I can feel the pain. Is it possible to make the doctor feel the same and make the correct diagnosis based on this?
Gabriel Tunsater, Boy 12, Sweden
Why are there more right-handed people than left-handed people in the world?
Sin Ein Yap, Girl, 17, Malaysia
Since it is a universal law that energy can be neither created nor destroyed, how did the energy in the universe come into existence?
Kaustubh Agrawal, Boy ,17, India
Why should the properties of a compound vary from those of its constituent elements?
Priya Nathan, Girl, 13, India
If everything happens because of molecular interactions, do we have free will?
Toomas Liiv, Boy 15, Sweden
Are self-awareness and consciousness the results of various physical processes or brain states or are they disconnected from our material bodies?
Elizabeth Naameh, Girl, 16, USA
What is the origin of self-sacrifice? (it seems to contradict the instinct of self-preservation)
Sergei Khegai, Boy 15, Russia
What elements are imagination and thoughts made of?
Raeann Heng,Girl, 15, Singapore
Why do most living organisms sleep?
George Agoranos, Boy 17, Greece
How is intelligence acquired or inherited?
Donna Kwon, Girl, 15, USA
What are dreams made of and why is that than when you wake up you don’t remember what you dreamt?
Žilvinas Graužys, Boy 12, Lithuania
Does the brain have a limit to the information it can memorize?
Augustina Petrulyte, Girl, 17, Lithuania
Does a thought have a specific biochemical signature?For instance, does a question-shaped thought have a specific type of molecular signature?
Shivaramakrishna Srinivasan, Boy ,11, India
Why is it that older memories are sometimes easier to recall than more recent ones?
Faazilah Mohamed, Girl, 13, USA
Why is symmetry such a common and pervasive feature in Nature?
Srihari Chandrasekhar, Boy 10, United Kingdom
How are thoughts produced and what are they made of?
Justina Saladyte,17, Lithuania
Does a cell control its atoms or is it the interaction of the atoms that control the cell?
Armin Mohammadi, 15, Canada
Why isn't life based only on RNA?
Eva Vojácková, 17, Czech Republic
Why do living organisms get old?
Iraklis Gkritsis, 16, Greece
What is the molecular origin of intuition?
Silvia Hnátová, 16 Slovakia
How do we represent numbers in our mind and how do we count with them?
Jan Pulmann, 16, Slovakia
How can we imagine something that we have never seen or felt?
Ginte Petrulionyte,12, Lithuania
Why is it that when you pour sugar onto strawberries, they release their juice?
George Utsin, 12, Canada
How is it possible for a simple cell to grow into a complex organism with many kinds of differentiated cells?
Catarina Correia,15, Portugal
How does the brain know which neurotransmitters map to which sensations, if it has never seen that sensation before?
Edward Godfrey, 16, United Kingdom
Where does conscience come from?
Chloe Lim, 15, Singapore
How are memories stored?
Alec Wilkens, 16, USA
What is the origin of chemical chirality?
Felicia Ullstad, 17, Sweden
What are the molecular differences between living and non-living things?
Daniel Tong, 15, Brazil
Some animals can reproduce an amputated part of their body, why can’t we?
Katerina Donta, 16, Greece
Why does listening to cats purr make you feel calm and relaxed?
Fabian Fernandez-Han, 11, USA
How does our imagination work?
Rei-En Tang, 15, Singapore
What makes a cell alive if it is simply a collection of inanimate atoms?
Homan Mohammadi,17, Canada
What are the properties of water that make it the keystone of life?
Tove Lagström, 17,Sweden
Why does water expand when it freezes?
Max Wallack, 13, USA
How are shells made?
Brittany Wakefield, 15, USA
If elephants have huge brains, why are they not the most intelligent?
Oliver Gocher, 12, UK
What is between protons and neutrons in the nucleus?
Ang Qi Yan, 16, Singapore
Why aren’t plants black?
Vladimir Leopards, 15, USA
How do we do things?
Kelsey Kecherson, 15, USA
Why do tea leaves gather in the center when a cup of tea is stirred?
Adam Patrick, 13, UK
When did molecules come into being?
Ava Violich, 11, USA:
What is the origin of our thinking – if the brain controls nearly all of our body, what makes the brain control itself?
Adeeb Nazeerudin, 17, Switzerland
What are emotions?
Katie Osborn, 14, USA
What is the nature of all matter?
Jacob Bildfell, 15, Canada