A WIRRAL teenager has been named UK Young Scientist of the Year.
Kirtana Vallabhaneni, 17, from West Kirby, won the honour at the 2012 National Science & Engineering competition for pioneering work to target specific cancer cells.
West Kirby Grammar School student Kirtana was chosen for the award by a panel of judges including Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Sir Tim Hunt, and the Science Museum’s inventor in residence Mark Champkins
She has been involved in groundbreaking work helping to identify the harmful cells that cause pancreatic cancer. The aim of the project is to isolate cells in the pancreas that can be targeted with chemotherapy rather than subjecting the whole body to the treatment.
She said she was overwhelmed at winning the title.
Kirtana said: "Everything that I’ve worked for over the last year has come together. I’m so happy.
"The fact four finalists were female shows that there are really strong opportunities for women in science and it proves they don’t have to follow convention and stereotypes.
"I’m so passionate about what I do and I hope that with this success I can instil the same kind of passion I have for science in other young people. If I can do it they definitely can."
Wasim Miah and Jessica Jones, both 17 and from Cardiff, were named Young Engineers of the Year for creating a portable device to monitor when mothers are about to go into labour.
Competition judge Dr Aderin-Pocock said: "The country’s science and engineering industry has an incredibly bright future ahead of it if Wasim, Jessica and Kirtana are anything to go by. Their projects are outstanding and they are truly deserving winners.
"I was overwhelmed by the amount of enthusiasm and passion every finalist had for their projects - it’s talented individuals like these who will inspire others to think about science and engineering in a new and exciting light."
The competition was open to 11 to 18-year-olds from across the UK. The challenge was to complete a project or activity in any field of science, technology, engineering or maths.
The finals took place at The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair, the country’s largest celebration of science and engineering for young people, at the NEC, Birmingham, and prizes were awarded by Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts.
Roland Jackson, chief executive of the British Science Association, said: "The National Science & Engineering Competition continues to do an incredibly important job in encouraging young people to explore their interest in science and engineering.
"We’d encourage anyone with a project they’re proud of to take part in next year’s competition which starts at the next round of regional fairs this summer."
Visit www.thebigbangfair.co.uk/nsec for more information about this year’s competition.