BT Young Scientist winner wants to verify content in post-ChatGPT era

12 Jan 2024

Image: Connor McKenna/

Months of hard work and dedication have brought budding young scientist Seán O’Sullivan to this evening’s BTYSTE awards ceremony in the RDS.

Seán O’Sullivan, a 5th year student from Coláiste Chiaráin in Limerick, has been named the overall winner of the 2024 BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE).

The 17-year-old student impressed the judges with his highly topical project, VerifyMe: A New Approach to Authorship Attribution in the Post-ChatGPT Era. This project was inspired by the emergence of OpenAI’s ChatGPT AI bot and the challenges of sorting real from fake content in the context of the sophisticated communication capabilities of large language models (LLMs). O’Sullivan developed a novel approach to analyse stylistic differences in content to verify authorship.

O’Sullivan was delighted, if a little overwhelmed, to accept the award and said he had never seen anything like the support and enjoyment that he experienced over the last few days.

Minister for Education Norma Foley, TD, congratulated O’Sullivan on his win. She said it was a testament to his hard work and to “the unwavering support of his family, teachers and school”.

“It comes in the 60th year of the exhibition when we must give significant credit to founders Dr Tony Scott and Fr Tom Burke who had the vision and determination to first establish this event in Ireland back in 1963 and to all of those who have nurtured and celebrated scientific research in our school communities in the years since.”

O’Sullivan also takes home a cash prize of €7,500. He will go on to represent Ireland at the EU Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS), one of the largest science fares in the world.

In its 60 years, BTYSTE has become one of the leading science and technology exhibitions in Europe. Running from 10 to 13 January, this year’s exhibition included 550 projects from more than 1,100 students hailing from 219 schools across the island of Ireland. It is expected that up to 14,000 students will visit BTYSTE this year.

BT Ireland estimates that since its foundation, about 150,000 young people have taken part in the exhibition. In the past 35 years, 17 of the overall exhibition winners have won first place at EUCYS.

Last year’s overall winners were Shane O’Connor and Liam Carew from The Abbey School in Tipperary. They impressed the judges with their survey of more than 2,000 secondary school students to investigate the impact of school on students’ social, physical and mental wellbeing.

O’Connor and Carew went on to win second prize at EUCYS, which will take place this year in the European City of Science – Katowice, Poland.

Inspiring the next next generation

Running alongside the main exhibition over the last two days has been the Primary Science Fair. This year, more than 1,300 3rd to 6th class primary school students from 55 schools showcased 75 scientific projects.

The aim of the fair, part of the exhibition for more than 20 years now, is to develop students’ interest in science in a non-competitive environment and inspire their future participation in BTYSTE.

Commenting on the opening of the fair yesterday (11 January), Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman, TD, said he has “no doubt that the fair helps nurture a love of science for the many children involved”.

In the spirit of scientific collegiality, former winners of BTYSTE support the fair by volunteering their time to screen the submitted primary school projects.

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Rebecca Graham is production editor at Silicon Republic