Science takes to the streets in Galway

13 Jul 201771 Shares

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From left: Dr Jessamyn Fairfield and Dr Dara Stanley from NUIG, event organisers of Soapbox Science Galway. Image: Aengus McMahon

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Denizens of Galway are about to be treated to impromptu street science from women scientists determined to be seen and heard.

This weekend will welcome science to the streets of Galway as Soapbox Science visits the city of tribes for the first time.

Founded in London in 2011 by Dr Nathalie Pettorelli and Dr Seirian Sumner, Soapbox Science has given more than 350 women scientists a public platform to spread the good word of their research.

This year’s trip sees a further 220 participating in events staged around the world, including Canada, Germany and Australia. In Ireland, scientists from NUI Galway (NUIG), Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT), Marine Institute and IT Sligo will set up in Galway city on Saturday, July 15th.

Stage to soapbox

One of the organisers of Soapbox Science Galway is no stranger to entertaining new forms of science communication. Dr Jessamyn Fairfield, a physicist at NUIG, is also the woman who brought Bright Club to Ireland. Bright Club is a stand-up comedy night that puts a blend of comics and researchers on stage, bringing the natural partners of comedy and science together at last.

Fairfield’s epic work in science engagement was recently acknowledged with the Mary Somerville Medal following a trip to the Arctic Circle on an expedition supporting the science-arts mix. After Soapbox Science Galway, Fairfield will head to Nairobi this autumn for work with the Mawazo Institute to develop public engagement events for science and policy.

‘The scientific community must continue to attract the best talent, and be open and inclusive. We hope that this event can inspire people to look at science in a different way’
– DR JESSAMYN FAIRFIELD

“When many people think of a scientist, they think of a man in a white coat. Soapbox Science aims to challenge this perception by showcasing the work of female scientists in a fun and friendly way,” said Fairfield.

“In order to keep up with the need for a skilled STEM workforce, the scientific community must continue to attract the best talent, and be open and inclusive. We hope that this event can inspire people to look at science in a different way.”

Fairfield’s co-organiser is Dr Dara Stanley, lecturer in plant ecology at NUIG. “NUI Galway is home to a diverse range of talent and we’re delighted to be bringing our expertise to the streets of Galway on subjects that range from osteoporosis, clean air in houses and carbohydrates chemistry,” said Stanley, who is looking forward to showcasing the research talent working on the western seaboard.

Dr Jessamyn Fairfield (left) and Dr Dara Stanley from NUI Galway, event organisers of Soapbox Science Galway

From left: Dr Jessamyn Fairfield and Dr Dara Stanley from NUIG, event organisers of Soapbox Science Galway. Image: Aengus McMahon

Street science

This weekend’s programme of 12 presenters represents a mix from all walks of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths).

As well as servicing the community with a different take on science education, Soapbox Science was established to give a voice to women in science and ensure they take their place in the limelight. The event first came to Ireland in 2014, showcasing the talents of zoologist Prof Yvonne Buckley and geneticists Prof Aoife McLysaght and Prof Emma Teeling on the grounds of Trinity College Dublin.

This weekend in Galway, the soapboxes will host:

  • Prof Laoise McNamara (NUIG) presenting ‘Close to the Bone: Engineering research into the biology of osteoporosis and implants’
  • Dr Rachel Cave (NUIG) presenting ‘Help, help, I think my house is dissolving! (How ocean acidification works and why it matters)’
  • Dr Rachel Quinlan (NUIG) presenting ‘How to make stars (in two and three dimensions)’
  • Dr Marie Coggins (NUIG) presenting ‘Are you breathing clean air indoors?’
  • Dr Sharon Glynn (NUIG) presenting ‘A New Dimension to Ancient Enemies: What are these hidden viruses in our DNA and how do they contribute to cancer development?’
  • Dr Heather Teresa Lally (GMIT) presenting ‘How do creepy crawlies adapt to living in a watery underworld?’
  • Dr Debbi Pedreschi (Marine Institute) presenting ‘The Story of Sustainable Fisheries: Solving “wicked problems” and other tales…’
  • Juhi Samal (NUIG) presenting ‘Biomaterial Pills for Parkinson’s: Saving cells to stop shaking?’
  • Kirsten N Fossum (NUIG) presenting ‘Clouds: Where do they come from, where do they go?’
  • Adele Gabba (NUIG) presenting ‘The sweet universe of carbohydrates chemistry!’
  • Fiona Malone (GMIT) presenting ‘Biomedical Engineering: Build your own body parts’
  • Dr Caroline Sullivan (IT Sligo) presenting ‘The Wild Atlantic Way: Why it’s so beautiful and how farmers helped create it’

Soapbox Science Galway will take place from 11am to 2pm on Saturday, 15 July at the Spanish Arch, Galway city.

Elaine Burke is managing editor of Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com