Sci­en­tific suc­cess

Irish Examiner - - News - Pic­ture: Chris Bellew / Fen­nell Pho­tog­ra­phy

Si­mon Mee­han from Coláiste Choilm, Ballincol­lig, Cork, cel­e­brates his BT Young Sci­en­tist and Tech­nol­o­gist 2018 over­all award with Shay Walsh, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor BT Ire­land, and Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Richard Bru­ton. Si­mon’s project was called ‘In­ves­ti­ga­tion of the an­timi­cro­bial ef­fects of both aerial and root parts of se­lected plants against Sta­phy­lo­coc­cus au­reus’. Si­mon re­ceives the fan­tas­tic per­pet­ual tro­phy, a cheque for €7,500 and the chance to rep­re­sent Ire­land at the 30th Euro­pean Union Con­test for Young Sci­en­tists which will be held in Dublin in Septem­ber.

It was a Mun­ster one-two at the 54th BT Young Sci­en­tist & Technology Ex­hi­bi­tion, with Si­mon Mee­han from Coláiste Choilm in Ballincol­lig, Cork, scoop­ing the top prize, and a group from St Bren­dan’s Col­lege in Kil­lar­ney tak­ing the group award.

A stunned-look­ing Si­mon, a 15-year-old tran­si­tion year stu­dent, won the top award for his project, en­ti­tled ‘In­ves­ti­ga­tion into the An­timi­cro­bial ef­fects of both aerial and root parts of se­lected plants against Sta­phy­lo­coc­cus au­reus’.

In ad­di­tion to re­ceiv­ing the per­pet­ual tro­phy and a cheque for €7,500, he will rep­re­sent Ire­land at the Euro­pean Union Con­test for Young Sci­en­tists, which will be held in Dublin in Septem­ber. He also landed an exclusive trip to Bletch­ley Park in the UK, the Sec­ond World War code-break­ing cen­tre.

Speak­ing about the win­ning en­try, BT Young Sci­en­tist judge and chair­per­son of the bi­o­log­i­cal and eco­log­i­cal sciences cat­e­gory, John O’Hal­lo­ran said: “This is a re­ally ex­cit­ing project, which ex­plores the pos­si­bil- ity of the black­berry leaf ex­tract’s abil­ity to con­trol harm­ful bac­te­ria. The un­ex­pected find­ings de­liver a unique ap­proach to killing bac­te­ria us­ing nat­u­ral plant ac­tive in­gre­di­ents. The rigour of the ap­proach adopted by Si­mon set his project apart from com­peti­tors and made him our over­all win­ner.

“Si­mon se­lected nine lo­cally sourced plants, such as as­para­gus, net­tles and black­ber­ries, to test for the pres­ence of chem­i­cals which could po­ten­tially be used to con­trol bac­te­rial in­fec­tion. The leaves of the black­berry plant were shown to con­tain a chem­i­cal which pre­vented the growth of dif­fer­ent bac­te­ria.”

The in­di­vid­ual run­ner-up award was pre­sented to Claire Gregg, a 16-year-old tran­si­tion year stu­dent at Loreto Col­lege in Dublin for her project, en­ti­tled ‘An Anal­y­sis of the Hous­ing Short­age in Ire­land us­ing Agent-Based Mod­el­ling’.

The group win­ners were James K no bl au ch, Harry Knoblauch, and O ran O’Donoghue, all aged 16 and fifth year stu­dents at St Bren­dan’ s Col­lege, Kill ar­ney, Co Kerry. They won for their project en­ti­tled ‘An In­ves­ti­ga­tion into Con­form­ity and How Mi­nori­ties In­flu­ence It’, which, via two con­trolled psy­chol­ogy ex­per­i­ments, showed how one per­son can in­flu­ence the be­hav­iour of oth­ers, us­ing a unique ap­proach to study­ing group dy­nam­ics that fo­cus on the in­flu­ence of an in­di­vid­ual within a group.

They pipped at rio of tran­si­tion year stu­dents from Colái ste Treas a, Kan turk, Co Cork — Dar­ragh Twomey, Neil O’Leary, and An­drew He ff er nan. The run­ners-up had en­tered their project in the bi­o­log­i­cal and eco­log­i­cal sciences cat­e­gory at in­ter­me­di­ate level. En­ti­tled ‘Feed­ing 9.6 bil­lion peo­ple by 2050’, it in­volved treat­ing bar­ley with a strain of bac­te­ria, which found it in­creased the yield of va­ri­eties of the crop.

Pic­ture: Julien Be­hal

Min­is­ter of state for for­eign af­fairs and trade He­len McEn­tee at the RDS for the BT Young Sci­en­tist and Technology Ex­hi­bi­tion with Ti­mothy McGrath from Kil­lor­glin Com­mu­nity Col­lege, Co Kerry, who won the Ir­ish Aid Gorta Self Help Africa Science for De­vel­op­ment Award for his project on the use of ge­netic en­gi­neer­ing to tar­get bac­te­ria that cause cholera.

Pic­ture: Sam Boal

So­phie Dempsey, left, and Maia Searle from St Michael’s School Na­van, Co Meath, try out Coast Guard suits at the BT Young Sci­en­tist Ex­hi­bi­tion in the RDS.

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