In Conversation with Gary Donohoe….

We had the pleasure of having a pre-festival chat with Professor Gary Donohoe recently and wanted to share some of his views below. The good news is Gary will also be returning this November to the Midlands Science Festival and he will bring some of his most cutting-edge research s tories from the School of Psychology at NUI, Galway. Gary is clinically active in mental health service delivery.

What is your current role at NUI Galway?
In July 2013 I was appointed as Professor and chair of Psychology at NUI Galway.

What is the best part of your job?
I’d have to say it is working within a research team of very talented people. I particularly like the multi-disciplinary nature of the team, consisting of geneticists, psychologists, psychiatrists, statisticians, and pharmacologists. As a psychologist, I’ve learned loads from peoplefrom other disciplines and I’m passionate about helping people learn more about psychology and neuroscience.

What advice would you give young students considering a career in science?
My advice would be to try to locate yourself at the intersection between two main areas of science. For me that’s where all the really innovative work goes on. Neuroscience is a great example of this, as it spans biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology. In many instances, great science happens when people apply discoveries from one area of science to another.

How do you think we could make science more attractive to young people?
Science is most attractive when its applied value for solving real world problems is highlighted. In medical science, for example, there are tons of great examples of this from new cancer treatments, understanding the genetics of psychiatric disorders and development of new technologies to help with physical disability.

What do you think about most during your day and is there anything you would really love to investigate further if you had no limitations?
I spend most of my day thinking about my next coffee! If I had no limitations I would love to see a break through in how the ‘basic’ science work I do on the genetics of brain structure and function translates in to new treatments for mental health disorders. Right now, we’re still uncovering how genetic variants, both individually and working together in pathways, are responsible for the brain architecture. Using these insights to develop new treatments – both pharmacological and social, is something I really hope to see in my career.

What has been the most exciting scientific development for you over the course of your career to date?
The staggering pace of technology development means that there is much to chose from, whether in the areas of neuroimaging, climate change, or – as my son Ben would choose, the work of the NASA Mars rover ‘curiosity’. For me personally, though, I have been most excited by the move towards ‘big data’ consortia – large networks of scientists combining enormous quantities of data in order to answer questions that could not otherwise be answered. Two examples of this are the Enigma consortium and the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium, each of which are designed to help discover the genes involved in brain structure and neuropsychiatric disorders. The Nature paper last month, identifying 108 new genetic variants associated with schizophrenia was a landmark discovery for these fields; it feels great to be part of projects that can really answer these questions.

Why is it important to host and support events such as the Midlands Science Festival do you think?
There is great science being carried out in Ireland at the moment. While we get the headlines of this in the media, events such as the Midlands Science Festival allow people to engage with these developments at a deeper level. It’s an opportunity for people to see and hear about the fascinating things we know now that we didn’t know 10 or even 5 years ago.

Top Science broadcaster set to return..

Tonight, award-winning science communica tor Jonathan McCrea is in Donegal preparing the public to ‘lick their lips’ at his new live show, Gulp! Jonathan and his colleague, chef Ivan Varian (Dalkey Food Company) will turn taste buds turned upside down as they talk about taste and serve up some delicious (and not so delicious!) treats. More info at www.atasteofdonegal.com

We are delighted to confirm that Jonathan, RTE’s The Science Squad and Newstalk’s Futureproof presenter, will be joining us back in this region at the Midlands Science Festival to present a number of different science shows in Tullamore and also in Athlone Insitiute of Technology.
Check our ‘Event’s section for details of our public science entertainment line-up which is currently taking shape. More events will be added in the coming days!

In Conversation with Ursula Farrell…

UrsulaLast week, we had a chance to catch up with Technical Sales Manager for Synergy Health in Tullamore, Ms. Ursula Farrell. Ursula will be showing some students around her company’s facility during Science Week and providing them with insights in to what it is like to work for a medical devices company…She will also be carrying out some fun experiments with younger pupils and providing some valuable lessons, such as the importance of hand-washing!

What is your role within Synergy Health and what do you like most about it?
I am the Technical Sales Manager for Synergy Health which means I am responsible for dealing with all our cus tomers, taking care of their needs and making sure they are happy.

At Synergy Health we make sure that all Medical Devices made in Ireland are clean and safe to be used by patients. At the Doc tor’s office all the equipment you see will have been cleaned at Synergy Health so there are no possible germs present. In hospitals, all the instruments used in the operating theatre will have been cleaned at Synergy Health too. During surgery, anything used for the patient will have been sterilized like a stent to go in to your heart or a new knee or hip replacement.

The thing I like most about my job is that I get to deal with lots of new people every day but also I know we are helping to save people’s lives.

Tell me about why you decided to pursue a science career in the first place?
I always enjoyed science in school because we got to look at animals and plants and how they work in Biology. Chemistry and physics were harder but once you gave it a chance, it was so interesting and there were lots of experiments and learning about how the world works.

I was worried that choosing science as a career would mean working in a labora tory and having very little choice in where I wanted to work but this is not the case. With my Science degree I was still able to choose to work in the Sales and Marketing department and I needed to have a science back ground to be able to explain to our cus tomers what we do.

Why is it important for companies to support events such as the Midlands Science Festival?
I think any company with a background in Science should be involved so we can encourage children at a young age to understand what studying science can do for them. There are so may varied aspects to a career in Science that perhaps they don’t understand. Allowing Children to see the internal workings of a manufacturing plant or a labora tory and to show them how these jobs help people every day will make Science as a subject more interesting.

Are there are any specific challenges in attracting women in to science related fields and do you have any suggestions on how this could be addressed?
There are far more women involved in Science and Engineering today, in fact most of our Technical Engineers are women here in Tullamore. Science was always perceived as a tough subject to pass at school, especially in chemistry, but once you have confidence about your chosen path and are open to the subjects they become so interesting.

What Makes Us Curious?

blog_curious Why are some people more ticklish than others? What is it that causes us to yawn? Why do we feel dizzy after spinning around? Children are always asking very good questions and often their questions are directly related to science but they don’t always know it. So what is it that makes us so inquisitive? Is it because we like to let our imaginations run wild and go to places that in reality we might never see? Perhaps it is because we have such a passion for learning and finding the answers to things even if there is no real reason behind wanting to know in the first place?

Curiosity is about keeping an open mind, being able to enjoy new experiences while at the same time always looking for challenges and wanting to learn something new. Einstein once declared that he had no special talents, only he was passionately curious!

Our mind is like a muscle and it grows stronger through continual mental exercise. Curiosity can also be contagious. We hope that during the Midlands Science Festival that by engaging some brilliant speakers and providing a meeting place for everyone interested in science, that we might be able to provide some answers to your many curiosities. Never s top questioning – Join us during the week of November 9th and see what you might be able to discover!

Looking Back on 2013

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The opportunity to gain a closer understanding of how your brain works, to mix maths with magic and fun and find out what it feels like to have an exotic reptile hanging from your shoulders were just some of the exciting experiences which took place across the Midlands during Science Week last year.

The Midlands Science Festival 2013 really inspired people to think differently about science. The large public turnout totalling over 4,000 people showed there is a great appetite for this type of regional educational event and one of the most encouraging fac tors was the diversity of the audiences attracted during the week.

Through the medium of carefully crafted workshops and career advisory sessions; many young people had the chance to learn more about the kinds of science-related jobs that would potentially be available to them in the future. High-value career guidance advice was delivered during the festival from companies such as Cpl Recruitment, market-leading technology firm Ericsson and Human Resources Consultancy, Pro-Active Management.

Jackie Gorman, CEO of Atlantic Corridor said, “Throughout Science Week 2013, we were overwhelmed by the level of enthusiasm and goodwill from our corporate partners, local schools, key speakers, local media, venues and many other organisations and individuals throughout the region. Most of the event tickets were sold in advance so it was fantastic to witness the excitement that people anticipated and now we look forward to bringing the festival back to this region again.”

Other highlights included a presentation to a packed audience by award winning journalist Jonathan McCrea, school experiments such as examining bacteria and exploring the solar system, alchemist cafés full of debate and discussion and more. The hope is that the once very clear line between science and popular culture might be fading and science will continue to earn more of a place in society by demonstrating just how connected it is to everyday life.

A Little Taster….

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This year’s exciting programme will be launched in more detail in the coming weeks and will include a packed variety of engaging shows, exhibitions and hands-on fun demonstrations in classrooms and theatres alike! Here is some detail of the events we are planning.

Jackie Gorman, Direc tor of the Midlands Science Festival said, ‘The festival will allow people of all ages to discover something new, participate in a large number of hands-on science and technology activities and see a whole host of live performances by science enthusiasts, experts and communica tors. We hope to bring together a large number of interested participants including entrepreneurs and researchers, science students and the general public from all over the Midlands.’

Some Highlights
Starting with the younger ones, we have plenty of events planned for our mini-scientists this year. We can look forward to a visit from the Junior Einsteins Science Club  to some of our local schools. This fascinating club teaches children core aspects of Biology, Chemistry & Physics through fun experiments, messy ‘make and do’, quizzes and more fun!  We are also delighted to welcome back a firm favourite, the Reptile Zoo Village, to a number of schools where pupils will have the opportunity to pet a snake or a large spider if that is their desire! In addition, Ingenious Ireland, Irish Sound, Science and Technology Association (ISSTA) and the Rediscovery Centre will all provide something new for the 2014 Midlands Science Festival.

Science Week gives young people a chance to meet and hear from experts who have the ability to share their expertise and encourage the next generation to consider a career in science. Throughout the week, we will have several presentations from key people working in different science fields and we will also host a number of science and technology career’s workshops with key local companies and academia for 2nd level students.

As well as celebrating science in schools we intend to provide some really unique and inspiring events for the general public too. This will include the return of last year’s ‘Science Movie’ night, which is a unique audiovisual experience featuring some of the best science s tories from the world of animation, radio and television. And with top scientists such as Professor Luke O Neill now confirmed, we can promise a number of alchemist cafes full of lively debate and discussion during the week. This is just a taste of what we have lined up and we look forward to revealing our full programme of events very soon!

Be part of the Midlands Science Festival

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”358″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”left”][vcex_spacing size=”10px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]There are many ways in which you can be part of the festival – whether you would like to host your own event at your school or business, speak or volunteer in some way at one of our keynote events, please get in touch and we can discuss your possible involvement and explore how we might be able to work together. We are focused on trying to facilitate dialogue between scientists and the public and we want to widely disseminate best practice, resources and knowledge. Perhaps you would like to share your research with the public or with schools through a talk or another hands-on activity or maybe you have something fun and exciting that would really help encourage younger people to consider a science field as part of their further studies. Through several different initiatives and by working with a range of corporate, educational and state partners we are weaving our way through a huge amount of ideas to make sure that the festival contains something for all age groups. We will be launching the proposed programme very soon, so watch this space-there are exciting times to come!

The power of science is all around us and this is the theme for Science Week. We see, hear, touch, taste and experience the wonder of science every day. From the electricity that lights and heats our homes, to smart phones 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![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Counting Down to Science Week

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”362″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_self” alignment=”left” img_size=”full”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_spacing size=”10px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It may still be a few months away but we already have our thinking caps on to make this year’s ‘Midlands Science Festival’ even bigger and more fun and action packed than last year. There will be an exciting range of new events with a promise of something for everyone but we will also bring back some of the most popular sessions from last year with the overall aim of inspiring, educating and entertaining through science!

We are also focusing on regional activities and events which will hopefully help young people around the Midlands in particular, develop an interest in STEM subjects beyond the confines of the curriculum and increase their awareness of potential careers in those areas. Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) recently launched a new three-year plan for its Smart Futures initiative which is aimed at delivering a 10% increase in uptake of science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) subjects at second and third level by 2016. The overall objective is to close the skills gap which still exists in sec tors such as ICT, life sciences, and engineering.

We want to be part of this collective endeavour and you can help us by taking science out of the lab and in to the streets, public spaces, libraries and other fun places. You can help us celebrate science![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]