Great News for Irish Science!

Science Foundation Ireland funds research in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to assist the development and competitiveness of industry, enterprise and employment in Ireland. We are delighted to share this news today.



A month to go!

We are really on the final countdown now with just around four weeks to go until this years Midlands Science Festival kicks off across the region with a bang!

We look forward to children’s workshops on kite flying, home made volcanoes, marine life, reptiles and water safety and we have a whole host of careers talks lined up with speakers from UCD, NUI Maynooth, Royal College of Surgeons, TCD and Athlone Institute of Technology to name a few! Other highlights include a skills networking breakfast, a public event on the science of sleep, science yarnbombing, birdwatching, superfoods, space exploration and much, much more!

We want to say a massive thank you to all of our partners, festival supporters/followers, speakers, presenters and partaking schools. This festival could not take place without you and we are most grateful to you for helping us spread the message that science is everywhere! Not long to go now!

Bringing Science to Yarnbombing!

We are super excited about this one. Its quirky, different and brand new to this year’s festival but of course has a science twist. We caught up with Nina to find out more!
Yarnbombing is thought to have originated in the US but knitters are now beginning to give Irish streets a makeover..using wool! Can you tell us what is yarn bombing?
Yarnbombing (also known as “urban knitting” or “guerrilla knitting”) is a form of street art whereby items such as street furniture (public seating, bins etc.) are covered with items made of yarn. The items can be crocheted, knitted, felted or whatever. It is temporary and fleeting in nature and usually installed secretly.
Where are you based and what type of events do you get involved in?
We are based in Mountmellick, Co. Laois. Our town has a long history of textiles and is famous for Mountmellick Embroidery. We believe that our heritage has inspired our love of all things textile. There are many crocheters, knitters, embroiderers and crafters in our town. Our group has been involved in many collaborations. The highlight so far this year was having designed and created a garden for Bloom in the Park. We were approached by the Bloom organisers to submit a design after they saw a piece about us on RTE’s Nationwide. Our design was accepted into this prestigious festival and it was a massive honour for us and the town. 
What will you be doing during Science Week?
During Science Week, we will be creating common viruses and some body parts from yarn (knitted and crocheted) so that children can see, feel and touch these often mysterious germs and get to see their structure and shape in a fun (and non-contagious!) way.
Why is it important to get involved in local activities like the Midlands Science Festival?
We believe that anything that inspires children to investigate the world around them, question why things work as they do, wonder why a ball bounces or how a flower blooms, is of the utmost importance. The minds of children are like sponges and immersing them in the wonderful world of science at a young age is the perfect opportunity to influence and impress them. If our yarny bits give the impetus to one or two of them to take up knitting or crochet as a hobby, all the better! From a scientific point of view, these hobbies are good for their creativity, their fine motor and mathematical skills. It’s a win-win!
Can anybody participate in what you do?
Yes. We meet once a week (Monday nights at 7:30pm) in Mountmellick Community Arts Centre, Parnell Street Mountmellick. We welcome beginners, improvers or experts. Whether you knit, crochet, work with felt or would like to learn a little, come and join us. We see ourselves primarily as a community group. Our aims are not self-serving. We do what we do to put a smile on peoples’ faces. Check out our Facebook page if you need any further information or wish to get in touch with us:

Mixing a little Science with some Heritage!

We are delighted to be working with friend to the Midlands Science festival, Catherine Casey who is Heritage Officer for Laois County Council and fellow science enthusiast!

Catherine, you are the Heritage Officer for Laois County Council and friend to the Midlands Science you have a science background?

Yes, I studied Science in UCD, graduating with a degree in Zoology. I went on the study Ecology in more detail and graduated with a Master of Science degree from Durham University in the UK in 1992.

Can you tell us a little bit about your role and the path you took to get there?

The Heritage Officer role is very diverse, covering all aspects of Ireland’s built, natural and cultural heritage, so everything from archaeology to wildlife! The role is supported by the national Heritage Council, based in Kilkenny, and I am lucky to be part of a great network of Local Authority Heritage Officers covering most counties in Ireland.

It was a steep learning curve for me moving into this role in 2003, and I sill learn something new every single day. Before starting with Laois County Council I worked with BirdWatch Ireland for over 10 years, first as a fieldworker on the Corncrake conservation programme, and later focussing more on conservation policy and advocacy, mostly around Ireland’s threatened farmland birds. Wildlife is a big part of the Heritage Officer role, but only one part of it, and I have relied very much on the support of the Heritage Council and colleagues from other diverse backgrounds to help me develop the new skills I needed for this role.

What is the best thing about your job?

It’s incredibly rewarding to work closely with communities and committed local volunteers who care so much about their heritage and give up so much of their time to enhance their own local area. I feel very lucky to be in a position to work with such dedicated and enthusiastic people.

Is public engagement an important part of your work and if so, why?

Yes it’s central to the role of Heritage Officer, because agencies and local authorities can only achieve so much, we need to harness to love and appreciation that all local people have for their heritage, and to ensure that it is passed on to future generations.

There’s a quote I love from a forester from Senegal called Baba Dioum: “In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught.” That sums it up really.

Why are events like the Midlands Science Festival so important?

While we work year-round to enhance awareness, concentrated events like Science Week and Heritage Week are a great opportunity to reach a much larger audience, to be part of a national event and to achieve greater coverage in the media. I think as a result of a greater background level of awareness, families may try out events during Science Week that they might not otherwise know about or make time for. And one event can be the start of the awakening of a love for science in a young person, and who knows where that might lead.

How would you encourage more young people to consider a career in science?

That’s a tough one! I might go against the grain and say start with what you love, and what interests you. None of us really knows what career opportunities lie ahead when we chose a course of study – the role of Heritage Officer didn’t even exist when I started college, and careers in conservation we few and far between in this country. But choosing something I loved to study, led me to a career I love, and that fills me with enthusiasm every day. Who could ask for more than that?

Minding our Minds – World Mental Health Day

Today marks annual World Mental Health Day which has the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world. The day is an opportunity to focus on the increasing need to heighten efforts in support of mental health and to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.

The Midlands Science Festival has held a number of events for schools and the public in past years around this subject and we feel it is so important to play our part in ensuring that people know they are not alone and know where they can access supports.

Just last year we were delighted to welcome clinical psychologist, Dr Eddie Murphy to the region where he spoke to a vast number of secondary students (photo) and also the general public at a separate event all about the science of mental fitness.

The aim with this event was to provide people with a practical toolkit for managing life’s challenges, exploring methods for building up and maintaining mental fitness and a positive outlook. Understanding and tackling the roots to powerful emotions and what keeps them going can free you to live a life away from negativity to one that is focused and positive.

Other events which looked at the science of the mind included some fascinating talks from Professor and chair of Psychology at NUI Galway, Dr Gary Donohoe. Gary is clinically active in mental health service delivery and has addressed public audiences at our festivals on topics such as how the brain works. We look forward to more future similar events as we all work together to promote the importance of mental health and looking after our minds.

Science Talks and Student Opinions at Tullamore College!

We were delighted to visit Tullamore Colge yesterday where we held science career talks from local toxicologist and Midlands Science board member Dr.Craig Slattery and also from HR specialist and board member, Anne Scally.

A number students were also interviewed on the day and asked a series of questions about STEM careers. We got some really good feedback and were delighted to hear that students choosing science in Tullamore College is undoubtedly on the increase! We look forward to going back for more talks and discussion during Science Week.

New Local Board Member for Midlands Science

New Local Board Member for Midlands Science Local development company Midlands Science (formerly Atlantic Corridor) is pleased to announce that local scientist, Dr. Craig Slattery will join the board of directors later this month. An Offaly native, Craig is an experienced educator and lecturer in pharmacology and related disciplines including toxicology, regulatory affairs, and human diseases.

Martin Cronin, Chairman of Midlands Science commented, ‘Dr. Slattery brings with him extensive science outreach know-how and a broad range of science communication experience across all media platforms. I am very pleased to welcome him to our board of directors and look forward to his valuable guidance, energy and contribution as we work to implement a revised strategic direction under the new company name, Midlands Science. The creation of a new and more distinctive brand is a milestone for this company, whose extensive work in the promotion of education within science and technology fields is now well known throughout the Midlands region.’


In addition to his current role as Assistant Professor of Toxicology & Regulatory Affairs at University College Dublin, Craig works as a Science Outreach Specialist & Coach, is an Irish and European Registered Toxicologist (EUROTOX) and Vice-President of the Irish Society of Toxicology.

Dr. Slattery said,

‘‘I have been working with the Midlands Science team over the past couple of years as a speaker, science communicator and advisor and I have witnessed just how successful their work is to really encourage young people to study towards something that they have a passion for. Young people are naturally drawn to science. Children are natural experimenters. What we need to do is foster and encourage this thirst for knowledge and discovery as they decide what sort of career they would like to pursue. Midlands Science is actively engaged in a number of valuable projects to address science education promotion; an area I am most passionate about. I look forward to working with my new colleagues and with everyone who has a stake in science education development opportunities here in the Midlands and beyond.”

Science Magic & Titanic for the Midlands!

Located on the banks of the River Lagan, at Odyssey, the Northern Ireland Landmark Millennium Project, W5 provides spectacular views of Belfast and the River and is only a short walk from Belfast City Centre. With over 250 amazing interactive exhibits in four incredible exhibition areas, W5 provides a unique experience as well as fantastic fun for visitors of all ages. In addition to permanent exhibits, W5 also presents a changing programme of large and small scale temporary exhibitions and events.

We are so excited to welcome W5 to the Midlands this November and we spoke to Matthew to find out more about what this will all be about!

Can you tell us about W5, what is stands for and its main role?

W5 is Northern Ireland’s premiere science and discovery centre, sitting on the bank of the River Lagan in the Odyssey Complex in Belfast. The centre itself has 250+ interactive exhibits spread across several floors, as well as facilities for school workshops, daily science shows and our amazing 3-storey-tall Climbit attraction.

We get our name from five words beginning with ‘w’ that inquisitive minds often use – who, what, where, when and why. Our Core Ideology, which is at our very foundation, is “To Fire the Spirit of Discovery”, and our mission is to unlock the creativity and scientist in everyone. We achieve these aims with our interactive exhibition floors, demonstration shows, outreach, school workshops and larger education programmes.

What type of backgrounds do W5 workshop providers come from..

Our education team comes from a diverse array of backgrounds – marine biology, chemistry, geology, history, teaching, environmental science and even music! Such a wide array of expertise lets us come up with some really good ideas for shows and workshops, and we all share the same passion for communicating with audiences and engaging with the public in new exciting and interactive ways.

You are based in Belfast but is outreach an important part of what you do to encourage more young people to consider a career in science?

As W5 is an educational charity, our educational activities both in-house and in our outreach programme sit at the heart of what we do. We have been operating for 15 years and we have maintained a varied and busy outreach programme all that time, reaching an average of 30,000 people a year in schools, libraries, public events and many other venues. W5 is also the current administrator for the Northern Ireland STEM Ambassador Programme, meaning that we are responsible for managing a database of ambassadors from various STEM industries and arranging for them to attend events at schools and other venues where they can talk to young people to give them an idea of what STEM careers are like.

We are delighted that W5 will be coming to the Midlands this year, what can pupils expect from your workshops?

Our shows in Abbeyleix NS will be fun and informative, as well as highly interactive! We always develop shows with audience participation in mind, so we will need plenty of volunteers to help. The show we will be performing is called The Trouble with Titanic, and Abbeyleix has a special historic link to the ship in that the carpets on it were made there, so that will make our visit all the more fitting.

Why are events like national Science Week so important do you think?

It’s important that we spend time celebrating the things that matter to us most, and science is no exception. Science Week provides a programme of events that promote science in new and exciting ways to children and young people all across the country, helping them gain new perspective on some things they have learned in their education, but also hopefully opening their eyes to things they may not have seen before. Often these are opportunities that they may not have had otherwise.

The importance of Heart Health – World Heart Day

Today on World Heart Day, the World Heart Federation’s biggest platform for raising awareness about cardiovascular disease, we look back on a special Science Week event that we held last year all about the importance of your heart health.

At our well attended public event, we learned about the role of the heart in our bodies, the care it requires, the risk factors and what can happen if we neglect it. Cardiovascular or heart disease is a broad term for a range of diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels and accounts for 33 percent of all deaths in Ireland. Women account for half of the 16.5 million cardiovascular deaths that occur globally each year.

Internationally, the World Health Organisation estimates that by 2020, heart disease and stroke will become the leading cause of both death and disability worldwide, with the number of fatalities projected to increase to over 20 million a year. By 2030, this number is expected to jump again to 24 million fatalities per year.
Taking that first step toward a healthier lifestyle can be a challenge but decreasing the risks of heart disease is critical now more than ever as the pressures of modern day living. Check the website below to find out how you can take small actions to look after your heart now!

Science Career Talks Galore!

We are really looking forward to a wide variety of career talks this year; some will be pitched students from Transition Year upwards and some will be delivered to younger students who haven’t yet made specific future subject choices.

It is so important that we provide speakers who can talk to young people about their own experiences and also about the wide variety of careers on offer if you choose to pursue a course in science at third level. In the past we have had everything from sports psychologists and lecturers to science communications managers and physics experts! This year we will have talks from technology and health companies, nutritionists, a toxicologist and an experienced maths enthusiast to name a few!