UCD Science Workshop Week 2016

 

87 secondary school students from across Ireland took part in the UCD Science Workshop Week programme between 15-19 February. Each student got the chance to experience a day in the life of UCD Science by taking part in workshops in state-of-the-art laboratories and active learning environements in the UCD O'Brien Centre for Science. Workshops were available in Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Astronomy & Space Science, Plant Biology, Mathematics & Statistics and Microbiology.

UCD Chemistry Workshop

Staff from the UCD School of Chemistry ran a mixture of hands-on experiments and as well as using demonstrations to display some of the more lively reactions in a series of demonstrations in the Kilty Outreach Lab.The students learned how chemistry makes gloops, bangs and real-world science.

Dr Tony Keene instructing the students at the UCD Chemistry Workshop.

Dr Tony Keene instructing the students at the UCD Chemistry Workshop

UCD Earth Sciences Workshop: Finding Invisible Worlds - The Power of the Microscope

Lecturers from the UCD School of Earth Sciences ran a workshop entitled "Finding Invisible Worlds: the power of the microscope". Students learned how the microscope is used as an investigative tool in a wide variety of scientific disciplines.

Using optical microscopy in the UCD Earth Sciences workshop

Using optical microscopy in the UCD Earth Sciences workshop

Students learned about that optical microscopy is only part of the suite of tools available to researchers. The students gained hands first hand experience of two other forms of microscopy- the petrological and scanning electron microscopes. Students were given an opportunity to image things as diverse as rocks from the moon, 250 million year old desert sandstones, 15 million year old insects and even the hair of the participants themselves.

Dr Paddy Orr explaining Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEM).

Associate Professor Patrick Orr explaining Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEM)

Astronomy & Space Science Workshop

Dr Antonio Martin-Carrillo from the UCD School of Physics led the Astronomy and Space Science Workshop on 16 February. Dr Martin-Carrillo gave the students an opportunity to learn from his own research how Astronomy & Space covers all aspects of Physics including the research of astrophysical phenomena through ground-based telescopes and space exploration. 

Dr Martin-Carrillo checking the students progress in the UCD Astronomy & Space Science Workshop.

Dr Martin-Carrillo checking the students progress in the UCD Astronomy & Space Science Workshop

Dr Martin-Carrillo explained that UCD scientists use a wide range of telescopes on Earth and in space to investigate a large number of astrophysical sources such as the birth of stars, the extremely fast rotations of tiny stars, supermassive black holes, terrestrial gamma-ray flashes linked to thunderstorms, and the most powerful explosions in the Universe known as Gamma-Ray Bursts. 

Physics with Astronomy & Space Science student Lána Salmon helping the participants during the workshop.

Physics with Astronomy & Space Science student Lána Salmon helping the participants during the workshop

Plant Biology Workshop

The UCD Plant Biology Workshop took place on 17 February 2016 under the guidance of Dr Paul McCabe from the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science.

Completing the DNA extraction experiment in the Kilty Outreach Lab.

Completing the DNA extraction experiment in the Kilty Outreach Lab

"The research and teaching activity of plant biologists at UCD embraces everything from biotechnology, through whole organism biology to ecology, evolution and environment. This breadth of expertise was on display to visiting secondary school students at the recent Plant Biology Workshop" said Dr McCabe.

Dr Rainer Melzer from UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science explaining DNA Extraction.

Dr Rainer Melzer from UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science explaining DNA Extraction

"Students visited the new state-of-the-art plant growth room facilities along with the biotechnology laboratories at UCD O'Brien Centre for Science and saw first hand some of the world-class research that is currently being carried out by undergraduate and postgraduate students at UCD."

Dr Joanna Kacprzyk and Ms Frances Downey in the Plant Growth Room in the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science.

Dr Joanna Kacprzyk and Ms Frances Downey in the Plant Growth Room in the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science

Mathematics and Statistics Workshop

The Maths and StatWorkshop featured lecturers from the UCD School of Mathematics and Statistics running hands-on interactive workshops entitled "The Mathematics of Juggling" and "Pendulum Theory and Swinging Bananas".

Dr Karl Bracken demonstrating the mathematical applications of juggling.

Dr Karl Bracken demonstrating the mathematical applications of juggling

In the first half of the workshop, the students learned about the history of juggling and its mathematical applications with our resident mathematician and juggler Dr Carl Bracken. Mathematics and juggling are both ancient disciplines and until recently they had no noticeable connections. However, Dr Bracken explained that at the end of the 20th century mathematicians and jugglers developed formulae for describing complex juggling patterns. Dr Bracken enthused all present with a series of demonstrations of multiple juggling patterns.

Dr Conor Sweeney illustrated the beauty of simple harmonic motion and its mathematical properties in the second half of the workshop, with use of both a single and double pendulum. Theory and simulations were used by Dr Sweeney to trace and explain the evolution of the system. This was then compared and contrasted with the behaviour of a much cruder pendulum built from just fruit and string - the swinging banana!

 

Conor Sweeney

 Dr Conor Sweeney explaining pendulum theory
during the UCD Mathematics and Statistics Workshop

 

 

Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin assisting students during the UCD Mathematics and Statistics Workshop.

Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin assisting students during
the UCD Mathematics and Statistics Workshop

UCD Microbiology Workshop

The Science Workshop Week was completed with the UCD Microbiology Workshop. Dr Tadhg Ó'Cróinín provided the students a glimpse into the good, the bad and the ugly of Microbiology.

Dr Ó'Cróinín explained how we are surrounded by millions upon millions of microbes many of which have huge impacts on our lives. This ranges from the good of life-saving penicillin, to bad breath and to the ugly of life-threatening diseases.

The workshop provided an opportunity to observe many of these fascinating organisms and observe some of the critical reactions they carry out.

Participants at the UCD Microbiology Workshop outside the Kilty Outreach lab.

Participants at the UCD Microbiology Workshop outside the Kilty Outreach lab

The second half of the workshop gave the students an opportunity to use the UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science undergraduate teaching laboratories in the UCD O'Brien Centre for Science. Dr Ó'Cróinín gave the students an overview of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science before conducting a demonstration on how to identify bacteria.

Dr Tadhg Ó'Cróinín explaining how to identify bacteria.

Dr Tadhg Ó'Cróinín explaining how to identify bacteria.

 

Talks & Tour of O'Brien Centre for Science

Due to the popularity of the workshops, a separate "Bonus Talk and Tour" was organised on Thursday 18 February. The attendees learned about a variety of areas across Science, Computer Science and Actuarial & Financial Studies and had an opportunity to talk to some of our current students about their experiences in UCD. The following talks were given:

  • Physics of the Arctic: The session began with a talk by Dr Tom McCormack from the UCD School of Physics entitled "Physics of the Arctic". Dr McCormack spoke to the students in attendance about research he carried out in Antarctica.
  • Careers in Science and Technology: Dr Orla Donoghue delivered a talk on the exciting career prospects in Science, Technology and Mathematics.
  • The Good, the Bad and The Ugly of Microbiology: Dr Jennifer Mitchell provided a glimpse into the good, the bad and the ugly of Microbiology.
  • Life as a Zoologist: Final Year Zoology student Irene Sullivan spoke about her experience researching in Madagascar last summer and gave the background to her myUCD blog.

 

Acknowledgements

The UCD Science Workshop Week was organised by the Science Student Recruitment Commitee. Sincere thanks to all the staff below:

  • UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science: Dr Paul McCabe, Dr Rainer Melzer, Dr Joanna Kacprzyk, Mr Niall Brogan, Ms Frances Downey, Ms Michelle Murray, Dr Sven Batke, Mr Gordon Kavanagh, Ms Bredagh Moran
  • UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science: Dr Tadhg Ó Croínín, Dr Heather Wood, Dr Jennifer Mitchell, Ms Joanna Connellan
  • UCD School of Chemistry: Dr Tony Keene, Ms Sara Collins, Dr Aaron Martin, Dr Sharon Shannon, Ms Susan Muldoon
  • UCD School of Earth Sciences: Dr Patrick Orr, Professor Frank McDermott, Mr Jack Bolger
  • UCD School of Mathematics and Statistics: Dr Adrian O Hagan, Dr Carl Bracken, Dr Conor Sweeney, Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin
  • UCD School of Physics: Dr Antonio Martin-Carrillo, Dr Tom McCormack
  • UCD Science Office: Dr Orla Donoghue, Ms Sarah-Jade Evenden, Mr Artur Kasprzak, Mr Gary Dunne
  • UCD Media Services: Mr Vincent Hoban
  • UCD Student Recruitment: Mr Mark Monaghan
  • Student Leaders: Ms Aisling McKevitt, Ms Irene Sullivan, Ms Tricia Madden, Ms Emma Cullen, Ms Lána Salmon, Ms Clíodhna Connolly, Ms Nidhi Kamat, Ms Katie O'Byrne, Ms Caitríona Byrne, Ms Victoria Ryan-Nesbitt, Mr Eoin Ó Laighléis, Mr Mark McDermott, Ms Ciara Deering, Ms Clodagh Muldowney