Wexford student Mark Berney aces Leaving Cert: eyes up science career

14 Aug 2013

Mark Berney pictured in Gorey, Co Wexford, this morning, after discovering his Leaving Cert reults

Eighteen-year-old Mark Berney opened up his brown envelope this morning in Gorey Community School in Co Wexford, after having a nightmare last night that he would fail the Leaving Cert. Well, he need not have worried. Berney has aced the Leaving Cert exam system for 2013 – literally. He has achieved top marks in the exam on the island of Ireland, garnering nine A1s. He talks to Carmel Doyle about how he wants to pursue a career in science, and hopefully one day make a difference to society, potentially in the area of medicine, renewable energy or environmental science.

Hailing from a townland in north Co Wexford called Kilmurry (it’s near Tara Hill where the Irish playwright Brian Friel once lived for a time, and the seaside spot Ballymoney), Berney is 18 years young.

His parents run Berney Saddlery in the nearby castle town of Enniscorthy – the shop is along the quays, facing the River Slaney, as one traverses the bridge to head to Wexford Town.

Future Human

As for where the younger Berney got his education, he wrapped up his studies at Gorey Community School earlier this summer. The school is led by principal Michael Finn and vice-principal Stella Kehoe.

The Gorey school is one of the biggest schools in the country and is based at the edge of the town, as you head for the seaside village of Courtown.

His old school is where Berney went this morning, like the many other students around Ireland who opted to go to their learning haunts to get their results. The other option was to get the results online from midday.

Nine A1s for Wexford native

Mark Berney

Up the model county! Mark Berney pictured with his mum Nicola (Nicky) Deacon at Gorey Community School today. He is holding the sheet of paper that states his Leaving Cert exam results

So, to give you a flavour of what Berney has achieved …

The normal amount of subjects a student sitting the Leaving Cert can opt to sit is up to seven. One of these has to be maths, of course.

Berney wasn’t content to just study seven subjects, however.

He loves science, so he decided to take on the biology curriculum himself, outside of school hours, just this past February, and spent 12 weeks absorbing the biology curriculum. Well he nailed it. Berney gleaned an A1 in the subject.

He also took it upon himself to take on Italian as an extra-curricular subject, as you do. He aced that also – getting an A1.

His other seven subjects that he achieved top marks in were Irish, English, maths, French, physics, chemistry, and music.


Berney is now looking forward to heading to Trinity College Dublin (TCD) to pursue a science degree – his first choice on the CAO form.

He wants to stay in Ireland for the moment, as he furthers his education.

When Siliconrepublic.com first spoke to Berney’s mother Nicola on the phone this evening, she said that her son would be delighted to talk about his love of science, especially chemistry, and his plans for the future.

As Berney took to the telephone, he sounded completely unfazed and modest about his achievement today.

All that seems to be on his mind is getting to Dublin to absorb more about science.

He has a dream of one day making a difference to society by perhaps helping come up with a new innovation, potentially in the sphere of renewable energy, medicine or environmental science.

He kicked off by saying that chemistry is probably his favourite subject.

Shifting to science: making a difference

And his advice for other young students out there who may be unsure about what subjects to opt for when they enter second level?

Berney believes science is one of the most captivating subject realms on the planet.

“I suppose the reason that I am so interested in science is because I love discovering how things work, and how the world works.

“Research is one of the most worthwhile careers you could go into, because you could really make a difference in areas like medicine, renewable energy, environmental chemistry, or whatever.”

The eclipse of the ‘Celtic tiger’ furore

When asked about the education shift, especially during the supposed ‘Celtic tiger’ years, when students were often propelled by their parents, guardians, and even government and society to opt to study subjects, so as to pursue careers in spheres such as business – areas that were often deemed to have high career scope and high salaries, at the time – Berney has this to add to the pot.

If today’s next student generation opt to go in business or law areas, he says they might make more money in the long run, but may not have the same job satisfaction.

“You might not feel like you are doing something really worthwhile.”

Although he says some people might think his value system is naïve, Berney says he is on a mission to, one day, make a difference to society by innovating in the science field.

Scientists past and present he looks up to …

And who are Berney’s personal favourite scientists?

While he says he doesn’t really have a favourite scientist, he threw out the names of a couple of pioneers he admires.

“One of my favourite scientists is Ernest Rutherford, who discovered the nucleus, proton, etc. I also admire Neils Bohr as his ideas laid the groundwork for quantum theory.

“I admire Arnold Sommerfeld a lot and I think he doesn’t get nearly as much credit and recognition as he deserves, and I think he’s very under-rated. As for contemporary scientists, I think Jack Andraka is particularly inspirational. He invented a revolutionary test for pancreatic cancer at the age of just 15.”

Nurturing the next generation

Reversing back to Gorey Community School for a minute; it’s where Berney says his teachers collectively helped nurture his hunger for learning.

“I really enjoyed my time there. It’s a great school and even though it’s very big you do get a lot of attention from the teachers. And all of the teachers are very knowledgeable about their subjects. That helps. Also, there’s a nice atmosphere in the school.”

As for his future studies at TCD, Berney is eagerly awaiting for the college year to start, so that he can get stuck into science.

“I don’t like sitting around waiting for things to happen,” Berney concludes.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic