EU Contest for Young Scientists opens in Dublin


Ireland is hosting some the world’s brightest young minds at the 30th EU Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) over the coming days at the RDS.

A total of 139 students from 38 countries are showcasing 90 projects, including representatives of countries outside of Europe such as China, Israel and Canada.

The event is open to the public from 10 am to 4pm daily until Monday, with visitors able to view projects and talk to participants. They have all previously won first prizes in their home country’s national science competition; the equivalent to the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition in Ireland.

This year’s BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition winner Simon Meehan (16), who discovered a natural antibiotic in a blackberry bramble near his home in Ballincollig, Co Cork, was among those setting up projects on Friday.

He has expanded his research since his win in January by focussing on the key natural “phyto-chemical” he found, which kills bacteria. He has established that the biggest concentrations are to be found in the plant in early summer but they are influenced by meteorological conditions and climate change.

Higher yields were found in natural plants compared to commercial blackberry varieties which, he suggested, may have important lessons for the development of new antibiotics.

Nearby, 15-year-old Rhea Mahotra from the Moravian Academy High School in Bethlehem, Philadelphia, was putting finishing touches to her presentation on the use of non-invasive laser technology on heart tissue.

Her research, which was conducted on the fruit fly, has possible applications in quicker development of cardiac drugs, she said, and in the use of “optogenetics” where light-sensitive proteins can be activated in the heart, thereby adjusting various functions.

Simon Meehan left from Colaiste Cholm in Ballincollig, Co Cork with natural plant extracts with a potential new antibotic. Rhea Malhotra from USA holding a heart from her project of 3D imaging of cardiac physiology in fruit flies at the set up of the European Union Contest for Young Scientists at the RDS. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.
Simon Meehan left from Colaiste Cholm in Ballincollig, Co Cork with natural plant extracts with a potential new antibotic. Rhea Malhotra from USA holding a heart from her project of 3D imaging of cardiac physiology in fruit flies at the set up of the European Union Contest for Young Scientists at the RDS. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

Daniel Kang (16) from the John F Kennedy High School on Guam island is paying his first visit to Europe. Like his US colleague he was a category winner in the annual Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

He has developed an electrically conductive paint “that can change any surface into a touch sensor, circuit or battery”. Unlike most electronic material it is very cheap. He hopes the material, which is already “patent pending”, will have a lot of applications in waterproof, “wearable technology”.

The competition, which promotes collaboration and innovation across borders, is being staged in Dublin for the second time in its 29-year history. Ireland has traditionally performed well in EUCYS having taken home the top prize on 14 occasions. The 2018 EUCYS winners will be announced at a ceremony in Dublin Castle on Tuesday.

More information on tickets and science shows being staged at the RDS to coincide with EUCYS 2018 is available at https://eucys2018.com.

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