Irish quantum computing prodigy to attend Nobel Prize event after award win

20 May 2019

From left: Adam Kelly being presented with the SFI Intel ISEF Award by Margie McCarthy, SFI interim director of Science for Society, at the SciFest 2018 national final. Image: Keith Arkins

Irish secondary school student Adam Kelly will rub shoulders with Nobel dignitaries after being named one of the world’s brightest young students at ISEF 2019.

This year’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) has placed three Irish students on a high pedestal after they were named as some of the brightest young minds in the world. The event last week saw more than 1,800 teen researchers travel to Phoenix, Arizona from across the world as winners of various national science fairs.

Three Irish students at ISEF 2019 can claim to be among the world’s best after being named winners of some of the event’s major awards. The first was Skerries Community College student Adam Kelly, who was among three winners of the Dudley R Herschbach SIYSS Award, one of five major overall awards at ISEF.

Kelly may be a familiar name to readers having been named as the overall winner of SciFest 2018 last November and winner of this year’s BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) for his open source quantum computing simulator. As part of his SciFest prize, he was able to travel to compete at ISEF 2019 and present this research.

ISEF’s organisers – the Society for Science and the Public – said the Dudley R Herschbach SIYSS Award is given to highlight “some of the most remarkable achievements by young scientists from across the world”. As part of this award, Kelly will now get an all-expenses-paid trip to attend the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar (SIYSS) during the Nobel Prize ceremonies in December. He will also have an asteroid named after him.

Big win for bat conservation

This was one of three awards won by Kelly over the course of ISEF 2019, including being named as a joint first award winner – worth $3,000 – in the Systems Software category. He also received an honourable mention for Science of Security presented by the US National Security Agency Research Directorate.

Joining Kelly in Irish celebrations was the team of Dylan Bagnall and Richard Beattie of The King’s Hospital school in Dublin who were named as overall winners as well as recipients of the first award in the Animal Sciences category. The winning project put forward a series of novel, low-cost methods to support citizen scientists in the conservation of bats. Additionally, the pair were presented with a special award worth $1,200 by the China Association for Science and Technology for their project’s originality and innovation.

The pair made it to the international finals for being overall winners of Sentinus Big Bang Awards in Northern Ireland in June of last year.

You can check out Kelly speaking about his project at BTYSTE 2019 below.

Updated, 1.09pm, 21 May 2019: This article has been updated to include additional prizes won by Dylan Bagnall and Richard Beattie of The King’s Hospital school in Dublin.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic