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Teagasc Supporting SciFest@College Initiative

Teagasc is partnering with Science Foundation Ireland’s Smart Futures programme to promote careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) through the SciFest@College initiative. SciFest@College is a series of one-day science fairs for second-level students at Institutes of Technology around the country that are held each year between March and June.

Speaking of the partnership, Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Strategy and Communications for Science Foundation Ireland says: “Smart Futures is a collaborative government-industry programme that provides students, parents and guidance counsellors in Ireland with practical information about careers in STEM. Through this programme, Science Foundation Ireland has helped over 100,000 teenagers to gain insights from scientists and engineers about their careers in industry and research. We are delighted to partner with Teagasc to deliver these SciFest@College STEM career roadshows, which we hope will inspire and motivate students to consider STEM subjects and make well-informed decisions about their future careers.”

Teagasc Director of Research, Dr Frank O’Mara, says: “I am delighted that six of our staff are involved in promoting STEM careers to young students at SciFest@College. I am sure students will be excited, and maybe a little surprised, about the great opportunities for STEM-related careers in the agri-food industry, and how many of these opportunities involve interdisciplinary research. For example, in the area of smart or precision agriculture, we see the application of sensors, networking, data analytics and other digital technologies to issues related to sustainable food production. We recognise the importance of bringing new talent into the industry; and, as one example, our Walsh Fellowship programme currently has 253 students. They are mostly engaged in research towards PhD degrees across a range of exciting topics and many will subsequently develop STEM-related careers.”

Teagasc volunteers will give presentations at the following Institutes of Technology (IT) in a series of lunch-time talks:

  • Friday 31st March; Cork IT; Orla O’Sullivan, Teagasc Moorepark
  • Wednesday 26th April; Dundalk IT; Sinead McCarthy, Teagasc Ashtown and Tom O’Connell, Teagasc Agricultural Catchments Programme, Co Louth
  • Wednesday 3rd May; Blanchardstown IT; Maire Caffrey/Declan Bolton, Teagasc Ashtown
  • Wednesday 3rd May; Waterford IT; Kieran Kilcawley, Teagasc Moorepark
  • Friday 12th May; Letterkenny IT; Carol Griffin, Teagasc Ashtown

In Cork Institute of Technology (March 31), Dr Orla O’Sullivan, a researcher based at Teagasc Food Research Centre, Moorepark, Co Cork, will discuss the winding path that led her to a career in bioinformatics. She will also discuss her research; how exercise and diet influence the bacteria in your gut and how we can use this information to add value to food.

At Dundalk Institute of Technology (April 26) Dr Sinead McCarthy and Tom O’Connell will be speaking. Dr Sinead McCarthy, a Researcher in Agrifood Business and Spatial Analysis Department at Teagasc Research Centre, Ashtown, Dublin, will cover everything from studying science and nutrition to working on exciting research projects at Teagasc, such as trying to understand what influences the types of food people eat each day. Tom O’Connell is an agricultural advisor in the Dunleer and Sreenty/Corduff agricultural catchments, working closely with farmers, Teagasc colleagues and other stakeholders, communicating the importance of water quality. Tom will stress the value of enjoying one’s job and the personal satisfaction to be gained from helping other people.

At the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown (May 3), Dr Declan Bolton and Maire Caffrey will present. Dr Declan Bolton is a Principal Research Officer at Teagasc Food Research Centre, Ashtown, Dublin; he will map the journey from inquisitive student to career scientist and provide a new perspective on research as a career choice. Maire Caffrey, Teagasc Head Librarian will speak about the journey from laboratory to library and the importance of reliable sources of information to underpin research.

Also on May 3 at Waterford IT, Dr Kieran Kilcawley, a Principal Research Officer in Teagasc Food Research Centre, Moorepark will talk about how he started working in dairy research, his role in developing a flavour chemistry facility in Teagasc and how and why this is so important for food research.

At Letterkenny Institute of Technology (May 12), Carol Griffin, Food Industry Development Department, Teagasc Food Research Centre, Ashtown, Dublin, will explain how Teagasc helps food companies to carry out New Product Development and Sensory Analysis work on their new and current food products, giving interesting examples and case studies along the way.