THE next generation of female scientists are already winning national awards, despite still being at school.

The innovative research undertaken by students at Didcot Girls' School will help scientists develop new materials for bone grafts.

And now their contribution to 'Project M' has been recognised with a national Community Education Award (CEA).

On Wednesday the school's senior science club was presented with the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) Innovation Award for Project M, a collaboration with scientists at Diamond Light Source in Harwell.

The cutting edge scientific research saw students working with Dr Claire Murray, Dr Laura Holland and Dr Julia Parker at the UK’s national synchrotron – a type of particle accelerator – science facility to develop the methodology for Project M.

This allowed 100 schools from all over the UK to participate in the project by preparing 1,000 calcium carbonate samples, which are currently being studied by Diamond Light Source.

Analysis of the students' samples will lead to a deeper understanding of the Earth's most abundant biomineral, found in chalk, shells and skeletal supports.

This is vital for the development of new bio-medical framework materials and for stronger structural composites for uses such as bone grafts.

The project was conducted in spring and scientists are continuing to analyse the data over the summer.

Dr Murray said: "The work and feedback of the senior science club has been critical to the success of our project, as it enabled us to optimise the equipment for school kits which were sent to every participating school."

The CEAs are an annual celebration of schools' valuable work in helping young people become positive community members.

It is sponsored by Police Community Clubs of Great Britain and Costa and is open to all schools.

Didcot Girls' School headteacher Rachael Warwick said: "I am delighted that the innovative partnership between Diamond Light Source and the school's senior science club has been recognised through the CEA.

"It is through opportunities such as these that young people are inspired to pursue careers in STEM and, at Didcot Girls' School, we are committed to supporting the next generation of female scientists.

"I would like to extend our sincere thanks to Diamond Light Source for their time and collaboration on this creative and exciting project."

For more information about Project M and to monitor its progress visit @DLSProjectMLive on Twitter.