Choose a Career of the Future – Choose Science!

New_1_Nathan and Nuala WestmeathPhoto: Nathan Nally Henson and his mum, Nuala from Athlone finding out that its never to early to start learning about science and the world around us (Clara Bog Visitor’s Centre)

The Midlands Science Festival team, welcomed the recent news that there has been a significant increase in the percentage of Leaving Certificate students sitting the science subjects of physics, chemistry and biology. This rising interest in science follows on from a recent analysis of Higher Education Authority (HEA) data which indicated a noteworthy rise in the number of Midlands students entering third level courses in Science, Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) last year. The analysis, when compared with a similar study carried out in 2008 shows an average increase of approximately 41% in the share of students studying STEM across the Midlands during a six year period.

Lucy Prendeville, a Leaving Cert student from the Midlands achieved an amazing 8 A1’s in her exams and she said, ‘I was so delighted to receive my offer to study Nanoscience at Trinity College this week. I have loved science from a very young age and think it is so important to start encouraging pupils as early as primary school level about what an adventure it can be to explore science and all its wonders. Events such as the Midlands Science Festival ensure that children as young as five years old have the opportunity to see how certain elements of science work, but in a more fun and often lighthearted way. I dressed up as a scientist for a primary school fashion show years ago; that’s how young I was when I fell in love with science!’

SFI Discover, the education and public engagement programme of Science Foundation Ireland, organises national Science Week which aims to catalyse, guide and inspire the best in STEM education and public engagement. Heading into their third year, Atlantic Corridor will host the Midlands Science Festival again this November with over 60 events already planned for the four counties across the region.

Jackie Gorman, Director of the Midlands Science Festival said, ‘Just like previous years, this year’s festival will provide something for all ages. In particular though, we want to ensure that we are really focusing on the younger audiences as our research tells us that the earlier we can get into classrooms to start promoting science, the better. We are really pleased to have the Reptile Zoo back again to entertain children with a variety of exotic animals and the Irish Wildlife Trust and Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland who will be teaching children about environmental awareness through participation in a range of games and activities. We are also very excited about bringing the Exploration Dome to a Midlands primary school where pupils will learn about earth science, maths and astronomy and there are lots more workshops, shows and surprises from star gazing to bogs and insects to sea creatures right across the region this November.’

Nationally this year, 57,929 students sat the Leaving Certificate, compared to 56,990 in 2014. Some subjects with increasing student numbers are Chemistry (a 3.9% increase from 2014), Physics (a 4.6% increase) and Applied Mathematics (a 12.5% increase).

Many of the global medical technologies and pharmaceutical companies now have a dedicated presence in Ireland and it is critical that we ensure the adequate talent pool is available to them here in the Midlands. A recent report by accountants Grant Thornton concluded that while Ireland continues to outperform its competitors in attracting FDI there are still issues that need to be addressed such as skills shortages within the ICT, science and engineering sectors.

Lucy Prendeville continued, ‘Everything in today’s word is moving faster and everything, when you really think about it has a science element. If you choose science as a third level discipline you will have so many career options available to you; the opportunities are endless. We do need to look at encouraging more women into science in particular. My course will be very male dominated and it would be great to see that changing in the coming years.’

Ibec, the group representing Irish business, welcomed the fact that the added interest in science was translating into increased demand for third level science and technology courses. First preference applications have increased by 28 per cent for honours science degrees in the last five years.

Much of the work being performed by Atlantic Corridor in STEM promotion is as a result of relevant national links and international partnerships which have been developed and fostered over the past ten years. By continuing to work with key corporate and academic partners, the hope is that the number of students pursuing science and technology at third level will continue to rise and we can work towards ensuring the necessary human resource pool is in place here in our local economy.

Jackie Gorman continued, ‘The increase in the numbers of student taking science subjects demonstrates how people are now really listening to national messages about the many career advantages in science fields and therefore the importance of a relevant, high-value qualifications. We hope that this also means that targeted educational events like the Midlands Science Festival are starting to have real effect.’

www.midlandsscience.ie will be updating in the coming weeks so keep an eye on news of the events coming to a town or classroom near you during November of this year.

Calling All Midlands Scientists Working Abroad

mary GEarlier this year, local development company Atlantic Corridor launched a new diaspora-based framework to help promote economic development across the Midlands counties of Offaly, Westmeath, Laois and Longford. In keeping with its overall strategic aims, the focus going forward will now be placed upon trying to build diaspora and global connections within the scientific and technology community in the main.

The ability to engage globally with scientists who have a connection to Ireland could represent significant potential for the work Atlantic Corridor is already trying to do in partnership with Science Foundation Ireland, Trinity College Dublin and other academic and corporate partners in the Midlands region.

Jackie Gorman, CEO of Atlantic Corridor said,
‘We know that Irish scientists are making vast contributions in all fields of science,technology, engineering and maths on a global scale and we now intend to place a strong focus on sourcing such professionals with a Midlands connection and facilitating introductions to contacts here in order to do something meaningful for home based scientists and in a more coordinated way. Our aim is to grow our network of scientists in order to be able to facilitate discussion and improve the quality and content of events that we roll out throughout the year such as the Midlands Science Festival, which is now heading into its third year.’

There are many innovative and bright Midlands’ minds who may now be based abroad but this new initiative is a way of ensuring that they stay connected to their home country in a very real and potentially mutually beneficial way. Atlantic Corridor is very fortunate to have the support of one highly successful individual who plans to visit the region next year and assist with the development of this Midlands scientific diaspora.
Dr.Mary Guinan (photo above) is a physician and scientist who worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia for 24 years as a medical detective. Mary’s father Michael Guinan was born in Ballycumber, Co. Offaly and Mary is extremely proud of her Irish roots.

Mary Guinan said,
‘My father emigrated to the U.S. and settled in New York City but he always stayed close to his roots and so, I spent a lot of time with my Granny Guinan and other family in Co.Offaly as a child, teenager and adult. I am very interested in assisting in any way that I possibly can to encourage Irish students and young professionals to pursue a career in science. I am happy to share ideas and experiences that may help contribute to both the promotion of science education and economic development in Ireland and the Midlands specifically. It is so important that those who have worked hard and have been successful globally do everything we can to ensure that Ireland’s profile is constantly improving and we can do so by educating and encouraging the next generation to make good career choices and be aware of the many wonderful opportunities both at home and abroad.’

Mary served in the worldwide smallpox eradication program in India and was part of the CDC team that investigated the early AIDS epidemic and her work in AIDS is documented in the book and movie “And the Band Played On” by Randy Shilts. In 1998 Mary was appointed the Nevada State Health Officer. In 2004 she was recruited to University of Nevada, Las Vegas to serve as founding dean of the School of Public Health. In 2008 she was asked to return as State Health Officer to assist in the state’s response to a Hepatitis C outbreak in southern Nevada before retiring in 2014. Her first book “Adventures of a Female Medical Detective” will be published by Johns Hopkins University Press in Spring 2016.

Jackie Gorman continued,
‘We are aware that more than one million people in Georgia for instance, claim Irish or Scots-Irish heritage and this initiative is an ideal way to try to capture some of the expertise and goodwill that may be a very solid, yet currently untapped economic resource. If successful, we would like to see members of this group becoming mentors to Irish students and we would also like to see more being done to highlight the achievements of Irish and Midlands scientists globally. If you have an interest in being involved in the development of this network, please let us know.’

Atlantic Corridor envision a network consisting of representatives from a variety of different scientific backgrounds, all with an interest in connecting back to Ireland and promoting the advancement of ideas and innovation here. Members could hail for example from academia, life sciences and pharmaceutical companies, science policy or communications, science agencies or worldwide science festivals.

Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General, Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland stated, “Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and the Government of Ireland are keen to recognise the achievements of those scientists and engineers that have left Ireland but that continue to maintain strong and enduring links with the research and business community at home. SFI seeks to honour this talented cohort in the US specifically through the SFI St. Patrick’s Day Science Medal which is presented annually, by the Taoiseach in Washington D.C. during the St. Patrick’s Day Programme. The third year of the competition is now open and SFI is calling on the diaspora community to put forward their colleagues or friends so that their achievements may be formally acknowledged by Irish leadership.”

Further detail criteria are available on the SFI St. Patrick’s Day Science Medal may be viewed at http://www.sfi.ie/international/sfi-st.-patricks-day-science-medal.html

For further information Midlands diaspora project work please contact:
Jackie Gorman on jgorman@atlanticcorridor.ie

Many Midlands Students Unaware of Science Career Opportunities

Dr Craig Slattery at LynchsLocal teens are not necessarily avoiding science career choices due to the subject being too difficult or not cool enough. It may in fact be the case that they are simply not aware of the multitude of science related jobs there are out there, according to a recent survey of a selection of Midlands schools by the organisers of the Midlands Science Festival.

Jackie Gorman, Festival Director said,
‘While we found enthusiasm for science remains high among students, an overwhelming 95 per cent of those questioned admitted they knew very little about potential career options in science related fields. It was also worth noting that 3 out of 4 students who were surveyed would like science to be taught differently, for it to be more fun and engaging and connected to real life!

The Midlands Science Festival, supported by Science Foundation Ireland, is now heading into its third year in this region and one of the main objectives of this week-long event is to demonstrate the many exciting career opportunities available within Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths disciplines. The festival team has also recently commenced another new Midlands based project entitled, Science with Inspirational Mentors (SWIM) which places a strong emphasis on mentoring from role models and champions from those in the science education and corporate sectors. The project, also supported by Science Foundation Ireland, complements the national Smart Futures programme.

Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government stated, “It is vitally important for students to have events like the Midlands Festival and Smart Futures to open their eyes to the variety of pathways available when pursuing careers in science, engineering or technology. The Smart Futures programme is managed by Science Foundation Ireland in partnership with Engineers Ireland to ensure students and their parents and teachers have ready access to young people working in science, engineering and technology. Students are encouraged to visit www.SmartFutures.ie to read about people studying and working in a variety of exciting areas from food science to cybersecurity.”

Jackie Gorman added,
‘The aforementioned research suggests there is a real urgency to ensure that young people are getting the best type of careers advice possible and by taking it beyond just the classroom and into real working environments, we hope we are going in the right direction. We need to increase interest in these fields and work towards inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers. If you are a second level student who is still undecided about your career path, the Midlands Science Festival which is due to take place this November will certainly provide plenty of stimulation and hopefully help you to make more informed decisions about your future options.’

For further information please contact: Jackie Gorman on jgorman@atlanticcorridor.ie

Inspirational Mentors for Midlands Schools

SWIM Pic haywood april 14thAtlantic Corridor was delighted to kick start a brand new education initiative for the Midlands in recent weeks with the launch of the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funded project, Science with Inspirational Mentors (SWIM)

This programme is being delivered in partnership with SFI along with the Amber Centre in Trinity College Dublin and focuses on bringing mentors or role models with science or technology backgrounds into Midlands’ secondary schools to deliver career talks and demonstrate in a hand on way why a career in science is a good choice. Volunteers for this initiative are from life sciences organisations and technology companies, as well as from research centres and academia.

Science expertise involves whole-life learning—beyond the confines of any classroom or laboratory. It is so important that when learning science it includes innovation and creativity, up to date resources, engagement and partnerships that empower and enable the students to connect learning to actual real-world situations. These career talks are aimed at Transition Year students, with a view to encouraging them to keep on STEM subjects, but are also available for Senior Cycle students who are still unsure about third level options and preferences.

CEO of Atlantic Corridor, Jackie Gorman said,
‘SWIM aims increase participation in STEM education and careers in the Midlands. A new suite of activities is being delivered in collaboration with Cpl Recruitment and the Amber Centre in Trinity College and will specifically focus on the Life Sciences sector. The project will place a strong emphasis on mentoring from role models and champions for Life Sciences education. With this in mind, we are asking anyone with a science background who feels they have the experience and passion to potentially act as a role model to the next generation of Midlands scientists to please get in touch. Being a role model extends beyond just presenting science in a well-informed way. It’s someone who will encourage and nurture curiosity about science. It’s also someone who wants to make a difference by teaching science and is passionate about how it affects our daily lives.’

To date, presentations have been delivered in a number of Offaly, Laois and Westmeath second level schools with further events planned for the coming months.

Jennifer Navan, Principal Team Lead at leading recruitment specialist Cpl commented,
‘Cpl is delighted to support the SWIM initiative which gives Midlands students the opportunity to develop their knowledge of the world of work and the types of future jobs that might be available to them, particularly in the subject areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. The more work that can be done by scientific role models in this region, the more likely it is that students will consider one of these fields as a future career option. Many of the global medical technologies and pharmaceutical companies now have a dedicated presence in the Midlands and we would like to generate an increased interest in these fields and work towards inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.’

A key part of SFI’s mission is to contribute to Ireland’s continued growth and development as a society – one that has an active and informed interest and involvement in STEM. Atlantic Corridor is playing an active role to ensure that this happens in the Midlands counties and will continue the delivery of SWIM across Offaly, Laois, Westmeath and Longford for the remainder of this year.

Jackie Gorman continued,
‘Volunteer STEM Ambassadors have a critical role here in inspiring young people in STEM subjects through real life examples but it can be difficult to demonstrate to young people how important these subjects are without seeing how they can be put to use in industry. Follow on events such as plant tours of key Midlands multinational companies, science camps at Trinity College and work placements will be high on the agenda as we continue to roll out this important programme for the rest of 2015.’

For further information please contact Jackie Gorman, Atlantic Corridor: 057 93 239 02

FUNDING APPROVED FOR INSPIRATIONAL MIDLANDS SCIENCE PROJECT

Atlantic Corridor is delighted to announce a brand new project for 2015, following recent Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) approval. This initiative which will be run in partnership with SFI along with the Amber Centre in Trinity College Dublin and is entitled ‘Science with Inspirational Mentors’ or SWIM.

CEO OF Atlantic Corridor Jackie Gorman commented,
‘We are delighted to have received the funding from SFI, though its SFI Discover Programme Call, for this exciting new project, which aims to increase participation in STEM education and careers in our region. A new suite of activities will be delivered in collaboration with Trinity College and will specifically focus on the Midlands Life Sciences sector, which has strong potential for cluster development and growth. Proposed activities will address economic and educational disadvantage whilst also focussing on the potential the region has in this particular sector. We are looking forward to working with both industry and academic partners in rolling this out for 2015.’

Atlantic Corridor intend to design and deliver pilot programmes which will increase student interest in Life Sciences subjects and careers and will employ practices that research indicates are effective in creating student interest such as content related to real-world applications, ideally though hands-on learning. The project will place a strong emphasis on mentoring from those in the education and corporate sectors and also from role models and champions for Life Sciences education.
SWIM will make a strong contribution to Ireland’s national vision to be a global knowledge leader that places scientific and engineering research at the core of its society to power economic development and social progress. It also contributes to bringing such development and progress to a region, which has issues related to economic development and educational attainment. This work will be done by providing classroom activities and content that compliments the existing curriculum and links it to industry case studies.

Keep an eye out to see how this project develops in the year ahead!

More Midlands Students Now Choosing Science Fields

up to date stats midlands stem educationLocal development company Atlantic Corridor is pleased to share a recent analysis of Higher Education Authority (HEA) data which indicate a noteworthy rise in the number of Midlands students entering third level courses in Science, Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM). The analysis, when compared with a similar study carried out in 2008 shows an average increase of approximately 41% in the share of students studying STEM across the Midlands during a six year period.

Martin Cronin, Chairman of Atlantic Corridor welcomes the recent news,
‘These figures demonstrate that students are really listening to national messages about the importance of relevant, high-value qualifications in STEM fields. They also indicate that targeted educational initiatives like the Midlands Science Festival are starting to have real impact. With science, we really need to start influencing young people from an early age and it is critical that we continue to actively encourage the next generation by providing new and more diverse ways to learn.’

SFI Discover, the education and public engagement programme of Science Foundation Ireland, organises national Science Week which aims to catalyse, guide and inspire the best in STEM education and public engagement. Atlantic Corridor recently hosted the Midlands Science Festival for the second year running during the nationwide ‘Science Week’ to promote the relevance of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in our everyday lives, with a focus on the four Midlands counties of Laois, Offaly, Longford and Westmeath. This year’s Midland Science Festival saw over 4500 people in attendance across the region throughout the week at entertaining and educational science talks, shows workshops and demonstrations.

Upon closer examination, the aforementioned analysis reveals that the number of students now studying a STEM related course from Laois has increased by 35% while in Offaly it has risen by 53%. In Longford, there are 15% more STEM students whilst in Westmeath there has been quite a staggering increase of 60%.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, TD, commented:
‘I am delighted at the striking increase in local students seeking to pursue a scientific field. Science and related fields are crucial to building the competitive strength of the midlands and in growing our economy. I commend Atlantic Corridor’s critical work in promoting science education in our schools and higher level institutes across the midlands. The pursuit of excellence in science has particular relevance given my Government’s proposed midlands regional pilot on Action Plan for Jobs. The aim is that the pilot framework for the midlands will serve as a model for other regions and will maximise the potential for job creation in the region.’

Many of the global medical technologies and pharmaceutical companies now have a dedicated presence in Ireland it is critical that we ensure the adequate talent pool is available to them here in the Midlands. A recent report by accountants Grant Thornton concluded that while Ireland continues to outperform its competitors in attracting FDI there are still issues that need to be addressed such as skills shortages within the ICT, science and engineering sectors.

Much of the good work being performed by Atlantic Corridor in STEM promotion is as a result of relevant global links and international partnerships which have been developed and fostered over the past ten years. In close cooperation with national and international partners and other State Agencies to foster the international dimension of Ireland’s economic growth, Atlantic Corridor continues to provide effective international relations for a variety of projects.

By continuing to work with key corporate and academic partners, the hope is that the number of students pursuing STEM at third level will continue to rise and we can work towards ensuring the necessary human resource pool is in place here in our local economy.

Festival Success….

Craig Jonathan garyWith over fifty events ranging from entertaining FameLab workshops and enthralling reptile visits to science bubble shows and brilliant presentations on ‘why we age’ and the scientific heritage of the Midlands, there really was something for all age groups during this year’s Midlands Science Festival. It was therefore no surprise that the number of people in attendance this year reached over 4,500 people. Events were held in venues around the region with many taking place at Athlone Institute of Technology, others in schools and even outdoors.

Jackie Gorman, Director of the Midlands Science Festival commented,
‘I am delighted at the success of our second Midlands Science Festival, which as promised was bigger and better than the one we ran last year in. It was wonderful to see so many families attending some of our new events such as ‘Stargazing on the Bog’ on the final night and it was also fantastic to see some of our key speakers interacting with audiences in very relaxed settings such as libraries, pubs and cafes this year. Organising such a large event is certainly a challenge but one we really enjoyed and I wish to thank Science Foundation Ireland, all of our partners, speakers, performers and host venues once again for making this all possible.’

Visitors to this year’s festival also had the opportunity to attend talks by some of Ireland’s leading scientists (See Tullamore Alchemist Café in photo). It was great to see audiences of all ages, ranging from school pupils and teenagers to highly respected science experts, communicators and professors. The festival is a fantastic way to really capture the imagination and show people that science can be fun.

A good number of Midlands students also had the opportunity to avail of some high level careers advice 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.

The organisers of the Midlands Science Festival also wish to thank the public, many of whom travelled from beyond the region to attend some of the events which took place this year.

Jackie Gorman continued,
‘We have been overwhelmed by the level of enthusiasm and goodwill from our partners, local media, venues and many other organisations and individuals throughout the region. The large public turnout totalling over 4,500 people in attendance shows the appetite for this type of regional event and after another successful year, we can hopefully look forward to bringing the Midlands Science Festival back to this region again.’

Bubbles, bubbles everywhere!

Bubble shots Steve scoil mhuireSome very happy pupils enjoyed the Bubble Show today when Bubble Master, Steve Allman returned to the Midlands Science Festival to entertain and enthral with his many tricks ….all relating to bubbles!

We loved the fact that the pupils asked such great questions how does smoke stay in the bubbles and how do the bubbles stay over your head!?

Keep an eye out for some impressive photos which we will be adding to the site later this week. This really was a very magical, colourful and fun event … evident in the endless cheers that could be heard coming from the school’s PE hall all day today!

Fun with Radio and Reptiles!

close up snake St. PetersSee below podcast of our time with snakes and spiders yesterday in Athlone!

http://www.midlandsradio.fm/podcasts

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.