Children’s storybook of Irish scientists wins €2,000 Mary Mulvihill Award

23 May 2019

Image: © kowit1982/

A sample of an illustrated children’s book profiling some of Ireland’s greatest scientists has won this year’s Mary Mulvihill Award.

Third-level students from across the country took part in the 2019 edition of the Mary Mulvihill Award, named in honour of one of the country’s best scientists and science communicators, who sadly passed away in 2015.

Now in its third year, the award sets the challenge to students to create an engaging piece of science media focused around a particular theme, this year’s being ‘Science for the love of it’. After much deliberation, the judges for this year’s edition unanimously chose Trinity College Dublin PhD student Laura Katherine Finnegan as the winner of the top prize worth €2,000. The award was presented by Inspirefest founder and Silicon Republic CEO Ann O’Dea.

Finnegan’s entry was a sample of an illustrated children’s book profiling notable Irish scientists including Mulvihill and Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the iconic Irish astrophysicist who presented the 2018 award.

‘Mary would have been delighted’

The judges described Finnegan’s entry as a “beautiful and engaging piece, with a very high quality of both narration and illustration”. One of the judges was Mary’s sister, Anne Mulvihill, who said: “Mary would have been delighted with this joyful and creative entry and with its target audience.”

Along with undertaking her PhD, Finnegan is also a tutor with AccessEd, a voluntary programme for second-level students that promotes fair access to university.

This was not the only award given out on the night, with University College Dublin PhD student Emily Sheridan receiving a special distinction award worth €500. Her entry, entitled ‘A Tale of a Life Lived for Science from an Unlikely Narrator’, is an account of her own journey through science while learning how to cope with mental health challenges that developed when she was a teenager.

The judges described Sheridan’s award-winning piece as “a very readable, engaging and honest account of her personal motivations and struggles with science, and how it has shaped her life”.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic