KEHS pupil is first UK girl to win a Molecular Frontiers Inquiry Prize

Samantha, a Sixth Former at King Edward VI High School for Girls in Birmingham, is the first UK girl to win the global Molecular Frontiers Inquiry Prize. Her competition question concerned molecular biological mechanisms and open-label placebos.

Photo: King Edward VI High School for Girls
Samantha with her Molecular Frontiers Inquiry Prize.
Samantha with her Molecular Frontiers Inquiry Prize.

28th July 2021 — A Sixth Former at King Edward VI High School for Girls in Birmingham has become the first UK girl to win the prestigious global Molecular Frontiers Inquiry Prize (MFIP).

Samantha Burley, who is in the Lower Sixth, was among the international winners of the 2020 prize for her question: “Are there any molecular biological mechanisms behind the placebo effect of open-label placebos? For example, does dopamine as a neurotransmitter have a role in eliciting positive OLP responses?”

She had to explain the importance of her question, her interest in it and suggest ways for science to find its answer.

Each year, five girls and five boys from around the world win the MFIP for asking the most insightful and thought-provoking scientific questions.

Samantha is the first girl from the UK to win the prize since it began in 2008.

The winners were selected by Molecular Frontiers’ Scientific Advisory Board consisting of 27 eminent scientists, 15 of whom are Nobel laureates.

Molecular Frontiers is a non-profit organisation, hosted by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and supported by the Nobel Foundation.

Some individual comments made by the judges about Samantha’s question included:

"This remains an open question, a good one. Studying dopamine release (...) is a good approach." Nobel laureate, Roald Hoffmann

"This is a very interesting question and if we understand the molecular basis for the placebo effect we could utilize it more optimally in treatment." Scientific Advisory Board member and former chair of the Committee for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Sara Linse.

The other winners in the 2020 competition were drawn from Canada, Greece (two winners), India, Mexico, Romania and the US (three winners).

Questions are now being invited for the 2021 prize. Those submitting a question must be under 18 at the time of submission.

King Edward VI High School for Girls (Girls 11-18) is a day school in West Midlands.

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