School-student astronomer wins IOP prize at all-Ireland science fair

26 January 2017

School student Cormac Larkin was presented with the Institute of Physics prize for the best physics project at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, which was visited by more than 50,000 people from throughout Ireland during the three-day event in Dublin on 12–14 January.

School-student astronomer wins IOP prize at all-Ireland science fair

Larkin, a final-year student at Coláiste An Spioraid Naoimh, Cork was also a runner-up in the main awards, winning a prize of €1,200. In addition, he won the Intel Student Travel Award in the chemical, physical and mathematical sciences category of the competition, for which he will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles in May to take part in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

His IOP prize was presented at the event’s awards ceremony on 13 January by PhD student Niamh Kavanagh, winner of the IOP in Ireland’s Rosse Medal in 2016 and of the IOP’s Early Career Physics Communicator Award in the same year.

Larkin’s winning project was entitled “A case study of data mining in observational astronomy: the search for new OB stars in the Small Magellanic Cloud”. Having been curious about astronomy from an early age, he took part in a week-long programme at University College Cork during his Transition Year that led on to a three-month summer studentship working with Dr Paul Callanan. He went on to work at Armagh Observatory as a visiting research student with Dr Jorick Vink and Dr Venu Kalari. Since October 2016 he has also been working with astronomers at Trinity College Dublin.

School-student astronomer wins IOP prize at all-Ireland science fair

First place in the junior individual section of the physical sciences category went to Dylan Egan of Mary Immaculate Secondary School, Lisdoonvarna for his project “Could rushes be used as fuel?”, while first place in the senior individual section went to Emmett Brolly of Loreto College, Coleraine for his project “Bead fountains”. Each won €300.

The science fair – the largest of its kind in Europe – was opened by the president of Ireland, Michael Higgins and featured live shows, interactive exhibits, discussions and a careers session with Rio Ferdinand as well as the student competition.

School-student astronomer wins IOP prize at all-Ireland science fair

The IOP in Ireland’s stand at the exhibition was exceptionally busy as volunteers engaged with students and members of the public of all ages. In a darkened tent, visitors used the IOP in Ireland’s diffraction grating glasses to view various light sources through a range of objects, creating colourful effects. The volunteers included a team from the Irish Association of Physicists in Medicine, who provided a collection of exhibits, including some on radiation uses in medical physics.

Physics departments in Ireland lent much of the equipment, including a new laser exhibit from Dublin City University that was purchased with the help of the IOP Walton Fund. The fund, specific to Ireland, is supported by donations from within Ireland for specific projects in Ireland.