Meet Hannah Eastwood, the current UK Young Scientist of the Year

Hannah is the first female winner in the National Science & Engineering Competition's Senior Science/Maths stream. Here, in her own words, Hannah tells us about her experiences in the Competition finals at The Big Bang Fair and the prizes she won:

"Being asked to represent your school in the National Science & Engineering Competition is an honour: winning is a life changing experience! Of course, people have the idea that a science competition is full of ‘nerds’ with bottle-rimmed glasses and Simon Cowell trousers; but this is far from the truth! Every aspect of science is represented, from the fastest cars to the infamous Brainiacs. Famous and inspirational personalities—including Lord Sainsbury and Prof Brian Cox—add to the buzz of the Competition. From collecting as many freebies as possible, to presenting your project in front of highly-regarded judges – you will find that each day flies by and you won’t want to leave!

It was while I was enjoying some of London’s sights and sounds that I received an important phone call from one of the event organisers. On answering, I found out that I had made it to the final five of the Senior Science/Maths stream, and therefore I would be invited to take part in a Dragons' Den-style presentation the following morning. What a shock!


The following morning, I went to my interview full of excitement and eagerness. As I arranged my equipment, I worried the judges would be forced to supress a laugh when they saw my back-yard apparatus — an assortment of wood, glass and tubing, held together by a lot of tape! But the interview flew by; questions focused on my scientific knowledge, the specifics of my project, and its world-wide application. As much as I enjoyed the time in the presence of these five prestigious  scientists, I didn’t expect to see them again.

   At the awards ceremony that evening, the entertainment began
   with the Brainiacs competing against Prof Brian Cox and us, the
   competitors. When the ceremony proceeded, I was surprised to
   hear my name announced as a selected UK representative to
   attend the Stockholm International Youth Seminar, an event 
   connected with the Nobel Prizes. This is an amazing opportunity: 
   an all-expenses paid trip to Stockholm in December 2011— I
   can't wait, Sweden at Christmas! The ceremony drew to a close,
   and we awaited the announcement of the ultimate prize in my
   category—the UK Young Scientist of the Year.

As they prepared to announce the winner, a fanfare heralded our arrival on stage. The competitors grew deadly silent as we felt the cameras poised on us—the final five. Thinking back, my heart still races and a smile spreads across my face. “And the winner is ... (followed by the customary dramatic pause and sharp intake of breath as the golden envelope is opened) … Hannah Eastwood!” What, me? I stood dumbfounded until my friend gave me a well-timed shove and a congratulatory pat on the back which propelled me towards the stage. All I could do was laugh; how had I managed it?

   I can remember being greeted by a beaming Brian Cox as I
   approached the stage; the rest is all a blur of applause, confetti,
   camera flashes and media interviews. I couldn’t believe the
   press attention: soon, I was on radio, being stopped in airports
   and being featured in stacks of newspapers.



Part of my prize was a choice of experience trip abroad. I chose to participate in a prestigious Earthwatch project on shark conservation off the coast of Belize. Here, I swam with turtles, dolphins and an array of fish—some the same size as me! Handling sharks from one foot-long neonates to seven foot-long adults is something that I will always remember. In total, I spent eight days on a beautiful, remote island conducting research and forming life-long friendships. It was a truly incredible experience.






Looking back, this experience has proved that a project doesn't need to look impressive to win—never judge a book by its cover! And even when you think you don’t stand a chance of succeeding, you might surprise yourself. So, if you have an opportunity to enter the National Science & Engineering Competition, don’t think twice. You will have the time of your life, meet some of the most famous people in the science world, and make the best of friends – and you never know, like me, you might end up going abroad and doing things you never imagined possible!"

I would like to thank my teacher, Mr Brian McKenna, NI Young Innovators and finally the organisers of the National Science & Engineering Competition and The Big Bang Fair for providing this wonderful opportunity and the prizes which are very much appreciated.


 Watch an interview with Hannah, the 2011 UK Young Scientist of the Year, where she describes her project and how she feels about her success.