Stunning science successes are celebrated

Jamie Brannigan (left), a former student of St Colman’s College in Newry, won the Hans Sloane award for top marks in A level science while Matthew Vennard from Portadown College was awarded the Sloane McClay award for the highest marks in science and maths at GCSE level. They are pictured with Professor Tim Harrison of Almac

SIX top local science students and their schools have been recognised for their excellence through awards set up in memory of two of Northern Ireland's most famous and forward thinking scientists - the Hans Sloane Medal and the Sloane McClay Award.

The Hans Sloane (Memorial Fund) Trust, in partnership with National Museums NI, was established in 1960 to commemorate the life and work of the celebrated Killyleagh physician, scientist and collector.

The trustees award the Hans Sloane medal to the student obtaining the highest combined marks in biology, chemistry and physics each year at A-Level, along with their school, to recognise excellence in teaching.

This year, through a new partnership with Craigavon pharmaceutical giant Almac Group, the cash awards given to the top three ‘A-level students have been increased and a new award for Northern Ireland's brightest GCSE students, the Sloane McClay award, has been established.

The winner of the Hans Sloane medal was Jamie Brannigan, a former pupil of St Colman's College, Newry, who was also presented with a certificate and a cheque for £500. He is now studying medicine at Cambridge University.

St Colman's principal Cormac McKinney also received a Hans Sloane medal from Professor Tim Harrison, vice president, drug discovery, Almac Group.

Second place certificate and a cheque for £300 was presented to Zara Hamill from Omagh Academy and the third place certificate and a cheque for £150 was presented to Rachel Mooney from Regent House School, Newtownards.

The new award recognises excellence at GCSE level for science and maths students and has been introduced to commemorate the life and work of not only Sir Hans Sloane, but also Sir Allen McClay, the visionary entrepreneur and businessman from Cookstown, who founded the Almac Group.

The Sloane McClay awards were presented to Matthew Vennard, from Portadown College and principal Simon Harper by Professor Harrison. Matthew achieved the highest combined marks in biology, chemistry, physics and maths at GCSE level. Matthew, who is now is now studying for his ‘A' levels, also received a cheque for £250.

Second place certificate, and a cheque for £150 was presented to James Pratt from Methodist College, Belfast. The third place certificate and a cheque for £50 was presented to Igor Silin, also from Methodist College.

Dr Sally Montgomery, a Hans Sloane Trustee, said: “The students have achieved remarkable marks across the subjects. The Trustees were delighted to introduce the new Sloane McClay award in partnership with Almac as it recognises the importance of maths and encourages students to consider STEM subjects for a future career in the field.”

Professor Tim Harrison, Almac, added: “Almac's partnership with the Hans Sloane Trust enables us to recognise and reward excellence in key STEM subjects across the region.

"As a global business our success depends on the talent and skills of our most important asset, our people, and it is therefore crucial that we continue to invest in the next generation of scientists, mathematicians, engineers and tech experts. I would like to congratulate all the worthy recipients of the Hans Sloane Medals and the inaugural Sloane McClay Award and wish them every success for their careers.”

Kathryn Thomson, chief executive of National Museums NI, said: “We are delighted to partner with the Hans Sloane Memorial Fund and with Almac, recognising two of Northern Ireland's most eminent scientists from the past. These awards look to the future by rewarding our exceptional young science students and I would like to congratulate the six prize-winners on their outstanding achievements.”

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