A STUDENT from West Belfast has achieved a stunning scientific success at the prestigious BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in Dublin.

Ava Gurk, a Year 12 pupil at St Dominic’s Grammar School, had carried out research and developed an exhibit on ‘The Invalidation of Emotion through Toxic Positivity’ for the 60th anniversary of the event, held at the RDS. 

Ava was one of 550 entrants and was placed first in her individual age category of Health & Well-Being, as well as picking up one of five ‘Gold Partner Awards’, winning the overall BT Health and Wellbeing award.

Ava explained: “Toxic positivity is when people tell us we should constantly have a positive outlook, even if we are in emotional or physical pain. It can actually make things worse by making us suppress emotions, ignore our problems and fail to deal with them properly."

For several months Ava investigated how a person’s emotions can be suppressed by the amount of ‘toxic positive’ comments made by those around them. She liaised with professors at local universities, as well as the Northern Ireland Commission for Children and Young People (NICCY). 

Jamie Mulholland, the lead teacher in promoting STEM subjects at St Dominic’s Grammar School, said Ava had put so much into her research "and it is wonderful to see that dedication being rewarded".

He added: "We took a Year 8 class down to support her and she is proving to be an excellent role model and inspiration for them. It’s a huge success for a student with a bright future ahead of her.”