“I always think focusing on the end goal of what you are doing is very helpful. Also, taking things step by step is really important – remember, it takes hundreds of nights to become an overnight success.”
Do you remember who you were when you were 14-years-old? For many it was a confusing time of rebelling against your parents and trying to figure out who you were, barely ever knowing what your next move was going to be. While many remain trapped in that phase well into their twenties, there are some who bloom at an early age and show us the incredible things that humans are capable of if they put their mind to it.
This year, the world will celebrate the very first International day of Women and Girls in Science. The United Nations has dedicated 11 February to celebrating the achievements of females in the science fields, with the aim of encouraging other women and girls to venture into science-related industries and show the world that these areas are not just for men. In doing so, the UN believes that gender equality and empowerment and women and girls will be easier reached.
So today, we bring you the story of the inspiring Ciara Judge in the United Kingdom. At the age of 14, Ciara was working towards changing the world through science. Over the last few years she has made it onto Time magazine’s ‘Top 25 Most Influential Teens‘ list, won several science awards, become a TEDx speaker, and immersed herself in the world of entrepreneurship. Her friends call her Fudgey, but the world knows her as one of the girls who won Google Science Fair in 2014. Now, the 18-year-old Irish girl can hardly put together all her accomplishments in one sentence.
In 2013, while she was still a second-year student at Kinsale Community School, she conducted groundbreaking research with two friends. Her research ended up being awarded the winning prize and discovered that Diazotroph, a natural bacteria, could increase growth in cereal crops by 74% in as much as half of the time. Ciara believes most cereal crops could benefit from this bacteria and there are plans to commercialise the findings in the developed world in order to subsidise its implementation in developing countries. That way, they will be able to serve their main purpose: To aid the global food crisis.
However, the teen prodigy recognises the challenge must be a joint effort between sides.
“It makes me mad when I see [perfectly edible food thrown away] into the dumpsters! We truly are a wasteful society, yet, we place a lot of the blame for food shortages on the production stage, ignoring transport and waste.
“The cure to the food crisis must be a combined effort from everyone on the production chain and the consumers.”
It is not clear yet whether the bacteria will preserve all the natural nutritious value of the crops: “Having discovered a whole new mechanism, we are in uncharted waters. Our theory says that it should conserve the nutritious value, but we can’t say for sure until we prove it experimentally.”
Ciara’s fascination for science began when she was about five years old and attended the BT Young Scientist Fair in Ireland, where her brother was participating with a project. She recalled it as the crucial moment that sparked her interest in the field.
“At the time, I was completely obsessed with animals, so one particular project caught my eye. Someone had studied the memory of a goldfish to see if the myth that a goldfish only has a 3-second memory was actually true. I was fascinated by this project, which by the way, found the myth to be untrue.”
“I realised that science could apply to all sorts of things, including my interests, so from then on I was hooked!”
From then onwards, Ciara has returned to the exhibition every year with projects of her own. It was here that she met Sophie and Emer, who shared her enthusasim for the field. It took the 14-year-old girls three years to finalise the process and Ciara described how her mother helped her count one thousand seeds every night. She acknowledged the support of those around her and the fundamental role it had had in their successful experiments.
“Our method was quite complicated, especially because we ran many different types of experiments. It felt fantastic to see all the hard work pay off! It is a feeling I will never forget. We were lucky that through our journey we were supported by our family, friends and school. Without them we wouldn’t be here today.”
Ciara’s story is one of determination and a lot of focus. In a time where ADHD is perceived as an increasingly prevalent disease among teens, and treated with medicines rather than improved methods of studying, her example serves as a model for the youth.
“I always think focusing on the end goal of what you are doing is very helpful. Also, taking things step by step is really important – remember, it takes hundreds of nights to become an overnight success! I do feel like a role model for young people and I take that responsibility very seriously.
“Young people are not perfect, but that doesn’t change the fact that we can change the world. I believe anyone can. It is as simple as believing in yourself and never giving up.”
After winning global recognition for the findings on plant germination, Ciara travelled to Boston to attend a startup programme in MIT. After learning the essentials to entrepreneurship, she founded PurchaseMate, an app that gives consumers crucial information about products so they can make ethical decisions when buying, setting her off into the startup world.