York University's Biophysics Contest for High School Students


The York University Biophysics Contest is a competition for Ontario high school students to create a presentation on a topic in the field of biophysics. It aims to acquaint students with a rapidly growing frontier of science, and to promote skills in the communication of science.

Who Can Participate?

The Contest is open to students in Grades 9 through 12 enrolled in a school in Ontario, Canada. Students may work in groups of up to 3, with the understanding that each member of a prize-winning group will share the prize equally.


Students who are interested in participating in the York University Biophysics Contest should register by clicking the button in the banner at the top of the page or by clicking here.  Registration is free.  Through registration, it will be possible for organizers to communicate with potential participants during the course of the contest.


Prizes will be awarded for the top three presentations by students or student groups in Grades 9 to 10 and the top three presentations by students or student groups in Grades 11 to 12. For each of the two Grade categories, the prizes will be:

  • First prize: $1,250, of which $1,000 goes to the student or student group and $250 goes to their school’s science department.
  • Second prize: $300 for the student or student group
  • Third prize: $150 for the student or student group

Presentation Rules

Prepare a narrated PowerPoint or narrated KeyNote presentation on one topic in biophysics to be selected from the list provided. The total length of the presentation must not exceed 12 minutes. The presentation must contain:

  • A title slide that includes the names and grades of all of the students who prepared the presentation, the names of those who narrated, their school, and the name of the school's principal.
  • At most 10 slides devoted to the topic of the presentation.
  • A terminating bibliography on as many slides as necessary spelling out sources for information and for media.
  • An audio narration track in which at least one or more of the students involved makes the presentation verbally as the slides are advanced. In PowerPoint, narration is accomplished with Record Slide Show (be careful to embed, rather than link, sound or video). In KeyNote, narration is accomplished with Record Slideshow in the Document inspector’s Audio pane.

Choice of Topics

The presentation must be devoted to one of the following questions:

  • How do things move in and out of cells?
  • How is radioactivity used to diagnose illness?
  • How does a bumblebee fly?
  • How do bionic implants restore hearing or vision?
  • How have glowing jellyfish revolutionized cellular microscopy?
  • How do eyes turn light into information?
  • How might magnetism help birds to find their way?
  • How and why do some cells swim?
  • What causes brain waves and how do we measure them?
  • How are nanoparticles or nanobots used in medicine?
  • How does a butterfly wing get its colours?
  • How does your ear generate information from sound?
  • How do geckos stick to walls?
  • How can electricity be used to re-grow lost limbs?
  • How do soil nutrients get to the top of a tree?
  • How can we build computers out of DNA?
  • How can we print human organs or grow them on a chip?
  • How did T. rex run, and how do we know?
  • How can the mind control an artificial limb?
  • How might biomolecular folding convey a second genetic code?
  • How can antimatter be used to fight cancer?
  • How can lasers be used to tweeze cells?
  • How do we determine the structure of life’s molecules?

How to Submit

Presentations should be submitted using Google Drive. This will require a Google email account. Simply log in to Google Drive using the email account’s login name and password, and upload the presentation (narration included). Once it is certain that the uploaded application will function for anyone who accesses it, share the file with:

A presentation created with an old version of PowerPoint might not have sound (or video) embedded within it. Rather, the presentation may simply contain links to sound (or video) files located on your own computer (especially if those files are large). Thus, when the presentation is uploaded to Google Drive, there will be no sound (or video) attached! You can find out if you have this problem if you download the presentation to a folder different from the one in which you created it, or better yet if you have a friend download it to a different computer. If you have this problem, you will have to find the sound (or video) files that were created with your presentation and upload them to Google Drive as well. Better yet: Use the latest version of PowerPoint, and check that sound (or video) is being embedded by default. KeyNote has never had this problem.


Midnight, May 15, 2016


Presentations will be judged by a panel of students and faculty at York University. Presentations will be judged on the basis of:

  • The depth of understanding of the topic.
  • How well the physics behind the biology is described.
  • The quality and clarity of the slides.
  • The quality and clarity of the narration.
  • The integration of visuals with the narration.
  • Adherence to the rules of the contest.


York University
Biophysics Program
Department of Physics and Astronomy
4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario
M3J 1P3
Phone: (416) 736-5249