Two researchers from Trinity – Dr John O’Donoghue and Cian McLoughlin – have won Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme funding to lead projects that will encourage a deeper understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The funding will create greater public awareness of the impact of STEM on society and everyday life, generate opportunities for dialogue and encouraging diversity in STEM-related disciplines.

Dr O’Donoghue, RSC education co-ordinator in the School of Chemistry, will lead the Current Chemistry Investigators (CCI) collaboration in partnership with ATU Sligo, Tyndall, Lifetime Lab and UCC. The team will deliver school workshops and public engagement activities around Ireland in the area of energy science.

Since 2022 the team has worked with teachers and students to provide schools with a tailored experience in core laboratory techniques and career discussions, with workshops encouraging transition year (TY) students to choose a science subject for Leaving Cert and helping Leaving Cert chemistry students to continue their interest in science. 

The Current Chemistry Investigators team.

Dr O’Donoghue said: “We recently published some of the feedback we have received, which demonstrates the enormous positive impact of our project. To date we have visited over 1,500 students all over Ireland and this new project will expand our activities even further.

Linking schools and the public with cutting edge research

“All of our activities are run by researchers from our partner institutions, linking schools and the public with cutting edge research. Our researchers also benefit from the experience through practising their teaching and science communication skills, in addition to meeting and working with researchers from other institutions.

“Our public activities have engaged with more than 10,000 people to date and we plan to exceed that number in this new project. We will also develop new activities, provide training to more researchers and publish further reports so others can build on our work in the future.”  

Cian McLoughlin, research assistant in the School of Psychology and the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, will lead the Beginner’s Mind – Infant Cognition and Childlike Visions project.

The awards were among the 38 announced recently by Simon Harris, higher education minister and Norma Foley, education minister.

Dr Ruth Freeman, director, Science for Society, Science Foundation Ireland, said: “SFI is very proud of the Discover Programme and we are delighted to support these 38 projects to expand the reach of STEM and broaden participation and engagement. This programme is a key part of our education and public engagement strategy.

"Increasing engagement among less represented voices in STEM is vital to providing the diverse talent needed to take on societal challenges and to shape our future in Ireland. SFI are passionate about removing barriers to participation in STEM and providing learners with opportunities to engage. I look forward to seeing the achievements of these projects over the coming months.”