Choose a discipline that you are passionate about…

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.

Explore Pets and Relationships during Science Week!

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.’

www.midlandsscience.ie/events
twitter @curiouskim1

Photo: David Nally and Neil Ashe with their dog Albert and Midlands Science Festival director, Jackie Gorman

 

There are no facts that are not scientific!

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.

Pets, Intimacy and Relationships for Science Week!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Science is a great gateway for students…

We were delighted to have Chris Coombs from Tullamore Physio in to speak to students at Tullamore College last week. Chris is also a lecturer in the Sports Science department at AIT and gave students a whole host of tips on sports injury prevention during their ‘Healthy Living Week’ as well as advice on facilities and courses at AIT. We had a chat to Chris to find out more about his career and what inspired him to study physiotherapy!

Chris, what was it that first inspired you to pursue a career in physiotherapy? I know you are sports mad, could that be something to do with it?

I was always fascinated with sports performance. I was playing rugby and judo in wales and was constantly trying to get the best out of myself but for various reasons I kept getting injured (Now I know why!) – So for me it was a no brainer if I couldn’t play top level sport it provided a great chance of being involved in high level sport!

Can you tell us a bit about your background, where you studied and what course you took?

My first degree was in Sports Science, I studied this at Glamorgan University and this gave me a good background in sports performance testing and training elite athletes. Following this I attended Cardiff medical School and completed a Degree in Physiotherapy. I then undertook post graduate courses looking at running mechanics, athlete load monitoring and various courses to help treat different conditions. At present Im studying a Masters in Clinical Physiotherapy which is based out of Curtin University, Australia!

 

Did you like science in school?

Yes I quite liked science it was better than maths! At school I probably wasn’t the most dedicated student but as I got a little older I found I enjoyed it more!

We are delighted to hear you are now sharing your expert knowledge and lecturing in the Midlands third level institution, AIT? What courses are you teaching there?

Fortunately, I was lucky enough to be appointed lecturer in Athletic Therapy & Rehabilitation. I’ve been lucky enough to attend some of the best universities in the UK and Australia but I was blown away by the sports facilities in AIT – They have some great cutting edge technology there.

There aren’t enough future scientists! What can we be doing to encourage more young people to pursue a science related qualification at third level?

I think Science is a great gateway for students. It allows students to branch off into so many different areas such as sport, hospital based jobs to researching cancer etc. My advice to students is to pursue science related jobs ..not only are there many well paid jobs but there is such a different range of jobs that you can go into. It also allows you to travel the world.  I never have imagined I’d end up working in elite sport and now lecturing at AIT.

Science is not something abstract!

We are really excited about welcoming Dr. Patricia Heavy to Tullamore College tomorrow for her talk during Healthy Living Week. Patricia is Course Co-ordinator for the Bsc Health Science and Nutrition at Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) and she will be talking to students about science courses, nutrition, wellbeing and potential career choices.

 

What inspired you towards a science related career?

When I was in secondary school many of the subjects I studied looked at how food and a person’s diet can have a huge effect on health and disease. I thought this was fascinating so I applied to do a nutrition degree in the University of Ulster. This was a brilliant way to explore how nutrition influences all aspects of our lives. Studying nutrition involves understanding the factors that influence the food we eat, what nutrients that food contains, what happens to those nutrients in the body and the effect of the diet on health and disease. What we eat and what we choose to eat can affect how our body works, how well we perform, our mental wellbeing as well as being an important part of social interactions. I found it all so interesting and over the years, I have worked in a variety of nutrition roles- research, communication, nutrition advisor and lecturing. I am now working in AIT as a lecturer and course co-ordinator for the Health Science and Nutrition degree. Students on this course gain an understanding of nutrition and health. We are very keen that students can translate that knowledge into practice so on the course students undertake placements as well as getting involved in different nutrition projects and working with the community to promote nutrition and health messages.

What types of jobs can students apply for with a Nutrition qualification?

Students with a nutrition degree can work in a variety of areas. Many students go on to work in health promotion or community nutrition- working to improve nutrition and health knowledge, attitudes, behaviour and health outcomes among individuals, families or small, groups. Some students go on to work in nutrition and health research- investigating the links between diet, food and its impact on health and disease. Another career option is to work in the food industry- there are new products constantly developed and Nutritionists can be part of these teams. For example, many nutritionists have worked with other scientists to develop healthier food options, supplements and nutritional aids for athletes. Communications is another interesting area- many companies and organisations have Nutritionists who will talk to the media and the public about healthy eating as well as developing nutrition education tools such as leaflets, books and websites/blogs. If you are interested in working with patients (people with a specific disease/illness) you can go on and train to become a Dietitian. Students who complete a nutrition degree can go on and do postgraduate training to become a Dietitian- this usually takes a further 18-24 months.

What are events like the Midlands Science Festival so important do you think?

I think it is a great opportunity to explore the world around us- it is so important to be curious about why things happen and how they have an effect on us personally and on the environment. Science is all around us- events like the Midlands Science Festival provide students with the opportunity to explore the vastness of science in a fun way.

What else can we be doing to encourage more young people to consider a third level option and career in science?

It is important that young people realise that science is not something abstract but a part of everything we do. I think that helping students to understand this connection will encourage them to consider a career in science. I also think it helps if students are aware that science is so broad – there are so many different careers out there.

Midlands Science and AIT to Participate in Healthy Living Week

Local development company Midlands Science is delighted to be participating in the 2017 Annual Tullamore College Healthy Living Week. Healthy Living Week in Tullamore College focuses on all aspects of health; physical, emotional and mental, with talks, workshops and activities running all week. A series of these talks have been organised in partnership with the region’s third level education provider, Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) and these talks will cover a range of subjects from health and wellbeing advice to careers and course information across the fields of health and nutrition, sports science, physiotherapy and others.

Kelly Doolan, one of the co-ordinators of Tullamore College Healthy Living Week commented,

‘This is a really important week for students and staff of Tullamore College and it makes a big difference to its success when we provide a different range of events and activities every year. The talks provided by Midlands Science and AIT will offer students not only some very valuable advice on better nutrition and well-being during the busy academic times in their lives but will also provide an insight in to the types of relevant courses of study that are available at AIT and other colleges and universities as students start to think about what line of study they will pursue after secondary school. I’m really grateful to everybody taking part and we are very much looking forward to holding similar events in the future.’

The week is an opportunity for students to focus and build their knowledge around healthy eating, being active and personal wellbeing, as well as to consider making positive changes in health behaviours and attitudes towards what we eat and physical activity.

Jackie Gorman of Midlands Science said,

‘As part of our ongoing work to promote science education across the region, it is important for us to not only roll out a wide range of workshops and events during Science Week itself but to also aim to have ongoing activities that continue to spread the message that science is all around and is a good third level and career choice for so many reasons. Participating in Healthy Living Week gives ourselves and our academic partner, AIT the opportunity to meet a number of students, educate them on the scope of courses available here in the Midlands and also to encourage them to explore the many different career options that may be available them should they choose a science related course in the future.’

Healthy Living Advice for Midlands Students…

As part of an ongoing new collaboration with the region’s third level provider, Athlone Institute of Technology, we are really excited to be participating in this year’s Healthy Living Week at Tullamore College. We caught up with one of our key speakers, Dr. Aoife Lane to find out more….

Aoife, we are delighted to be partnering with AIT this year on our science promotion initiatives and we are really grateful for the career talks that you will be providing to senior Midlands students later this week..Can you tell us a bit about your role at AIT?

I am Head of Department of Sport and Health Science here in AIT. We have approximately 16 staff and 400 students in our Department with an additional 12 students studying at postgraduate level.

What inspired you towards a science related career?

I really enjoyed Science subjects in secondary school, particularly Chemistry and Biology. I was also a big fan of sport so studying Sport Science in UL was an easy choice for me. I have enjoyed learning about how physical activity and exercise promotes health from a physiological and even broader perspective.

What types of exciting jobs have some of your students pursued after courses within Sports Science?

Students are progressing to work in clinical exercise physiology, providing opportunities for exercise to people who may be overweight, have suffered a cardiac event or may be diabetic or even struggling with their mental health. Other graduates have moved into broader science related careers, in nutrition, psychology, human movement and rehabilitation.

What can we do to encourage more young people to consider science courses at third level?

I think seeing is believing in this regard. More exposure for young people to sport and health science, along with enhanced visibility of further study and career options will encourage greater engagement in this field at third level.

What is your favourite science fact?

If you meet physical activity guidelines every day, but sit for prolonged periods, you remain at risk for ill health! Sitting is bad for you!

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!

 

Taking Science out of the Lab…

Luke-ONeillWe are so excited about our Alchemist Cafes where this year we will be taking science to the theatre and even to the pub!

See Events page for details of our Alchemist cafes where you will have the opportunity to hear from Ireland’s best known scientist Prof Luke O’Neill, an amazing science communicator and also Sile Lane of Sense about Science, for an evening of discussion and debate about the hot issues in science and how they affect our lives.

Prof Luke O’Neill was a huge hit at last year’s festival and he has recently been named in the top 1% of scientists world-wide due to his ground-breaking work in immunology. Sile Lane is passionate about science and encouraging people to ask for the evidence in a world where it is often difficult to distinguish between science and pseudoscience or clever marketing. Join these two inspiring science communicators for an entertaining evening of science discovery and discussion. This evening will be chaired by award-winning broadcaster Jonathan McCrea of Newstalk’s Futureproof programme

Professor Luke O’ Neill said, ‘Science Week is all about inspiring the next generation of scientists through hands-on learning and experience. The ongoing scarceness of qualified Irish scientists certainly brings challenges so I am really keen to get involved in anything which promotes the fantastic adventure and exploration that science can be. The more young people we can encourage to choose a science-related career path, the more significant discoveries we are likely to have coming out of Ireland into the future.’

Join us on the night of Nov 11th at Athlone Institute of Technology, but remember to book your free ticket through this website!