Women in STEM Award 2023

Sheila Porter, SciFest Founder and CEO

Sheila Porter, SciFest Founder and CEO Wins Women in STEM Mentor of the Year 2023 Award

We are delighted to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Sheila Porter, the Founder and CEO of SciFest, on being awarded the prestigious title of “Women in STEM Mentor of the Year 2023." Sheila's remarkable dedication to promoting young people’s participation in STEM fields and her extraordinary mentorship efforts have made her a true trailblazer in the world of science and innovation. For over 50 years Sheila Porter has been steadfast in her mission to make STEM accessible to all, particularly targeting young women and underserved populations.

Sheila's journey in the STEM world has been nothing short of inspiring. A passionate advocate for fostering an inclusive and diverse STEM community, Sheila founded SciFest, a STEM fair programme for second level students, in 2006. Her aim was to encourage all young people to pursue their interests and careers in the STEM fields. Her unwavering commitment to this cause has left an indelible mark on the lives of countless individuals, both young and old.

Sheila’s vision in founding SciFest not only created a space for celebrating scientific discovery but also provided a platform for aspiring young scientists to showcase their talents and innovations. From one STEM fair in 2006 in IT Tallaght (now TU Dublin Tallaght) and 176 students, the SciFest programme has expanded to well over 100 fairs and almost 12,000 students participating annually. Since 2006 just short of 100,000 students have participated in one or more levels of the programme. In 2012 with her husband, George, she set SciFest up as a not-for-profit company, SciFest CLG. The programme today is primarily funded by Intel, Boston Scientific and EirGrid. It is also supported by a number of other companies and organisations and by the Department of Education.

SciFest is free to enter and open to all second-level students. SciFest STEM fairs take place at local (SciFest@School), regional (SciFest@College) and national level. Being free to participate in, the programme is highly accessible and inclusive. On average 60% of all SciFest participants are female. Disadvantaged and special schools are encouraged to take part in SciFest and each year a special SciFest fair takes place in May in Trinity College Dublin for students with Intellectual Disabilities (SciFest@TCPID). A second special SciFest fair also takes place each December for female students from DEIS schools who are participating in the Teen-Turn programme (SciFest@Teen-Turn).

In addition to being a second level science teacher and setting up the SciFest programme Sheila lectured part-time for a number of years in the Physical Sciences Department in DCU. In 2008 she was seconded from her teaching post to Intel Ireland, funded by Discover Science and Engineering (now SFI), for five years to establish SciFest. During that time, she travelled to Romania and Egypt with Intel as a Master trainer for Intel’s engineering module, Design & Discovery. In 1998, 2000 and 2004 she received the Intel Ireland Educator of Excellence Award at the Esat Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition. In 2004 she was awarded the British Council Science Travel Award. From 2005 to 2015 she was a regular speaker at the Intel Educator Academy run in conjunction with the Intel ISEF competition in the United States. She has also acted as a judge at a number of STEM competitions including the Boston Scientific (Galway) Student Bursary Awards, the Boston Scientific (Galway) Teacher Bursary Awards, the Sentinus Northern Ireland Young Scientist Competition and the Jennifer Bourke Innovation in Teaching Award, DCU.

Sheila Porter's recognition as the Women in STEM Mentor of the Year 2023 is a richly deserved honour. Her dedication to fostering a more inclusive and diverse STEM community and her exceptional mentorship skills are making a profound impact on the world of STEM. With this prestigious award her mission gains even more momentum. Sheila continues to be an inspiration to young scientists and innovators, demonstrating that that gender, background, ability or circumstance should never be a barrier to pursuing one's dreams.

We extend our warmest congratulations to Sheila and look forward to witnessing the positive changes she will continue to inspire in the lives of all aspiring young people in STEM.

Women in STEM Awards 2023

The inaugural Women in STEM Awards in partnership with PepsiCo were held at the Round Room in the Mansion House, Dublin on Thursday, 26 October. The event was hosted by Jess Kelly, technology correspondent at Newstalk and Connected magazine columnist. The 15 award categories showcased leading companies and organisations in Ireland that are creating diverse, equitable and inclusive workplaces to foster a culture of innovation and creativity and provide the necessary support for women in STEM to reach their full potential.


Anne-Marie Tierney Le-Roux, senior vice-president, Enterprise Technology, IDA Ireland

Colin Mac Hale, EMEA sales director

Gillian Harford, country executive, 30 Per Cent Club Ireland

Jean O’Donnell, board member, Women in Technology & Science (WITS)

Meabh Smith, director of communications, Construction Industry Federation

Peter Clifford, head of strategy, Science Foundation Ireland

Susan Treacy, chief executive, HealthTech Ireland

31 2024
SciFest@School in Loreto College, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath
08 2024
SciFest@School in Sandymount Park Educate Together Secondary School, Beech Road, Sandymount, Dublin 4
13 2024
SciFest@School in St Raphaela's Secondary School, Upper Kilmacud Road, Stillorgan, Co. Dublin
29 2024
SciFest National Final
Michael D. Higgins, Patron of SciFest
SciFest is a registered charity.

RCN 20081270

Michael D. Higgins
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