SciFest Broadcom MASTERS International Award

Pictured is Grace Ni Ifearnáin, 2nd year, Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí, Tralee, Co. Kerry. Photo: Pauline Denniga

A second-level student Grace Ní Ifearnáin at Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí, Tralee will represent Ireland in the United States after winning the SciFest Broadcom MASTERS International Award. Grace was announced the winner of this prestigious award for her innovative research investigating the effect of juglone on Japanese knotweed. The award will see her participating in the MASTERS International Programme in Atlanta, Georgia in May.

Grace set out to see if she could identify a natural method for controlling Japanese knotweed. She established that the Black Walnut tree could have a herbicidal effect on surrounding plants and discovered that this was due to a natural organic compound called juglone. With support from MTU Tralee, she showed that a solution of juglone from the tree had the potential to be used as a natural control for Japanese knotweed.

The Broadcom MASTERS International programme provides a unique opportunity for secondary school, junior students, from around the world to participate in an exciting educational programme, including hands-on science and engineering activities, visits to museums and science centres and the opportunity to attend the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair. Places on the programme are highly coveted with just 25 delegates representing 22 countries, regions and territories invited. This is the fourth consecutive year a SciFest student has been invited to participate.

Sheila Porter, SciFest Founder and CEO commented: “We are incredibly proud of Grace for this tremendous achievement. Her success is a testament, not only to her ingenuity, commitment, and hard work but to the high standard of Irish STEM education. We are delighted Grace will get the opportunity to represent Ireland in the United States. We wish her every success in the future.”

SciFest is the largest, most inclusive STEM fair programme for second-level students in Ireland. The competition is free to enter and open to everyone across the island of Ireland, no matter their geographical location, background or circumstances. Now in its 17th year, SciFest is dedicated to encouraging and developing students’ interest in STEM in a fun and engaging way.