The talents of the UK’s brightest young scientists were last night rewarded as they won prizes at the prestigious BA CREST Science Fair, held at the Royal Society, London. Top projects included an investigation into the affect of flowers on hospital wards, a project to examine violins of varying qualities and the development of a chocolate bar that doesn’t melt in warm weather. The prizes were awarded by TV scientist Kathy Sykes.
“We often hear it reported that there is a shortage of students taking an interest in science and technology, so it is very reassuring to see the high level of the projects in this year’s BA CREST Science Fair,” said Dr Roland Jackson, Chief Executive of the BA, which organises the event. “We would like to congratulate all the students who reached the final, and in particular those who will go on represent the UK at international science fairs.
“Science is vital to our quality of life and to our economic development. It is young people like these who will be the future of our country and it is important that we encourage them to take an interest not only in science and its applications, but also its implications.”
Two students, Linden Webster (Beeslack Community High School, Penicuik) and Mary Elizabeth McGeown (Sacred Heart Grammar School, Rathfriland, County Down) will be taking their projects to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, to be held in Portland, Oregon. Hester Baverstock (Bexhill Community College, Beckley, East Sussex) will be representing the UK at the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar in December, where she will have the opportunity to meet Nobel Prize winners.
The full list of winners is as follows:
The Research Councils Best CREST Projects:
CREST Bronze - Joint second prize
Martine Jenkins, Diana Hutchings, Ceira Thomas, Julianne Falkenberg Afon Taf High School, Troedyrhiw, Merthyr Tydfil “Heat is the word”
This group’s investigations explore how to combat the symptoms of hypothermia by using simple measures and thus give practical advice to mountain walkers and schoolchildren.
Libby Cooper The King’s School, Macclesfield, Cheshire “What affects river discharge?”
The aim of Libby’s project was to find out how the surrounding geology of a river affects its discharge. Her conclusions were that sand soaks up the most water and that concrete lets the most water run off. Her results matched the predictions and the real-life examples.
CREST Bronze - First prize
Calum Ferguson, Mark Paterson, Ewan Smith, Jamie Knox, Andrew Ferguson St Columba’s School, Kilmacolm “Are sports drinks better than water?”
Advertising has persuaded many young people to drink so-called ‘sports drinks’ during and after exercise. This team carried out investigations on several sports or energy drinks including one home made version, to establish whether they could be any better at aiding recovery from exercise than pure water. The final conclusion was that sports drinks are better than water.
CREST Silver - Second prize
Jonathan Lawson, Jessica Lunt, Josephine McNally, Alison Stockbridge Helsby High School, Helsby, Cheshire “What’s in a drink?”
This group identified three levels of taste in humans (supertasters, tasters and non-tasters) by their sensitivity to PROP. They investigated the relationships between taste and other senses by using combinations of fruit juices and coloured jelly. They hope that these results will be useful to producers of drinks or children’s medicines in improving flavours. They are also designing a website to make these results available to everyone.
CREST Silver - Joint first prize
Stephen Begley Abbey Grammar School, Newry, County Down “A study of the antibiotic properties of lichen species”
Stephen investigated ten species of lichen and tested them for antibiotic properties. Six of the ten species of lichen were found to produce antibiotics. The antibiotics produced were found to be effective at inhibiting the growth of the gram positive bacteria Micrococcus luteus and Staphyloccus albus.
Louise Treen, Sarah Moore, Bethan England, Sarah Morris, Samantha Sear Afon Taf High School, Troedyrhiw, Merthyr Tydfil “Hot Chocolate”
Their project was inspired by a plea from the British soldiers during the Iraq invasion – more food please and chocolate that doesn’t melt! The aim of their project was to produce a chocolate bar which is more heat resistant, something which is currently not available. Before producing their prototype they carried out extensive investigations into the science of chocolate. These involved viscosity, heat resistance and particle measurement. Their “hot chocolate” is currently in early stage production.
CREST Gold - Second prize
Rachel Graham, Lisa Canavan Carmel College, St Helens, Merseyside “Identifying oocytes from mouse embryonic stem cells”
The aim of this group’s project was to discover if oocytes could be formed from mouse embryonic stem cells. Oocytes are essential for therapeutic cloning, a process where the oocyte nucleus would be replaced with a nucleus from a patient’s cell. Following growth in the laboratory, the oocyte would give rise to stem cells that could generate patient-specific cell types for the treatment of diseases such as diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
This group studied the effects of heavy metal pollution on the cercariae of Cryptocotyle lingua using video capture techniques and a purpose built biosensor. They compared cercariae from Littorina littorea collected from polluted and unpolluted sites. Both horizontal swimming rate (HSR) and longevity were significantly reduced in cercariae from the polluted environment. Cercariae released from hosts from an unpolluted site were subjected to a range of heavy metals and were found to be excellent indicators of seawater quality.
AstraZeneca Young Scientist of the Year Under 16
Philip McKendrick Ponteland Community High, Northumberland “Bike stand”
Philip’s project aim was to develop a Bike Stand that was lightweight, compact and that allowed the bike to be manoeuvred easily into different positions for maintenance purposes. The design was to fill a gap in the market place for portable maintenance equipment.
AstraZeneca Young Scientist of the Year Over 16 (joint)
Oliver Earley Newcastle-Under-Lyme School “Studies toward the combinatorial synthesis of -lactam antibiotics”
With hospital deaths reaching 5,000 a year from the MRSA “superbug”, the search for new antibiotics to combat the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is now urgent. -Lactam antibiotics, such as Penicillins, operate by inhibiting the cell wall synthesis; a feature that bacteria require to survive. If this process is disrupted the bacteria dies. In this project, Oliver synthesised many -Lactam structures to explore whether slight modifications to their composition could make them more potent.
Lisa Canavan Carmel College, St Helens, Merseyside “Identifying oocytes from mouse embryonic stem cells”
Intel ISEF Prize (joint)
Linden Webster Beeslack Community High School, Penicuik “Discrimination of violin qualities through frequency time analysis”
The aim of Linden’s project was to examine violins of varying qualities to determine their attributes, and to identify common features of the superior instruments. Linden recorded the violins in an anechoic chamber. The signals were then transferred to a programme called MATLAB where they were analysed in terms of frequency and time. The results of Linden’s investigation proved the importance of the placing of the instruments’ resonances, and allowed the qualities of numerous instruments to be assessed.
Mary Elizabeth McGeown Sacred Heart Grammar School, Rathfriland, County Down “Processing of prawn shell waste”
Mary’s project investigated the chemical processing of marine crustacean waste for the production of added value compounds, in particular chitin, by removing minerals and proteins from prawn shells using chemicals. She looked at the most efficient way of doing this, which was found to be demineralisation followed by deproteinisation, and how the chitin thereby produced, differed from bioprocessed and laboratory grade chitin. Chemical chitin was found to be the purest.
London International Youth Science Forum prize (joint)
Michael Smith Bournemouth School, Bournemouth “Age and growth relationship of pike residing on different sites”
Michael’s project investigated the age and growth relationship of pike (Esox lucius) residing on different sites. Pike have previously been shown to use different strategies during their life depending on their location and their growth patterns can illustrate this. Michael’s results supported the theory of different strategies and survival mechanisms between habitats.
Raekha Kumar Hulme Grammar School for Girls, Oldham, Lancs “Investigating the expression of interlukin-1 Type 1 receptor in degenerate intervertebral disc tissue”
Raekha’s project aimed to investigate the nature of spinal tissue degradation that commonly leads to lower back pain. The investigation looked into whether receptors for interleukin-1 (a known cell-death trigger protein) become more abundant in breaking down tissue, and whether this could be a cause of degradation, or an effect of it.
QinetiQ Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar Prize
Hester Baverstock Bexhill Community College, Beckley, E Sussex “Investigation into the effects of flowers on hospital wards”
Hester’s placement in a Kent hospital was to investigate the effects of flowers on hospital wards. She began by researching two pathogens common to flowers, which induce life-threatening illness to immuno-compromised patients. She used experimental methods to ascertain bacteria present in samples, and investigated means of preventing their presence. She also assessed the benefits of flowers through aroma and beauty, designing an improved garden for the ward. She designed questionnaires, used to compile information supporting her recommendations.
The BA would like to thank Intel, QinetiQ, AstraZeneca and the Research Councils for their sponsorship of the event and the Royal Society for its support with the event.
Note for picture editors
Images of the students and their projects can be obtained by contacting Amy Sanders at or calling 020 7019 4945.
Notes for editors
1. The BA is the UK's nationwide, open membership organisation dedicated to connecting science with people, so that science and its applications become accessible to all. The BA aims to promote openness about science in society and to engage and inspire people directly with science and technology and their implications. Established in 1831, the BA organises major initiatives across the UK, including the annual BA Festival of Science, National Science Week, programmes of regional and local events, and an extensive programme for young people in schools and colleges.
2. The BA CREST Science Fair took place at the Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG.
3. The BA CREST Awards are a project-based award scheme for secondary-age students aiming to recognise and accredit students' achievements in science, engineering and technology.
More information is available via the BA website.