Another Successful Alchemist Cafe….

Luke in actionThere was lots to learn and plenty of laughs in Athlone Institute of Technology last night as we enjoyed another Alchemist Café with a leading Professor of immunology on the whole subject of Ageing.

“We won’t slow it down, but there are ways to have a healthier old age,” said Professor Luke O’Neill of Trinity College Dublin.

“A big problem with ageing is inflammation or ‘inflammageing’. As you get older, your body gets more inflamed. Your body doesn’t break down toxic by-products as readily, and toxic by-products irritate tissue and cause diseases,” he explained.

Luke was joined by Irish-born scientist Sile Lane, whose role on the night was to encourage people to ask for evidence in every claim they see because many claims are purely a case of clever marketing. Sile came to us from London-based charity Sense about Science, which helps people make sense of both science and evidence.

The event was chaired by award-winning broadcaster Jonathan McCrea and I think its fair to say that we all went home with a lot of food for thought about our lifestyle choices and also the way we think about the world of science…It can be challenging to get people out on a wet night in November but we were really pleased to see so much interest in another great Science Week event.

Day Two a Great Success!

black and white teguToday really was hectic but we are relieved that everything went well! We had more sunspotter workshops, this time in Crinkle, Birr and also one in Longford. Children in Athlone had the chance to pet a boa constrictor and watch a tortoise in action as the Reptile Zoo Village visited for the day and then it was back to AIT for a public talk by NUI Maynooth’s Dr. Fiona Walsh on Antibiotics Resistance.

Across the region in Laois, we had some science friends down from UCD’s Food for Health divison to talk to students Heywood Secondary School while back in Offaly, we had BT Young Scientist winner Edel Brown in Killina school for another inspiring student talk. Sile lane returned for a school workshop while Iggy McGovern and Catherine Ivers hosted a very different cultural event in the Luan Gallery on ‘The Poetry of Physics.’

To finish off an incredible day, a packed audience was entertained by one of Ireland’s leading scientists, Luke O’ Neill on ‘Why we Age’ and Luke was joined by Sile Lane of Sense About Science and Jonathan McCrea of Newstalk /The Science Squad. Today’s schedule was jam-packed but we are thrilled to say there really was something for everyone and the Midlands Science Festival 2014 is still young!

For now, time for some rest before another busy day tomorrow!

Half way there…

Sile laneWe have just enjoyed another great day for the festival which took us to Offaly and Laois today for student workshops with TCD, a hospital talk in Tullamore for consultants with Sile Lane from Sense About Science (photo), an alchemist café on diabetes and the brain, zoology talks, a visit from Ingenious Ireland and more!

Careers are the feature of the day tomorrow and we look forward to advice and insights into the world of technology and innovation which will be delivered from companies such as Cpl Recruitment and Midlands based multinational technology firm Ericsson, who are also on board as a key partner to the 2014 Midlands Science Festival.

Tony Devlin, Ericsson’s Head of R&D Operations in Ireland said,

‘We live in an exciting and challenging time for Science and Technology in Ireland and the opportunities for growth and job creation in the sector are tremendous. As a major high-technology employer in the heart of Ireland we are delighted to support the Midlands Science Festival.’

The ‘power of science’ is the theme of Science Week 2014. We see, hear, touch, taste and experience the wonder of science every day. From the electricity that lights and heats our homes, to smartphones that connect us to family and friends, to robots that carry out intricate surgery, and space technology that reveals the secrets of the cosmos – science empowers us to shape every aspect of our world. Thanks to the power of science we can improve our health and wellbeing, explore new worlds, and make our world a better place; the only limits are those we imagine.


Talented Young Scientist Inspires Midlands Students

EdelWe were so lucky to have Young Scientist Edel Brown from Galway in the region today to speak to students at Killina Secondary School in Offaly.

Edel is a former student of Presentation College, Athenry and is now studying Biotechnology at NUI, Galway. She recently won the Best Individual Senior Award at the BT Young Scientist Exhibition. Edel won the award for her ‘Free Feet’ project. ‘Free Feet’ is a device that reduces the freezing of gait in Parkinson’s disease. The idea of ‘Free Feet’ is to attach a simple laser pointer device to a patient’s shoe. This puts a dot on the ground, giving the patient a target to concentrate on.

“Gait freezing is a disabling symptom of Parkinson’s. 72% of people suffering from the disease experience it. It makes them feel like they’re stuck to the ground and they can’t move their legs or feet,” said Edel.

The students listened with great interest to Edel’s story which, given her young age of just 17 is truly impressive! We really were privileged to have her as part of the Midlands Science Festival and wish her every success in her future as a budding scientist and entrepreneur.

Something New and Exciting from the GSI for 2014…

GSIThe Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI), founded in 1845, is the National Earth Science Agency. It is responsible for providing geological advice and information, and for the acquisition of data for this purpose. GSI produces a range of products including maps, reports and databases and acts as a knowledge centre and project partner in all aspects of Irish geology. We are pleased to announce that this year, the GSI is bringing some exciting workshops to a selection of Midlands schools during the Midlands Science Festival.

GSI realises that our future lies in the hands of today’s young students so efforts are really increasing to ensure that as an organisation, GSI engages in activities which are really relevant to today’s school goers, which may hopefully in turn, encourage children to consider a career in science or more specifically geoscience. We are looking forward to hearing how our schools enjoy this new event for 2014!

And we’re off…

famelab nov 10What a great day today across the region for the start of the Midlands Science Festival. We hosted TCD Sunspotter workshops in the Bower secondary school in Athlone, another student workshop in St. Finians in Mullingar courtesy of Fergal O’ Brien from the Royal College of Surgeons and a visit from the Junior Einsteins Science Club to Mullingar Educate Together NS!

We also enjoyed a fantastic day at Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) with Famelab, where we had a large cohort of local primary children in the morning for an innovative workshop (photo) and a FameLab showcase in the afternoon. There will be more exciting news to come about FameLab for the region in the weeks ahead!

Cpl Recruitment’s Judith Moffett had a busy day delivering plenty of high level careers advice at a student workshop in Athlone Community College and another at AIT in the afternoon. We were also delighted to have Sile Lane from Sense About Science UK. Sile is with us for a few days and she too kick-started her events in AIT today.

The opening day of any festival is always filled with anticipation and today did not disappoint. We are looking forward to lots more fun celebrating science over the next five days in the Midlands.

Here Comes Science Week!

New_1_TacticsAfter many months of hard work and lots of fun and learning, we are finally here.

Kicking off tomorrow morning in Athlone Institute of Technology with our FameLab Showcase, we then have careers talks, insightful talks from expert speakers, demonstrations…there really is something for all ages. And remember….there is still time to book some of the activities, so check out the Events section now!

We would like to once again thanks all of our colleagues in Science Foundation Ireland for this opportunity as well as our corporate partners and not forgetting each and every presenter and host that we are working with to make the festival happen.

Looking forward to seeing and meeting as many people as possible to celebrate science..Don’t miss out!

Global science communications project for festival…

FameLab kids picWe are so pleased to announce something new and exciting for this year’s line-up of events. ‘FameLab’ is an exciting competition to find the new voices of science and engineering across the world. It was started in 2005 in the UK by Cheltenham Science Festival and has quickly become established as a diamond model for successfully identifying, training and mentoring scientists and engineers to share their enthusiasm for their subjects with the public. Working in partnership with the British Council this global competition has already seen more than 5000 young scientists and engineers participating in over 23 different countries from Hong Kong to South Africa, USA to Egypt. In the USA, NASA is our FameLab delivery partner.

Liz McBain, North-South Programme Manager for the British Council (Ireland) commented,  ‘Science plays a part in so many aspects of our daily lives even if we don’t often realise it. FameLab works to inspire the next generation of science communicators by identifying young scientists and engineers and training them to be more equipped to debate, discuss and be challenged by science. We are really excited about bringing FameLab to this region during the Midlands Science Festival 2014.’

Director of the Midlands Science Festival, Jackie Gorman said,

‘The search is on for the new voices of science communication in the Midlands. During the Midlands Science Festival, a FameLab showcase will be held at Athlone Institute of Technology. This will include a competitive event between the existing Famelab alumni, a workshop called Futurelab which will be aimed specifically at aimed at 8-12 year olds from a selection of Midlands schools and a careers workshop involving some of the existing Famelab alumni. This is a fantastic addition to our events and the result will hopefully be a new network of scientists engaging both other science enthusiasts and potentially new audiences, but also engaging with each other. ‘

Roll  on tomorrow!


Science strives to answer questions…

We are really looking forward to our Sunspotter workshops which will be taking place in a number of Midlands schools this week as part of the Midlands Science Festival..

I caught up with Aine Flood and Peter Gallagher of the Citizen Science Alliance at Trinity College to find out more……

‘Our job at the Solar and Space Weather Group in Trinity is to use data from ESA and NASA satellites to understand the Sun and how it effects us here on Earth. We also run the Rosse Solar-Terrestrial Observatory in Birr (, which is equipped with antennas and other instrument to continuously monitor solar activity and its impacts on the Earth’s magnetic field. We are particularly interested in forecasting solar flares and solar mass ejections, which can produce the northern and southern lights and cause problems in telecommunication and GPS systems.’ Peter Gallagher, Head of the Solar and Space Weather Group

Aine, what is the Citizen Science Alliance?

The Citizen Science Alliance is a collection of many scientists, software developers and educators from all over the world who work together on internet based projects to improve their research as well as other peoples understanding of both the science and how scientific work is done. They invite everyone to become a citizen scientist by collaborating with them online and offering their time and skills to help sort through large collections of data.

Why is public engagement important for this project to succeed?

The public are our collaborators for this project and all the others in the Zooniverse collection. Without the public offering their time and energy to help classify the sunspots we wouldn’t have a project! It’s really important for us to engage with the public and tell them how much they are helping real scientific research by participating in SunSpotter. This is an Irish based project, thought up and created by solar physics researchers in Trinity College Dublin. Our team uses the results to help forecast solar weather which affects a lot of things here on Earth such as radio communications, contact with orbiting satellites, and of course any astronauts in space need to know if a solar storm is about to strike.

What can we do to ensure we encourage the next generation consider science as a career?

The more scientists that talk to young people about their work, what they do and why they do it, the clearer it is that science is a fascinating and important part of all our lives. Some people, especially children are always asking questions, trying to figure out how things work and wondering why everything happens as it does. Science strives to answer these questions. Our understanding of the world around us, and indeed the whole universe, has improved greatly due to answers we have found through scientific research and observation. But one of the best things about science is that often these answers lead to even more questions. We don’t know everything, there’s still lots to discover!

Are you looking forward to being involved in the Midlands Science Week and why are events like this important for Science promotion?

Yes, we are really looking forward to it! We are delighted to be involved with the team at the Midlands Science Festival. Events like this encourage people to get more involved with spreading science. Whether you want to have a chat about it at an evening talk or get ‘hands on’ and learn something new at a workshop there’s something for all ages and interests. These events also give scientists an opportunity and platform to engage with an interested public and tell them why their research matters. This clear dialogue is essential for better understanding and appreciation of science.

If you wish to learn more please see

The Travels of Curious Kim…

ploughing bDon’t forget to follow our lover of all things science and virtual brand ambassador on Twitter …@curiouskim1 for plenty of updates on our upcoming events …

Our loveable Midlands Science Festival mascot really has been all over the Midlands in the lead up to Science Week, so check out her page for lots of facts and figures that show how science really is all around us!