August 13, 2007
SFI STARs bring research back to the classroom

SFI-funded CSCB researchers have welcomed secondary school teachers into their laboratories over the summer under the SFI Secondary Teachers Assistant Researchers (STARs) programme, now in its fourth year. The idea behind the programme is to help teachers renew their interest in science and bring the research experience back to their pupils.

STARs at the CSCB
Mr Peter Scully and Ms Ciara O’Driscoll have joined Professor Pat Guiry's group at the CSCB for the summer months and are both working on the synthesis of new economic and environmentally friendly catalysts with potential applications in the pharmaceutical industry.

Miriam Aylward and SFI STAR Peter Scully at the CSCB

PhD researcher Ms Miriam Aylward and SFI STAR Mr Peter Scully

“Peter and Ciara are a welcome addition to our lab as they give the group a chance to show the relevance of our research and demonstrate the full range of modern analytical techniques,” explains Professor Guiry. “We hope it enthuses them as they return to their schools to teach the next generation of scientists.”

“Working in the CSCB I’ve had the opportunity to use instrumentation not available in school,” says Mr Scully. "In addition to my research project I really appreciate being given the time and resources to design an experiment to bring back to my students. This involves extracting chlorophyll from spinach and analysing the breakdown products by thin layer chromatography. I'm hoping to do this experiment with both chemistry and biology students to show them how the two subjects come together. "

Ms Laura Dempsey has been working with Dr Paul Evans on the first step of a drug discovery programme by preparing new dual acting anti-inflammatory compounds.

At the RCSI
Ms Edel Morrow, a teacher at Hartstown Community School, Clonsilla, is an SFI STAR in the Peptide Laboratory at RCSI this summer. Her project aims at identifying suitable peptide candidates for novel antimicrobial and anticancer agents. Her work includes the preparation of these peptides and, in collaboration with the Departments of Physiology and Clinical Microbiology at RCSI, the evaluation of their cytotoxic activities against selected cancer and bacterial cells.

"Edel's results support the progression of 2 SFI Research Frontiers Programmes and also provide preliminary data for new projects which build on these awards", says Dr Marc Devocelle. "We have also planned an outreach programme including visits of transition year students to the Peptide Lab".

In addition to the research, the science teachers were invited to take part in a five week STARs Research Survival Skills support programme hosted in turn by education and outreach personnel in UCD, the RCSI, DCU and TCD. Workshops featured the use of the web as a teaching resource, activity-based learning in science and an introduction to the various outreach initiatives available to second level students.

STARs at the DNA workshop at UCD Conway Institute 2007

Science teachers Ms Laura Barry, Mr Seosamh O'Braonain and Ms Aoife McCarthy with their model of DNA at the UCD Conway Institute

The first workshop hosted by UCD Science began in the CSCB on July 25 with 12 science teachers from Dublin, Wicklow and Limerick. Dr Jimmy Muldoon and Dr Dilip Rai ran hands-on sessions where teachers became pupils as they learned how to use state-of-the-art instrumentation to identify unknown substances.

STAR Mr Seosamh O'Braonain from Wesley College, Ballinteer commented "It was great to see the labs and to learn so much about techniques like NMR and mass spectrometry."

The UCD workshop is the first in a number of UCD Science outreach initiatives planned for 2007 and 2008. During Science Week there will be a two-day Science Festival and an Information Evening for parents, teachers and students about the options for studying Science at UCD. Information on how to apply for tickets for these and other science outreach events can be found at


More News