WorldSkills is a multidisciplinary competition that first launched in 1950. This year's Laboratory Technician category was sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Science Council.
The final octet came from across the UK and represented the best of this year's 116 registrants, which was more than double the number of entrants in 2021. After coming through a series of tests in their respective regions to qualify for the UK final, which was held in East London.
Five contenders hailed from Northern Ireland alone: Rory, bronze medallist Anastasiya Kovtun, Tiarnan Duddy, Wiktoria Kurkowska, and Abigail Magill. Runner-up Emily May flew the flag for London, Owain Reeves was there from the North West, while Raquel Santos represented the West Midlands.
On the first of the two days of chemistry and biochemistry challenges, the competitors had to extract protein from mushrooms and then do some enzyme testing in the morning, and then carry out a column chromatography experiment in the afternoon. This was followed up by a day featuring an organic synthesis with coumarin, and then gel electrophoresis.
And after a nervy week-long wait, Rory learned he had won the gold medal during a special broadcast live from Channel 4’s Packed Lunch studios.
“It has definitely been a learning experience and a positive one at that. Once the stress and panic of the competition are out of the way, you realise how invaluable it is," he said.
“Even doing the preparation gets you into the mindset to get the work done and it’s left me with a lot more practical skills than I had beforehand.
“In terms of the social side, it was one of the things I enjoyed most and we were all really friendly by the end of it, which is something I appreciate.”