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Winner of Science for Development Award goes to Uganda

Winner of Science for Development Award goes to Uganda

Timothy with a member of Makiteko Farmers Group (Credit: Self Help Africa)

The winner of the Irish Aid sponsored Science for Development Award at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2018 travelled to Uganda last month. Timothy McGrath, a sixth year student from Killorglin Community College travelled to Uganda on a trip organised by the Development Education unit of Self Help Africa.

The Science for Development Award which is jointly organized by Irish Aid and Self Help Africa, rewards the BT Young Scientist project that best addresses a challenge or issue faced by communities in the Global South. The trip to Africa, which is part of the prize, gives the winners a chance to investigate how their science project might have a positive impact on the lives of people in rural Africa.  

Timothy's project was an investigation into the purification of cholera-infected water by using genetic engineering to target the bacteria that cause cholera. Using genetic engineering, Timothy changed the DNA of a micro-organism that can be added to water. The organism feeds on the bacteria that causes cholera and purifies the water.

In developing his project, Timothy combined his interest in microbiology with a desire to address challenges faced by some of the world's poorest communities. He was inspired by his late uncle, Fr Tim O'Riordan who built a school in in a small town in Kenya and installed a well in the area.

Timothy's presentation at Busitema University in Soroti (Credit: Self Help Africa)

Timothy's presentation at Busitema University in Soroti (Credit: Self Help Africa)

In Uganda, Timothy presented his cholera project to students and staff at Busitema University in Soroti, East Uganda where he showed university students how they could develop the technology quite cheaply. He also presented a second project, a biofilter system using halophyte plants to combat oceanic dead zones. This project won him 3rd place in the Senior Individual Biological and Ecological Sciences category at BTYSTE 2019.

Timothy also travelled with the group to visit farmers' groups in areas where Self Help Africa is implementing an Irish Aid funded project which focuses on strengthening livelihoods, nutrition and climate resilience of smallholder farmers. The farmers demonstrated how they have begun to diversify the range of crops that they grow in order to adapt to climate change. 

The group later visited a refugee camp in Kiryandongo, Western Uganda. They were shown how locally grown maize is distributed there, strengthening the capacity of local farmers rather than importing foodstuffs.

Left to Right: Principal Donal O' Reilly, John McGrath, Ambassador William Carlos, Timothy McGrath (Credit: Self Help Africa)

Left to Right: Principal Donal O' Reilly, John McGrath, Ambassador William Carlos, Timothy McGrath (Credit: Self Help Africa)

Timothy also managed to fit in a visit to the Embassy of Ireland in Kampala where he and the group were greeted by Ambassador William Carlos and Embassy staff.

In February 2020, this year's Science for Development Award winner, Seán Byrne from Avondale Community College in County Wicklow, will travel to Zambia with Self Help Africa to field test his invention. Seán's project explores the use of a low cost eggshell filtration system to remove heavy metal pollutants from water.

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