iWish campus week in UCD inspires girls to consider STEM careers

February 28, 2020

iWISH is an initiative to inspire, encourage and motivate young female students to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. iWISH Campus Weeks give participants the chance to engage meaningfully with university campuses and get a much better sense of what they might like to study at third level, especially STEM-based career paths that they might not have otherwise considered. 

The campus week was organised by UCD Discovery Director Prof Patricia Maguire and Discovery Outreach and Impact Scientist Phil Smyth. 

“The whole idea was to give those kids a taste of what college life is like so they can really see themselves in a university like UCD in the future,” explains Smyth. “During the week we had undergrads, postgrads, lecturers and industry professionals meet the girls under the guidance of myself and Patricia. It's all about showing them what isn't in the brochure and answering any questions they might have.”

It was a full and varied programme. Chemistry undergrad Shekemi Dunga spoke about her Nigerian heritage, her love of science and the social life and outreach work she routinely undertakes on campus. Lána Salmon, from the School of Physics, spoke to the girls about her exciting work on Ireland’s first satellite Eirsat-1. 

“The girls also spent a day learning to code with the UCD School of computer science team, who helped them build their own dancing robots,” smiles Smyth. “Dr Jennifer McKenna, Intel R&D Programme Manager, kindly visited from the Intel Ireland campus in Leixlip and told the girls about the company’s history and plans in Ireland as well as Intel’s global reach. I gave a communications and presentation skills workshop explaining that you don’t necessarily have to be a scientist to work in science; how science is actually behind everything we do.”

A highlight of the iWISH camp was a wonderful site visit to biopharmaceutical company Amgen in nearby Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.

“That was a stand-out and it was great seeing the girls so overawed by what’s happening in places like Intel and Amgen. Ireland is at the cutting edge of influence in so many STEM fields and almost all of the major pharma and tech companies have bases or headquarters here.” 

For her part Prof Maguire was delighted with emails and calls of appreciation from parents afterwards - and approaches from the girls themselves.

“Maybe three weeks after iWISH I was in the supermarket when two girls from the camp approached me to tell me that they had ‘loved the camp so much’ that they had both decided to now study Science. It was quite overwhelming that we had such an influence and we hope to continue to run similar events every year going forward. Positively impacting even one person makes all our efforts very worthwhile.”


This article was brought to you by the UCD Institute for Discovery - fuelling interdisciplinary research collaboration.