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Cork teenager wins BT Young Scientist after discovering blackberry antibiotic in his back garden

15-year-old Simon Meehan had been working on his project for two years.

winner 982_90534105 Simon Meehan, pictured with Minister for Education Richard Bruton (r) and managing director of BT Ireland Shay Walsh Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

THE BT YOUNG Scientist of the year has been won by a 15-year-old Cork student who discovered certain antimicrobial effects of selected plants in his area.

Simon Meehan, a transition year student from Colaiste Choilm in Cork took home the top prize at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition (BTYSTE) at the RDS in Dublin for his project, which he has been working on for two years.

The project saw Meehan seek to find a natural remedy capable of killing the common human bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, a malady that has become increasingly resistant to conventional antibiotics.

In order to do so, the youngster selected nine different plants from his locality, including asparagus, nettles and blackberries and tested for the presence of chemicals that might be capable of controlling the bacteria.

“The unexpected findings deliver a unique approach to killing bacteria using natural plant active ingredients,” said chair of the event’s biological and ecological sciences category Professor John O’Halloran.

The rigour of the approach adopted by Simon set his project apart from competitors and made him our overall winner.

For his efforts, Meehan has received a prize pot of €7,500, the BTYSTE perpetual trophy, and a trip to Bletchley Park in Britain, scene of the legendary Enigma code-cracking project which played an enormous part in defeating the Nazis in World War II.

The other big winners on the night were James Knoblauch, Harry Knoblauch and Oran O’Donoghue, from St Brendan’s College in Killarney, who emerged victorious in the group category for their project entitled ‘An Investigation into Conformity and How Minorities Influence it’.

The individual runner-up award went to 16-year-old Claire Gregg from Loreto College St Stephen’s Green Dublin  for a project entitled ‘An Analysis of the Housing Shortage in Ireland using Agent-Based Modelling’. Meanwhile, the group runners-up were Darragh Twomey, Neil O’Leary and Andrew Heffernan from Colaiste Treasa in Kanturk, Cork, for a project called ‘Feeding 9.6 billion people by 2050′.

This year’s event saw 2,031 projects, run by 4,251 students, entered in a bid to win the coveted prize.

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