Loreto College - Coleraine, Co. Derry, Northern Ireland
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Sixth former Mairead McCloskey ended her time at Loreto College, Coleraine on a high note in May 2003 when she swept five top awards at the International Science and Engineering Fair held in Cleveland, Ohio. Mairead’s success put her in the competition’s record books, as this is the only time that the competition’s Irish representative has won a first prize during Intel’s sponsorship of the event. Mairead is also the first Irish contestant to bring home so many First Awards.

The International Science and Engineering Fair, which is held annually, is open to winners of International and State Science Fairs. This year, no less than 500 fairs worldwide were associated with the competition, with approximately 4 million students taking part. There were 1017 projects in Cleveland, representing 21 countries and four territories. In Mairead’s section, there were 72 projects from the United States, China, Chinese Taipei, Czech Republic, Japan, Denmark, Puerto Rico, Kazakhstan, Slovenia, Germany and Chile.

Mairead’s project was entitled “Chaotic Fluids: An examination of Phase Transitions in Taylor-Couette Flow.” Her research had already won her high praise and several top awards at the all-Ireland ESAT competition held in Dublin during January. However her achievements in Dublin pale into insignificance next to her astounding success at international level. At the prize-giving – which, fittingly enough, was held on her birthday – Mairead received:

• The First Award from The American Association of Physics Teachers and the American Physical Society;
• The First Award from The Society for Technical Communication for Distinguished Technical Communication in a Written Report;
• The Top Award from United Technologies Corporation for a project showing “Excellence in Science and Engineering”;
• The Intel ISEF First Grand Award for Physics; and
• The Intel ISEF Best of Category Award for Physics.

Mairead’s outstanding success wins her a generous cash grant as well as a high performance computer – both of which will stand her in good stead in the Autumn Term, when she hopes to take up a place at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Her success also wins a grant of $1000 for Loreto College, in recognition of the excellence of the school’s achievements. Mr Brian McKenna, Head of Technology at Loreto Coleraine, who accompanied Mairead to both the Dublin and Cleveland events and worked with her on the development of her research, commented that her record-breaking success had been richly deserved, and that the week in Cleveland had been a stimulating and exciting experience. This was the sixth time that Loreto College had been represented at the competition – the Castlerock Road school has a superb record in the competition, with all students attending this international event returning home with ISEF Grand Awards and a number of special awards. In 1990, Loreto student Justine McIlroy became one of only two Irish students to win a First Award from the American Chemical Society during Westinghouse’s sponsorship of the competition.

Loreto College Principal Mr Brian Lenehan commented that he was absolutely delighted and extremely impressed by Mairead’s success, and joined with all staff and students at the school in congratulating both Mairead and her teachers on this magnificent achievement.

On a lighter note – all ISEF 2003 major award winners are having asteroids in the Juniper Belt named after them as a “one off” to coincide with the participation of the Ceres Connection, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We must remain hopeful that Mairead McCloskey – record-breaking young scientist with a tremendous future ahead of her – doesn’t fall to earth and wipe us all out!