Simon Meehan, a 15-year-old transition-year student from Coláiste Choilm in Co Cork, was awarded the perpetual trophy at this year’s BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

Coláiste Choilm student Simon Meehan took home the top prize from the 54th BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

His project, entitled ‘Investigation into the antimicrobial effects of both aerial and root parts of selected plants against Staphylococcus aureus’, was an investigation into whether locally sourced plants contained chemicals that could potentially be used to control bacterial growth.

Meehan made the awe-inspiring discovery that chemicals present in blackberry leaves could be used to discourage the growth of the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium, most well know for its antibiotic-resistant strains called MRSA. MRSA is prevalent in hospitals, prisons and nursing homes. The bacterium is also responsible for a number of other infections, such as sinusitis, food poisoning and skin infections such as abscesses.

Meehan is the beneficiary of this year’s prize fund of €7,500, an increase from the €5,000 prize offered last year. Additionally, Meehan will be brought to Bletchley Park in London, most famous for being the base of the World War II codebreakers who cracked the Enigma code.

Meehan will also represent Ireland in the EU Young Scientist competition, which will be held in Dublin.

Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton, TD, said “I’m delighted to be here at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition – it’s fantastic to see so many young people engaged and inspired by the STEM subjects and their application to real-world problems.”

Shay Walsh, managing director at BT Ireland, said: “This year’s exhibition has exceeded all expectations, showcasing projects and innovations which are now, more than ever, pivotal for the future of our society.

“Our theme for this year’s exhibition is ‘It Starts Here’ – but this is only the beginning and it is vitally important that every student’s voyage of discovery does not end here.”

Words by Eva Short