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Tuesday, 10 November 2015

International Undergraduate Awards I - Glitz, Glamour and Sparkle

So, here we are at the international Undergraduate Awards in Dublin. Or, to be more accurate, here we are having just arrived off a flight for which we had to get up at 5am to get, and will be at the Undergraduate Awards for the next few days.

Many will say, what are these awards? Well they are the premier award for high quality undergraduates who will be the leaders and critical thinkers of the new generation - The Future!

The Undergraduate Awards is a sort of student version of the Nobel Prize, the igNobel Prize and the Oscars, all rolled-up into one, and they are awarded annually to the best undergraduates globally across a whole raft of subjects from Art History, Music, Film & Theatre to Visual Arts & Design via Business, Science, Engineering, Medicine and Social Sciences.

Every year students from around the world submit their best reports to The Undergraduate Awards office in Dublin. Every year the submissions are whittled down through 4 stages until a winner and runner-up emerge in each of 25 categories. And why am I here? - well, this year I was the chair of one of the panels of judges (the best one - but then I would say that wouldn't I). Each stage in the judging process has been made thanks to the tireless commitment of each panel of judges, and mine, the panel of Earth and Environmental Sciences, were absolutely brilliant throughout. I reckon they must have read more words than a Man-Booker Prize judge, and all during their holidays. Equally, the staff at the Undergraduate Awards, and especially Belen Rodriguez Galvez, have been sparklingly marvelous. Do not tell her - but I am a big fan! Lastly, the support of the sponsors, including Google, has been as staunch and necessary as ever.

But the highest praise is for the contestants - the quality of all of the submissions was incredibly high this year, and as an academic professor, I will have to watch my step with some of these rising academic mavens of the new millenium.

The winners will be given their awards at City Hall Dublin tomorrow followed by a formal dinner in Dublin Castle. However, many say that the real award is the rest of the week when they share the wisdom of a set of distinguished lecturers and the opportunity to work together in teams in order to come up with new ideas to save the planet.

In my view each winner and runner-up is a nascent superhero whose special powers can be harnessed for the good of all, and they all deserve the highest praise and exhortation to carry on being excellent and serving the wider community in their own particular ways.

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