Science: Safeway shelf-stacker is among six of the scientific best: Lynne Curry meets the winning entrants in the British Association/Independent European quiz

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The Independent Online
Edward Llewellin is one of the best-educated shelf-stackers in Britain. With five A-levels at grade A and a place reserved to study natural sciences at Queen's College, Cambridge, he is also adept at checking out groceries at Safeway in Faversham, Kent.

On Saturday, however, he left his overalls behind as he and Christine Uffindell set off for a four-day visit to Geneva and Cern, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics. Edward, 18, and Christine, 17, are two of the six winners of the Euro Quiz, run by the British Association for the Advancement of Science in conjunction with the Independent - which attracted more than 200 entries - held to mark the European Week for Scientific Culture last November.

The prizes are trips to some of the world's top scientific centres. While Edward and Christine, sponsored by the European Union, have gone to Geneva, Natalie Leach, 16, from Stevenage, left last Thursday for Gambia, where she is spending a week as the guest of the Medical Research Council. Heather McCarty, 19, a medical student, and Naomi Haldane, 16, both from Belfast, travel on 4 April to Finland, also sponsored by the EU, where they will visit the biological institute and a cold temperature research laboratory. Luke Seaber, 14, of Padstow, Cornwall, will go to the Canary Isles in May to visit the international observatory. His visit is sponsored by the Science and Engineering Research Council and the Institute of Astrophysics in the Canaries.

Edward is passionate about physics. He left Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School in Faversham with A-levels in physics, chemistry, maths, biology and general studies. He is currently taking a year out and working in Safeway to save the money for three months in New Zealand before he starts university in October.

Heather was taught biology at Bloomfield Collegiate School in Belfast by Fiona Haldane, whose daughter Naomi goes to the rival Strathearn School. Both are all-girl grammar schools with about 700 pupils. Heather is now a first-year medical student at Queen's University - a year behind her brother, David, who is also studying medicine. 'In mixed schools there is a tendency for science to be perceived as a boys' subject,' Heather said. 'I think I was taught very well, but I'd say more girls would do arts.'

Naomi said that between half and a third of the girls at her school opted for sciences. She is doing A-levels in chemistry, biology and maths and hopes to study pharmacy.

Natalie is studying chemistry, biology and maths at the Bedwell School in Stevenage, which combined with two other schools for both sciences until last year. 'Science is very lacking at our school,' she said. 'I basically chose these subjects to get into the field I want to join.'

Christine, of Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, comes from a scientific family. Her mother took physics at university and her father is a biochemist. A pupil at an all-girl independent, Berkhamsted School for Girls, she is taking A-levels in maths, further maths, physics and chemistry, she has been offered places at Umist in Manchester and Exeter University to study physics.

Luke, the youngest prizewinner, is a pupil at Weybridge comprehensive in Padstow. His mother is a former zoology and botany teacher, but he doubts that he will follow her: 'I like science, but I'm not going to do it as a career. I just don't know what I want to do.'

(Photograph omitted)

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