Capture the Attention of Young Minds!

nanoWe caught up Offaly’s Lucy Prendeville after she received her Leaving Cert results in which she achieved an amazing 8 A1’s! She has now headed happily off to Trinity College Dublin to study Nanoscience….

What advice would you give to someone going into exam year?

In my experience, routine is key. I had a steady routine that I stuck to religiously. I came home from school and took a break until four o’clock. I studied from four to six and then took a break from six until seven, where I had my dinner and watched some television to wind down. I then studied from seven until ten. Once it hit ten o’clock I put the books away. There is no point studying late into the night, you wont take anything in and you will only be tired the next day. It is very important to be disciplined in sixth and even fifth year. It’s all worth it in the end!

What was your favourite subject and why?

I absolutely love physics, chemistry and maths but chemistry was definitely the one that tickled my curiosity. From the start of fifth year I was amazed by this subject. I enjoyed every single topic in chemistry. I was fascinated by the detail involved and always enjoyed carrying out experiments. I think that chemistry explains so much and it can be seen everywhere in the world. I loved connecting things that I learned from my chemistry book with real life. I never felt bored with a chemistry book in front of me.

Did many students at your school study science or were there more popular subject choices?

We were very lucky in my secondary school Sacred Heart in Tullamore because all of the science subjects were catered for; biology, chemistry, physics and ag science. However of them all, biology was definitely the most popular.

What are you planning to study at third level?

My course is called ‘Nanoscience, Physics and Chemistry of Advanced Materials’ and I will be studying it in Trinity College. I am very excited to start and I feel that this course will really suit me. It incorporates my three favourite subjects; physics, chemistry and maths.

At the moment Nanotechnologies are being used to change every day things ..is there anything you can see this discipline being able to do in the future..what is the next big thing in Nano..in your opinion?

Without a doubt, nanoscience is huge at the moment. I don’t think I could even begin to visualise what is in store for the world regarding nanoscience. All I can say is that the world is changing fast and without a doubt, nanoscience will be at the cutting edge.

Challenges remain in trying to ensure we have enough future scientists here in the Irish economy. What do you think we can do to encourage more young people to consider a future career in science?

In my opinion, it is necessary to capture the attention of the young minds! It all starts in primary school. I was very lucky to attend Scoil Mhuire national school in Tullamore which piqued my interest in science. I remember building a volcano and being fascinated at seeing it erupt with the addition of baking powder and vinegar. Groups of scientists came to the school with presentations on various aspects of the world such as spiders and dinosaurs. At that young age, these demonstrations were perfect to introduce us into the amazing world of science. For someone to consider a career in science, they need to have an interest in this area. I had the privilege of going to a primary school that opened my eyes to this magical world.

International Science Success!

We are delighted about the news that an Irish-born scientist has jointly won the 2015 Nobel Prize for medicine for work against parasitic diseases.

Donegal native William Campbell and Japanese Satoshi Omura won half of the prize for discovering a new drug, avermectin, that has helped the battle against river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, as well as showing effectiveness against other parasitic diseases.

Mr Campbell was born in Ramelton, Co Donegal in 1930 and is affiliated to Drew University, Madison, New Jersey, USA. He qualified from Trinity College Dublin with first class honours in zoology before being awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the University of Wisconsin, where he completed a doctorate on liver fluke.

We are really excited to feature many excellent science communicators at this year’s Midlands Science Festival. Check our events page in the coming weeks to find out more!

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 (www.rosseobservatory.ie), 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 www.sunspotter.org

‘My Mum still calls me when she finds a hidden bird’s nest!’

SFinlay_IDWe would like to introduce one of our key speakers, Sive Finlay, who will be delivering some exciting presentations in the Midlands this year called ‘The Silence of the Tenrecs’..

Sive is postgraduate Zoology researcher at Trinity College Dublin with a broad range of research interests in evolution, ecology, comparative biology and behavioural ecology.  She also has a keen interest in science writing and communication

We caught up with Sive to find out more …

Can you tell us a little bit about your role in TCD?
I’m a postgraduate student working in the Zoology department. That means that I work on my own research questions but I have a supervisor to offer guidance and advice. Being a research student is a bit like an apprentice training scheme: you learn how to become a fully-fledged scientist. My department is a fantastic place to work with lots of friendly staff and students who are always willing to offer a helping hand. There are also lots of opportunities to get involved with teaching and fun outreach activities, not to mention some great travel opportunities for conferences and fieldwork. It’s a great place to work!

Congratulations on being the 2014 winner of the Best Science and Technology blog at the Irish Blog Awards – Why is it so important to be able to communicate science effectively?
Thanks! This was the first year that we entered our EcoEvo@TCD blog so we were delighted to win the award. We have lots of staff and students who contribute interesting and varied articles so it was great to be recognised for our work. I love writing for the blog and it has definitely helped to hone my communication skills.

Many people think that science is incredibly complicated and too difficult to understand. I think that it’s our job as scientists to cut through that barrier and to make science interesting and accessible for wider audiences. New scientific discoveries and research affect every aspect of our daily lives so it’s important to communicate these ideas to the public. We need effective communicators to inspire the next generation of scientists and to share the new discoveries that shape our understanding of the world.

What piece of research currently interests you the most? What are you most passionate about in science?
My background is in zoology so I’ve always been interested in trying to understand how animals have evolved through interactions with their environment. But I’m equally curious and fascinated by areas completely outside my own research area. Most recently, I’ve been teaching primary school children about the big bang and the history of our universe (way outside my usual comfort zone) so that inspired me to read more about cosmology and astrophysics. I love the diversity of science: there’s always something new to discover!

What led you into a career in science and zoology in particular?
I’ve always been interested in nature and the environment and trying to figure out how things work. This was fuelled by a steady diet of David Attenborough documentaries and my mum, who still calls me when she’s found a pretty spider’s web or hidden bird’s nest. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after school so I chose a general science degree to keep my options open. I loved my biology courses, especially the ones on animal behaviour and evolution, so I followed my interests to complete a zoology degree. I became a zoologist by accident rather than design but I couldn’t be happier with my choice.

Why is it important to support festivals like the Midlands Science Festival?
I think the Midlands Science Festival is a great opportunity for people to learn what science is all about. The old stereotype of the “mad scientist” locked away in a lab is still too common. The events in this festival put a human face to scientific research and hopefully they will inspire more people to take an interest in science or to study STEM subjects. From the scientists’ point of view, festivals like these are really fun opportunities to share our enthusiasm for our subjects. Scientists talking about their research are usually a fairly excitable bunch!

http://sivefinlay.com/

 

Top Irish Scientist Confirmed for Midlands Science Festival

Luke-ONeillWe are thrilled to announce Leading Immunologist, Professor Luke O’ Neill of Trinity College Dublin as one of our keynote speakers at this year’s festival. Luke is known for his pioneering work on the molecular understanding of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and he addressed an impressed audience for ‘An Evening of Drug Discovery’ at the festival in 2013. We are privileged to have Luke back in the Midlands again for Science Week. The full festival line-up will be announced very soon!

Luke was recently named amongst 11 researchers based in Irish universities who were ranked among the world’s top 3,000 by the multinational media body, Thompson Reuters. Inclusion means the person’s research is listed in the top 1% for the number of times their work has been cited by other scientists. I recently had a chat with Luke to hear some of his views on the image of science and various other factors in advance of this year’s event….

What first inspired you towards a career in science?
An interest in biology at school led me to study biochemistry at university. Once I started doing research and discovering new things I was then hooked as it was tremendously satisfying. I also felt I could make a difference by working in science and medical research.

What are the key factors that are going to be important to guarantee the future of Irish science in your opinion?
Continued government investment in research and in education is essential.

What do we need to do to make the image of science more appealing?
More science in the media – emphasising fun and excitement and how science can provide you with huge fulfilment.

What advice would you give to young people considering a career in science?
Come and join the adventure!

What do you enjoy the most about teaching the next generation of scientists?
There is a real satisfaction in explaining complex phenomena in ways that students can understand such that they themselves can get engaged in science.

Are there particular areas where we are particularly short of skilled graduates?
Probably in IT.

Why is ‘Science Week’ such an important annual event in Ireland?
The more science events we have the better, as it gets the message across that science is great!