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!

No two days are the same!

Helena bonner picWe are delighted to be welcoming Dr. Helena Bonner from the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) to the Midlands this year, where she will provide a valuable careers talk to a very lucky secondary school in the region. We caught up with Dr. Bonner in advance of the festival to find out more.

What inspired you to pursue a career in a science related field?

I had a great science teacher who was really passionate about the subject. I also just liked the sciences more than any other subject so I enjoyed studying it.

What is your role at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI)?

I have an exciting job in that no two days are the same. My background is in Neuroscience (the study of the brain and the nervous system). We are interested in what happens in the cells of the brain (neuronal cells) before they die as a results of brain damage due to a stroke, for example. This damage occurs when the neuronal cells get deprived of blood, which contains oxygen and nutrients. This leads to a series of events that lead to the death of the cells. We are trying to find out how they die and how we could potentially stop that process. At the moment, I am also working on trying to see into tissues more clearly. When you are trying to look deeper into the cells and vessels of tissues using a high spec microscope, there is a lot of fat in the way. We want to get rid of that fat without damaging the tissue so we can see the cells and vessels more clearly. Our main tissues of interest are the brain, spinal cord and the pancreas. This is a long process that demands patience but when it works, it gives you a lot of information and beautiful images.

Other aspects of my job include organising outreach programmes where students come into RCSI and have a tour of the labs and speak with researchers. We also hold a three day programme for TY students who learn about what it’s like to work in a lab and experience what it is like to do research as a career. I also go out to schools around the country and give science career talks to TY, 5th and 6th year students.

Why is it important for the RCSI to take part in events such as the Midlands Science Festival?

RCSI is a well known medical school in the heart of Dublin city but we also have an expanding research institute that will always be looking out for talented science, technology and engineering and math (STEM) graduates to work or pursue their postgraduate studies here. It’s important for us to reach out to these graduates so that they know we exist and to inform them on what type of research is being undertaken at RCSI and to encourage them to pursue these exciting careers.

Are there are any specific challenges for women in science now?

The biggest challenge most women in science face is trying to balance a career with motherhood. Many women feel they have to have kids before they get too old and there isn’t enough time or money to do both without some form of support (like childcare or research grants). And compared to their competitors, who can work longer hours and attend more conferences, some women don’t have the qualifications to get high up positions. But this challenge for women can also occur in other fields and not just science.

What is your favourite science fact?

The brain of an adult human weighs around 3 pounds (1.5 kg). Although it makes up just 2% of the body’s weight, it uses around 20% of its energy.

Ploughing Festival Success!

Thanks so much to everyone who visited our kite making workshops and Science of Chocolate event at the National Ploughing Festival –  we are delighted that the day was such a great success and look forward to making and flying many more kites at the Midlands Science Festival in November!

Kites and Chocolate at the National Ploughing Championships

Photography : Jeff Harvey


The Midlands Science Festival team is pleased to be participating at the 2016 National Ploughing Championships today in association with Offaly Local Enterprise Office in Offaly County Council.  Some familiar science festival faces will appear in the Offaly tent where families and individuals can come along and hear some fun and engaging talks such as insight in the science of chocolate with an opportunity to sample some delicious local produce from Ballyshiel Chocolate and hear more about the upcoming science festival itself.
Midlands Science Festival Director Jackie Gorman said,
‘I am very grateful to Offaly Local Enterprise office for giving us this opportunity to meet as many members of the public as possible at this year’s National Ploughing Championships where we will showcase a taste of what we do during Science Week right across the region. In planning the annual festival, we are very conscious of the need to deliver a variety of content which makes science and technology more fun and accessible. We are delighted to be providing a series of kite design workshops at the Ploughing Championships with our partners from ‘Go Fly Your Kite’ whose ethos with children is fun through learning and building confidence and artistic skills.  We are delighted that they will be also be working with us throughout this year’s Midlands Science Festival in November. Come along and learn to make a kite, taste some chocolate and find out how much fun science can be.’
The Midlands Science Festival team encourages as many people as possible to come and chat to them at the National Ploughing Championships for some free family fun and to find out what will be on the various towns and schools during Science Week itself.
Jackie Gorman continued,
 “It is very important that we interact directly with our audiences at important events like the Ploughing Championships in advance of the Midlands Science Festival. It gives us that valuable opportunity to answer questions people might have about the types of activities we run but it also gives the public a chance to have a voice in what they would like to see during a science festival and we are more than happy to take on suggestions and inputs that might make the festival even more fresh and innovative than in previous years. Partnering with local food producers like Ballyshiel Chocolate and being visible within the community is of vital importance to us.’

Enjoying the Fun that is Science!

Bubbles Steve Allman and pupils from Scoil Mhuire in Tullamore Co OffalyOne of the things we look forward to the most during Science Week is seeing so many happy, young primary school faces when pupils get the opportunity to have a fun science event at their school. This one was particularly popular..the ‘Science of bubbles’ which was a terrific way to teach children some basic science principles in a fun and exciting way!

We have lots more events like this coming to the region this year and we can not wait! 🙂