Cell EXPLORERS University of Galway
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The Cell EXPLORERS NUI Galway team brings the Fantastic DNA School Roadshow to primary schools around Galway.
The NUI 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 NUI Galway's School of Natural Sciences in other regional, national and international science outreach events such as TeenTech NUI Galway, BT Young Scientist Technology Exhibition, Big Day Out, and the Malta Science Expo/Gozo Science Days. Cell EXPLORERS NUI Galway also runs Scientist for a Day taster workshops for children during the mid-term of school and runs Science Holiday Camps during Easter and Summer breaks. You can find out more about the team's activities either on the activities page or on the news page.
Cell EXPLORERS NUI Galway has also succesfully integrated science outreach projects into the final year of Biochemistry and Microbiology 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 in NUI Galway, made of 72 members in 2021, 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 School of Natural Sciences. 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 NUI Galway ALIVE certificate which recognises the contribution that volunteers give to their communities.
The NUI Galway team activities are coordinated by Dr Muriel Grenon, Janic Schulte, Dr Sarah Carroll, Shannon Stubbs, and by the work of a part-time preparation coordinator employed during the first semester (see testimonials of past coordinators here).
Cell EXPLORERS NUI Galway volunteer team at the Galway Science and Technology Festival in 2019
CE NUI Galway volunteers at a Fantastic DNA at Home event for GSTF 2021
Cell EXPLORERS GSTF Exhibition Day workshops 2015. Left, a Cell EXPLORERS demonstrator explains the red blood cell game in the Little Cells workshop. Right, demonstrators in the Fantastic DNA workshop.
Current coordinating members
Dr. Muriel Grenon
Cell EXPLORERS Founder and Director
Lecturer in Science Communication,
School of Natural Sciences,
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. 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 NUI Galway Science promotion committee since 2014 and a founding member of the Famelab Galway and Pint of Science Galway organising committees. She also directs the science education and outreach projects for 4th year students that run in the Disciplines of Biochemistry and Microbiology.
Cell EXPLORERS Research Assistant
School of Natural Sciences
Janic stems from a biological science background having completed his undergraduate degree in zoology in NUI Galway, studying the embryological development of false widow spiders in respect to their venom systems. Janic has recently completed his Masters degree in Microscopy and Imaging in the NUI Galway anatomy discipline where he investigated the use of correlative light and electron microscopy to assess the effects of spider venoms on human cell lines. Janic has an extensive science outreach background having been a senior outreach officer at our sister initiative Eco-Explorers run by Dr. Michel Dugon in NUI Galway's Discipline of Zoology.
Janic was the Cell EXPLORERS National Coordinator for the SFI Discover award 2019-2020. During his time as National Coordinator, Janic played a crucial role in the creation and development of the highly successful Fantastic DNA in a box science kits for teachers.
As a Research Assistant with Cell EXPLORERS, Janic assists the National Coordinator in equipping, coordinating and evaluating the activities of all Cell EXPLORERS teams. He is also responsible for event management of the NUI Galway Cell EXPLORERS activities, maintaining the Cell EXPLORERS laboratory and ensuring health and safety standards are upheld.
Dr. Sarah Carroll
Cell EXPLORERS National Coordinator
School of Natural Sciences
Sarah Carroll is 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 it's creation in 2012. 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/).
As the Cell EXPLORERS National Coordinator, Sarah is responsible for equipping, coordinating and evaluating the activities of all Cell EXPLORERS teams. In addition to this, she also co-supervises 4th year undergraduate project students, and is actively involved in several of Cell EXPLORERS' research projects.
Dr. Martina Wernecke
Senior Technical Officer,
School of Natural Sciences
Martina has been working with Cell Explorers since 2013 as a project coordinator. She is 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.
The NUI 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 NUI 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 NUI Galway team were able to provide 32 boxes to 25 schools and facilitated 17 online Zoom sessions. This gave an amazing 788 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 NUI Galway team in 2021
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.
Click on the links to discover the NUI Galway team visits over the past years.
NUI Galway Team School Visits
Past NUI Galway Members
Dr. Shane McGuinness
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!
School of Natural Sciences,
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.