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Contact the Cell EXPLORERS NVRL-UCD team and arrange a school visit |

The Cell EXPLORERS NVRL-UCD team brings the Fantastic DNA School Roadshow to primary schools around Dublin. Visits can take place during autumn around the time of National Science Week in November 2023.




The Cell EXPLORERS NVRL University College Dublin team was established in May 2017 and originated from Ed O’Kelly's fun encounter with Cell EXPLORERS at the St Patrick's Day Festival Big Day Out, 2016. The team is coordinated from the National Virus Reference Laboratory (NVRL), in Belfield by Karen McGibney with the assistance of Dr Jaythoon Hassan, both staff of NVRL, UCD. 


Learn more about the past school visits of the team and the evaluation feedback they have received in the infographic section.


The NVRL team at University College Dublin

The Team

The Team


Meet the Cell EXPLORERS NVRL UCD team!  Karen McGibney is the team coordinator with the assistance of Dr. Jaythoon Hassan and the support of Dr. Cillian De Gascun, NVRL's director. Karen is a senior medical scientist responsible for NVRL's staff training and Education, Dr. Jaythoon Hassan is a Senior Clinical Scientist.


They have put together a diverse team of students and staff with interests in teaching and community engagement outside of the university. Demonstrators on the team include lecturers and researchers from the department of Medical Microbiology, Biomedical Sciences and Medicine and also from Colleges of Science and Medicine, as well as scientists from the NVRL, all of whom have an interest in science outreach and are passionate about engaging young minds in scientific thinking.

Together with her team of volunteers, the NVRL coordinator will be engaging and inspiring primary school children around Dublin City, teaching them about DNA and helping them perform DNA extractions in their own classrooms!

The Cell EXPLORERS NVRL team during a school visit Spring 2017.

The Cell EXPLORERS NVRL team during a school visit Spring 2017.

National Virus Reference Laboratory Team

The NVRL is based in University College Dublin and is closely linked to the Department of Medical Microbiology in UCD. The NVRL is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the national lab for Poliovirus, Measles, Rubella and Influenza in Ireland.

The NVRL is a really interesting and busy place to work and the

work of their scientists is key to keeping people healthy in Ireland.

The roles of NVRL scientists are many and include:

  • To help hospital doctors and GPs diagnose virus infections in their patients.

  • To test people's immunity to viruses, which means that they can test if you ever had a given viral infection already or if you have been vaccinated against a specific virus. 

  • To monitor what viruses are currently circulating in Ireland, for example flu viruses, so they can notify our Department of Health and international surveillance organisations like the World Health Organisation, who plan for outbreaks and vaccination programmes.

  • To help doctors manage people who need new lungs or kidneys or other organs to plan for their transplants.

  • To check if your treatment for a viral infection is working or if your virus has resistance to the treatment drug you are on.

  • If you are sick after your holidays, they can check if you have picked up an exotic virus that is not normally found in Ireland from an insect bite or contaminated water or food.

  • They also have the ability to diagnose dangerous viral infection like the one from Ebola or Zika viruses. 

To read more about the NVRL and what they do, click here. 

The NVRL building at University College Dublin

School visits

School Visits

The NVRL Cell EXPLORERS team started visiting schools in May 2017. The first school visit took place May 11th at St. Attracta's Senior NS. This visit was part of the training visit with the University of Galway team. The team went on to do a second Fantastic DNA school visit in June 2017 to Our Lady of Mercy Booterstown NS.

In 2019, the team visited 7 schools, engaging with 217 children in 10 classes from March to December.

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Map of schools visited by the Cell EXPLORERS NVRL team in 2019

Check the team impact and the feedback from schools !

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 infographics 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.

Please click on the Infographic links to see the feedback received on the Cell EXPLORERS NVRL team activities over the past years.



2017 was a great year for the team at NVRL! In November, as part of Science Week they were even featured on RTÉ News Now! 


2018 was also a great success for the team as they visited 7 schools reaching a staggering total of 287 children!

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