Video Challenge 2021
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2021 Video Challenge for High School Students

Molecular Mechanisms
of Drugs for Mental Disorders



Mental disorders affect thinking, feeling, mood, and behavior. As scientists study the molecular machinery behind brain processes and mental illnesses, they design drugs that bind to key proteins in the neuronal signaling pathways to alter their innate function. This in turn regulates the neuronal signal strength. Although these drugs don’t cure mental disorders, they help patients lead more productive and fulfilling lives.

2021 Challenge

In this challenge you will focus on a mental health topic and create a story that explains how neuronal signals are communicated within our bodies and how pharmacological drugs modulate that signal in a given pathway to treat the symptoms of the illness. Choose one of the topics below:

  1. Treating anxiety disorders: drugs targeting GABAA receptor to reduce neuronal stimulation

  2. Treating schizophrenia: pharmacological antagonists targeting the dopamine receptor

  3. Treating depression: drugs targeting SERT transporters to modulate the reuptake of serotonin

  4. Treating Alzheimer’s disease: drugs targeting acetylcholinesterase to stop the destruction of acetylcholine

In addition, your story should incorporate some social and public health aspects. You might address how the mental illness affects an individual and how that could be improved with increased awareness. You might also convey the importance of screening for the disorder.

The target audience

Imagine you are teaching the content to another high school student, who has overall knowledge of biology similar to you, but has not studied the molecular mechanisms of nerve signaling or mental illnesses treatment in detail.


The Learn section offers a topic overview, links to learning resources, and relevant 3D structures in the Protein Data Bank. Use the Participate section for instructions on video creation and other participation information.

A PDF flyer describing this challenge is available for download and distribution.

Video Requirements

A qualifying entry should:

  • Tell a 2-minute-long, coherent story that incorporates molecular and public health components
  • Have a title that represents the video's story
  • Include a picture or animation of a protein from the Protein Data Bank (PDB) archive related to the topic. Example structures with visualization resources are included in the Learn section in Table 1, Table 2, Table 3, Table 4
  • Included narration must be at natural speed, not artificially sped up
  • The end credits can run in addition to the 2 minutes allotted for storytelling. Credits should include the references to all research materials, citations of the PDB structures shown, and image and sound credits
  • The video should end with the PDB-101 branding slide


All students enrolled in any high school in the United States and equivalent level home-schooled students are eligible to participate in groups comprising from 1 to 4 students. Each participant has to submit the Permission Form in order to be eligible to win the challenge.

Important Dates

Submission Opens January 12, 2021
Submission Closes April 27, 2021 at 11:59 pm PST
Judging May 3 - May 10, 2021
Results Award winners will be announced at and on May 18, 2021.


All qualifying entries will be eligible to win one or more of the following:

Judge's Award

A panel of expert judges will review the videos. All qualified entries will be judged on the following criteria (see the detailed description of each criterion):

  • Story Telling 20%
  • Quality of Science Communication 30%
  • Quality of Public Health Message 10%
  • Originality and Creativity 20%
  • Quality of Production 10%
  • Proper Accreditation 10%

The top three entries will be recognized on,, and in an upcoming RCSB PDB Newsletter.

Viewer's Choice Award

As voted by the viewers.