Explore Life Science Ep.5: Mari Cahalane – Head of BTYSTE, Recipient Founders Medal BTYSTE2021 & Organiser EUCYS2018 in Ireland

In this months episode, Rich chats with Mari Cahalane about her work with the BT Young Scientists Competition and the amazing development she has seen in the industry and the growth of the competition.

Mari Cahalane is Head of the BTYSTE, Recipient Founders Medal BTYSTE2021 & Organiser EUCYS2018 in Ireland. She has been in the BT family of companies for 30 years in 2021 and been involved in the BT Young Scientist going on 22 years. She has also been heading up the exhibition totally in 2009. A self-confessed failed computer scientist but always had an interest in science, technology, engineering and maths but doesn’t have any formal information in STEM.

Tell us about yourself and what is that you do?
My background is really project management. As I say to anyone , you need a really good project manager to run an event the size that the exhibition is, to manage the people including the students, the teachers, the judges and everyone else that is involved. BT’s involvement has been going for 22 years. the exhibition should be celebrating 58 years this year which is absolutely amazing. its the longest running exhibition of its type in Europe and the third longest running in the world. So we’re a year behind Canada and a decade behind the International Science and Engineering fair. So ahead of the curve in Europe which is great.

It’s giving young people a change to get involved in STEM

How are plans for the BT Young Scientist 2022 coming along?
We’re going virtual again in 2022. We made that decision early this year because we wanted to know before they finish up that the exhibition was going to be virtual, closing date for entries , all of that information. So what we’re doing is we’re enhancing the experience for people. We are looking at new content for our shows. We’re looking at different ways people can visit and park their stands and other ways we can enhance the exhibition for the students that are involved.

A minor award can be innovated and brought out more. That’s the great thing about it. It’s that network and that alumni.

It seems to be gravitating towards an innovative product or solution, like a business model to go along with the science idea. Would you think that?
We cannot leave the science behind because that is so important. And the research. Regardless of the science projects, good research is key and that’s how you qualify and that’s how you win awards basically. That your research is sound and that you have understood the subject matter and you brought results forward. What we’re seen more of in the last five years is that students is the probably two strands to this. One is that they want to come with a company product or solution that they can commercialise and is there a commercial angle to this. The other one is that they are really looking at subjects and areas and saying how we have a problem, and this is what I would change to make a difference or I have a solution.

If you’re interested in submitting a entry to the Young Scientist Competition, it is never too early for 2023.

Listen to our first episode “The Science of Business” with Kevin Walsh here.

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