The future is bright for these 25 amazing young scientists

13 Jan 2017

BT Young Scientist winners Maria Louise Fufezan and Diana Bura return home from the European Union Contest for Young Scientists. Image: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

From BT Young Scientist winners to entrepreneurial academics, these young dynamos will blow you away.

With the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) taking place this week in Dublin, we’re looking back at some of the young scientists who have both inspired and intimidated us with their cleverness over the past few years.

Many of them are award-winners in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) – BTYSTE included – with some achieving this all on their own, and some finding strength and success in numbers.

Read on to find out who will lead Ireland’s scientific future, and prepare to feel immensely proud of this genius generation.

Emily Duffy

2017 marks Emily Duffy’s fifth year at BTYSTE. She spoke at BT’s Dream It, Do It event yesterday, along with Williams F1 IT director Graeme Hackland and Rio Ferdinand.

Duffy’s Young Scientist projects often make the headlines. First was her sleeping bag for those sleeping rough in 2015, which was fireproof and waterproof, with reflective panels for increased visibility. The Duffily Bag was produced on a larger scale by a Dublin charity and has gained interest globally.

Last year, she developed a nappy that could show when babies were sick.

Caolann Brady

The first ever female winner of SciFest, 2016 was quite the year for Kildare native Caolann Brady.

Her project, Hum Your Way to Better Health, focused on the natural treatment of asthma through humming and breathing techniques, as opposed to using inhalers and nebulisers. With 175 subjects, Brady tested their breathing before and after humming at various pitches. On average, a 45-minute respiratory improvement came from this practice, compared with using an inhaler.

Caolann Brady, overall winner of SciFest 2016

Caolann Brady was named the overall winner of SciFest 2016. Image: Keith Arkins Photography

A student of St Wolstan’s Community School in Celbridge, Brady is representing Ireland at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair later this year.

Maria Louise Fufezan and Diana Bura

Maria Louise Fufezan (17) and Diana Bura (16) won last year’s Young Scientist competition thanks to their project looking at animal feed and roundworm proliferation. The duo followed that prize up with third place at the European leg of the competition last September.

Their study was entitled: An Investigation into the Effects of Enzymes Used in Animal Feed Additives on the Lifespan of Caenorhabditis Elegans, which is a nematode (roundworm) found in temperate soil environments. Remarkably, this was the first time Fufezan and Bura entered the exhibition.

Lauren Murphy

Separate to the BTYSTE but also last year, Loreto Secondary School Balbriggan student Lauren Murphy represented Ireland at Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair with her incredibly simple, yet effective, smart rehabilitation device, which she invented to aid multiple sclerosis sufferers.

Noticing the ‘clenched fist’ problem that her father – and many MS sufferers – regularly had, she created a tangible aid to encourage greater hand dexterity.

Lauren Murphy with her father Gerard, showcasing Lauren’s aid for multiple sclerosis sufferers which aims to improve dexterity

Lauren Murphy with her father Gerard, showcasing Lauren’s aid for multiple sclerosis sufferers, which aims to improve dexterity. Image: DCU

At a hackathon in Dublin City University (DCU) last year, Murphy met with engineers as well as the company Nuwave Ventures, who were impressed with her concept, ultimately lending their expertise to bring the project to fruition.

Renuka Chintapalli

Renuka Chintapalli won an award for her individual project at BTYSTE 2016. She was also the only Irish regional finalist at the Google Science Fair last year.

With her sights set on becoming a doctor, Chintapalli’s research analyses the anti-cancer abilities of garlic, and was accepted for publication in the International Journal of Nutrition and Cancer. She has also identified a new protein suspect in the biology of oesophageal cancer.

Chintapalli spoke about her BTYSTE project to an audience of 160 international health professionals at last year’s Future Health Summit.

John Ryan, Teofil Camarasu and Eoin Davey

Ireland’s brightest young programmers descended on DCU in February of last year for the All-Ireland Programming Olympiad, where their skills were pushed to the limit to solve a myriad of highly complex coding challenges.

In the end, the trio of John Ryan, Teofil Camarasu and Eoin Davey carried off the top senior prize, each receiving full marks for the event.

AIPO winning team

Pictured at the All-Ireland Programming Olympiad are (from left): Gary Conway, AIPO manager, John Ryan, Stephen Ashmore of Fidelity Investments, Teofil Camarasu, Eoin Davey and DCU’s Prof Rory O’Connor. Image: Nick Bradshaw

In the year that has passed, Ryan is now working as a data scientist at Intel, Camarasu is furthering his studies at the University of Oxford and Davey is studying at Maynooth University.

Shauna Flynn

DCU PhD research student Shauna Flynn has set herself no easy task: ensuring that Moore’s Law continues to hold true.

The winner of the inaugural Inspirefest ResearchFest competition, Flynn is working to find a faster, cheaper way of making transistors even smaller, as Moore’s Law comes up against the wall of what’s possible.

With funding from the Irish Research Council and Intel, the Dublin native is using block copolymers to form patterns on the surface of silicon wafers. These patterns can then be used to make transistors, with the potential to more than triple the number of transistors on chips.

Luke Byrne

Wicklow student Luke Byrne, who attends Coláiste Chraobh Abhann in Kilcoole, has developed a new product to solve a problem that vexes many: tangled headphones.

Headphone Helpers use a silicone band to stop them from becoming tangled. For his clever design, Byrne was named the winner of last year’s Student Enterprise Awards, run by the Local Enterprise Offices.

Luke Byrne

Wicklow teenager Luke Byrne. Image: Student Enterprise Awards/Twitter

The innovative silicone band is worn around the neck and features loops that thread the headphones to prevent them getting tangled or falling away while running.

Matthew Hewston, Fergus Munday and Luke Sheridan

Matthew Hewston, Fergus Munday and Luke Sheridan are the co-creators and co-founders of Squeazy, an educational toy based around the Cartesian Diver experiment, which demonstrates Archimedes’ principle of buoyance. The simple toy was created to make learning about science more fun.

Squeazy was initially developed by the young classmates during transition year. The trio took that initial idea and ran with it, and have since won the National Student Enterprise Awards and pitched on the RTÉ show Junior Dragons’ Den.

Matthew Hewston, DCU

Matthew Hewston pictured with Squeazy. Image: DCU

Hewston is another DCU student, currently studying marketing, innovation and technology. And, well, we think he already has innovation locked down.

Annie and Kate Madden

Co Meath sisters Annie and Kate Madden are the creators of FenuHealth, a business that makes horse feed more appetising for racehorses, using fenugreek herbs and spices.

It all began when Kate did a Young Scientist project in 2014 on whether Mars bars help horses to go faster. They followed this up a year later with their fenugreek product, which they described as a supplement designed to get horses to eat their food.

The pair, who attend Loreto College, St Stephen’s Green, have since sold thousands of units of their product to horse trainers in Europe, the Middle East and the Far East.

Lee Campbell, John Harding, Pauric Dempsey and David Hatton

The foursome of Lee Campbell, John Harding, Pauric Dempsey and David Hatton formed the 2014 Irish F1 in Schools winning team, Autolaunch Racing.

The team were awarded for their work designing, testing and building a miniature Formula One car with Campbell, one of the founding members of Ireland’s Digital Youth Council, serving as team manager and technical director.

Autolaunch Racing went on to compete in the F1 in Schools international final in Abu Dhabi.

Campbell is now studying computer science in Trinity College Dublin (TCD), and is a prolific advocate of STEM education.

Ciara Judge, Émer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow

It has been four years since the Cork trio of Ciara Judge, Émer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow were named the 2013 winners of BTYSTE for their project A statistical investigation of the effects of Diazotroph bacteria on plant germination.

In the year that followed, they were named Time magazine’s most influential teenagers in the world, and each has gone on to forge their own successes.

Judge is currently co-founder of Germinaid, which she set up with Hickey in 2015, at the same time as being CEO of another start-up, PurchaseMate.

Healy-Thow is a strong advocate for charitable causes and groups, seen during a recent visit to Rwanda with Action Aid Rwanda.

Edel Browne

Athenry native Edel Browne is a biotechnology student and entrepreneur in residence at NUI Galway.

Edel Browne

From left: JCI Ireland director of community, Keira Keogh; Edel Browne; and JCI Galway president, Keith Killilea. Image: JCI Galway Ireland/Twitter

She is also the co-founder of Free Feet, a start-up developing technology to help people with Parkinson’s disease to overcome ‘gait freeze’ by shining a light in front of the foot. This improves mobility by giving the patient a target to focus on, and it could help millions of Parkinson’s sufferers worldwide.

Now 19, Browne started the project when she was just 15 years old and won the Best Individual Project award at BTYSTE 2013.

Elle Loughran

As a young teen, Elle Loughran was selected to participate in Outbox Incubator, a first-of-its-kind incubator for girls in STEM. Since then, she has only gotten busier.

In between speaking at the World Youth Organisation’s International Women’s Day Summit in London and Inspirefest 2016, Loughran completed her Leaving Cert and is currently studying at TCD.

She’s also working on several research projects along with an under-wraps project with AAT and Master Makers, according to her blog. She will taking the stage once again at the Dublin Tech Summit in February.

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Book now to get your Early Bird tickets.