March 4, 2008
Environmentally friendly advances in chemistry capture imagination at AccesScience '08

Billy Fleming from Bray, Co. Wicklow was announced on 3rd March as the winner of the AccesScience ’08 competition, which took place in UCD’s O’Reilly Hall.

This annual competition is designed to encourage 3rd year postgraduate students from the UCD Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research to explain their cutting edge research in terms that can be understood by the non-scientific lay-person. This year saw six finalists rise to the challenge, covering a wide range of topics.

Photo of Dr Janet Allen, Mr Pat Kenny, Billy Fleming and Professor Pat Guiry at the AccesScience 08 final in UCD
(L to R): Dr Janet Allen, UCD Conway Institute, Mr Pat Kenny,
Mr Billy Fleming and Professor Pat Guiry, CSCB

Billy Fleming spoke to the 600-strong audience about ‘The Nature of Chemistry’, and he explained how research being done under the supervision of Professor Pat Guiry at the UCD Centre for Synthesis and Chemical Biology is identifying ways of generating vital drug therapies in the laboratory rather than relying on the finite and precious resources of nature.

Billy’s work involves the manufacture of ‘catalysts’ which can be used and reused in the synthetic replication of drugs normally found in nature. He compared his catalysts to the priest who can marry two people together – thus creating a new partnership - but without being affected himself. This leaves the priest free to continue performing marriage ceremonies for any number of other lucky couples! So too Billy’s catalysts, once created, can be used to continue binding molecules together to form a variety of drugs that can be used to treat diseases ranging from cancer to athlete’s foot! In this way, healthcare can continue to advance, but in an environmentally friendly way. You can listen to Billy's talk by clicking here.

AccesScience '08 Finalists (from l to r); Billy Fleming, Belinda Maher, Jane Fergusion, Marco Monopoli, Shane Kenny, Jennifer Hickey
AccesScience '08 Finalists (from L to R); Billy Fleming, Belinda Maher,
Jane Fergusion, Marco Monopoli, Shane Kenny, Jennifer Hickey

The AccesScience competition was hosted by RTE’s Pat Kenny who is a long-standing supporter of the initiative. Audience members joined a celebrity judging panel in picking the winning speaker. Lucinda Creighton, Fine Gael TD for Dublin South-East, chaired the judging panel, which was also made up of Derry Clarke of Dublin’s l’Ecrivain Restaurant, Mairead Farrell of Today FM and Sinister Pete of Phantom FM.

Second place in the competition was awarded to Belinda Maher who spoke on work being done using statins to help reduce the rate at which heart transplant patients reject the new organ. Shane Kenny won third place for his presentation on the development of biodegradable plastics in the chemistry lab.

AccesScience '08 Judges Derry Clarke, Peter Vamos, Lucinda Creighton and Mairead Farrell
Judging the poster competition: AccesScience '08 Judges
(from L to R); Derry Clarke, Peter Vamos, Lucinda Creighton and Mairead Farrell

A poster competition open to primary and secondary schools from around the country was also judged by the celebrity panel on the day. Students were asked to submit their artistic interpretations of the theme ‘Science in Our Lives’, and entries of a very high standard came in from around the country. First prize in the primary category was awarded to Aine Dunne of the Gorey Educate Together National School, Gorey, Co. Wexford, while Lidia Sokolowska of Sion Hill Dominican College, Blackrock Co. Dublin, won first prize in the secondary school category. The winners of prizes in the poster competition will have their artwork displayed on DART trains and stations later in the year as part of the Science Track series, a joint initiative between Iarnroid Eireann and UCD Conway Institute.

The event was sponsored by Discover Science & Engineering, Altracell and The Biochemical Society.


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