Ayomide Ajani, winner of the 2023 Mary Mulvihill Award. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw.
Ayomide Ajani, UCC.
Ayomide Ajani is the 2023 winner of the €2,000 Mary Mulvihill Award, the science media competition for third-level students that commemorates the legacy of science journalist and author Mary Mulvihill (1959–2015).
Download a copy of Ayomide’s winning entry: Imagining the Future of Energy through Science Fiction
Ashik Prasad, TCD
TCD student Ashik Prasad received the judges’ highly commended award, which comprises a €500 cash prize, for his illustrated slide show Golden Jellyfish and Solar Energy, aimed at children.
Download a copy of Ashik’s highly commended entry: Golden Jellyfish and Solar Energy
About the Award
Now in its seventh year, this year’s competition invited entries on the theme of ‘Energy’. Students from nine colleges around Ireland submitted entries.
Watch the Award Ceremony here: 2023 award and Science@Culture Talk
The Robert Boyle Summer School, which runs in Lismore, County Waterford from 22–25 June, has very generously offered a place to this year’s winner, Ayomide Ajani.
The prize-giving ceremony was hosted by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. The event also included the second annual Science@Culture talk, sponsored by the Irish Times, reviving a name that Mary had introduced in 1995 for an email bulletin (later a blog) that kept readers abreast of a vast range of scientific activities and events. This year’s talk, entitled ‘Art and Space – a review‘ was given by Niamh Shaw, recently voted one of Ireland’s top science communicators
UCC Student wins 2023 Mary Mulvihill Award
– Ayomide Ajani, UCC, wins €2000 top prize in science media competition
– Ashik Prasad, TCD, receives €500 judges’ highly commended award
– ‘Energy’ the theme of the 2023 Mary Mulvihill Award
DUBLIN, 31 May, 2023—University College Cork student Ayomide Ajani is the 2023 winner of the €2000 Mary Mulvihill Award, the science media competition for third-level students that commemorates the legacy of science journalist and author Mary Mulvihill (1959–2015).
Ashik Prasad, a student at Trinity College Dublin, received the judges’ highly commended award, which includes a cash prize of €500.
Now in its seventh year, this year’s competition invited entries on the theme of ‘Energy’, that property to do work that is essential to sustain life on this planet. Energy is at the forefront of policy discussions across the world, as our over-consumption of fossil fuels is now threatening the health of the planet and the ecosystems on which we rely.
As is customary, students were encouraged to address the topic in scientific, environmental, or imaginative terms, and in any format. The concept of energy applies to multiple contexts, and the submissions received—from nine colleges across Ireland—reflected the wide-ranging nature of the topic. They included essays on the evolution of photosynthetic bacteria and algae and their future role as potential energy sources; the potential role of anaerobic digestion of waste matter or agricultural residues in Ireland’s energy mix; the importance of myths in the development of our relationship with energy; a technical report on a computer-based simulation of a wind turbine; and a scripted audio piece in which two characters in a bar chatted about energy,
Ayomide, a fourth year student on UCC’s B.Sc. in Microbiology programme, is the first winner from UCC. She won the top prize for a richly illustrated digital essay, ‘Imagining the Future of Energy through Science Fiction’, in which she reflected on how literary considerations of energy have often reflected the uncertainties surrounding the relationships between science, technology, and society.
Energy is, she observes, both a liberator and an oppressor. By powering industrial machinery, it has freed millions of industrial workers from exhausting and dangerous work. It has also eased the burdens of domestic work, which has furthered the economic empowerment of many women. However, energy is also a focus of exploitative economic and political relationships between the Global North and the Global South. “Clearly, energy access is critical to development, yet there is an enormous difference in the amount of energy used by the Earth’s richest and poorest,” she writes.
Science fiction can offer future perspectives on current issues—and not just by familiarising ourselves with future hypothetical technologies. By dramatising certain scenarios, it can serve to heighten our emotional responses to new possibilities, good and bad. “Dystopian themes,” she writes, “are useful, because they allow us to consider the potential outcomes of our decisions.” But most importantly, she concludes, science fiction “reminds us that the future is not fixed: we control the events in our story, and we have all the strategies we need to create a better, more sustainable world for everyone”.
“We’re so fixed on our current context that it’s hard to imagine a radically different energy future. This was a very compelling essay, with a strong visual element that made the argument for sci-fi as a means to imagining a radically more sustainable future,” said Hannah Daly, Professor in Sustainable Energy & Energy Systems Modelling at UCC, a member of the judging panel, who presented the awards.
TCD student Ashik Prasad, who has just completed his first year on a B.Sc. in Biological and Biomedical Sciences, received the judges’ highly commended award for his entry, ‘Golden Jellyfish and Solar Energy’. It consisted of an illustrated slideshow for kids on the symbiotic relationship between a Mastigias jellyfish species, which inhabits a particular lake on an island in the Palau archipelago in the Western Indian Ocean, and a diverse group of photosynthetic algae known as Zooxanthell. In return for providing their host with nutrients and energy, the algae gain a safe habitat and ready access to sunlight. “Ashik clearly considered his audience and came up with a colourful entry that was age-appropriate, charming, and delightful,” said Professor Daly.
Anne Mulvihill, a sister of Mary and a member of the judging panel, said: “For Mary’s family and friends, the annual award is always a bitter-sweet event. However, as with all of the previous years, the judges were once again delighted with the variety of entries to the competition. And there is comfort in knowing that Mary would have been delighted to join with us all this evening in celebrating the talent and enthusiasm of the two worthy winners.”
The prize-giving ceremony was hosted by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. The event also included the now annual Science@Culture talk, reviving a name that Mary had introduced in 1995 for an email bulletin (later a blog) that kept readers abreast of a vast range of scientific activities and events. Guest speaker Dr. Niamh Shaw, the engineer, scientist, writer, and performer, reviewed the position of art in space and discussed the value that artists can bring to space exploration and to the wider questions of our place in the universe.
The judges for the Mary Mulvihill Award 2023 were:
Hannah Daly, Professor in Sustainable Energy & Energy Systems Modelling, University College Cork
Karlin Lillington, Irish Times tech journalist & columnist
Nigel Monaghan, Former Keeper, National Museum of Ireland – Natural History
Anne Mulvihill, Sister of Mary Mulvihill
Ayomide Ajani – Bio
UCC student Ayomide Ajani is currently completing a B.Sc. degree in microbiology. This included a fourth year research project investigating the host range of phage (a type of virus) that infect E. coli, bacteria that are normally present in the gut microbiome, and how these bacteria develop resistance to phage infection. From Midleton, County Cork, she is a graduate of St. Mary’s High School in the town. In addition to her love of science, Ayomide is also interested in video production, fiction, art, and graphic design—and in how they can be harnessed in science communication.
Ashik Prasad – Bio
TCD student Ashik Prasad has just completed his first year on a BA in Biological and Biomedical Sciences, and he aims eventually to study medicine. He was born in Kerala, in southern India, but moved to Ireland in early childhood. He attended primary school in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, but then moved to Dundalk, County Louth, and received his secondary education at Dundalk Grammar School. In addition to his love of science, he also enjoys making art.
The Mary Mulvihill Award
The Mary Mulvihill Award is a project of The Mary Mulvihill Association, an initiative established by the family and friends of the late Mary Mulvihill (1959–2015) to honour her memory and her work in science journalism, science communication and heritage, and to promote her legacy. It administers and awards funds to support work that commemorates her work and its significance.