In terms of Hungarian scientific life, 2012 was an important year. This was the year when we celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Nobel Prize award for the worldfamous Hungarian scientist, Albert Szent-Györgyi. Nine Nobel Laureates paid a visit to a series of commemoration events in Szeged in order to show respect and pay tribute to the world-famous researcher of Szeged. During the conference, the Nobel Laureates visited the leading secondary grammar schools in Szeged, met university students and answered questions asked by the young in forums. Secondary school and university students found a common voice with the Nobel Prize winning researchers in an instant, and they had lively debates. The message of the event was unambiguous: students are still extremely open and responsive to intellectual quality.
Enthused by the success, the organizers (Péter Hegyi and András Varró) established the Foundation for the Future of Biomedical Sciences in Szeged, whose short-term objective was to make it possible that the young in Szeged be able to meet outstanding representatives of science not only on great anniversaries but regularly, once a year, and thus to deepen the feeling of respect and love for science in the youth in the region.
In order to achieve the short-term objective, they invited a Nobel Laureate to the town by the banks of the Tisza River in 2013, too. Since 2012, in nine different events (series of events of ’Meeting of Nobel Laureates and Talented Students’), altogether 19 lectures by Nobel Laureates were organized in Szeged, which can be considered as a unique achievement even at a European level.
The long-term objective of the Foundation is to establish the conditions in Szeged under which the town and Hungary could have a new Nobel Prize awardee. In order to achieve this objective, they wish to follow Kuno Klebelsberg’s strategy. The primary goal of the Foundation is to attract young talents to Szeged and get prominent researchers excelling among them to stay in Hungary.
To reach this long-term goal, in the autumn of 2013, the Foundation launched Szeged Scientists Academy Program, which is an internationally unique initiative.
Szeged Scientist Academy is a multigenerational school that nurtures young talents with the objective of developing promising youths into prominent scientists for future biomedical research. The Academy guides and supports its students for 20 years by providing them with scholarships, as well as with domestic and international research opportunities.
The foundation of the school was preceded by thorough and careful preparations. Today, the Academy’s mentors, secondary school teachers and students are referred to as Szent-Györgyi Pupils, Students, Mentors, International Mentors and Teachers – expressing great respect and admiration towards Albert Szent-Györgyi. The sponsors of the Academy, acknowledging and implementing former Minister of Culture, Kunó Klebelsberg’s activities, are referred to as Klebelsberg Donors.
As a result of the preparatory work from spring to November 2013, the school’s first academic year has successfully started with five students of the Faculty of Medicine.
Furthermore, the mentor network has also been established, and it has been expanding ever since. Szent-Györgyi Mentors are internationally renowned and recognized scientists of the University of Szeged and the Biological Research Centre of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. It is their great accomplishment that Szent-Györgyi International Mentors have also joined the Academy’s vital activities.
The founders of the Academy are determined to reach out to a number of secondary schools all over the country to find bright young pupils, and their devoted efforts have already resulted in the selection of around 100 Szent-Györgyi Pupils with exceptional talent for biology and chemistry. Their teachers are also members of the Academy, and as Szent-Györgyi Teachers, they assist in establishing an interconnection between secondary schools and higher education, which then facilitates the development of young talents to become creative, successful scientists.
The sponsorship is evidently also very crucial to the proper operation, and the press conference of 29 November has consolidated the school’s existence. The Szeged Scientist Academy possesses sufficient financial support that comes from the University of Szeged, its Faculty of Medicine, the BRC, and from local and regional decision-makers.
These comprehensive and assiduous preparations, as well as the favorable circumstances have made it possible for the Academy to successfully begin its talent recognizing and nurturing activities not only in Szeged, but also all over the country.
Several Nobel Laureates and researchers working at high-ranked universities, such as Cambridge or Oxford, and research centres abroad have joined in the so-called Mentor Program and thus Nobel Laureate researchers visit Szeged every year. A biology laboratory with state-of-the-art equipment has been established in Radnóti Miklós Experimental Grammar School, which offers the most effective education in biology in the country. The laboratory launched a special biomedical training course for grammar school students (Szent- Györgyi Pupils) in June 2015. In 2013, 20 secondary school teachers and 80 grammar school pupils registered for the program. In 2014, the number of participating teachers increased to 40 and that of the pupils was almost 150. Not only did pupils arrive from regional schools but also from every part of the country, even from the leading secondary schools of Hungary. The program became attractive for talented pupils and their teachers as well.
At the end of 2015 Szeged Scientists Academy reached a turning point in its history: the fruits of labour were rewarded by the government of Hungary’s decision to support the Academy with over two billion forints (2028/2015. (XII.29.) Government Decree). The work done by Szent-Györgyi Students and their mentors had proved by then that it was well worth supporting the best with scholarships, grants and opportunities. Meetings organized yearly made it possible for pupils and teachers of several secondary schools to join in the program.
Thanks to this support, Szeged Scientists Academy now has the chance to become both nationally and internationally determining and competitive. At the request of the Foundation, German Nobel Laureate physiologist, Dr. Bert Sakmann has accepted the post of Director of education for Szeged Scientists Academy. He is in charge of, among others, helping to widen international relations of Szeged Scientists Academy, participating in improving the talent management program by passing on his experience, involving further Nobel Laureates in the program, and also meeting scholarship Students, Mentors of SzSA and secondary school teachers regularly.
The Foundation’s concept of talent management is based on a vertical structure, whose basis is the Secondary School Education Program (SSEP). Taking the age characteristics of the secondary school age group into consideration, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees decided on asking the most recognized national experts of talent management in biology to supervise this work. At present, there are 15 Senior teachers taking part in the work, so the 12 education regions led by the Senior teachers cover the whole country.
Professor Péter Hegyi, the program director of SZTA, officially announced the news before the General Assembly of the City of Szeged on February 12, 2016 that a Nobel laureate will head an institution in Szeged. The representatives of the city decided to authorize the local government of Szeged to build stronger cooperation between the city, the talent management program and the Foundation for the Future of Biomedical Sciences in Szeged.
In addition to the continuous financial support of the Municipality of the City of Szeged, it also helped the SZTA by selling the former Béla Bartók Cultural House, which had been vacant in the city center for a long time, to the Foundation at a discount price. In this patinated monumental building, a dormitory and training center will be established to meet the needs of the Szeged Scientists Academy scholarship students. Renovation works are in progress, the building is expected to open its doors to the Szent-Györgyi Students in 2021.