Dannevirke prodigy reaping what he sows

By Christine McKay

Stuart Curran is one of the world's brightest biology students, but is proud to call Dannevirke home.

Stuart, 18, head boy at Lindisfarne College in Hastings, has just returned from the International Biology Olympiad in Switzerland with a bronze medal - won in tough competition against 240 competitors from more than 60 countries.

Winning his bronze medal, Stuart was the first-placed New Zealander and was just one place away from taking out a silver medal.

One of a four-man New Zealand team, Stuart has spent two years completing an intense study programme, giving up his school holidays to complete assignments. Selected in the top 22 New Zealand students, Stuart attended a 10-day training camp, where the emphasis was on practical biology, culminating in three exams.

"I was shocked to be selected in the team for Switzerland," he said.

"It's been very hard working from a university text book and then taking that knowledge and using it but I enjoy the science behind how the human body works."

Last week Stuart, the son of Sharon Wards and Simon Curran, was back at St Joseph's School in Dannevirke sharing his experiences with staff and pupils of his former primary school.

"We're very proud of Stuart. His achievements have been outstanding," acting principal Megan Seatter said.

"I loved teaching Stuart. He just got things and the research he did showed how much he values learning."

While at St Joseph's, Stuart was fortunate to be in the gifted talent programme, his mother said.

"The right cauldron of support in this community has helped him along."

And while Stuart concedes his great learning experiences began at St Joseph's, his love of biology has been nurtured at Lindisfarne College.

"My first science teacher, in Year 11, made us dissect an eye ball and from there we went on to work on hearts and lungs and I enjoyed it all," he said.

Next year Stuart is off to Otago University to join more than 2500 other students in first year health sciences - the precursor to medical school.

"After year one, that number is cut down to 300 and I'm thinking of going into either heart or brain surgery," he said. "However, the biggest challenge next year will be balancing everything because the first year at Otago is pretty full on. It's cut throat, but having spent two years preparing for the biology Olympiad has helped.

"I'm also looking forward to having at least 10 fellow pupils from Lindisfarne in Otago's first year health science course."

But it won't be all work and no play, as Stuart is planning on playing rugby and cricket while in Dunedin and possibly taking up squash.

"My rugby season was cut short this year when I broke my ankle just six weeks out from going to Switzerland. The cast only came off a few days before I flew out," he said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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