If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

We are delighted that this year for Science Week we will be introducing specialist Dermatology nurse, Fidelma O’ Dowd who is a co-founder of The Healthy Skin Clinic based in Dublin and also the Midlands. When it comes to our skincare products, it can often be difficult to understand what is actually in them and whether the more expensive products are really better for our skin or not. We will be talking to Fidelma all around the topic of the science of skin and some of the most common issues that she encounters in her day to day work. Meanwhile, we caught up with Fidelma to find out more about what she does..

What inspired you to choose a career in the skincare industry?

It was an easy progression for me as I work as a Dermatology Advance Nurse Practitioner in large teaching hospital in Dublin, which I manage a caseload of skin conditions: chronic skin disease clinics (psoriasis, acne, eczema, rosacea), skin cancer diagnostic procedure (minor skin surgery).

Three years ago I expanded my skill set into the field of aesthetic and opened The Healthy Skin Clinic with clinics in Blanchardstown, Dublin and Ballymahon, Longford. Providing treatments for hyperpigmentation/ melasma, photo aging, anti-aging, acne, rosacea. The Healthy Skin clinic also provides a full range of medical aesthetic treatments such as mesotherapy, profhilio, micro needling, multideminsional de-pigmentation solutions, acne treatments, removal of benign skin lesions (skin tags)

At ‘The Healthy Skin Clinic’, all patients undertake a full skin/medical consultation prior to any treatment, to ensure all skincare treatment programmes are tailored and personalised to the client’s specific needs.

The Healthy Skin Clinic are stockists to some of the world’s leading medical skin care brands some are Obagi, Mesoestetic, Mc Cosmetics, so patients can enhance their skin treatments with the most suitable home care products under expert advice and consultation.

Our Skin Team

Lead Clinician Fidelma ODowd, our team of healthcare professionals consists solely of Registered nurses and Medical Doctors, providing medical skin treatment expertise.

Blanchardstown Team

  • Fidelma ODowd: Dermatology Advance Nurse Practitioner/Lead Clinician.
  • Meave OSullivan: Registered Nurse/Clinician
  • Dr Lylas Aljohmani (B.A;M.B;B.Ch;B.A.O;MCh)Medical Practitioner/ Botox clinics

Ballymahon Team

  • Fidelma ODowd: Dermatology Advanced Nurse Practitioner/Lead clinician
  • Joan Naughton: Registered Nurse/ Clinician
  • Dr Lylas Aljohmani (B.A;M.B;B.Ch;B.A.O;MCh): Medical Practitioner/Botox Clinics

Mr Stephen Kelly: Emergency Department Advance Nurse Practitioner/ Operational Manager

What are the most common issues that patients present with in your clinic?

Dark Spots/age spots/premature aging: you don’t get to choose where it appears. Somehow it just finds a home for itself, right there on the tip of your nose, your cheek, or somewhere else on your face. It’s a dark spot or age spot. Unfortunately, these unwanted spots aren’t likely to go away on their own.

So how does it happen?

Melanin is what gives colour to your skin. Light from the sun actually speeds up the production of melanin. Being exposed to the sun over long periods of time can cause a cluster of melanin to appear-this is how a dark spot occurs

Tanning is also caused by reaction to sun’s rays. That golden skin tone may look desirable, but is actually a sign of skin damage. Over the long term, this damage can lead to premature aging or even cancer

But sun exposure isn’t the only reason dark spots pop up. Sometimes its just part of aging. Genetics also plays a role. If you have light-coloured or fair skin, you are more likely to develop dark spots.

 

How can we prevent them?

The best way to help keep those pesky spots from appearing is to limit sun exposure.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t enjoy outdoors, but be aware of when the sun’s rays can cause the most damage. Between 10.00am and 2pm is when the sun is at its greatest strength. Limit your sun exposure during these hours if you can.

Also, as much as possible, wear long sleeve shirts, pants, and put on a hat to provide shade for your face. This applies for those times when you’re behind the wheel as well. Harmful rays can even penetrate through car windows(tinted windows offer some additional protection). As a general rule, if your going to be exposed to sunlight, wear a high-quality broad spectrum sunscreen with a UVA star rating 4-5, or

Logo on SPF, UVB 30-50.

What can I do to treat them?

If you want to help reduce the appearance of dark spots, practitioners frequently recommend products like Obagi Nu-Derm system. Obagi Nu-Derm includes  Prescription 4% hydroquinone, which is considered by many to be the gold standard in the treatment of dark spots. Ask your skin Practitioner  if Obagi Nu-Derm may be right for you.

Acne

Did You Know…….

  • A degree of acne affects nearly everyone between ages of 15-17
  • 15-20% of young people will experience moderate-severe acne
  • 85% prevalence rate in 12-24 year age group
  • 78% of girls between 8-12 have acne
  • 64% of 20-29 and 43% of 30-39 have visible acne
  • 3% of men and 5% of women with still had a degree of acne aged 40-49

 

Psychological Factors & Acne

Appearance has huge role in social communication and functioning. This effect is reinforced by media, industry and celebrity culture

Acne suffers experience:

  • Shame-70%
  • Embarrassment-63%
  • Anxiety-63%
  • Loss of confidence-67%
  • Impaired social contact-57%

Triggers

  • Hormones:

Puberty, premenstrual flare, disorders with high testosterone levels, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, anabolic steroids and oral steroids

  • Oils:

Contact with the skin through occupation or cosmetics

  • Stress:

Increase in sebum glands activity during period of stress

NICE Guidelines

What do they say?

Consider:

         A topical retinoid alone or in combination with Benzoyly Peroxide (BPO)

         A topical Antibiotic (1% Clindamycin) – oral antibiotics should always be prescribed alongside a BPO to prevent development of antibiotic resistance

         Azelaic Acid 20%

         Creams or gels

         If irritation occurs lower frequency or concentration

         Frequency of application can be gradually increased to daily if tolerated

Treatments

Obagi CLENZIderm M.D system

Obagi Nu-Derm System

What is a good routine for someone who really, just wants to start taking better care of their skin perhaps after years of not doing so?

At what age did you first start to think about taking care of your skin more seriously? For most, it was sparked by a specific skin condition or concern like the first time you noticed fine lines around your eyes or maybe you experienced acne for the first time as an adult.

While there are two products I strongly recommend using every single day- a cleanser and a sunscreen with SPF 30-50 will help the overall health of your skin.

As always, the best thing you can do to achieve healthy skin is to meet with your skin care practitioner to determine which products are best for specific individual skin care needs

Do products used on your skin have to be very expensive to work well?

Anyone who has visited a professional skincare clinic seeking to improve the appearance of his or her skin has likely heard of or received a recommendation to use professional skin care products the price of the products may be surprising.

Why purchase skin care products from a skincare clinic than a drug store?

It’s a good question to ask, and the reason are worth understanding if you are serious about tackling issues such as melasma/dark spots or acne, as well as the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and the host of problems caused by photoaging.

Value

Consider value in the decision to purchase topical skin care. Products containing greater than 2% Hydroquinone that are indicated to treat hyperpigmentation and melasma, for example, are available only with a prescription. Non-hydroquinone cosmetic alternatives may not work as well, and therefore, repeated purchases may end up costing more than a well-formulated product. Similary, this added value applies to clinically-tested practitioner-dispensed acne products and certain cosmetics.

Clinical Results

The best practitioner-dispensed skin care is clinically tested for positive results, so you can be confident that such products are backed by real results. Before and after photos should give you an idea of typical results. Clinical study engagement is one cost in the development of good skin care products.

In-Depth Product Training/Education

Because the products are part of a skin care professional’s recommended regimen, practitioner training and instructional materials are provided by the manufacturer. Some professional skin care products may cause side effects in some patients; proper and continued education by the practitioner is critical for patients’ proper use and success. Skin care practitioners who recommend specific products will guide patients during their continued use to address any questions or concerns that may arise during the treatment course.

Consumers Be Cautious

Some may still wonder why purchase Practitioner-dispensed skin care products instead of those available through mass retail, which often advertise big promises. Products sold through mass retail skin care often make claims that haven’t been scientifically supported, so it’s often up to consumers to educate and protect themselves. Consider a quote from the FDA “if a product seems too good to be true, it probably is”

Some experts advise to drink three litres of water a day and others say it is more important to ‘eat our water’ through fruit and veg for better skin. It can be confusing. What is one of the biggest myths you have come across about how to look after your skin properly?

When it comes to taking care of your skin, it may be hard to separate fact from fiction, especially with so many skin care articles floating around.

Fortunately, we have put together five of the biggest myths that will help to make your skin care routine a little easier – and your skin a lot happier!

 You don’t need sunscreen in winter

 Whoever told you that sunscreen is only needed on sunny, summer days is either playing a prank on you or needs a lesson in skin care ASAP!

One of the main causes of premature skin aging is the UV rays of the sun, so your best defence is to slather on the SPF all year long. Just because it’s chilly or cloudy outside, that doesn’t mean the sun isn’t damaging to your skin, because UV rays can still pass through clouds. The biggest surprise of all though, is that you can still get sunburn when there’s snow on the ground! The reason for this is because the snow reflects light from the sun, meaning that your skin is getting double the exposure – from the sun and the snow. If you don’t believe us, then just go look at the incredible tans (and sunburns!) skiers and snowboarders get while out on the slopes

If your skin is oily, you should skip the moisturizer

 We’ve heard this one often, but if you’re struggling with oily skin, then your skin may still be in need of a moisturizer.

By skipping the moisturizer, your skin may try to make up for the lack of moisture in the skin by creating its own, in the form of sebum, but unfortunately, the skin can over-compensate by producing too much. The end result is even oilier skin with an increased risk of breakouts.

If you’re using the right products for your skin, then you can’t go wrong. One of our favourite moisturizers for all skin types (dry or oily) is Obagi Hydrate®, which is non-comedogenic and provides 8-hour moisturization with innovative technology and naturally derived ingredients, including shea butter, mango butter, and avocado.

Diet doesn’t affect your skin

You certainly are what you eat – everything you put into your body will have an effect on your skin. A poor diet can not only affect your waistline and decrease your energy levels, but it can also show up on your face as a dull complexion. For example, sugar is known to change the collagen and elastin fibers in the skin, leaving you prone to skin that ages faster. And there’s no argument that alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate your body and skin.

The best diet is well-balanced with antioxidant-rich foods to help defend against free radicals, and foods rich in omega-3 to help maintain healthy and youthful-looking skin

You should start using skin care products when wrinkles appear

If you’re waiting for the signs of skin aging to appear before you invest in skin care products, please keep reading.

You may have heard that prevention is better than cure and this couldn’t be more accurate when it comes to your skin. By starting to use products targeted towards the appearance of lines and wrinkles in your twenties or even sooner, before the signs of skin aging have manifested, you set a great foundation to ensure your skin ages beautifully and gracefully with minimal lines and wrinkles.

Of course, harsher products are generally reserved for more mature skin, but it wouldn’t hurt to start using a good retinol cream and eye cream in your twenties or sooner. Also, be mindful that there are many factors that contribute to aging skin, and lifestyle factors along with healthy skin care rituals are your best defense in the fight against the signs of skin aging

Hot water is best for opening up the pores

Hot water may feel great in the shower, but unfortunately, it’s not so great for your skin. While hot water does open the pores, it’s recommended through steaming the skin, not putting hot water directly on your skin!

Hot water on the skin will dry the skin out by stripping it of beneficial oils, and no amount of product will make up for this lack of moisture. Always rinse your face with lukewarm water and pat dry before applying your products. Leave the steaming to the professionals at your next facial!

 

 

 

Bake your way to the future with British Council Ireland

British Council Ireland is delighted to bring ‘Baking in Space – Bake to the Future’ to Science Week Ireland 2020, working with Midlands, Limerick and Wexford Science Festivals, and inviting audiences from across Ireland and the UK to join in the fun. We are thrilled to be featuring this event as part of our Midlands Science Festival 2020 programme. With lots of live demonstrations, tasting and audience interaction, your curiosity will be whisked, stirred, and taken out of this world…

We caught up with Programme Manager, Aysylu Mutigullina to find out more..

Space champion, Dr. Niamh Shaw, Great British Bake-Off finalist, Andrew Smyth, along with special guests including Britain’s first Astronaut, Helen Sharman, will bring you on a journey from Earth to the Moon and back, with demos and bakes directly to your kitchens! Liz, tell us how people in the Midlands can get involved?

First of all, we would love to see everyone at our online show! The tickets are free for all, and there is a special gift for the first 100 early birds, kindly supported by Yakult. But there is more: together with The Ark Children’s Cultural Centre, Dublin we have developed a ‘Bake to the Future’ activity booklet for children and their adults. It’s full of interesting facts about the Earth and Space, games and DIY creations, as well as delicious ‘spacey’ recipes for the whole family to try out! And, of course, in this digital world, in the run-up to the shows we have prepared some fun online challenges for those in for a bit of a play, and a ‘Honeycomb Moon’ baking competition.  Entrants could win some great prizes and even feature in one of our shows! All winners will be revealed on our social media – make sure you follow #BakingInSpace to see them!

We have all been forced to adapt to new ways of living and doing things whilst in lockdown and as the Covid19 crisis continues. What kinds of related topics and experiments will be covered in the Baking in Space event?

The pandemic restrictions have reawakened a passion for baking in many of us (particularly for banana bread!) and we’ll maybe look at the psychology behind that. Covid-19 has also piqued people’s interest in science and raised awareness of the importance of scientific study and being curious about how our world works. In the show, we’ll explore our planet in lockdown, how we have learned to adapt and the parallels between living in space and living during COVID. Another topic which reflects the whole Science Week programme this year is our shared future, and we’ll look at how lessons learned from human space exploration can help shape our futures on Earth – sustainability, future foods etc.

Baking in Space is kindly supported by Yakult which is itself boldly going into space for experiments with astronauts on the International Space Station. As this is Science Week, can you tell us a bit about their mission to study the influence of Yakult’s bacteria on the human body?

Science is at the heart of Yakult, and we’re delighted that, as in previous years, the company is supporting our Baking in Space programme. Yakult was founded 85 years ago by the Japanese scientist Dr Shirota, who in the 1930s selected and cultivated L. casei Shirota, a unique strain of bacteria that is scientifically proven to reach the gut alive. Every little bottle of Yakult contains at least 20 billion L. casei Shirota. Now, Yakult is boldly going into space for experiments with astronauts on the International Space Station in collaboration with Japan Aerospace Exploration agency (JAXA). Their mission is to study the influence of Yakult’s bacteria on the human body. In outer space, bacteria levels in the body are believed to change. This is a challenge which needs to be researched for extended future space travel. Yakult has developed a technology to freeze-dry their live bacteria and keep them in capsules at ordinary temperatures for as long as nine months. Crew members of the ISS are consuming these capsules of L.casei Shirota to provide the answers!

The British Council works with the brightest new talent in science communications and engaging the public directly with scientific subjects that affect our society, supporting best practice in STEM/STEAM education for the development of future scientists, and helping researchers in showcasing their work internationally. Why is it important for the British Council to get involved with events such as the Midlands Science Festival?

At the British Council we believe that, as the world grapples with the COVID-19 and other global challenges, the importance of clear and engaging communication about scientific subjects is more important than ever, and Science Week Ireland is a brilliant platform to do just that.  ‘Baking in Space – Bake to the Future’ is a fun and interactive show for the whole family to enjoy, but it does explore how science and space science in particular can help build a better future for our planet and society. We are so pleased to be able to work with Andrew Smyth and Dr Niamh Shaw again and bring the show to homes across Ireland. Andrew and Niamh’s unique blend of baking, engineering and space is for everyone who is even the tiniest bit curious about science.  We are especially delighted that Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut, will join the webcast this year and share her experience of life and food in space.

#bakingInSpace @britishcouncil ireland  @Niamh Shaw @cakesmyth @EuropeanSpaceAgency@curiouskim1 @ScienceWeekIreland @TheArkDublin @ScienceFoundationIreland @YakultUKIE @FameLab

 

 

Exploring the Science of Resilience in Uncertain Times

The term self-care is something that we have been increasingly hearing over the past six months as people come to terms with the Covid19 crisis. We are learning that it’s so important to make sure we look after our bodies and our minds every day but we also know that it can be hard to find the time for this when life is so busy and stressful. Midlands Science is delighted to present another unique, online public talk for Science Week 2020 which takes place this November. This event sees us delving into the world of the science of resilience and self-care with Dr. Craig Slattery, Midlands Science Chairperson who will interview Irish Psychologist & Psychotherapist, Dr Andrew Magee, who works closely with health service and the civil service staff on their mental and psychological well-being.

When asked about what kind of long-term effect that this Covid19 situation might have on people, Dr. Magee said,

‘We can equate this period of abrupt isolation to the Blitz in London during World War II in the sense that we know for sure this is a period of time which people will always remember aspects of. Many people are acting from fear at the moment, some are choosing not to even believe that the pandemic is happening. There is no doubt it will leave a mark. It will be recorded in history books and there is definitely a significant risk to our mental health not only because of the isolation and the uncertainty during this period of time but also for economic reasons and worries about the future.’

Self-care isn’t a way of preventing mental health problems but it is a practice of taking the time to look after ourselves in a kind and compassionate, which is great for staying psychologically healthy. There is a huge perception that self-care is selfish or self-indulgent or that it is seen as a reward, but it should not be viewed in terms of something we deserve or don’t deserve.

Dr Magee continued,

‘Resilience is something which has been commercialised in recent years. Resilience is all about a persons’ ability to function well despite very difficult experiences happening at the same time. It is not just about being a magic solution to bouncing back to normal after something negative happens. Resilience takes time and happens in small increments. The psychological aspects of resilience and self-care are closely linked as without that compassion for yourself, resilience struggles to emerge. Self-care allows us those critical rest periods in order to become more resilient.’

Midlands Science has been working with science communication experts and specialist professionals to create new science shows, informative talks and other online learning resources and running them online since the start of the Covid19 pandemic and this interview is part of a series of public events which will hopefully appeal to a large audience during these very different times.

Dr. Craig Slattery said,

‘Daily life has changed so abruptly and this is a time of massive challenge for people. This interview looks at how the pandemic and the associated uncertainty is impacting and weighing heavily upon people, how we are responding to the evolving crisis as individuals, the various phases and how it is affecting future plans and day to day commitments. Please join us online for this timely event, which explores not only the topic of resilience, but also the differences between psychology and psychotherapy and much more. It takes place during this year’s Midlands Science Festival and will be available online from November 7th and throughout Science Week 2020.’

Science of Star Wars for Science Week 2020!

We are really excited to explore the science of Star Wars with author and scientist Jon Chase for this year’s Midlands Science Festival. How long before we get a Star Wars speeder off the ground? What exactly is the Force? How could Kylo Ren stop a blaster shot in mid-air? How could we live on a gas giant like Bespin? Nature versus nurture: How does it play out in the making of Jedi? How much would it cost to build the Death Star? This is the Science Week event you’ve been waiting for !! Suitable for Padawans and Jedi alike.

We caught up with Jon to find out more….

Jon, we are delighted that you will be participating in this year’s Midlands Science Festival. You are a passionate science communicator who is on a mission to spread the messages of science in your own unique way. What methods do you use to do this and how do you make science more exciting and interesting especially for young children?

I make workshops to engage in hands on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) as well as science shows to entertain, including plenty of humour where I can.  I also make raps about STEM as another way for people to become informed about STEM whilst being entertained at the same time. I generally try to keep things as light hearted as possible.

Was there a particular moment when you started to see the connection between music and science?

 

I suppose the closest thing to that would be when I produced a rap for NASA Astrobiology Magazine in 2008.  My lecturer at the time heard a random rap I wrote, which included references to the scientific method, He highlighted my ability to one of the producers of the magazine and next thing I knew I was producing a rap and video for them.   There was a lot of interest in what I did and from that point on, I was officially regarded as a science rapper.  I even ended up doing my dissertation on the topic of Science raps.

Using some basic principles of science, your book, ‘The Science of Star Wars’ co-written with Mark Brake,  unlocks some of the secrets behind the epic George Lucas movies. What can Star Wars fans expect from your upcoming virtual Science Week event with Midlands Science?

Lots of Science facts about the lifeforms and technologies seen within the movies, as well as an exploration of what humans currently know about space and how that impacts on the Universe of Star Wars.  Answering questions like how big is space, how old is it, could we find life out there, what’s the best space ships, how close are we to producing various Star Wars technologies?    

 You are known for cracking stereotypes about science. What can we do to make science more accessible to people and make sure people are less scared of it and more curious about it?

I think most people are curious about science but that feeling can also be linked with a fear and wariness of it. Much of science fiction has been really good at helping us to explore these fears, by helping us to imagine not only the future potential of STEM, but also the sometimes dire consequences.  It’s important to be honest with regards to science, i.e. Science is a way of thinking and doing things, and seeks to understand nature through that particular way of thinking and doing (known as the scientific method). Science does take time and effort to do, most people don’t find it easy but they work at it because they enjoy it (I liken it to playing a challenging computer game.  You stick at it because even though it’s hard, the end outcome is personally rewarding for you).  Most importantly, you don’t have to be good at science to engage with what it reveals about the world.  You just have to find the access point that works for the person, whether it be formal education, shows, movies, magazines, workshops, raps, computer games or whatever.

You have a degree in Aeronautical Engineering and a BSc in Science and Science Fiction. What would you say to a young person who is considering a career in science but might have been discouraged about it for some reason along the way?

Find different ways to surround yourself with science. In particular, think about the things that inspire you most about STEM.  Is it the future possibilities or its ability to solve real world problems now, do you like to know how everything works or are you fond of doing experiments and testing ideas?  We’re fortunate nowadays in that we can access information about all aspects of STEM via the internet, with people providing loads of different ways to engage with it.  Seek out the STEM messages and activities that inspire you and use that inspiration to motivate you through the various challenges you might encounter.  Remember, just like a computer game, you’ll embark on a journey that will be frustrating at times but personally rewarding overall as you overcome challenges one step at a time.

 

 

Midlands Science Executive Shortlisted for LIFT Ireland Award

LIFT Ireland is a not-for-profit organisation that works to build positive leadership skills in communities across Ireland. It created an awards initiative to recognise strong leadership at all levels of Irish society from grassroots organisations to corporate boardrooms. Midlands Science Business Development Executive, Pauline Nally, was recently shortlisted for one of these awards. We caught up with her to find out more…

 

Pauline, you are Business Development Executive for Midlands Science. Can you tell us a little bit about what that work involves?

 

My role can be quite varied depending on the needs of Midlands Science and the particular time of year but in the main, it is my job to fundraise, to produce high quality pitches and presentations, to identify and speak with relevant business and academic contacts who may be interested in collaborating with Midlands Science and track those leads. Building business relationships with existing clients and sponsors is also essential.  I have a passion for bringing value to non-profits and sourcing new opportunities and partners for the organisation is the key aspect of my role.

 

You have recently been shortlisted for an award in Dedication & Determination, having participated in LIFT Ireland’s programme over the past 12 months. Congratulations!

Can you tell us about your experience of availing of this programme and why leadership skills are now more important than ever?

 

I am truly honoured to have been shortlisted for a LIFT Ireland leadership award in dedication and determination. LIFT aims to get the people of Ireland talking about values and leadership and to grow our self-awareness which then informs both our decision-making and determination in our professional roles. The wonderful training that I experienced with LIFT has helped me to really understand where I need to focus attention in order to improve the quality of how I approach both my work and my life in general. I believe that when you are really aware of your values, you will not only increase your chances of success but will also encourage and bring others along with you towards achieving your collective corporate goals.

 

The values of LIFT impact our homes, our families, our friendships, our communities and our workplaces. What are some of the most important skills you feel you have acquired that you can take into your professional role going forward?

 

I am really looking forward to the practical day-to-day application of this facilitator training and to focusing on the core values including customer service excellence, innovation and continuous learning. Excellent communication skills are so important in my role as I interact with a diverse range of individuals and organisations at all levels of business on a daily basis. It is also so important that I have a positive and proactive attitude to driving new business and partnerships for Midlands Science so that involves building my knowledge about science education and promotion and being willing to learn about the sector and how it is developing all the time. As the escalating Covid-19 crisis is forcing the cancellation of many physical events, those of us involved in fundraising really need to think fast and strategically in order to prepare for the times ahead and one of the critical things that this training has taught me is to keep communicating and at all times in the most considerate and empathetic way.

 

What did you enjoy most about the training with LIFT and would you recommend it to others?

 

It was really great to engage and connect with people across all levels of the others organisations who partook in the training. During a time which is increasingly challenging for everyone, it provided a lovely opportunity to reflect on my work and think about some small changes I could quite easily make. There was something very reassuring about networking with others and realising that everyone has their difficult days but it is all about taking note and then having the tools to keep pressing forward to the next opportunity in a positive and confident way. I am delighted that I got involved and am very pleased to be nominated for this important award.

Midlands Science Festival Goes Virtual

For the first time in its eight-year history, the Midlands Science Festival will be accessible from November 8th – 15th as a week-long, immersive digital event as part of national Science Week. The core theme for Science Week 2020  which is now in its 25th year is ‘Science Week – Choosing our Future’ focusing on how science can improve our lives in the future and in the present. This year’s festival offering will enable schools, teachers, parents and people of all ages to get involved virtually and it will deliver engaging talks, interactive workshops and presentations in a whole new and innovative format. In a time of increasing unease, the Midlands Science Festival team is conscious that it is more important than ever to continue to provide activities to continue to engage our young people, build optimism and help them to explore science and how it relates to everything in our day to day lives.

CEO of Midlands Science, Jackie Gorman said,

“ The theme this year will explore how science can help us to make positive choices that will impact the environment, our health, and our quality of life. We took the time to evaluate the situation as an organisation before deciding that a virtual festival really was the best way forward for Science Week 2020. It allows us to provide most of the events that we had already planned for our audiences, in a safe and secure manner.  This year we are inviting people to step inside a free, virtual science sphere to join top science communicators, workshop presenters, industry experts, science ambassadors and more! This pandemic has really brought an awareness to the way in which we all work, learn and consume information. We have been working diligently over the past seven months to adapt to an online model to continue to raise awareness of science and we would like to thank all of our wonderful partners and sponsors who have supported and encouraged us to do this during such a challenging time. Throughout Science Week there will be a variety of ways for you to get involved through events, social media and much more. You can also use and follow #BelieveInScience online.”

The Midlands Science Festival will this year celebrate science in the Midlands in a number of different ways. Some of the key highlights will include an inspiring journey into Space with Dr. Niamh Shaw, informative public talks on the ‘Science of Resilience’ and the ‘Science of Skin’ which will be available online and we are also really looking forward to delving into the exciting world of Star Wars with Jon Chase. We are also delighted to be providing a range of high-level, virtual career talks for secondary schools with some of our industry and academic partners, which we hope will encourage more and more students to consider science as a future course and career option.

Dr. Craig Slattery, Midland Science Chairperson, commented,

“Sadly, we have seen highly influential public figures around the world openly attempt to undermine or discredit valid scientific information to service their own agendas.  Now, more so than ever, delivering authentic, exciting and informative public science events to the people of the Midlands, young and old, is of the utmost importance.  Under normal circumstances, Midlands Science would organise over 100 face-to-face events during the Midlands Science Festival with a combined audience of over 10,000 people each year. Naturally this year is going to be very different but we are confident that the enjoyment and inspiration on offer will not be!”

This year also includes an exploration into Viking Heritage with the National Museum of Ireland and a family Discovery Day, which will see the return of some of much-loved activities such Dale Treadwell’s Dinosaur Show, Anyone 4 Science, the Exploration Dome, The Reptile Zoo, Ironman Engineering and Dr Mindflip’s Ultimate Learning Experience.

More information including the full schedule of events, speaker line-ups, and how to register will be announced in the coming weeks.

 

 

 

Promoting a Positive Attitude for Maths Week

Maths Week 2020 is here and as part of our celebrations, we caught up with Midlands Science board member and highly experienced post-primary teacher in Mathematics, Patricia Nunan, to hear her views on promoting maths as a subject and the importance of Maths Week…..

Maths Week is all about celebrating maths as a subject and promoting positive attitudes towards maths and of course, furthering the understanding of our world through maths. Maths Week will be very different this year due to Covid19 and schools will be doing their best to ensure the pupils get to have fun with maths whilst in school but what are some of the activities you think parents could be doing to increase their child’s understanding of maths in the household?

I think encouraging children to be involved in household activities like baking or measuring allows children to see the real world applications of Maths. For example, driving to school last week my 9 year old asked about Maths and driving and we discussed distance and speed but also when parking in terms of spatial awareness. Encouraging them at all times to see that Maths is a really useful practical subject as opposed to something which is abstract and difficult. Also, I think parents should resist from sharing their negative experiences or feelings about Maths and try to promote positive attitudes. Many parents will share their anxieties and difficulties with it and that creates anxiety with the child from the beginning. Furthermore, stereotypical play activities can alienate girls from engaging with blocks or building or puzzles which promote logic and spatial awareness. 

In recent times, we hear people talking more about maths anxiety. What exactly is this and what are schools and teachers doing to try to help pupils to overcome it?

Mind over matter. Often children have a negative perception of Maths by the time they get to school. Schools and teachers are encouraging children to see Maths as a more “fun” subject, something which can be really useful and enjoyable.  Initiatives like Maths Week certainly do a lot in this regard and in the promotion of Maths. Post Primary schools, often facilitated by the Guidance teacher, organise visitors and speakers who have graduated from Maths related courses or who use Maths in their jobs on a regular basis. On a more practical level, teachers spend time encouraging students to problem solve and develop critical thinking skills which they can apply across all subjects and as a life skill in general. 

What do you think it is that causes this initial fear of maths?

It seems to be more socially acceptable to be “bad at Maths”, cool even in some ways. People do not claim to be “bad at English” quite so quickly. I do believe a lot has been done in recent years to promote Maths both in society and in schools. However, there is always room for further improvement. Perhaps making the link between sports and Maths would bring further encouragement as it has been proven that Spatial awareness amongst girls is typically weaker than amongst boys, an important skill on any sports pitch. 

Why are events like national Maths Week so important? Do you think they help to change peoples’ perceptions of maths and make it more enjoyable?

Maths Week is absolutely crucial in my opinion as it places Maths awareness and skills at the top of the agenda, allowing students and parents to make the connections between real life and Maths. The Maths Eyes campaign which ran a number of years ago was a really fantastic initiative in my opinion as it pushed us all to look at the world around us and see the Maths in our everyday lives. 

@mathsweek

#MathsAtHome

Patricia is a qualified post primary teacher in Mathematics and French. She graduated with a Higher Diploma in Education from UCD and a Higher Diploma in Educational Management and Administration from NUI Maynooth. She then completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Educational Leadership in NUI Maynooth and a Masters in Educational Management from WIT. Patricia has worked, as an advisor, with the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) for the last two years in the areas of Leaving Certificate Applied, Numeracy, MFL and DEIS planning. She also led the design of the teacher CPD for the revised module descriptor in Mathematical Applications.  She is a board member of Midland Science which promotes STEM subjects across the midland counties and is a passionate advocate for active participation of girls in STEM subjects, in particular.

Patricia worked as a School Placement Tutor with Trinity College Dublin for a number of years and also facilitated workshops for the National Induction Programme (NIPT).

The Science & History of Vaccines

The word vaccine has a particular and curious origin. It comes from the name for the cowpox virus vaccinia and it was first used by Dr Edward Jenner. He observed that milkmaids infected with cowpox were immune to the smallpox epidemics that regularly occurred where he lived. Jenner made history in 1796 when he gave a patient what became known as the first “vaccinia vaccine”, a vaccine made from the cowpox virus. The doctor took pus from the cowpox lesions on a milkmaid’s hands and introduced that fluid into a cut he made in the arm of an 8-year-old boy named James Phipps. Six weeks later, Jenner exposed the boy to smallpox, but James Phipps did not develop the infection, then or on 20 subsequent exposures to the disease. In fact, Phipps later married, had two children, and lived long enough to attend Jenner’s funeral in 1823. Through extensive research Jenner discovered that cox pox protected people from smallpox. This was a ground-breaking discovery and it laid the way for the scientific fields of immunology, vaccination and preventive health which we benefit from today. Thanks to progress in science and a massive vaccine campaign by the World Health Organization, smallpox was finally eradicated from the planet in 1980.

Today with Covid19, vaccines are on everyone’s mind and you can follow the development of vaccines for Covid 19 at an excellent live vaccine tracker created by The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/science/coronavirus-vaccine-tracker.html The Jenner Institute at Oxford University which is currently working on a promising vaccine for Covid 19 is actually named after Dr Edward Jenner.

This year in Ireland, people are encouraged to get the flu vaccine as doing so could be vital to help the health system cope with any additional strain caused by Covid-19.While flu vaccination is important in its own right, it is really important that the country is not overwhelmed with “dual outbreaks” of influenza and Covid-19. Flu season runs from September to end of April and the strain of flu virus changes every year. The flu vaccine helps your immune system to produce antibodies (proteins that fight infection). Contrary to what you might read on social media, there is no aluminium, thiomersal, mercury, gelatine or porcine gelatin in the vaccine used in the 2020/2021fl campaign. You can read about what’s in the vaccine here – http://www.hpra.ie/img/uploaded/vaccines/SPC_PA2131013001.pdf

The vaccine for flu changes every year because viruses evolve by mutating so there are changes in their genetic code over time. The way it happens is a bit like the game Chinese Whispers, where one person says a word to another and it’s passed on further. By the time it reaches the last person in the game, the original word is lost and has transformed into another word. We can think of a biological genetic material as a sequence of letters and over time, sequences mutate: Mutations occur randomly, and any changes that occur in a given virus will be inherited by all copies of the next generation. Then, much as we could try to decode how one word becomes another in a game of Chinese Whispers, scientists can use models on genetic evolution to try to determine the most likely evolutionary history of the virus. This year’s seasonal flu vaccine contains protection against 4 strains of flu virus. These are recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the strains most likely to be circulating this season. The four strains are:

  • an A/Guangdong-Maonan/SWL1536/2019 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
  • an A/Hong Kong/2671/2019 (H3N2)-like virus
  • a B/Washington/02/2019 (B/Victoria lineage)-like virus
  • a B/Phuket/3073/2013 (B/Yamagata lineage)-like virus

You can read more about the flu vaccine programme in Ireland and the flu vaccine here. https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/immunisation/pubinfo/flu-vaccination/about-the-vaccine/

There is a lot information online about vaccines and vaccine development and it’s important to be aware of how information is developed and shared. You can sign up to be a Share Verified Information Volunteer with the United Nations here. https://shareverified.com/en

A recent study by the British Medical Journal concluded that over one-quarter of the most-viewed videos on YouTube about COVID-19 contained misleading information. Consider the best places to get evidence based, verified peer reviewed information on health and vaccines. Roll up your sleeve and help in the fight against the flu, this winter it is more important than ever.

#fluvaccine #yourbestshot #askfortheevidence #shareverified #believeinscience

 

Celebrate Mathamatical Moments with Midlands Science

The Countdown to Virtual Maths Week 2020 is on!

 Maths Week has been taking place in Ireland every year since 2006 and has grown to attract participation from as many as 300,000 people annually across Ireland. We often don’t realise that maths is part of all facets of everyday life. Maths Week 2020 promises to be quite different due to the fact that large scale public events will now not be possible but Midlands Science is delighted to this year team up with Dublin City University lecturer in Mathematics Education, Dr. Aisling Twohill, to deliver our Maths Week activities in a new and virtual format so that we can stay safe while exploring the fun aspects of maths and all that it has to offer.

Aisling Twohill, Midlands Science Board member and lecturer in Mathematics Education, in the School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies at DCU said,

‘I am delighted to collaborate with Midlands Science for Maths Week 2020. We will be utilising stories to make maths more accessible and more enjoyable through a series of videos which will be available on Midlands Science social media platforms throughout Maths Week. Picture-books are a great way to introduce maths concepts in a child-centred way, and two of the videos will develop children’s ideas around spatial relations and fractions through the stories of ‘Winnie the Witch’ and ‘Mama Panya’s Pancakes’. We hope that encountering maths in such attractive, and accessible contexts will develop younger children’s appreciation for maths and encourage them to see maths as part of their everyday lives. For older children and adults, we will focus two videos on the stories of the History of Number and Fibonacci and with these, we will explore concepts such as sequences, place value and the historical connections of  mathematics. Sometimes, the way maths is taught can feel quite repetitive, so we are also taking this opportunity to encourage everybody to have fun with maths through puzzles and games. We are even providing a few suggestions to get you started. Playing the games we’re suggesting will give you a chance to experience maths in a more dynamic and relevant way than you might have experienced through school textbooks!’

Jackie Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science said,

‘Maths is a key driver of innovation and growth and it impacts every aspect of life. Maths Week is a co-operative movement with local partners all over Ireland together with schools and teachers changing attitudes towards maths. It is coordinated by Calmast at Waterford IT and is an ideal opportunity for people of all ages to increase their appreciation and understanding of mathematics and it is part of our overall aim to try to make it more accessible to everyone. We are delighted to be working with Dr. Aisling Twohill who has made an enormous contribution to our work in promoting science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) over the past year. We look forward to publicly sharing a number of innovative maths videos which Aisling has recently produced, to help us raise awareness of maths and to demonstrate how wide and varied maths can be as a possible career path.’

Maths Puzzles:

 

These puzzles are all available as apps or to play through a web browser.

Jackie Gorman continued,

‘Maths Week, which takes place from the 10th to 18th October, may not be the same this year due to unavoidable circumstances and our original plans for this year’s celebrations have obviously been somewhat impacted, but don’t forget to tune into our brand new maths videos which we really hope will spark an interest in maths and also please check out www.mathsweek.ie/2020 where you will find plenty of engaging maths activities to help improve attitudes towards maths as a subject, build confidence and demonstrate to children the value of maths as a lifelong skill that is linked so many aspects of the wider world around us.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Biodiversity – the science of life on earth

The United Nations has proclaimed May 22nd The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. When first created by the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly in late 1993, 29 December (the date of entry into force of the Convention of Biological Diversity), was designated The International Day for Biological Diversity. In December 2000, the UN General Assembly adopted 22 May as IDB, to commemorate the adoption of the text of the Convention on 22 May 1992 by the Nairobi Final Act of the Conference for the Adoption of the Agreed Text of the Convention on Biological Diversity. This was partly done because it was difficult for many countries to plan and carry out suitable celebrations for the date of 29 December, given the number of holidays that coincide around that time of year.

Biodiversity is the variety of life on earth, in all its forms and interactions. It is everything and everything from the air we breathe to the water we drink to the food we eat depends upon it. 1.7 million species of animal, plant and fungi have been recorded to date but there are likely to millions more. The extinction rate of species is frightening, thought to be 1,000 times higher than before humans dominated the planet. That rate is faster that the losses the earth experienced after a giant meteorite wiped out the dinosaurs.

Today is World Biodiversity Day and there a lot of  books about biodiversity, which can help us all understand how interlinked and inter-connected our world is and most of them are available from the local library system. The classic is “The Diversity of Life” by EO Wilson, the scientist who is considered to be the father of biodiversity and “The Botany of Desire” by Michael Pollan explores how biodiversity loss affects the foods we eat. EO Wilson in a seminal paper in 1985 “The Biological Diversity Crisis” described the natural world as a work of art that cannot be recreated once it is lost. “Each higher organism is richer in information than a Caravaggio painting, a Bach fugue, or any other great work.”

Scientists are interested in how much biodiversity there is  in the world as there is still to much to discover and understand. They are also like to study and understand how many species might exist in a particular ecosystem such as a forest, lake, grassland or tundra. A single forest can contain a huge range of species from beetles to deer and everything in between. Ecosystems with a lot of biodiversity tend to have good conditions for plant growth, such as the warm and wet climates we associate with tropical places in the world. Ecosystems can also contain species too small to see with the naked eye and looking at samples through a microscope can reveal a whole world of organisms and bacteria. The work of midlands photographer Tina Claffey has brought the beauty and diversity of the peatlands and its inhabitants of all shapes and sizes into sharp focus [pardon the pun !] for lots of people, creating an awareness of the biodiversity in the midlands region.

There is no better place to explore and value biodiversity than in your own back yard and considering pollinators is a great place to start.  Bees pollinate nearly 90% of plant species and they contribute to more than 35% of the world’s food supply. Give pollinators an extra boost in your garden by planting a variety of wildflowers and native plants to provide nectar that will bloom throughout the season  You can encourage other pollinators such as bats to stop by your garden by planting borage, corn marigold, cornflower, primrose and night-scented stock.  A new Gardening for Biodiversity book by Juanita Browne is available by contacting the Heritage Office of your local council. It was produced by Local Authority Heritage Officers, with help from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and The Heritage Council.  Explore and grow wildlife friendly gardens/patios or balconies and choose wildlife-friendly fencing to allow some access to passing wildlife. Biodiversity begins at home !

Photo – Jackie who works for Midlands Science has created quite possibly the teeniest tiniest meadow in the world in her back yard and it’s buzzing !!