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Teagasc supporting Smart Futures Programme

Teagasc is partnering with the Smart Futures programme to promote careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Teagasc speakers are participating in a series of talks at Institutes of Technology (IT) around the country commencing today, Wednesday 25 April, in Athlone IT and Carlow IT.

Speaking about the partnership, Margie McCarthy, Interim Director of Innovation and Education at Science Foundation Ireland, said: “Science Foundation Ireland’s Smart Futures programme is a government-industry collaboration that aims to inspire and motivate students in Ireland to pursue STEM careers. We are delighted to be partnering with Teagasc to continue to promote STEM amongst second-level students through this year’s SciFest@College STEM career roadshows. To date, Smart Futures has brought over 110,000 teenagers into contact with leading scientists and engineers. It is through these meaningful connections that students learn from professionals in both industry and research, helping them make informed decisions about their career paths. It is crucial that we continue to support Ireland’s youth in their hopes of becoming our future innovators, and we look forward to working alongside Teagasc and SciFest to achieve this.” 

Teagasc Director of Research, Dr Frank O’Mara, said: “I am delighted that Teagasc volunteers are involved in promoting STEM careers to young students at Smart Futures events. There are many opportunities and challenges in the agri-food sector: we have a growing population requiring more food, and they have a greater interest in their diet and how it can affect their health. They are also greatly interested in how their food is produced, and want to see environmental issues addressed. In this landscape there is a huge role for scientific and technological advances and there are many exciting opportunities for STEM-related careers in the agri-food industry. Many of these opportunities involve interdisciplinary research in areas such as smart or precision agriculture. Here our animal, plant, soil, environmental and food scientists collaborate with scientists and industry in the application of sensors, big data and data analytics, networking, robotics and other digital technologies to issues related to sustainable food production and processing. Teagasc plays a big role in building human capacity and producing the leading scientists of tomorrow who will design the farming systems of the future. In our Walsh Fellowship programme, we currently have 250 students who are mainly carrying out 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 in a series of lunch-time talks:

  • April 25 (Wednesday) at Athlone IT: Dayle Johnston, Teagasc Post-Doctoral Researcher, Teagasc Grange.
  • April 25 (Wednesday) at Carlow IT: Tom O’Connell, Teagasc Agricultural Catchments Programme and Irene Malo Estepa, Teagasc Walsh Fellow (PhD student), Teagasc, Grange.
  • May 4 (Friday) at IT Tallaght: Grace O’Callaghan, Manager of the SFI-funded APC Microbiome Institute project for Teagasc.
  • May 11 (Friday) at Letterkenny IT: Carol Griffin, Food Industry Development Department, Teagasc Food Research Centre, Ashtown, Dublin.


Dayle Johnston is a Post-Doctoral Researcher based in Teagasc, Grange, and will talk about her education, including a PhD, which was also based at Teagasc, Grange, which involved the characterisation of calf health and the development of novel diagnostics for bovine respiratory disease. She will also talk about her work as a contract research officer on an SFI-funded project in Grange, examining biomarkers of early pregnancy in dairy cows. Finally, she will talk about her current research on the identification of DNA-based biomarkers of susceptibility to bovine respiratory disease.

 Tom O’Connell is the Communications Officer for the Agricultural Catchments Programme. Tom will stress the importance of good water, the challenges for society in achieving that and effectively communicating the solutions from science.  This will be from a perspective of a varied career in the private and public sector.

 Irene Malo Estepa is a Teagasc Walsh Fellow PhD student (UCD and Teagasc). At the career talk, she will tell students about her background in Veterinary Medicine and how she has got to where she is now, as well as talking about her PhD on the detection of biomarkers of early pregnancy in dairy cattle.

 Grace O’Callaghan is currently a Project Manager for the SFI-funded APC Microbiome Institute at Teagasc. Grace completed her undergraduate at UCC in Biochemistry and her PhD in Medicine at Cork University Hospital. She completed her Research Fellowship in Harvard Medical School and was named European Young Life Scientist of the year in 2013. Grace’s numerous research projects range from agriculture, food and health right through to clinical studies. She is also currently studying for her Masters on Food Health and Nutrition at UCD. Grace will give an overview of her career to date and research and career opportunities in STEM in Ireland.

 Carol Griffin, Food Industry Development Department, Teagasc Food Research Centre, Ashtown, Dublin, will explain how Teagasc helps food companies with their Sensory Analysis needs, working on new and current food products as part of their New Product Development processes, giving interesting examples and case studies along the way.