Midlands Science was pleased to team up with Athlone Institute of Technology and Declan Holmes from Science Ireland recently for Tech Week 2019.

Tech Week is Ireland’s nationwide festival of technology aimed at students, parents and the public. Tech Week is made up of a range of classroom and community activities taking place across Ireland – in libraries, schools, community centres, and many other locations. These activities give students a chance to develop their interest in technology subjects, examine potential career prospects, learn new skills, be creative and, most importantly, have a lot of fun.

As part of the Midlands Tech Week celebrations, Midlands Science organised a school career presentation for the students of Gallen Community School in Ferbane, Co. Offaly. We were very fortunate to have Engineering lecturer and key speaker, Dr.Enda Fallon from AIT present to talk to students about technology fields and course.

Jackie, Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science said,

‘We were really pleased to collaborate once again with AIT during Tech Week to deliver some very interesting talks about the world of technology to Offaly student. It is very important to demonstrate to students the vast diversity of science, engineering and technology in a practical and easy to understand manner so it was beneficial to not only have an academic representative from AIT but also to include the more fun and interactive side of science and we did this through some engaging science workshops with Declan Holmes from Science Ireland. We will actively continue to encourage students to consider the whole field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and showing them how it impacts our lives on an everyday basis during Tech Week is an ideal way to do this.’

Physical Activity for Life…AIT STEM Talk for Longford Students

We were delighted to welcome Mairead Cantwell, a clinical exercise physiologist to Mean Scoil Mhuire in Longford recently where she delivered an insightful and informative presentation to students as part of our STEM career talks in association with AIT.

Mairead works as  as an assistant lecturer in sport and exercise science at AIT. Clinical exercise physiology focuses on the promotion and prescription of physical activity to individuals living with different chronic conditions (e.g. heart disease, diabetes, cancer).

Her presentation focused on the benefits of physical activity for health throughout the life, and in the context of clinical conditions. She also discussed potential routes in to careers in clinical exercise physiology.


Talking Innovation & Technology at Tullamore College

Midlands Science was delighted to recently welcome two expert speaker to Tullamore College where they delivered a highly engaging and informative talk to senior students .

Caroline Brazil (originally from the Midlands and a Senior Manager with Accenture) and Déaglán Campbell, Design Lecturer in Dept. of Mechanical, Polymer & Design, at Athlone Institute of Technology focused their talks on Innovation and feedback from teachers and students was extremely positive. We look forward to many more talks in schools across the region before the end of this school year.


Engineer’s Week at Killina Secondary School with NIS and AIT

Midlands Science was delighted to deliver a number of STEM career talks to school in the Midlands as part of the national Engineers Week celebrations. One talk which took place for a large number of students in Offaly was at Killina Secondary School in Rahan.

Dr Enda Fallon of Athlone Institite of Technology (AIT) spoke to students about Engineering courses and careers and Gerry Buckley of local network and infrastructure and support firm, NIS also presented on the day so that the young people could see it from both the corporate and academic side.

Guidance Counsellor at Killina Secondary School, Breda Mann said,

‘The staff at Killina Secondary School were pleased to work with Midlands Science during ‘Engineers Week’ to deliver some very interesting talks about the world of engineering to students in Co. Offaly. We believe that it is very important to demonstrate to students the vast diversity of both science and engineering in a practical and easy to understand manner and both speakers provided this opportunity for us on the day. We had Dr Enda Fallon from Athlone Institute of Technology and Gerry Buckley from local IT company, NIS. We will actively continue to encourage our students to consider the whole field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and showing them how it impacts our lives on an everyday basis is a great way to do this.’


How we experience and manage pain is a complex and sometimes emotional process. This free lunchtime lecture took place today in Athlone Library explored our relationship with pain and painkillers and was led by Dr Gary Stack of AIT’s School of Nursing and Healthcare.


Local development company, Midlands Science, teamed up with Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) and Intel Ireland Ltd this week to deliver an inspiring career talk to students at Lore to College in Mullingar, in advance of the annual Midlands Science Festival.

Enda Fallon from AIT spoke to students about engineering career opportunities and course options available at AIT and Bridget Molloy of Intel Ireland Ltd also addressed students and spoke about her own career in a global company as well as providing insights on other related engineering careers and opportunities for women in STEM.

Enda Fallon said,

‘AIT is delighted to join forces with Midlands Science in promoting the world of science and engineering in Ireland. It is extremely important for AIT as the key Midlands academic provider to provide the local second level student population with inspiring experiences of engineering and to showcase the diverse opportunities and career paths that engineering offers as part of the collective national aim to increase the number of young people who wish to join these professions in the future. We want our workshops and talks to help students to better under the real world of science and engineering and collaborating with Midlands Science particularly as we head in to national Science Week 2018 was the perfect opportunity to do this.’

The Midlands Science Festival will be taking place across the region for people of all ages from November 11th – 18th and promises a full programme of innovative and fun hands-on events.

Jackie Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science said,

“Ireland needs more future scientists and engineers so we really want to ensure that more young people understand what these fields are all about and how they are used and applied in so many aspects of modern living. Giving students the opportunity to talk directly to engineers and engage in hands-on activities that showcase and explain science and engineering is at the heart of what we do and we are delighted to be able to facilitate events for some local schools here in the Midlands to help inspire the next generation.’





How we experience and manage pain is a complex and sometimes emotional process. This free lunchtime lecture will take place during this year’s Midlands Science Festival on November 14th in Athlone Library and will explore our relationship with pain and painkillers.

This event part of a series of bite-sized science talks, where those attending can pop in on their lunch break for some science, free tea and coffee and snacks and there will be an opportunity for questions and answers.. You’ll learn something new during your lunchbreak and we encourage questions and discussion at this event.

Join Dr Gary Stack of AIT’s School of Nursing and Healthcare for a lunchtime lecture on painkillers, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Empowering people to make better choices…


Pain is something that every single person will experience at some point in their lives and the team at Midlands Science is delighted to be teaming up once again with Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) during Science Week to deliver a very insightful talk on the whole are of pain, pain relief and the science behind it all. We spoke to key speaker Gary Stack, Lecturer in the Department of Nursing and Healthcare at AIT to find out more…
Gary, firstly can you give us an insight to your own role and background? What courses do you teach?
I completed my undergraduate degree in pharmacy in Trinity College Dublin in 2006.  Following graduation, I worked as a community pharmacist.  Practising as a community pharmacist involved more than dispensing medicines to patients.  It meant that I was in a position to ensure medicines were being used appropriately to achieve best patient outcomes.  While working in the community, I decided to return to Trinity College where I under took a PhD developing new drugs for the treatment of cancer. This was an area close to my heart and provided me with the opportunity to explore a new facet of healthcare.  Following completion of my postgraduate studies, I began working as a lecturer in Athlone Institute of Technology.  I teach students on the pharmacy technician, dental nursing, general and psychiatric nursing and pharmaceutical science programmes.  This role allows me to share my knowledge and experience with the next generation of healthcare professionals and scientists, and also allows me to pursue my interest in research.
What led you to explore the world of learning about pain management?
Pain is such a broad topic and can range from a tooth-ache to severe and debilitating back pain. As a community pharmacist, I have spent many days helping people to choose the right solution for their symp toms. By understanding more about the science of pain and the medicines we use to treat it, people can be empowered to make better choices for their own healthcare.
Some people take over the counter products such as ibuprofen to treat everyday aches and pains, but how exactly do different classes of pain relievers actually work in the body?
There are a number of over-the-counter products to treat aches and pains.  The most common painkillers available without a prescription include: ibuprofen, aspirin, paracetamol and codeine.  Ibuprofen is an anti-inflamma tory painkiller, which belongs to a class of medicines called non-steroidal anti-inflamma tory drugs (NSAIDs).  Ibuprofen works by reducing the production of prostaglandins, chemicals that cause pain and inflammation. Aspirin and paracetamol work in a similar way to ibuprofen.  Codeine works in a different way and acts in the brain and spinal cord, leading to pain relief.  As there are different classes of pain killers, I would recommend that patients always discuss their pain and treatment options with their pharmacist or doc tor.
Some painkillers can provide temporary relief for pain, but often use comes with undesirable side-effects -What pain medications are truly addictive?
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a 100% safe medication. Every medicine has its own combination of side effects. Opioids are the class of drugs that have the potential to cause dependence (also known as addiction). Opioids include morphine and the more widely available drug, codeine. While these medications can provide effective pain relief, they should always be used under the supervision of a doc tor or pharmacist.
Is it true that we develop a tolerance to pain medication overtime?
It is possible to become tolerant to pain medication overtime. This most commonly occurs with the opioid class of painkillers. This means that a person may find they need to take greater amounts of the drug to achieve the same pain relief. However, patients should never exceed the recommended dosage of any medicine and any changes in dose should always be carried out in consultation with the patient’s doc tor or pharmacist.
What can we do to encourage more young people to consider Nursing as a course or future career choice?
It is essential to encourage young people to consider healthcare courses such as Nursing, Pharmacy Technician and Dental Nursing when deciding on their future careers. Working in these professions is incredibly rewarding and essential for the future of the healthcare system.  There are a number of ways to attract students in to these courses.  Firstly, early intervention is essential so that young people are informed about these careers in secondary school.  Athlone Institute of Technology, for example, promotes long term student recruitment by organising a series of interactive open days, which provides students with a valuable insight in to these healthcare courses.  Secondly, there is often a perception that nursing and related courses are female-dominated and consequently, male students are sometimes unenthusiastic about joining these professions.  By removing this stigma, I’m sure it will encourage more men in to nursing and related careers and ensure greater gender balance in the healthcare system of the future.
Check out our events page for more details-
Painkillers – the good, the bad and the ugly
Nov 14th – 1:00 pm – 1:45 pm Athlone Library, Athlone Civic Centre, Church Street

Promoting Engineering and Inspiring the Next Generation

Midlands Science teamed up with Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) and Mergon International to deliver an inspiring career talk at Colaiste Mhuire in Mullingar last week as part of national ‘Engineers Week’ celebrations. Senior technologist, Alan Mannion spoke to students about engineering career opportunities and course options available at AIT and Padraic McDonnell of Mergon International gave an insight in to working in the engineering field, the diversity it offers and what it is like to work within this profession for a global company.

Aisling Nolan, General Manager of Mergon International said,

‘Mergon was delighted to join forces with local development company Midlands Science and Athlone Institute of Technology for Engineers Week 2018 which is a week-long festival of nationwide events celebrating the world of engineering in Ireland. It is extremely important for Mergon as an employer to provide the student population with inspiring experiences of engineering, as part of collective national quest to widen the pool of young people who will go on to join the profession in the future. We want our workshops to encourage young people to reflect, discuss and realise how they can be part of solutions needed for a vast number and diverse range of society’s challenges by becoming engineers. These workshops extend young people’s real-world understanding and it was wonderful to have this opportunity during Engineers Week ’

The annual Engineers Week event is coordinated on a national basis by Engineers Ireland’s STEPS programme which is funded under Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover programme. Midlands Science together with industry and academic partners wanted to ensure that a focus was given to encouraging young people locally to take a closer look at engineering and demonstrate how far-reaching, creative and innovative engineering actually is as a sec tor.

Jackie Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science said,

“Ireland needs more future engineers so we really need more young people to understand what the world of engineering is all about, its impact and how widely it is used in the real world. Giving students the opportunity to talk directly to engineers and engage in hands-on activities that showcase and explain engineering is at the heart of Engineers Week and we were delighted to be able to facilitate events for some local schools here in the Midlands to help inspire the next generation of engineers.’

Dr. Attracta Foley, a Chartered Civil Engineer and Senior Civil Engineering Lecturer at AIT also provided a talk in Mullingar during Engineers Week and addressed some of the students at Lore to College.

Orla Thorn ton, Direc tor of Marketing & Communications at AIT said,

‘Engineers Week is a great opportunity for AIT to collaborate with Midlands Science and our Industry partners in going out to schools within the midlands in order to showcase the best of what AIT offers in engineering. The week is a celebration of all things engineering and it is a wonderful opportunity to show young people the diverse opportunities and career paths that engineering offers and of course to encourage them to explore the world of engineering and in turn the range of programmes that the faculty of engineering and informatics offers potential students from apprenticeships, degrees right through to PhDs. As a nation we still have severe shortages in some engineering areas for example in construction related areas such as civil engineering and Quantity Surveying. Our programmes address these regional and national skills shortages and this week is a great opportunity for secondary school students to immerse themselves in to the world of engineering and all that is offers across the areas of civil and construction engineering, electronics and informatics and mechanical and polymer. All of our programmes in AIT are practically applied and industry focused and the collaboration between our industry partners such as Mergon is a great opportunity to inspire a new generation of potential engineers who will shape, design, build and au tomate for the world of tomorrow.’

Science gets the little grey cells moving!!!

AIT recently was awarded The Sunday Times Institute of Technology of the Year for 2018 and its vision is to become a Technological University in the near future. We are proud to be partnering with Athlone Institute of Technology to promote the importance of science and technology education here in the midlands and beyond.

This week we spoke to Dr. Brian Murphy of Athlone Institute of Technology in advance of Science Week to find out a little about AIT’s Science focus, their participation in the festival this year and also about his own role and background..

Brian, can you tell us a little about your role in AIT?

After completing my PhD in Coordination Chemistry and X-Ray Crystallography at University College Cork in 1994 I decided to pursue an academic career. Over the past 23 years this has brought me to teach Inorganic Chemistry and conduct research at a number of universities and institutes of technology both in Ireland and abroad, including Cardiff University, Dublin City University, IT Sligo and the United Arab Emirates University. In 2008, after spending eight years in the middle east, working as an Associate Professor of Inorganic Chemistry and later as a Head of Department at the Department of Chemistry at United Arab Emirates University, I decided to return to Ireland and joined Athlone Institute of Technology as Head of the Department of Life and Physical Sciences. I since have moved away from academic administration and have returned to my true passion in trying to open up the world of Coordination Chemistry to undergraduate students as a Senior Lecturer. Not an easy task!

I teach across a variety of academic programmes at AIT, including the BSc(Hons) in Pharmaceutical Science, which is a unique programme that provides the broad-based, essential information and skills required by graduates for employment in the modern pharmaceutical sec tor. This programme is officially recognized by the Institute of Chemistry in Ireland and covers chemical-based and next generation biotech-based therapeutics and their formulation in to the safe and effective medicines of high and durable quality. The programme is one of the leading academic programmes at AIT in terms of the high quality employment outlets open to its graduates. The Midlands has become a major magnet for leading international pharmaceutical companies and this programme provides learners with the core experience in the exploration of the structure-property relationships of drugs and pharmaceutical materials. As a Lecturer, not only do I teach but I also am involved in the extensive development of new academic programmes in the Faculty of Science and Health, I supervise undergraduate research projects in Coordination Chemistry, sit on a number of Institute sub-committees and have a number of international collaborations in the area of curriculum development and coordination chemistry.

AIT recently was awarded The Sunday Times Institute of Technology of the Year for 2018 and its vision is to become a Technological University in the near future. In my view this is an essential component of the future strategic plan for the region – AIT has the capacity and potential to become a university and this is what makes working at AIT extremely interesting at present! AIT’s strength comes from identifying areas of skills shortage and working with businesses to improve links between enterprise and academia. The Institute currently has three dedicated research centres, straddling the areas of Bioscience, Software and Materials and has become a regional research power-house in these areas, working closely with local industry.

What inspired you to pursue a science based career?

Unfortunately in Ireland only a small proportion of secondary schools currently offer Chemistry and Physics which is a real shame. Chemistry is often described as the central science and many students do not really understand the importance of chemistry until they enter third-level programmes and are surprised to find chemistry in the heart of medicine, engineering, dentistry, toxicology, biotechnology and even sports science programmes! As a secondary school student I was extremely lucky to go to a newly built, state-of-the-art, mixed secondary school in Cobh, Co. Cork, Coláiste Muire, where the Presentation Brother Principal of the School (Br. Bede) himself had a strong Science background and insisted that the school should have dedicated modern labora tories in Chemistry, Physics and Biology to ensure that students could take all three pillar science subjects up to Higher Leaving Certificate Level. At the time we had an outstanding Chemistry Teacher, Dr. Declan Kennedy, who since has moved on to become a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Education in University College Cork and who has been at the fore-front of developments in Chemistry Teaching in Ireland for the past twenty years. As a teacher he was visionary in his delivery of science and this is what lured me in to pursuing a career in Chemistry. It all stemmed from being exposed to problem-based learning, challenging experimental work and interdisciplinary science from an early age in secondary school and knowing that I was being educated in first-class chemical labora tories. It would be nice to see more schools in the Midlands offering Chemistry and Physics to secondary school students in the next ten years and not just Biology. All three subjects are essential for anyone interested in STEM as Science in the future will become even more interdisciplinary in nature! There appears to be a current shortage also of qualified Chemistry Teachers nationally and this is an area that the government needs to address if we are really to become a leading international STEM nation on the worldwide stage.

Why in your view is science so important in society today and what can we do to encourage more young people to choose science when picking their subjects at second level?

There are so many reasons as why science is so important to society at present that in this condensed blog it is not possible for me to outline the myriad of reasons and examples. As a Coordination Chemist by trade, X-ray Crystallography has long been a central structural tool for me in my pursuing research interests and the importance of structure still plays a pivotal role in science today. However I would like to focus in on the recent award of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Jacques Dubochet (University of Lausanne, Switzerland), Joachim Frank (Columbia University, New York, USA) and Richard Henderson (MRC Labora tory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK) for developing an effective method for generating three-dimensional images of the molecules of life. Using cryo-electron microscopy, it is now possible to freeze biomolecules midmovement and portray them at a tomic resolution. This technology has launched biochemistry on a completely new trajec tory. In the press release on the award of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to these researchers it is described how “over recent years numerous as tonishing structures of life’s molecular machinery have filled the scientific literature: Salmonella’s injection needle for attacking cells; proteins that confer resistance to chemotherapy and antibiotics; molecular complexes that govern circadian rhythms; light-capturing reaction complexes for pho tosynthesis and a pressure sensor of the type that allows us to hear. These are just a few examples of the hundreds of biomolecules that have now been imaged using cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). When researchers began to suspect that the Zika virus was causing the epidemic of brain-damaged newborns in Brazil, they turned to cryo-EM to visualise the virus. Over a few months, three dimensional (3D) images of the virus at a tomic resolution were generated and researchers could start searching for potential targets for pharmaceuticals.

Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson have made ground-breaking discoveries that have enabled the development of cryo-EM. The method has taken biochemistry in to a new era, making it easier than ever before to capture images of biomolecules.” As a scientist I always look forward each year to the award of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Reading the research underpinning the work of these annual award winners makes us understand the importance of science to society. Secondary school students need to be challenged in science from day one – to foster this learning environment, science students need to constantly pose questions, be challenged by undertaking project and research work, be exposed to a rigorous experimental programme and have access to high-quality labora tories, instrumentation and facilities. We also need to encourage more Honours Chemistry graduates to consider teaching as a career. There are several outstanding science teachers who do tremendous work in school educating future scientists, often educated to both Masters and PhD level. The government needs to support such highly qualified professionals to ensure that teaching once more is seen as a vital cog in our national development. One has only to look at the correlation between teaching, secondary school science facilities and STEM initiatives in countries like Finland to appreciate the importance of promoting the development of science in schools.

Do you think there are any really exciting research outcomes we can hope to see in the next 10 years?

Cure for Alzheimer’s disease, global solution to conquer climate change, advanced technologies for the electric car to name a few ….. it was interesting to read only a few days ago that NASA and NOAA have stated that measurements from satellites this year showed the hole in Earth’s ozone layer that forms over Antarctica each September was the smallest observed since 1988. Thirty years ago, the international community signed the Montreal Pro tocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and began regulating ozone-depleting compounds. Scientists claim that the ozone hole over Antarctica is expected to gradually become less severe as the use of chlorofluorocarbons (once widely used as refrigerants) continue to decrease worldwide. Scientists now expect the Antarctic ozone hole to recover back to 1980 levels around 2070. This shows the power of international scientific collaboration between scientists and governments. I think Environmental Chemistry is one area to really keep an eye on in terms of research activity over the next decade. Global solutions can bring about a solution to climate change but scientists need to be supported at both international and national levels to foster these solutions.

What is your favourite thing about teaching science?

As Hercule Poirot says it gets the little grey cells moving!!!

Dr. Brian Murphy, Senior Lecturer, Department of Life and Physical Sciences, Faculty of Science and Health, AIT