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Tuesday 26 September 2017

Teenagers scoop top science prize

Ciara Judge, Sophie Healy-Thow and Emer Hickey, who have scooped a top prize at the European Union's Young Scientist competition (PA/BT)
Ciara Judge, Sophie Healy-Thow and Emer Hickey, who have scooped a top prize at the European Union's Young Scientist competition (PA/BT)

Three teenagers from Cork have scooped a top prize at the European Union's Young Scientist competition.

Ciara Judge, Emer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow beat more than 120 students from 38 countries to win first prize in the biology section of the contest in Prague.

The schoolgirls represented Ireland after being crowned winners of the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition in January for their project which examined diazotroph bacteria on plant growth.

Colm O'Neill, chief executive of BT Ireland, said: "In 25 years of competing at the EU competition, Ireland has now taken home the top honours 15 times, out-performing all other countries.

"We believe this major award will add to the future career prospects for Ciara, Emer and Sophie, raise the profile of their school and teachers, and further boost the impressive international credentials of the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

"The girls have done us proud."

The students, who are aged 15 and 16 and attend Kinsale Community College, won 7,000 euro as well as an honorary award of an all expenses paid trip to the London International Youth Science Forum.

Their project - a statistical investigation of the effects of diazotroph bacteria on plant germination - investigated the benefits of diazotrophs during the germination stage of plant growth. The girls statistically analysed the results of their investigations using the student T-test.

Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, said the future is bright if this is the level of talent we are producing in Europe.

"It is particularly great to see the mix of curiosity-driven research and more applied projects," she said.

"We need more young people to take up STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects at school, and I especially want to encourage more young women to pursue careers in science and technology."

The 2014 BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition will take place in the RDS, Dublin, from January 8 -11. Deadlines for entries is October 2.

Almost 1,200 students from 216 schools in 31 counties covering 550 projects competed in the all-Ireland competition earlier this year.

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