Search launched for local science stars

  • This year’s search for Northern Ireland’s top science students has been launched.

    ‘A’ level and GCSE students will be recognised by awards set up in the memory of two of Northern Ireland’s most famous and forward-thinking scientists.

    The Hans Sloane (Memorial Fund) Trust, in partnership with National Museums NI, was established in 1960 to commemorate the life and work of the notable Killyleagh surgeon and collector, Sir Hans Sloane (1660–1753). Sloane promoted inoculation against smallpox, the use of quinine (a treatment for malaria) and the health-giving properties of drinking chocolate mixed with milk. Sloane’s collection became the foundation of the British Museum.

    The Trustees award the Hans Sloane Medal to the top student obtaining the highest combined marks in biology, chemistry and physics at ‘A’ level.

    The Hans Sloane Memorial Fund Trust, and National Museums NI, are now in the second year of a partnership with Almac Group, the Craigavon based contract development and manufacturing organisation. Through that partnership last year, for the first time, a new award was established for Northern Ireland’s brightest student at GCSE level. The Sloane McClay Award commemorates the lives of both Sir Hans Sloane and Almac founder, inspirational entrepreneur and philanthropist Cookstown-born Sir Allen McClay (1932-2010), whose vision was for Almac to be the leader in the generation of superior solutions for the advancement of human health.

    It is awarded to the top student at GCSE obtaining the highest combined marks in biology, chemistry, physics and maths. The recipient of the Sloane McClay Award will also be offered a work placement at Almac during their ‘A’ S level year.

    Frances Weldon, STEM outreach manager at Almac, said: “Last year’s partnership with the prestigious Hans Sloane Trust to recognise and reward top performing students in science and maths was a great success and we were thrilled to recognise the academic achievements of our local students.

    “As a global organisation, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Sir Allen McClay opening the doors of his pharmaceutical development business at our Craigavon headquarters, we rely on the talent and expertise of our employees to drive growth. We must continue to encourage and engage the next generation of scientists to realise our vision to advance human health.

    “We hope that recipients of both the Hans Sloane Medal and the Sloane McClay Award will continue to make a difference to knowledge, understanding and society in the same way Sir Allen McClay and Sir Hans Sloane did.”

    Dr Jane Wilde, Chairman Hans Sloane Memorial Fund, said: “We are delighted to continue our partnership with Almac, to support the Hans Sloane Medal and the Sloane McClay Award. We are also grateful to CCEA who assist us with information from local examinations and school principals, who can nominate students taking alternative examination boards.”

    Paddy Gilmore, Head of Programmes at National Museums NI, said: “Both Sir Hans Sloane and Sir Allen McClay were inspired by science to improve people’s quality of life and their values are inspirational to many. They both used their talents, time and wealth to help others. That quest for deeper knowledge and understanding, that both men shared, is something that we are particularly passionate about here at National Museums NI.

    “In partnership with Almac, we are thrilled to celebrate the achievements of young people who strive for scientific excellence and look forward to welcoming the winners of the awards to a ceremony at the Ulster Museum in January.”

    Winner of last year’s Sloane McClay Award, Matthew Vennard, an ‘A’ level student at Portadown College, said: “Winning the award was a great honour which has made me even more determined to excel in my future studies and embark on a successful science career.  The work experience at Almac has been invaluable in terms of providing insights into how a successful locally grown company has achieved global success and the vast array of career options on offer.”

    School principals will receive a letter from National Museums NI and Almac, on behalf of the Hans Sloane Trustees, inviting them to nominate their top performing students by 2 November. Winning students and their families will be invited to attend a prestigious awards ceremony at the Ulster Museum in January, to recognise their achievements. The top ‘A’ Level student will receive the Hans Sloane bronze medal. The Sloane McClay Award will be presented to the top GCSE student.  Cash awards and certificates will be made to the top three students at both ‘A’ Level and GCSE.

    You can learn more about the latest student news in Northern Ireland and across the island of Ireland by visiting Sync NI's dedicated 'Students' hub.

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