Local development company, Midlands Science, teamed up with Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) and Intel Ireland Ltd this week to deliver an inspiring career talk to students at Loreto College in Mullingar, in advance of the annual Midlands Science Festival.
Enda Fallon from AIT spoke to students about engineering career opportunities and course options available at AIT and Bridget Molloy of Intel Ireland Ltd also addressed students and spoke about her own career in a global company as well as providing insights on other related engineering careers and opportunities for women in STEM.
Enda Fallon said,
‘AIT is delighted to join forces with Midlands Science in promoting the world of science and engineering in Ireland. It is extremely important for AIT as the key Midlands academic provider to provide the local second level student population with inspiring experiences of engineering and to showcase the diverse opportunities and career paths that engineering offers as part of the collective national aim to increase the number of young people who wish to join these professions in the future. We want our workshops and talks to help students to better under the real world of science and engineering and collaborating with Midlands Science particularly as we head into national Science Week 2018 was the perfect opportunity to do this.’
The Midlands Science Festival will be taking place across the region for people of all ages from November 11th – 18th and promises a full programme of innovative and fun hands-on events.
Jackie Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science said,
“Ireland needs more future scientists and engineers so we really want to ensure that more young people understand what these fields are all about and how they are used and applied in so many aspects of modern living. Giving students the opportunity to talk directly to engineers and engage in hands-on activities that showcase and explain science and engineering is at the heart of what we do and we are delighted to be able to facilitate events for some local schools here in the Midlands to help inspire the next generation.’
How we experience and manage pain is a complex and sometimes emotional process. This free lunchtime lecture will take place during this year’s Midlands Science Festival on November 14th in Athlone Library and will explore our relationship with pain and painkillers.
This event part of a series of bite-sized science talks, where those attending can pop in on their lunch break for some science, free tea and coffee and snacks and there will be an opportunity for questions and answers.. You’ll learn something new during your lunchbreak and we encourage questions and discussion at this event.
Join Dr Gary Stack of AIT’s School of Nursing and Healthcare for a lunchtime lecture on painkillers, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Midlands Science teamed up with Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) and Mergon International to deliver an inspiring career talk at Colaiste Mhuire in Mullingar last week as part of national ‘Engineers Week’ celebrations. Senior technologist, Alan Mannion spoke to students about engineering career opportunities and course options available at AIT and Padraic McDonnell of Mergon International gave an insight into working in the engineering field, the diversity it offers and what it is like to work within this profession for a global company.
Aisling Nolan, General Manager of Mergon International said,
‘Mergon was delighted to join forces with local development company Midlands Science and Athlone Institute of Technology for Engineers Week 2018 which is a week-long festival of nationwide events celebrating the world of engineering in Ireland. It is extremely important for Mergon as an employer to provide the student population with inspiring experiences of engineering, as part of collective national quest to widen the pool of young people who will go on to join the profession in the future. We want our workshops to encourage young people to reflect, discuss and realise how they can be part of solutions needed for a vast number and diverse range of society’s challenges by becoming engineers. These workshops extend young people’s real-world understanding and it was wonderful to have this opportunity during Engineers Week ’
The annual Engineers Week event is coordinated on a national basis by Engineers Ireland’s STEPS programme which is funded under Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover programme. Midlands Science together with industry and academic partners wanted to ensure that a focus was given to encouraging young people locally to take a closer look at engineering and demonstrate how far-reaching, creative and innovative engineering actually is as a sector.
Jackie Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science said,
“Ireland needs more future engineers so we really need more young people to understand what the world of engineering is all about, its impact and how widely it is used in the real world. Giving students the opportunity to talk directly to engineers and engage in hands-on activities that showcase and explain engineering is at the heart of Engineers Week and we were delighted to be able to facilitate events for some local schools here in the Midlands to help inspire the next generation of engineers.’
Dr. Attracta Foley, a Chartered Civil Engineer and Senior Civil Engineering Lecturer at AIT also provided a talk in Mullingar during Engineers Week and addressed some of the students at Loreto College.
Orla Thornton, Director of Marketing & Communications at AIT said,
‘Engineers Week is a great opportunity for AIT to collaborate with Midlands Science and our Industry partners in going out to schools within the midlands in order to showcase the best of what AIT offers in engineering. The week is a celebration of all things engineering and it is a wonderful opportunity to show young people the diverse opportunities and career paths that engineering offers and of course to encourage them to explore the world of engineering and in turn the range of programmes that the faculty of engineering and informatics offers potential students from apprenticeships, degrees right through to PhDs. As a nation we still have severe shortages in some engineering areas for example in construction related areas such as civil engineering and Quantity Surveying. Our programmes address these regional and national skills shortages and this week is a great opportunity for secondary school students to immerse themselves into the world of engineering and all that is offers across the areas of civil and construction engineering, electronics and informatics and mechanical and polymer. All of our programmes in AIT are practically applied and industry focused and the collaboration between our industry partners such as Mergon is a great opportunity to inspire a new generation of potential engineers who will shape, design, build and automate for the world of tomorrow.’
AIT recently was awarded The Sunday Times Institute of Technology of the Year for 2018 and its vision is to become a Technological University in the near future. We are proud to be partnering with Athlone Institute of Technology to promote the importance of science and technology education here in the midlands and beyond.
This week we spoke to Dr. Brian Murphy of Athlone Institute of Technology in advance of Science Week to find out a little about AIT’s Science focus, their participation in the festival this year and also about his own role and background..
Brian, can you tell us a little about your role in AIT?
After completing my PhD in Coordination Chemistry and X-Ray Crystallography at University College Cork in 1994 I decided to pursue an academic career. Over the past 23 years this has brought me to teach Inorganic Chemistry and conduct research at a number of universities and institutes of technology both in Ireland and abroad, including Cardiff University, Dublin City University, IT Sligo and the United Arab Emirates University. In 2008, after spending eight years in the middle east, working as an Associate Professor of Inorganic Chemistry and later as a Head of Department at the Department of Chemistry at United Arab Emirates University, I decided to return to Ireland and joined Athlone Institute of Technology as Head of the Department of Life and Physical Sciences. I since have moved away from academic administration and have returned to my true passion in trying to open up the world of Coordination Chemistry to undergraduate students as a Senior Lecturer. Not an easy task!
I teach across a variety of academic programmes at AIT, including the BSc(Hons) in Pharmaceutical Science, which is a unique programme that provides the broad-based, essential information and skills required by graduates for employment in the modern pharmaceutical sector. This programme is officially recognized by the Institute of Chemistry in Ireland and covers chemical-based and next generation biotech-based therapeutics and their formulation into the safe and effective medicines of high and durable quality. The programme is one of the leading academic programmes at AIT in terms of the high quality employment outlets open to its graduates. The Midlands has become a major magnet for leading international pharmaceutical companies and this programme provides learners with the core experience in the exploration of the structure-property relationships of drugs and pharmaceutical materials. As a Lecturer, not only do I teach but I also am involved in the extensive development of new academic programmes in the Faculty of Science and Health, I supervise undergraduate research projects in Coordination Chemistry, sit on a number of Institute sub-committees and have a number of international collaborations in the area of curriculum development and coordination chemistry.
AIT recently was awarded The Sunday Times Institute of Technology of the Year for 2018 and its vision is to become a Technological University in the near future. In my view this is an essential component of the future strategic plan for the region – AIT has the capacity and potential to become a university and this is what makes working at AIT extremely interesting at present! AIT’s strength comes from identifying areas of skills shortage and working with businesses to improve links between enterprise and academia. The Institute currently has three dedicated research centres, straddling the areas of Bioscience, Software and Materials and has become a regional research power-house in these areas, working closely with local industry.
What inspired you to pursue a science based career?
Unfortunately in Ireland only a small proportion of secondary schools currently offer Chemistry and Physics which is a real shame. Chemistry is often described as the central science and many students do not really understand the importance of chemistry until they enter third-level programmes and are surprised to find chemistry in the heart of medicine, engineering, dentistry, toxicology, biotechnology and even sports science programmes! As a secondary school student I was extremely lucky to go to a newly built, state-of-the-art, mixed secondary school in Cobh, Co. Cork, Coláiste Muire, where the Presentation Brother Principal of the School (Br. Bede) himself had a strong Science background and insisted that the school should have dedicated modern laboratories in Chemistry, Physics and Biology to ensure that students could take all three pillar science subjects up to Higher Leaving Certificate Level. At the time we had an outstanding Chemistry Teacher, Dr. Declan Kennedy, who since has moved on to become a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Education in University College Cork and who has been at the fore-front of developments in Chemistry Teaching in Ireland for the past twenty years. As a teacher he was visionary in his delivery of science and this is what lured me into pursuing a career in Chemistry. It all stemmed from being exposed to problem-based learning, challenging experimental work and interdisciplinary science from an early age in secondary school and knowing that I was being educated in first-class chemical laboratories. It would be nice to see more schools in the Midlands offering Chemistry and Physics to secondary school students in the next ten years and not just Biology. All three subjects are essential for anyone interested in STEM as Science in the future will become even more interdisciplinary in nature! There appears to be a current shortage also of qualified Chemistry Teachers nationally and this is an area that the government needs to address if we are really to become a leading international STEM nation on the worldwide stage.
Why in your view is science so important in society today and what can we do to encourage more young people to choose science when picking their subjects at second level?
There are so many reasons as why science is so important to society at present that in this condensed blog it is not possible for me to outline the myriad of reasons and examples. As a Coordination Chemist by trade, X-ray Crystallography has long been a central structural tool for me in my pursuing research interests and the importance of structure still plays a pivotal role in science today. However I would like to focus in on the recent award of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Jacques Dubochet (University of Lausanne, Switzerland), Joachim Frank (Columbia University, New York, USA) and Richard Henderson (MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK) for developing an effective method for generating three-dimensional images of the molecules of life. Using cryo-electron microscopy, it is now possible to freeze biomolecules midmovement and portray them at atomic resolution. This technology has launched biochemistry on a completely new trajectory. In the press release on the award of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to these researchers it is described how “over recent years numerous astonishing structures of life’s molecular machinery have filled the scientific literature: Salmonella’s injection needle for attacking cells; proteins that confer resistance to chemotherapy and antibiotics; molecular complexes that govern circadian rhythms; light-capturing reaction complexes for photosynthesis and a pressure sensor of the type that allows us to hear. These are just a few examples of the hundreds of biomolecules that have now been imaged using cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). When researchers began to suspect that the Zika virus was causing the epidemic of brain-damaged newborns in Brazil, they turned to cryo-EM to visualise the virus. Over a few months, three dimensional (3D) images of the virus at atomic resolution were generated and researchers could start searching for potential targets for pharmaceuticals.
Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson have made ground-breaking discoveries that have enabled the development of cryo-EM. The method has taken biochemistry into a new era, making it easier than ever before to capture images of biomolecules.” As a scientist I always look forward each year to the award of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Reading the research underpinning the work of these annual award winners makes us understand the importance of science to society. Secondary school students need to be challenged in science from day one – to foster this learning environment, science students need to constantly pose questions, be challenged by undertaking project and research work, be exposed to a rigorous experimental programme and have access to high-quality laboratories, instrumentation and facilities. We also need to encourage more Honours Chemistry graduates to consider teaching as a career. There are several outstanding science teachers who do tremendous work in school educating future scientists, often educated to both Masters and PhD level. The government needs to support such highly qualified professionals to ensure that teaching once more is seen as a vital cog in our national development. One has only to look at the correlation between teaching, secondary school science facilities and STEM initiatives in countries like Finland to appreciate the importance of promoting the development of science in schools.
Do you think there are any really exciting research outcomes we can hope to see in the next 10 years?
Cure for Alzheimer’s disease, global solution to conquer climate change, advanced technologies for the electric car to name a few ….. it was interesting to read only a few days ago that NASA and NOAA have stated that measurements from satellites this year showed the hole in Earth’s ozone layer that forms over Antarctica each September was the smallest observed since 1988. Thirty years ago, the international community signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and began regulating ozone-depleting compounds. Scientists claim that the ozone hole over Antarctica is expected to gradually become less severe as the use of chlorofluorocarbons (once widely used as refrigerants) continue to decrease worldwide. Scientists now expect the Antarctic ozone hole to recover back to 1980 levels around 2070. This shows the power of international scientific collaboration between scientists and governments. I think Environmental Chemistry is one area to really keep an eye on in terms of research activity over the next decade. Global solutions can bring about a solution to climate change but scientists need to be supported at both international and national levels to foster these solutions.
What is your favourite thing about teaching science?
As Hercule Poirot says it gets the little grey cells moving!!!
Dr. Brian Murphy, Senior Lecturer, Department of Life and Physical Sciences, Faculty of Science and Health, AIT
We are delighted to be partnering with Athlone Institute of Technology this year in order to deliver a range of high value career talks to second level students across the Midlands. We caught up with one of our key speakers, Ciaran O’ Cathain of the AIT department of Sport and Health Sciences. Ciaran will be addressing students in Athlone next week during the Midlands Science Festival.
Ciaran, can you tell us a little about your role at AIT?
I am a lecturer in the department of Sport and Health Sciences and teach on the Sport Science with Exercise Physiology course and the Athletic and Rehabilitation Therapy course. I deliver modules mainly in the areas of Biomechanics and Strength and Conditioning. Outside of teaching I am primary investigator across a variety of sport science research projects, most of which are targeting the development of novel approaches for maximising sporting performance. I have also been actively involved in the development of the undergraduate courses we currently deliver in the department of Sport and Health Sciences.
What is your background/academic experience?
I went to secondary school in the Marist College and then completed my undergraduate degree in DCU where I studied Sport Science and Health. Upon completion of this I was awarded the O’Hare Scholarship from DCU to complete a PhD. For my PhD I developed a novel technology that allowed runners to intuitively change their running technique to reduce their risk of sustaining running relating injuries. I then took a lecturing position in Athlone IT and have been working here for the last three years.
What inspired you to pursue a science related field?
During my teenage years and early-to-mid-20’s I competed in track and field as a sprinter and hurdler. During this time I competed both nationally and internationally and subsequently became fascinated by the science behind improving sporting performance. What was initially a thirst for knowledge to improve my own performance developed overtime into an interest across a broad range of sport science related topics. This manifested in the completion of the above mentioned degree, PhD, and continued work as both a researcher and practitioner.
We want to spread the message that science is so diverse and there are so many different avenues that someone can do down if they pick STEM! What advice would you give students in secondary school considering a science course at third level?
I often find that one of the big barriers to choosing a STEM course is the dreaded requirement of mathematics. However, if you choose a discipline within STEM that you are extremely passionate about the context in which mathematics is employed becomes much more interesting. It is much easier to study maths when you see how useful it can be in an applied setting. For example, I did honours level maths and applied maths for my leaving cert and I hated both. However, once I started my degree and identified how I could use maths to improve sporting performance my opinion completely reversed and I loved it. I now specialise in the area of biomechanics which is essentially the application of physics and mathematics to gain a better understanding of human movement.
What are some of the exciting jobs someone can expect to apply for if they complete a sports science course at AIT?
Sport Science is a great discipline to study as it gives you a broad range of expertise and provides you with the opportunity explore multiple avenues once you complete the degree. Across the 4 years you will study modules in Physiology, Biomechanics, Coaching, Nutrition, Psychology, Strength and Conditioning, and Performance Analysis. From this you can choose to pursue careers or further study in one of these areas or a combination of them.
The Midlands Science Festival will be taking place across the region for all ages from November 12th-19th and promises a packed programme with over 130 innovative and hands-on events. Science Week, which is managed by ‘SFI Discover’ the education and public engagement programme of Science Foundation Ireland, has been in existence since the mid-1990s and has grown to around 800 events per year. The festival takes science into libraries, theatres and even the outdoors, giving people a variety of exciting ways to explore a multitude of ideas for a future career in science, technology, engineering and maths.
This year’s programme includes two very different events which will be held in Athlone and will be open to the general public. On the evening of Nov 13th at 8:00pm, ‘The Science of Dogs, From Wolf to Woof’ will take place in Athlone Institute of Technology. This event will appeal not only to pet owners but also to anyone with an interest in animals or science in general. There’s a lot of science to the dogs in our lives, everything from how to care for them to how they think and how they evolved from wolves.
Midlands Science Festival Director, Jackie Gorman said,
‘In planning the programme, we have partnered with a number of schools, organisations and academia such as Athlone Institute of Technology, to create opportunities which excite students and the general public about science and how it connects to real life. It’s about creating greater interest in science education and careers which of course benefits the Midlands region. Join us for a fascinating evening with a Veterinary Scientist and an Evolutionary Biologist as they explore the world of canines. What’s it like to be able to smell not just every bit of open food in the house but also to smell sadness in humans? Learn about the secrets of their tails and their skill at reading our attention. We will also be joined by some four-legged friends along with their owners, as we seek to understand an animal that there is still so much to know about.’
Fun-filled school workshops including a mobile planetarium, snakes and tortoises from the Reptile Zoo, career talks and rocket building are just some of the many events taking place across Westmeath this November as part of national Science Week for younger audiences.
Jackie Gorman continued,
‘The Midlands Science Festival is a real celebration of science and features something for everyone to enjoy. Among a rich programme of key speakers featuring for 2017 is neuroscientist and author Giovanni Frazzetto who will deliver a free and most unique science festival event all around the ‘Science of Relationships’ and this will also be held in AIT on the evening of November 16th and booking is essential. Giovanni Frazzetto is an engaging speaker who has published books on relationships and emotions. He was awarded the John Kendrew Young Scientist Award for his cross-disciplinary and science communication efforts.We look forward to hearing from Giovanni all about the neuroscience behind the way people relate to each other and this event promises to be one which will hopefully appeal to many different people. You can book this and our event about the ‘Science of Dogs’ by using the link below.’
Photo: David Nally and Neil Ashe with their dog Albert and Midlands Science Festival director, Jackie Gorman
As we continue to prepare for the fast-approaching Science Week 2017, we are delighted to be working with some key people in our local third level institute, Athlone Institute of Technology to ensure we deliver a fun, fact-filled week of science celebration. Recently, we caught up Chris McCormack from AIT’s Faculty of Science and Health to find out what’s happening in the college during this year’s Science Week..
Chris, we are delighted to be partnering with AIT for this year’s Midlands Science Festival. Can you give us a flavour of some of the events you are hosting at the college this year?
We have a dolly-mixture of events, hopefully everyone is catered for. We have talks and shows ranging from bogland biodiversity to the science of relationships. We have a talk about why dogs “woof” and another about home-made probiotic foods. We have invited professional experts and life-long enthusiasts to share their valuable knowledge and they are being very generous. For example, one of our speakers is an expert in the little Irish Black Bee, a protected species. He has nurtured these bees all of his life and his enthusiasm is extremely contagious! Every year we host a wonderfully whacky science roadshow for National School children, and we have a morning dedicated to healing herbs and bees for young children; we’ve called this “Have scents and bee happy”. Transition Year students also have activities. The various afternoon and evening talks are open to students and members of the public. A full menu of our activities is available through the Midland Science website, and at sfi.ie
Can you tell us about your own role in AIT and a little about your background?
I worked in industry and as a consultant for years before working at AIT. I am part of the Faculty of Science and Health. My core areas are Occupational Health and Environmental Protection. I am also qualified in Research Practice – I’m curious about how humans are curious, and communicate their findings to other curious people. I also teach “Learning and Development for Higher Education” and “Enquiry Based Learning”, innovative modules that open up new ways of learning to the student while developing their confidence in Science communications. I have morphed a few times during my life, and intend on morphing again!
Along with my colleague, Dr Brian Murphy, we organise Science Week at AIT.
What do you think we can be doing to inspire and encourage more young people to choose science as a subject and indeed as a third level college choice?
I believe we should be encouraging young people to be “renaissance” men and women, developing both their creative and logical or problem solving abilities side-by-side. The human mind can do multi-disciplinary thinking, it is not limited or compartmentalised. Science doesn’t live alone; it is part of every component of life. Science belongs to the curious small child in all of us. I am an advocate of STEAM, which brings about innovative thinking. Science has been pigeon-holed for too long. I’d like young learners to be curious, to consider their discoveries every day. Choosing science helps us to be comfortable in our world, to be hopeful of the future and to give us information about our past.
Why do you think events like the Midlands Science Festival are so important?
This festival takes Science out of the classroom and onto the street. It allows access to people who wouldn’t get a close-up of these fascinating things in their day-to-day lives. It is a colourful and creative presentation of Science. Valuable activities are free of charge for all the family. Our resources are pooled for this festival; the conventional edges of ownership are blurred. I think it’s a breath of fresh air for Science, a playful offering of so many otherwise hidden strengths.
What is your favourite science fact?
Oh dear, just one? I’m like Michelangelo in one thing: “Ancora Imparo” – I am still learning! There are no facts that are not scientific! Last week, I learned that the plural of “octopus” is “octopodidae” – apparently, the word comes from the Greek, not the Latin! My colleague’s 15 year old daughter knew this. This word makes me laugh and I might just need it for Scrabble! I have also recently learned how the tangible brain creates the intangible mind; in the Wernike area we integrate information into image patterns, then the Broca area converts these images into concepts. Magical! It sounds quite nerdy, but like our toes, we all have them! I’m going to look after my Wernike and Broca areas as they make me very happy.
I could give you new favourite facts, forever. The world is a thrilling place and I’m happy to be greedy about it.
We are happy to share that his year’s programme includes two very different events which will be held in Athlone and will be open to the general public. On the evening of Nov 13th at 8:00pm, ‘The Science of Dogs, From Wolf to Woof’ will take place in Athlone Institute of Technology. This event will appeal not only to pet owners but also to anyone with an interest in animals or science in general. There’s a lot of science to the dogs in our lives, everything from how to care for them to how they think and how they evolved from wolves.
Join us for a fascinating evening with a Veterinary Scientist and an Evolutionary Biologist as they explore the world of canines. What’s it like to be able to smell not just every bit of open food in the house but also to smell sadness in humans? Learn about the secrets of their tails and their skill at reading our attention. We will also be joined by some four-legged friends along with their owners, as we seek to understand an animal that there is still so much to know about.
Fun-filled school workshops including a mobile planetarium, snakes and tortoises from the Reptile Zoo, career talks and rocket building are just some of the many events taking place across Westmeath this November as part of national Science Week for younger audiences.
We also have neuroscientist and author Giovanni Frazzetto who will deliver a free and most unique science festival event all around the ‘Science of Relationships’ and this will also be held in AIT on the evening of November 16th and booking is essential. Giovanni Frazzetto grew up on the southeast coast of Sicily and studied science at University College London. In 2002, he received a Ph.D. from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg. He was one of the founders of the European Neuroscience & Society Network and the creator of the transdisciplinary Neuroschools. Giovanni has also written short stories and plays and curated science-inspired art exhibitions. We look forward to hearing from Giovanni all about the neuroscience behind the way people relate to each other and this event promises to be one which will hopefully appeal to many different people.
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