January 23, 2008
Transition Years experience life at the CSCB

14 lucky Transition Year students from Dublin and Laois took up residency at the CSCB from January 14-18, 2008. The students were selected from over 50 applicants for the popular programme, which aims to give students who are considering studying science an insight into the life of a scientist.

Transition year students outside the CSCB
Students on the CSCB Transition Year work experience week

Read a diary of the week by the participants: Amy Fahey, Lorna McSherry, Ramia Jameel, Sadhbh Soper Ni Chapaidh, Katie Moran, Tess McCann, Katerina Sleptsova, Wesley Byrne, Gilian Crowe, Emma Wallace, Fiachra Lynn, Kelly Browne, Aoife Lyons, and Cormac Murphy.

Monday: Day one began at 9:30 with an introduction to the CSCB with Dr Claire Twomey. We were given a bag packed with all the materials we would need for that week and were then taken on an interesting tour of the UCD campus by a student ambassador.
After lunch, we were brought to the general instrument room to meet Dr Dilip Rai. Here he showed and explained the science of mass spectrometry. This can be used to identify substances (as seen in CSI). NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) is used to determine the structure of materials e.g. new drugs. This is done by giant, powerful magnets that have to be cooled to near absolute zero, as showed to us by Dr Jimmy Muldoon.

Billy Fleming building aspirin with TY student Kelly Browne
Billy Fleming building aspirin with TY student Kelly Browne

Tuesday: The first task for Tuesday morning was to "Shadow a Scientist". This allowed us to see what really goes on behind the closed doors of labs, to experience the excitement and even the drudgery of the day-to-day routines, and to meet the people who do everything from helping to save our lives to helping eliminate the global warming pandemic. Each one of us from the group of 14 was assigned a scientist to take us under their wing for the next two mornings.

Katie Moran spent the mornings with Jean-Luc Bouissiere, carrying out a reaction called methanolysis to remove acetate groups using sodium methoxide. Katerina Sleptsova worked with Petrica Dulgeru who was doing experiments to determine whether or not it was possible to build a 4-way catalyst for exhaust pipes of vehicles.

Jean-Luc Bouissiere explaining column chromatography
Jean-Luc Bouissiere explaining column chromatography
to TY student Katie Moran

After a re-vitalising lunch, our next activity was a talk on glass-blowing by Peter O'Reilly. The room was a menagerie of glass. Peter talked with much enthusiasm as he recalled his life's work. He created a little swan as a keepsake for us. The next session was with Mick Dunne entitled "Chemistry Illusions". He showed us the lighter side of chemistry by amusing us with explosions such as the chromium volcano and we played around with liquid nitrogen and a banana. In all, everybody enjoyed the day immensely.

TY student Gillian Crowe setting up a reaction in the lab
TY student Gillian Crowe setting up a reaction in the lab

Wednesday: On Wednesday morning, we began the second session of our "Shadow a Scientist" placements. Everyone donned a labcoat and a pair of extremely attractive specs to dash off to their respective labs for another bout of fascinating, if a little complex, chemistry.

Wesley Byrne was saving the planet with Dr Elena Lestini creating bio-diesel using vegetable il and a noxious concoction of sodium hydroxide and methanol. Gillian Crowe, meanwhile, was with Michael Griffin, a final year PhD student, helping out with his project, synthesising very complicated organic molecules and spilling some solvent all over the place in the process!

TY student Lorna McSherry performs a separation
TY student Lorna McSherry performs a separation
under the watchful eye of Cathal Murphy

After lunch we were treated to a visit to UCD Conway Institute for an introduction to DNA and Neuroscience. We were met by the very friendly David Knowles, who introduced us to our first speaker, Dr Brendan Kennedy. He gave an informative lecture on his investigations using zebra-fish to develop gene therapy and other cures for human blindness. We later get a chance to meet the fish on our tour of the building. To round off the day we finished with a fun but messy experiment extracting DNA from a banana.

Stephen Murray with TY student Aoife Lyons
Stephen Murray with TY student Aoife Lyons

Thursday: On Thursday we went to the UCD School of Computer Science and Informatics. Researchers Karl Abbey and Erik Hemberg taught us all about the software "Scratch". Scratch is a computer programme which teaches the basics of computer programming in a fun and interesting way. We used "sprites" which are animations and made them move in different motions and make sounds.

Later we went back to the CSCB to hear a talk by Dr Francesca Paradisi, who is a lecturer in Chemical Biology in UCD and comes from the city of Bologna in Italy. She told us a bit about where she's from and explained why she decided to pursue a career in science and what she does every day.

TY students Wesley Byrne and Emma Wallace examine their samples
TY students Wesley Byrne and Emma Wallace examine their samples

Friday: The day began with a visit to UCD School of Chemical and Bioprocess Engineering for a half-day workshop. Dr Patricia Kieran gave us a talk about chemical engineering which was really interesting. Then we were brought into the chemical engineering labs and split into two groups to do different experiments with names like Dissolution-ed, Blowing off Steam, Man the Pumps, A Heated Separation and Flow Patterns. It was a lot of fun. Then we had a tour of National Institue of Bioprocessing Research and Training and Dr Paul Jeffers spoke to us about how they produce large quantities of different drugs in the production industry.

TY student Cormac Murphy and Stephen Barron
TY student Cormac Murphy and Stephen Barron

After lunch we were given an informative career talk by Dr Orla Donoghue, Science Marketing Manager. This was designed to outline the job opportunities for graduates in the pharmaceutical industry, biotechnology, IT and business. As an example, she looked at posts currently being advertised on job websites. We also talked about salary ranges and discussed the skills that employers look for in these areas. Practical lab and IT skills are important, as are innovation, initiative, teamwork and communication skills. We looked at an example of how a person could progress from the Leaving Cert science subject, through university and then their career. We took a closer look at science courses at university.

Overall we all really enjoyed the week, especially getting to do loads of lab work and meet loads of students and researchers. We've all got a much better idea about college life now. Thanks to everyone for a great week!

Dr Florence Sallas explains her work to TY student Amy Fahey

Dr Florence Sallas explains her work to TY student Amy Fahey

 

Komala Pandurangan with TY student Tess McCann
Komala Pandurangan with TY student Tess McCann


Liz Dunny shows TY student Fiachra Lynn
Liz Dunny shows TY student Fiachra Lynn
how to do a recrystallisation

 

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