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.’


Midlands Science is pleased to invite members of the public to come along to explore the history of photography with renowned photographer Veronica Nicholson during Heritage Week 2019. Veronica is a photographic artist and educator, with a Masters’ degree in Digital Art, and she lives here in the Midlands.
Jackie Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science, said,

‘Join us for national Heritage Week with a science twist on August 20th in Athlone. Photography has been with us since 1839, even before the famine, and so photographs provide a magical portal into past times. It continues to this day to be a great hobby for people, and estimates suggest that more than 1 trillion photos were taken in 2018 alone. Veronica will explain what exactly happened in 1839 and how photography has developed over time, both as a process and as a pastime. Most importantly, we are encouraging those attending to bring along old photographs and cameras on the day so that together we can explore the stories behind the images and the history of photography and how it relates to our everyday lives.’
There is no doubt that photographs offer an invaluable representation of Ireland’s history and heritage and in the current world of digital photography many people are not as inclined to print their images, often losing precious memories that may never see the light of day.

Veronica commented,
‘I am delighted to host this special photographic event and to work with Midlands Science during Heritage Week 2019 in Athlone. Old photographs and historical images can offer a fascinating and comprehensive insight into Irish life from decades gone by and can showcase how much change has taken place before modern society and a new Ireland emerged. I am really looking forward to delving into this, and encourage people to bring along any old cameras they may have as well as their cherished family portraits that may have been preserved for generations, local street scenes or Irish landscapes or even unplanned shots of people just living life, as they provide a really special glimpse into family history and to the past.’

This unique event entitled, ‘Light Tales, Photography History’ will take place from 5pm – 6pm on August 20th in the Aidan Heavey Library in Athlone. Admission is free and the event in suitable for people of all ages. For further information and booking please contact Jackie Gorman on 0579323902 or at

Forensic Fun and Investigation in Athlone!

International Terrorism expert, Prof Andrew Silke and Brian Gibson of Forensic Science Ireland, Jackie Gorman and Pauline Nally of Midlands Science and Craig Slattery, UCD and Midlands Science at the Science Week event, which explored forensic science, poisoning by spies and the psychology of terrorism. The event took place in Athlone Little Theatre and featured  a crime scene with clues for audience members to use to solve the crime.


Learn All About the Weather this November in Laois with Midlands Science

The countdown to this year’s Midlands Science Festival is certainly on now and the week-long event will be taking place across the region for people of all ages from November 11th – 18th. Attendees should expect to find a range of speaking events, workshops and performances about cutting-edge science from world-leading speakers and academics and there will be lots of fun for people of all ages throughout the festival week.
Midlands Science Festival Director Jackie Gorman commented on one exciting, free event which will be coming to Laois this year,
‘How accurate is weather prediction? Is long-range forecasting reliable? Given the real extremes of weather that the country saw earlier this year, we are particularly looking forward to this year’s ‘science of weather’ talk with well-known weather forecaster, Gerald Fleming. This will take place on the evening of November 13th in Midlands Park Hotel in Portlaoise and we look forward to welcoming people of all ages to explore ‘The Science of a Grand Soft day.’

Gerald Fleming said,
‘I am delighted to be partaking in this year’s Midlands Science Festival and I look forward to coming to Laois to discuss something which is so universal to us all. My talk will explore a background to the science of climate change and will detail the work done in recent decades both to refine the science and to provide adequate, understandable summaries of the key issues to help society decide on appropriate policies and actions. We will examine key questions as to whether we can enjoy a sustainable lifestyle while protecting our atmosphere. Events like ‘Science Week’ are a wonderful opportunity to take a closer look at so many different issues that affect us in day to day life and the weather is certainly one which has begun to spark more and more interest, particularly when we reflect on the year which has just passed. I look forward to debate and discussion on the night and hopefully plenty of questions and curiosity about the science of weather.’

Jackie Gorman continued,
‘We are delighted to bringing a whole range of science events to Laois and this particular talk which is open to the public, is one which promises to be both informative and entertaining. Known for his engaging style of presenting, trademark wink and sign-off, Gerald recently retired from Met Eireann, where he had served as head of forecasting for many years. He has been involved in weather forecasting and public engagement with forecasts for many serious weather events in Ireland over the years. Weather is a pretty safe topic of conversation especially here in Ireland. It’s too hot or it’s too cold, it can affect whether schools or transport networks run and it can influence the decision of wedding dates and potential holiday-makers year on year. The science behind the natural forces that cause the weather is extremely interesting and this event will explore views on how we can engage with the challenges presented by climate change and extreme weather events, so do come along and hear all about it on the night.’
This evening will also include students from Timahoe National School presenting findings from their school weather station – ensuring that the next generation of weather forecasters are thriving in Laois! The team from Midlands Science want to ensure that that in rolling out 120 events across Science Week that there is something for everyone and there is no doubt that the weather is of interest to each and every one of us. Check out for more details on how you can book this and other events for Science Week 2018 in Laois and beyond.

Festivals attract people with curiosity…

We are pleased to announce a very different event for this year called Intimacy, The Science Of Relationships.’ Join author and neuroscientist Giovanni Frazzetto for a unique discussion exploring the science of relationships, everything from family, work to love and our engagement with technology. Giovanni is an engaging speaker who has published books on relationships and emotions. He was awarded the John Kendrew Young Scientist Award for his cross-disciplinary and science communication efforts. We had a chat to Giovanni in advance of Science Week to find out more..

Giovanni, you are currently a research fellow at Trinity College Dublin,
what brings you to Ireland and what exactly are you researching during your time here?
I am interested in understanding what intimacy is today, and how art, science, design and technology can together help us understand it.
What first inspired you towards a science-related career?
At about 16 I read an article about molecular biology in a scientific magazine. I was fascinated and wanted to learn everything about genes, proteins and invisible reactions. Later on, I became more interested in psychology and neuroscience. However, since I was a student I have always tried to filter what I learnt in science through the lens of art and the humanities, and vice-versa.
In your research, you talk about the importance of human interaction for our well-being and yet loneliness is an epidemic? Why is this the case?
I suppose there may be a kind of disenchantment with relationships nowadays. While technology has given us the opportunity to connect widely, it may also make us spend a lot of time on our own.
How can we use science to improve interpersonal connections?
In general, an effective scientific method to improve personal connections is observation.
In habit and routine, we may keep making mistakes in interpersonal relationships. But if we begin to pay more attention to our own and other people’s needs, we will be able to improve the knowledge of who we are and what makes us most comfortable alone or with others. We will begin to rectify inconvenient patterns, and reinforce behaviour that is more helpful to us.
In your book, you look through the lenses of emotion, psychology, philosophy, art and personal experience… What can we do to ensure science meets art and culture more often in order to engage more people?
Complex phenomena like love, intimacy and relationships can hardly be understood satisfactorily from a single perspective. Indeed, most questions, be they personal life questions, societal issues or global challenges, earn a multi-disciplinary approach for an elucidation. I would concentrate on reinforcing a trans-disciplinary approach in schools and universities, as early as possible in the education of students. We need to reward and encourage transdisciplinary learning so that it becomes standard.
Why are events like the Midlands Science Festival so important do you think?
Events like the Midlands Science Festival are important because they represent a regular appointment with a curated series of lectures, conversations etc. where scientists, educators, students, and other interested people can gather and always learn something from one another, effortlessly. Festivals attract people with curiosity. Visitors stock up with ideas and bring home a lasting inspiring energy.

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!

Psychology, sweet treats and Science for Breakfast!

Chco event 1 chco event 2Today we hosted a Science Week business breakfast in the Sheraton Hotel in Athlone where members of the business community and the public had the opportunity to hear from two corporate speakers, Mr. Traoloch Collins, Managing Director of Athlone based multinational, Ericsson and Westmeath native, Mr. Feargal O’Rourke, Managing Partner of PwC Ireland. They talked about the importance of STEM skills for the future of Irish society and the economy.

Then it was over to Kilbeggan to sample some delicious handmade chocolate and learn all about the science of one of our favourite treats with toxicologist and Offaly native, Dr Craig Slattery! We had more career talks, more Reptile Zoo school visits, marine life workshops and we were delighted to welcome back Famelab to Mountmellick library where students learned about science communication and were informed and entertained by a number of science experts in a fun and engaging way.

We are also delighted to host a free public event in Athlone Little Theatre tonight  – The Mind, The Body, The Universe. At this event we will hear from experts from the world of medicine, psychology and astronomy.

We had sincerely hoped to brave the weather tomorrow for an ecology walk and an evening of stargazing to finish off a wonderful festival but the forecast is just too bad so both events have to be postponed but please be patient with us and we will rearrange for them to take place as soon as possible!

Public Events, Career talks and Science for Breakfast!

F O' RourkeDon’t miss an opportunity to hear from some of our expert speakers during Midlands Science Festival

2015 marks 20 years of Science Week; a national, annual event that celebrates the fascinating worlds of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Science Week 2.0 invites people of all ages to experience science firsthand. As part of this year’s Midlands Science Festival which is heading into its third year and features some 90 events across the four counties of Westmeath, Offaly, Laois and Longford, we will be delivering school career talks from a number of expert speakers from academic institutes such as NUI, Maynooth and Trinity College Dublin.

We are also delighted to announce another exciting and free public event due to take place in the Athlone Little Theatre on the evening of Friday 13th  – The Mind, The Body, The Universe. On the night, we will hear from experts from the world of medicine, psychology and astronomy for some fascinating discussion and an opportunity for questions afterwards.

This year and for the first time, we will also host a business breakfast in the Sheraton Hotel in Athlone on the morning of Friday, November 13th where members of the business community and indeed the public will have the opportunity to hear from two local corporate speakers, Mr. Traloch Collins, MD of Athlone based multinational, Ericsson and Westmeath native, Mr. Feargal O’Rourke, Managing Partner of PwC Ireland. On the morning, they will talk about the importance of STEM skills for the future of Irish society and the economy.

This event is free of charge but remember, booking is essential and places will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Photo: Mr. Feargal O’Rourke, Managing Partner of PwC Ireland.