June 25, 2007
Students get a taste of Science at UCD

148 secondary school students from over 20 schools visited the UCD campus during the first two weeks of June for the New ERA Uni4U and 5th Year summer schools. The students attended a series of taster talks which included a science talk about astronomy. Video clips of NASA astronauts brought home the real challenges of living on board the International Space Station.

Second year student Sarah McDaid from St Killians, Ballywaltrim commented that: “I loved hearing about what it's like for an astronaut in space and about the new planet. I didn't realise that physics and chemistry were involved.”

Students attending the Uni4U summer school at UCD
Students attending the Our Ever Changing World presentation
as part of the Uni4U summer school

After examining space exploration and some UCD connections with the European Space Agency the talk then changed tack and explored the very real problem of global warming. The students heard about current UCD research into finding solutions for environmental problems and were then set the task of devising ways to save energy by Dr Claire Twomey from the Centre for Synthesis and Chemical Biology.

The summer school also featured a maths workshop based on the Fibinocci Numbers and the Golden Ratio, which was provided by Dr Maria Meehan from the UCD School of Mathematical Sciences. “The idea was to show the students how maths is used in nature and within our human bodies,” explains Ursula Finnegan, a postgraduate student who ran the workshop with Ian Harris and Daniel Foran. “We began by getting the students to work together in groups and do a few easy comprehensions before showing them where the results they obtained are found in our daily lives.”

Cian Murray, a postgraduate student from the UCD School of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, hosted chemistry sessions where the students witnessed the magic of liquid nitrogen, dry ice, iodine clocks, ammonia fountains and dichromate volcanoes.

"I think these lab sessions are a fun, interactive way to develop an interest in science, and give the participants an insight into the world of chemistry they might not be aware of," explains Cian. "It is also a very rewarding experience for the demonstrators to see the students’ interest and enjoyment of the subject."

To gain an insight into what life as a researcher was like, the UCD Conway Institute hosted a tour of their facilities. The students learned about the daily life of a researcher and saw the techniques used by scientists to unravel some of life’s mysteries.

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