Return of some popular events..

We are delighted to be working with St Mary’s Youth Centre, Tullamore this year for Science Week. We will be having a series of workshops and events over two days with the amazing Exploration Dome and the team from Marine Dimensions. Both Exploration Dome and Marine Dimensions were big hits at our festival last year.

Exploration Dome is the most advanced digital mobile planetarium in the country and it’s a great way to explore the wonders of science, astronomy, geology and geography. Did you ever wonder what it would be like to be an astronaut, swim with a shark or visit the planets? The Exploration Dome has it all in a fun, interactive and easily accessible way!

Marine Dimensions is a social enterprise dedicated to marine environmental education, research and conservation. Their mission is to enhance understanding and appreciation of marine biodiversity through education, research and community based participation. The workshops include a touchpool containing live marine animals, including starfish, crabs, shrimp and anemones. There is an arts and crafts table for kids, with shark colouring competitions and mermaids’ purse necklaces. All pupils questions will be answered by qualified marine biologists and information on marine conservation projects that need your help will be available.

A science career is an easy sell if you ask me!

We can’t wait for a very special and new event taking place in Co.Laois during the year’s Midlands Science Festival – The Secret Life of Crows will be brought to the region by Ricky Whelan..We caught up with Ricky in advance of the festival..

Ricky, we are delighted that you will be getting involved in this year’s Midlands Science festival especially given you are a native! We know that you have a degree in Zoology from NUIG and are passionate about all things nature…what inspired you to pursue this type of career path?

My choice of career was very much inspired by a childhood spent in the fields, in the hedgerows and down by the river. We were free to roam in the 90s when I was growing up and the experiences we had picking damsons, collecting frog spawn and staking out rabbit burrows stayed with me.

I lost my enthusiasm for nature as a young teenager before rediscovering it in my late teens through surfing. Surfing brought me to the wildest and most beautiful places in Ireland and the sight of diving gannets and passing dolphins reignited my love for all things wild. I didn’t impress anyone with my leaving cert results and luckily at the time I had enough points to study science which I saw as my opportunity to work my way over into marine conservation. I enjoyed my time studying in Galway but being from Laois (the most land locked county in Ireland) it seemed daft for me to pursue Marine Science and I elected to keep my options open and specialised in Zoology.

Whilst I knew I wanted to protect wildlife and wild places I didn’t know how and I volunteered for loads of wildlife NGOs from BirdWatch Ireland to Bat Conservation Ireland. I was lucky to nab an unpaid internship in the UK and moved to a well-known nature reserve in the east of England, RSPB Minsmere. It was there in the UK where I cut my teeth and learned the skills I needed to return home to my local patch and get involved at the sharp end of species conservation here. I owe my inspiration to my mam and dad for getting us outside, to my uncle Ray for introducing me to fishing and the river Barrow, to my primary school teachers Ms Fennelly and Ms Kirwan for our regular “nature walks”, my second level science teachers Mr O’Connell and Mr Murray who were fantastic influences and to all of the fantastic and committed wildlife heroes I met along the way!

What do you love most about your job?

Its difficult to say what I love most about my job but there are definitely a few stand out reasons why I find it so enjoyable. My colleagues at BirdWatch Ireland are all experts in their respective fields and very motivated people who want to be at their desks or out in the field doing what they love best which is protecting wild birds and biodiversity. That gives the office a really nice atmosphere knowing that everyone there is so committed to their respective roles. The variation of the fieldwork is also a major benefit from visiting remote islands within the summer months to catch and tag seabirds, to surveying Swifts at some of Irelands most ancient and historic sites really makes the day to day survey work quite special. The seasonality of birds and the change over from the wintering species to the summering species and vice versa gives me reasons to enjoy and

What do you think parents can do to encourage a love of science and nature in very young children?

I think for modern kids to find a respect and love for nature they must experience it in the flesh. You don’t need to be a scientist or a wildlife expert to go into the woods with your children and climb a tree or look for deer tracks, children are full of that natural wonder themselves and only need to be given the opportunities to explore it for themselves. Spending time enjoying the outdoors is a good place to start whether it’s a family walk or picnic, a visit to the local nature reserve or whatever, nature will provide the entertainment! I spent my childhood catching minnows (a small fish) in jars with a piece of string attached, my cousins and I were amazed by the little creatures and its memories like that that make me want to protect our rivers and other wild places so other kids, maybe even my own someday can enjoy catching minnows in jars too! Society is a different place than when I grew up and we were probably the last generation of kids who had true freedom but the perceived threats of the modern world is too often used as an excuse to sterilise kids’ lives, let them out in the woods, let them get stung by nettles, let them fall from the branch, the only risk is they might enjoy themselves.

What would you say to a second level student to encourage them to consider a science career?

A science career is an easy sell if you ask me. Science is the systematic gathering of information through observation and/or experiment, does that sound boring or what? But science is part of nearly every facet of life and every industry needs scientists, be it making Mars Bars, making a Formula1 Car move, protecting the Great Barrier Reef or doing your granny’s hip operation we need scientists! A science career could land you at any location in the world, working on any sort of project, product or challenge! Giving science at third level a go opens up so many opportunities to any student and more importantly opens up the world to them!

Why are events like the Midlands Science Festival so important?

The Midlands Science Festival and similar events brings science, live and in the flesh out to our towns and schools. The organisers and people involved find the coolest things to talk about and demonstrate or make the everyday stuff far more interesting by injecting a tiny bit of science! Its at a Midlands Science Festival event you are going to find yourself saying “Wo, that’s cool, I never realised that before”. We have become afraid of the word “science” but the Midland Science Festival reminds us that no one word can describe with any accuracy how totally bananas and interesting science and its many disciplines can be!

Go fly Your Kite with us this November!

kite pressAnother event which we are so excited about is all about kites! Kite flying has been enjoyed by children of all ages (and adults) for many many moons, but have we every really considered how they work or the science behind them? We are delighted to be partnering with our friends at ‘Go Fly Your Kite’ to provide fun and interesting workshops for pupils across the region during this year’s Midlands Science Festival..We spoke to Glenn Heasly to find out more..

Glenn, what is the science behind kite flying? Is physics a key issue?
The physics to how a kite gains lift is very similar to how an airplane gains lift. The wings generate lift force by the action of the moving air over the wing surface. A kite works in exactly the same way. The wind blows in the direction of the kite and underneath it – this creates lift. An excellent way for students to a gain a feel for aerodynamic forces is to fly a kite!

We are really pleased that you and the ‘Go Fly Your Kite’ team will be coming to the Midlands this year for a series of exciting Science Week events ..Can you tell us about the workshops you will be providing and what they entail?
We are thrilled at the invite by Midlands Science to take part in Science week this year. Our workshops are primarily fun with the science, art, design & exercise all mixed into each workshop. The end result is a kite designed by each student a knowledge of how the kite takes flight and a personal achievement of constructing, designing and flying their reusable kite.
So is making a kite as much about engineering as it is about art?
Engineering is crucial in the process, if its not engineered properly it fails its aims and objectives. Our workshops demonstrate this, how critical it is to ensure the construction of the kite, to achieve our aim … the flight of the kite. The art is creative and it enables a unique bespoke design which makes each students kite unique to them. Kites were invented in China and have been around for thousands of years and even in those early years art was applied to kites in the most amazing designs. We will show pupils the different kites through history and talk about their varied uses through time.

What are some of the most important elements of kite making and where does the role of wind come in?
Three key elements in flight – lift, drag and gravity. A kite and an airplane are heavier than air objects that are flown by the lift created by air in motion over their wings. An airplane relies on thrust from the engines. A kite is tethered in place and needs moving air (wind) to enable it to fly. When we run with the kite, string and handle we create that air to enable it to take off.

Is it true that kite technology also led to the invention of the airplane, the parachute, and the helicopter?

From Leonardo da Vinci’s 15th Century dream of flight to Montgolfier brothers discovery of the hot air balloon, Newtons law of motion have all lead to the foundation of modern aerodynamics … each one of these remarkable people in history have led to todays technology and the ability to fly a plane through the air.

Anyone 4 Science?

Anyone 4 scienceAnyone 4 Science was established in 2005 to provide fun hands-on science and engineering activities initially for 8-12 year olds. Supported by the Royal Society of Chemistry we are thrilled to be welcoming Anyone 4 Science to the region for the first time at this year’s Midlands Science Festival. One very lucky school will find out in the coming weeks if they will be hosting this event for Science Week 2015! Really excited about this one!

Time for a nap?

sleep picWe are having a great public event for this year’s Midlands Science Festival with the amazing science communicator Craig Slattery and it’s on a topic we can all relate to – sleep !! This public event in Athlone will explore the science of sleep – why do we sometimes experience sleep problems ? What can we do to get better sleep ? What is happening in your brain when you are sleeping ? Why do babies sleep so much ? Keep an eye on our festival website for details.To celebrate our Science of Sleep Event, we have a voucher for 200 Euros for Burgess of Athlone to give away. Burgess stocks an amazing range of quality bedlinen, duvets and pillows. Like and share this post on Midlands Science facebook page and the draw will take place on September 26th.

Stuck for summer holiday activities?

PlaydoughPlaydough is a great way to help children develop control and strength of the muscles in their fingers and really use their imagination ..Here we are making a whole variety of cupcakes! They can learn to roll, press, flatten, shape..The possibilities are endless and it’s so much fun too!

Remembering Alois Alzheimer

Today is the birthday of Alois Alzheimer, whose groundbreaking research paved the way to the exploration of dementia, 110 years ago.
Since then, the medical profession has made great strides in the provision of care of those afflicted with this memory stealing disease. Alzheimer’s disease may have been identified more than a century ago but much is still yet to be discovered about the precise biologic changes that cause Alzheimer’s. Scientists globally continue to search for answers into the underlying causes and hunt for a cure.

Over the past few years we have provided a number of events for schools and the public which looked at the brain, how it works and what affects its ability to function. We have hosted evenings on mental fitness, held discussions with top psychologists on new treatments for mental health disorders, alchemist cafes featuring a leading Canadian neuroscientist and a performance psychologist and last year we were delighted to deliver a fascinating event to a packed audience entitled ‘The Mind, The Body, The Universe’ which examined how it is all so intrinsically linked.

Alzheimer’s disease is undoubtedly devastating but the brain is truly the most masterful organ in the human body. It not only gives us the ability to think but it also controls an unbelievable number of other tasks such as how we experience emotions, how we talk and behave, move and reason, as well as controlling vital elements such blood pressure and breathing. For centuries, scientists been fascinated by the complexities of the brain, but now due to the increasing pace of neurological research, we are learning a great deal more about its vast functions and capabilities.

If you would like to see more of these type of events which focus on the mind and how it all works, please get in touch. We always love to hear what the public are interested in, we always listen and it makes our task of ensuring we provide only the most informative and enjoyable events that bit easier..


Photo: Prof Gary Donohoe, who spoke about the science of the mind at one of our 2014 alchemist cafes.

Irish-American scientist Returns to her Roots and Inspires Locals

2016-05-24 Dr Mary Guinan-8417Local development company Atlantic Corridor in collaboration with the ‘United States Embassy Creative Minds Series’ was pleased to welcome a most inspirational speaker and author, Dr. Mary Guinan to the region earlier this week.

During her time in the Midlands, Dr. Guinan addressed a number of secondary schools students in Westmeath and Offaly, telling stories about her barrier-crossing career in science and worked to encourage more young people to consider science as a future course of study and work. Mary Guinan, PhD, MD, was the founding dean of the School of Community Health Sciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and is now professor emerita. She was the first woman to serve as the chief scientific advisor to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She has roots in Co. Offaly and was proud to be taking part in a series of public events in schools and other venues to promote science and technology education in the region. This was all carried out through her association with the Midlands Science Diaspora, a network that is being developed by Atlantic Corridor.

Dr.Guinan commented,

‘A key focus of Atlantic Corridor’s work is placed upon deepening relationships with diaspora members with a background in science, engineering or a related industry discipline so I was delighted to come to the Midlands this week to share some of my own experiences and background with people here of all ages. There are many Irish and Irish American people who have made a significant contribution to science abroad but future success will be achieved through collaborations, sharing of knowledge and working together. The Midlands science diaspora project provides a platform for like-minded people to connect and hopefully create mutually beneficial opportunities, particularly those with a STEM related focus and I was delighted to be a part of that this week in Offaly and Westmeath.’

In addition to school visits and meetings with like-minded public health and science professionals, a special public interview was held in the Tullamore Court Hotel where Dr. Guinan talked about her fascinating career in science, her brand new book, ‘Adventures of a Female Medical Detective’ and this was followed by discussion, debate and learnings. A visit to Integra LifeSciences was also arranged as part of the visit. Integra LifeSciences, a world leader in medical technology, is dedicated to limiting uncertainty for surgeons, so they can concentrate on providing the best patient care. Integra offers innovative solutions in orthopaedic extremity surgery, neurosurgery, and reconstructive and general surgery. The Tullamore facility opened its doors in December 2006 and has grown from 5 employees to over 105 employees in its 10 successful years of operations.

Jackie Gorman, CEO of Atlantic Corridor said,

‘We have enjoyed a very successful week-long programme of events with Mary Guinan and feel it has been really beneficial, particularly towards our quest to encourage and excite more young people about the wide range of career choices science can offer. We would like to thank everyone for supporting the various events that we provided during the week and we look forward to connecting with many other members of the global Irish who may be able to make that valuable educational difference here in the Midlands in the future.’

Public interview with Dr Mary Guinan, May 24th

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In her career in public health, Dr Mary Guinan was at the forefront of the eradication of small pox. Today, smallpox is the only disease that mankind has eliminated from nature and it is a disease that killed at least 2 million people per year until its eradication. During her barrier-crossing career, Dr. Guinan met arms-seeking Afghan insurgents in Pakistan and got caught in the cross fire between religious groups in Lebanon. She treated some of the first AIDS patients and served as an expert witness in defence of a pharmacist who was denied employment for having HIV—leading to a landmark decision that still protects HIV patients from workplace

Since the emergence of HIV, almost 78 million people have been infected with the HIV virus and about 39 million people have died. Randy Shilts’s best-selling book on the AIDS epidemic, And the Band Played On, features her AIDS work.

Mary Guinan, PhD, MD, was the founding dean of the School of Community Health Sciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and is now professor emerita. She was the first woman to serve as the chief scientific advisor to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She has roots in Co. Offaly and is proud to be taking part in a series of public events in schools and other venues to promote science and technology education in the midlands region, through her association with the Midlands Science Diaspora, a network that is being developed by Atlantic Corridor.

If you wish to attend a public interview wuith Dr Guinan please contact for details.