From BTYS to JCI Ten Outstanding Young Persons

Congratulations to sixth year student Jennifer McCarthy on her recent successes at BTYS, BT Business Bootcamp and her nomination to attend the finals of the JCI Ten Outstanding Young Persons in May. We wish Jennifer every success in the future.

Below is a piece from Jennifer describing her journey:

This year, I entered the BT Young Scientist & Technologist Exhibition 2019 with my project entitled “Helping Hemp Heal; The Design of a Nano-formulation to Increase the Absorption of Cannabidiol in the Gastro-intestinal Tract.” I began to work on my project in June 2018 and dedicated almost everyday of my summer holidays to my scientific research and development, despite the sunny weather! After I conducted thorough background research, I identified a problem with Cannabidiol – it is poorly absorbed in our gastro-intestinal tract, meaning that the amount of hemp oil or CBD oil (both containing CBD) we ingest is not effectively absorbed in our bodies, and only a fraction is left to become pharmacologically active in our body.

I was determined to develop a solution to overcome CBD’s absorption barriers and contribute to the research being conducted on CBD. I was inspired to help those who were using Hemp and CBD products by increasing the quality of product on the market along with its absorption and efficacy in our body. Hence, I spent my summer and the following months designing a nano-formulation to help give CBD a better chance to be absorbed and become active to exert the therapeutic effects it is used for.

I entered my project in the Chemical, Physical & Mathematical Sciences Senior Individual category of the exhibition and spent eight months working towards my project in preparation for the BT Young Scientist & Technologist Exhibition last January 2019 at the RDS Dublin. I was delighted to be accepted and the excitement set in leading up to the exhibition.

The atmosphere at the exhibition was fantastic and I was proud to showcase my hard work to the judges and the general public.

After a memorable couple of days at the BT Young Scientist Exhibition, I was honoured to be awarded 1st place in my category- Chemical, Physical & Mathematical Sciences, Senior, Individual along with the prestigious Eli Lilly Award for the chemistry content of my project.

During the exhibition, I was also interviewed by a member of the BT Team and a few days later I received an email stating that I had been selected as one of thirty to take part in the BT Business Bootcamp 2019. In addition to this, I received a follow up email indicating that my project had been chosen as on the six lead projects to be part of the bootcamp.

The BT Business Bootcamp took place from March 4th to March 7th 2019 in Nova UCD, Dublin. The aim of the bootcamp is to encourage further innovation by young scientists and provide us with commercialisation skills to carry forward into our careers and lives.

On Monday 5th of March, myself and 29 other fellow BT young scientists gathered at the Nova Innovation Centre at UCD.

The aim of our week was to present and pitch our ideas towards our challenge to a panel of expert judges. Every day we carried out team building challenges that built our entrepreneurial skills but most importantly developed our self-confidence. These included Commercialisation Canvases, Goal Mapping, Systematic Thinking, Design Thinking and Presentation Prepping. These topics were covered over different days of the week and as each day ended, I could see our team’s work develop from words on paper to an innovative idea.  By completing these challenges, we investigated different aspects of our plan to develop a business proposition from my project. My goal was to develop a product consisting of Hemp Oil or CBD Oil and my nano-formulation which could be used to treat various ailments including epilepsy.

Throughout the week, we listened to inspiring guest speakers who shared with us their journey in the world of science, research, innovation and entrepreneurship.

We spent the week working on our product pitch and planning what we would discuss and focus in on. We decided amongst us who had the most skills and knowledge in each particular area of the business idea and furthermore delegated out the tasks to each speaker on our team. My product was called “Hemp Heal” and we pitched for the funding of a product consisting of Hemp/CBD Oil and my formulation to be developed to treat epileptic patients. The expert judging panel took on the role of GreenLight Medicines and listened to the pitch and asked follow-up questions afterwards. It was a truly exciting experience and I was honoured to be able to share my work and passion for science with the judges. We were speaking well over ten minutes.

Once every team had pitched to the panel, we attended the awards ceremony in the evening. MD Shay Walsh of BT announced that my team and project idea had won the overall BT Business Bootcamp 2019!

 I, alongside my team were absolutely thrilled and truly honoured!

BT bootcamp provided me with invaluable skills, tips and beneficial information for the future. It was a truly worthwhile experience and I have benefited from it very much. It has been one of the greatest weeks I have experienced and I know I will have these wonderful memories forever.

From BT Bootcamp, Head of BT Mari Cahalane informed me that I was invited to take part in Inspire Fest 2019 which will take place this May in the Bórd Gáís Energy Theatre in Dublin. I am really looking forward to speaking and meeting other inspiring people.

In March I was delighted to be nominated as one of the JCI Ten Outstanding Youth Persons in Cork for my innovating work in science and my contribution to society. I was nominated in the Medical Innovation category. I was invited to attend the awards ceremony at AIB Bank in Cork City where I spoke to the audience about my research and enjoyed speaking with the other nominees. It was a lovely evening and I was truly grateful to have received such a prestigious award.

To date, I have been selected by JCI Ireland’s judging panel to go forward to the National JCI awards which will take place in the Royal Marine Hotel on the 18th May 2019.

In conclusion, I have thoroughly enjoyed this past year! I have learned so much and developed invaluable new skills that I will carry forward into my future. I look forward to continuing my career in science and research and to what the future holds. Remember, no matter what you are interested in, keep working at it and the hard work will pay off. For anyone thinking of entering the BT Young Scientist Exhibition, enter! Whether you love sports, music, biology, chemistry etc I guarantee you it will be a life-changing experience. Keep questioning the world around you!

Jennifer McCarthy 6th Year

Maria Brosnan