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Cell EXPLORERS University of Galway

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About

Contact the Cell EXPLORERS University of Galway team and arrange a school visit
cellexplorers@universityofgalway.ie

The Cell EXPLORERS University of Galway team brings the Fantastic DNA in a box activity to schools around Galway.

Visits will take place during autumn, in October and around the time of the  National Science Week in November 2023.

About 

 

The University of Galway team was the first Cell EXPLORERS team, started in 2012 as an EXPLORE Innovation Staff/Students project with one lecturer from the Discipline of Biochemistry, Dr. Muriel Grenon, and a team of 10 undergraduate science students. Together they designed science outreach sessions and brought one to Barry McGuire's local 5th class in Galway Educate Together National School.  

 

In the subsequent years the team has grown, from 10 to 35, to 100, and then up to 130 members, and the range of activities has expanded. The NUI Galway team brings different science outreach sessions to local primary schools and runs several workshops on Galway Science and Technology Festival Exhibition Day. In addition, Cell EXPLORERS represents University of Galway's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences in other regional, national and international science outreach events. Past Events include TeenTech NUI GalwayBT Young Scientist Technology Exhibition, Big Day Out, and the Malta Science Expo/Gozo Science Days.

Cell EXPLORERS University of Galway has also run Scientist for a Day taster workshops for children during the mid-term of school and runs Science Holiday Camps during Easter and Summer breaks. These camps activities are currently on hold. You can find out more about the team's activities either on the activities page or on the news page.

 

Cell EXPLORERS University of Galway has also succesfully integrated science outreach projects into the final year of Biochemistry undergraduate courses. This allows the creation of novel science outreach resources each semester that can then be disseminated by the volunteer team, if of sufficient quality. 

The Team

The Team

The team in University of Galway, made of 96 members in 2022, is the largest of the Cell EXPLORERS teams.

 

It is made up mostly of undergraduate Biomedical Sciences, Biotechnology or General Science students. The team also includes postgraduate students and staff from the college of Science & Engineering. Volunteers contribute as much time as they have available to different activities throughout the semester and especially around National Science Week. Some use their time volunteering with Cell EXPLORERS to apply for the University of Galway ALIVE certificate which recognises the contribution that volunteers give to their communities.

 

The University of Galway team activities are coordinated by Dr Muriel Grenon, Dr Talia Arcari, Sarah-Beth Bradley, Dr Kristin Anderson, and Shannon Stubbs, with the support of part-time interns during the academic year (see testimonials of past coordinators here).

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CE University of Galway volunteers at a Fantastic DNA at Home event for GSTF 2021

Cell EXPLORERS GSTF 2015. A CE demonstrator explains the red blood cell game in the Little Cells workshop. 

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Cell EXPLORERS University of Galway volunteer team at the Galway Science and Technology Festival in 2022. Visiting on the day was Dr Paul Dodd Vice-president for engagement and representatives of the UKZN team: Malusi Hlongwane, Bongani Ndlovu, and coordinator Dr Doras Sibanda.

Current coordinating members

Dr. Muriel Grenon

Cell EXPLORERS Founder and Director

Lecturer in Science Communication,

School of Biological and Chemical  Sciences,

University of Galway

Muriel Grenon is a molecular geneticist specialised in the field of cancer biology with a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Genetics and many years of research experience in this area. In 2012 she founded Cell EXPLORERS, which became the outreach programme of the School of Natural Sciences in NUI Galway in May 2013. The programme is now based in the school of Biological & Chemical Sciences. Both her extensive research and teaching experiences have been essential to the creation and development of this exciting education programme linking research, third level education and primary/secondary schools.

Muriel directs Cell EXPLORERS regional, national and international activities. She has also collaborated on the ReelLIFE Science Video competition directed by Dr. E O'Connell. In addition she is a member of the SBCS student recruitment and engagement committee, the University of sanctuary committee and the Widening participation committe from the University of Galway EDI office.  She also directs the science education and outreach projects for 4th year students that run in the Disciplines of Biochemistry and Microbiology. 

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Sarah-Beth Bradley

Lab manager & research assistant

School of Biological and Chemical  Sciences,

University of Galway

Sarah-Beth has a BSc in Biomedical Science from Maynooth University where she studied genetic disorders and science communication. She has been involved with Cell EXPLORERS since 2017 when she volunteered for the "Fantastic DNA Roadshow" and Cell EXPLORERS "I'm a Scientist" projects.

 

She has other experience in science communication through attending training courses, blogging, and social media. As someone who loves to be creative, she is interested in bridging the perceived gap between science and creativity.

 

As a Research Assistant with Cell EXPLORERS, Sarah-Beth assists the National Coordinator in equipping, coordinating and evaluating the activities of all Cell EXPLORERS teams. She is also responsible for event management of the University of Galway Cell EXPLORERS activities and maintaining the Cell EXPLORERS laboratory.

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Shannon Stubbs

CE Volunteer Coordinator & PhD student

School of Biological and Chemical  Sciences,

University of Galway

Shannon is a PhD student funded by the Irish Research Council under supervision of Dr. Muriel Grenon, Dr. Veronica McCauley (School of Education) and Dr. Jennifer DeWitt. Shannon holds a BSc in Zoology and an MSc in Applied Ethology & Animal Biology. Shannon previously did her undergraduate final year research project with Cell EXPLORERS in 2017 during which she developed primary school educational activities for the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan.

Shannon’s research project aims at implementing the Science Capital Teaching Approach in an informal, scientist-facilitated intervention. Science capital is a concept that encapsulates all science-related knowledge, attitudes, experiences and social contacts that a person has.

In addition to her PhD, Shannon is also the CE University of Galway volunteer coordinator, a role she currently shares with undergraduate student Aoife O’Connell.

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Dr. Talia Arcari

Cell EXPLORERS National Coordinator

School of Biological and Chemical  Sciences, 

University of Galway

Talia is the National Coordinator for Cell EXPLORERS 2022-2023. She holds a BSc in Biochemistry and MSc in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of the Republic in Montevideo, Uruguay. She obtained her PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of Granada at the Institute of Parasitology and Biomedicine “Lopez-Neyra” in Granada, Spain. She specialised in the field of molecular parasitology with a focus on drug resistance mechanisms in trypanosomatid parasites. She was also a teaching assistant at the Department of Biochemistry in the Faculty of Medicine (University of the Republic) where she prepared and taught practical biochemistry classes to first- and second-year medical students. Since moving to Ireland, Talia has worked as a project manager for two successful and exciting projects at University of Galway: PATHSENSE and the Bio-LP-1 project at BioProbe Diagnostics. Both roles involved coordinating large projects across multiple stakeholders, institutions and countries.

Throughout her career Talia has been interested in science communication and dissemination and has been involved in many public engagement events such as the Open days for several research institutions, and the ‘Molecular Biology Experiments’ workshop during the 19th Science Event and Open Day held in the Granada Science Museum in 2016. Combining her extensive project management experience, and love for science communication has led her to her current role as Cell EXPLORERS National Coordinator. Talia is responsible for coordinating, managing and evaluating the network’s activities carried out by all the Cell EXPLORERS teams.

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Dr. Kristin Anderson

Project Manager of the GROWS project

School of Biological & Chemical Sciences

University of Galway 

Kristin is the Project Coordinator for the Cell EXPLORERS GROWS (Giving Real Opportunities to Widen participation in STEM) project. She holds a BSc in Neuroscience & Chemistry and a PhD in Neuroscience & Genetics where she studied the interaction of genetics and anxiety. Kristin completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in psychology & pediatrics, investigating the impact of stress on neural circuitry and how to leverage this understanding for the prevention of depression.

Kristin came to Cell EXPLORERS with an extensive science outreach, communication, and policy background. She has brought science to life through art, worked on science policy as a member of the Society for Neuroscience’s Government and Policy Affairs Committee, served as a science communicator trainer, and volunteered with youth outreach programs aimed at equity.

As the GROWS project coordinator, Kristin’s role is to deliver two of Cell EXPLORERS programs, the Youth Science Club and Cell Explorers Escape Room, to marginalized and disadvantaged communities in equitable ways that align with the best known socially inclusive practices. She uses her background to build collaborations with Youth Groups and community partners, increase engagement, and diversify trainings for volunteers. Kristin partners with several organizations to widen participation in under-served communities while incorporating equity and social justice in a meaningful manner. She is also involved in the research on the impact of the Science Club and Escape Room programs.

School Visits

School visits

 

The University of Galway team conducts a large number of school visits over both the first and second semester of the academic term. The majority of visits take place in October and November, around National Science Week and the Galway Science and Technology Festival fortnight. 

What has the University of Galway team been up to lately?

Since 2020, to continue to deliver hands-on engagement to schools whilst adhering to COVID-19 restrictions, Cell EXPLORERS created Fantastic DNA in a Box: a remote adaptation of our Fantastic DNA session. This science kit provides teachers with all the materials and resources to introduce their pupils to living things, cells & DNA, whilst getting the opportunity to complete a DNA extraction experiment.

 

In 2021, the University of Galway team were able to provide 32 boxes to 25 schools and facilitated 17 online Zoom sessions and engaging with 788 children. In 2022, the team facilitated 32 sessions in 28 schools. This gave an amazing 849 children the opportunity to extract DNA from bananas, meet a real scientist and gain a glimpse into the life of a molecular biologist.

Map showing schools engaged with University of Galway team in 2022

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infographic

What do pupils & teachers say?

All children and teachers visited have a chance to provide us with feedback on the visit. This helps us to evaluate the quality and impact of our visits!

A summary infographic is generated for each team every year. It shows the metrics of the team activity, highlighting children's and teacher's experience by summarising their feedback and includes pictures from school visits.

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Click on the links to discover the University of Galway team visits over the past years.

Fantastic DNA school visit
4th yr project pilot
4th yr project pilot
Fantastic DNA visit
4th yr project pilot
4th yr project pilot
Little Cells visit
Little Cells visit
Little Cells visit

University of Galway Team School Visits 

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Past University of Galway coordination Members

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Dr. Sarah Carroll

Cell EXPLORERS National Coordinator 2021-2022

Sarah Carroll was the National Coordinator for the SFI Discover award 2021-2022. As one of the founding members of Cell EXPLORERS, she has been involved with the programme in some capacity since its creation in 2012 and of extraordinnary influence on its best practice and impact. Sarah obtained her B.Sc in Biotechnology at NUI Galway in 2015. During the first year of her undergraduate degree, she was one of the student partners to pilot the Cell EXPLORERS programme, as part of an EXPLORE initiative, in collaboration with Dr Grenon. Sarah held the position of Volunteer Coordinator for the NUI Galway team in 2014, and between 2016-2019.

She holds a PhD in informal Science Education from NUI Galway. Her PhD thesis is entitled 'Science Self-Efficacy Beliefs of Upper Primary Pupils & the Short-Term Effect of a Scientist-Facilitated Informal Education Workshop' and was co-supervised by Dr. Grenon and Dr. McCauley from the School of Education. After completing her PhD, Sarah worked as a Research Assistant with Cell EXPLORERS from September-December 2020. She was the project lead on the CE IAS project: an online-based chat activity that is in collaboration with I'm A Scientist Get Me Out Of Here Ireland (https://cellexplorers.imascientist.ie/). She also developed the Science Club that is disseminated as part of the GROWS project.  Sarah has also developped most of the online training for volunteers still in use by the programme.

Sarah left our group in December 2022. She is currently a researcher in the department of Teaching and Learning at the Atlantic Technological University in Galway, Ireland. Her current research interests are in informal science education, self-efficacy, young people’s perceptions of science and scientists, and teaching and learning at third level education.

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Dr.Tereza Brumovská

Post-Doctoral Researcher

2019-2021

Dr. Tereza Brumovská is a social scientist with a PhD in Sociology earned in the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, School of Political Science and Sociology at NUI Galway in 2017. Tereza has a background in sociology, social psychology and social work (Charles University; Gothenburg University), and experience in social work, especially with socially-disadvantaged children and young people.

Tereza is an expert in qualitative research methods and analysis, specifically in phenomenological and participatory research methods in research with children and young people. Her current research aims at exploring Irish children´s attitudes to science and scientists, and the impact of the Fantastic DNA session on these attitudes. You can learn more about this research here.

Tereza's research interests include the youth mentoring relationships and interventions, theories of development in social context (Vygotsky, Bronfenbrenner), sociology of childhood, impact of significant adults in on children´s positive development and well-being, self-determination theory (Ryan,Deci, 1985), as well as volunteering and civic engagement in social services, motivation of volunteering, helping attitudes of volunteers and its impact on the quality of social interventions etc.

Dr. Martina Wernecke

Project Coordinator

2013-2019

Martina worked with Cell Explorers between 2013 - 2019 as a project coordinator. She was involved in organising and coordinating Cell Explorers outreach activities and events engaging primary school children such as the Fantastic DNA Roadshow, Scientist for a Day workshops and the Bio-Explorers Science Holiday Camps.

 

Martina holds a PhD in Microbiology and has worked in NUI Galway as a molecular scientist for many years in the research areas of marine microbial ecology and the development of molecular diagnostic tests. In recent years, she has moved into the area of coordinating and teaching undergraduate Biochemistry Practical programmes. As a Cell Explorers team member, Martina enjoys combining her background in scientific research with her experience in teaching and project management to promote and develop the group’s initiatives in science communication and public engagement.

Dr. Shane McGuinness
Shane Mc Guinness

Cell EXPLORERS National Coordinator 2018-19

Shane Mc Guinness is a conservation biologist and science educator with a PhD in Conservation Biology. He has many years of experience in engaging the public, designing outreach programmes and coordinating and conducting research.

Shane is a founding member of Biodiversity In Our Lives, a scientific outreach collective aimed at developing novel activities to inspire the public in biology and conservation and has spent many years teaching a range of sciences to a broad spectrum of society. Shane has worked at the Dublin Zoo’s Discovery and Learning department, developing new educational material, training teachers in science education and delivering material. Shane is an elected Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and continues to develop international science outreach linkages like the Water Diaries project with Land Rover.

 

Dr. Claudia Fracchiolla

Cell EXPLORERS National Coordinator 2017-18

Claudia Fracchiolla is a Venezuelan native and a physicist. She received her PhD in Science Education from Kansas State University (KSU). Her research background is mainly in Physics and Physics Education Research (PER). As a graduate student and postdoctoral fellow, while at the University of Colorado - Boulder, she was the director of an educational community partnership for JILA, an after-school science program that serves K-12 populations that are underrepresented in science. While acting as National Coordinator, Claudia was also involved in conducting research into the impacts of Cell EXPLORERS activities on students, teachers and regional teams. Claudia is now a postdoctoral researcher at University College Dublin.

Dr. Claire Concannon

Cell EXPLORERS National Coordinator 2014-17

Claire completed her PhD in Biochemistry in 2013 and subsequently pursued her interests in science communication and education by joining Cell EXPLORERS in 2014. As Cell EXPLORERS coordinator she was responsbile for coordination, evaluation and equipping all national Cell EXPLORERS teams from 2015 to 2016. She was also responsible for creation and event management of  Cell EXPLORERS activities, maintaining the Cell EXPLORERS laboratory and ensuring health and safety standards are upheld. 

In addition, Claire co-supervised final year project students who undertake Cell EXPLORERS science education or outreach projects and has developed workshops, assignments and journal guidelines as content for this project module. Claire was also a founding member of the Pint of Science Galway organising committee. in 2017, Claire has moved to a position of outreach officer at the Otago Museum in Dunedin, New Zealand!

She Joined Radio New Zealand in 2021 where she host "Our Changing World".

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