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Cell EXPLORERS TUS midlands

Formerly Cell EXPLORERS Athlone IT

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Contact the CE TUS midlands team and arrange a school visit |

The Cell EXPLORERS TUS midlands team are delivering Fantastic DNA in a Box visits for 2023



The Cell EXPLORERS Technological University Shannon, was established in May 2015, under the name Athlone Institute of Technology. The team is based in the Bioscience Research Institute (BRI) of AIT and was developed through collaboration with the BRI director, Professor Neil Rowan. The Cell EXPLORERS TUS midlands team is currently coordinated (since 2021) by Bianca Simonassi-Paiva and Mark Lynch. Past coordinators include  Lyndsey O'Kane (post-graduate researcher from the Bioscience Research Institute), Maya Frost, Dr. Erin Jo Tiedeken and Dr. Alessia Stocca. The team members who demonstrate in the schools are postgraduate or postdoctoral researchers from the Bioscience Research Institute (BRI) with an interest in science outreach. You can find out more about the BRI and the research that they do here.


The team brought the Fantastic DNA School Roadshow to primary schools around Athlone town during 2018 in November around the time of National Science Week. Learn more about the past school visits of the team and the evaluation feedback they have received from schools in the infographic section.

The Team

The Team

The CE TUS midlands team (formerly AIT) are currently busy getting their new team of volunteers recruited, trained and ready to deliver some Fantastic DNA in a Box visits to schools in their area!

Natasha McCormack has taken over the coordination role from Mark Lynch in mid-2023 and will be co-coordinating the TUS Midlands team with Bianca Simonassi-Paiva. They are supported in their roles by Professor Neil Rowan, the Director for the Bioscience Research Institute. The team are excited about bringing  science to the local community. 


Are you a staff or student member at TUS midlands?

Want to share your love of science with young people? 

Contact coordinator Natasha McCormack at to get started!

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Cell EXPLORERS AIT team members. Clockwise from top-left: Maya (Team Coordinator 2017-2018), Justin, Ian, Katie.

Current CE TUS coordinators:

Natasha McCormack

CE TUS Midlands co-coordinator


Bioscience Research Institute 

Technological University of the Shannon

Natasha has fourteen years of experience in STEM education. She is a dedicated and passionate lecturer who has achieved several notable milestones and made a significant impact in the field. Her expertise includes curriculum development, where she collaborated on designing and implementing new BSc (Hons) and MSc programs that emphasize real-world applications and hands-on learning experiences. She actively engages with the public and community to promote STEM education, participating in outreach events and creating content to spread science awareness. Her passion for STEM education is evident in her innovative teaching methodologies, ability to simplify complex concepts, and talent for engaging students from diverse backgrounds through interactive and relatable teaching methods.

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Bianca Simonassi-Paiva

CE TUS Midlands co-coordinator

PhD Student 

Bioscience Research Institute

Technological University of the Shannon

Bianca Simonassi-Paiva received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biotechnology from the University of Brasilia, Brazil, and has a Master’s Degree in Genomic Sciences and Biotechnology, from the Catholic University of Brasilia, also in Brazil. In 2020, she moved to Ireland to continue her studies as a PhD student at the Athlone Institute of Technology. She has experience in working with different types of stem cells, but her current research focus on fibroblasts and the molecular changes they go through during cellular senescence.


She is passionate about teaching and children, so when she first learned about Cell EXPLORERS, shortly after she arrived in Ireland, she was excited to join the AIT team. When she is not in the laboratory doing her research, Bianca likes to go out on hikes, sit by the river, watch television shows and bake cakes.


Prof. Neil Rowan


Bioscience Research Institute

Technological University of the Shannon

 Professor Rowan has dedicated his academic and enterprise career to the pursuit of scientific excellence under the same core theme of disease mitigation and prevention harnessing applied microbiology, toxicology, parasitology and analytical chemistry. His blend of oriented basic and applied research are aligned with national research prioritization (NRP) areas of therapeutics, medical devices and novel processing technologies. He is Director of the Bioscience Research Institute ( which is a designated Technology Core Facility for supporting regional industries in life sciences as part of EU Interreg Sharebiotech. Prof. Rowan also holds an Adjunct Professorship in NUI Galway and lectures in the Faculty of Science & Health in AIT.  He has been a Cell EXPLORERS institutional partner directing the  Cell EXPLORERS AIT Team since 2015 in addition to participating in AIT SciFest Events. 

Past CE TUS Midlands Coordinators

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Mark Lynch

CE TUS Midlands co-coordinator 2021-2022

Postdoctoral researcher

Bioscience Research Institute

Technological University of the Shannon

Mark received his BSc in Biology & Chemistry from Maynooth University, graduating with a first class honours degree. He then went on to complete his PhD in DCU in the area of Immunology and Bioinformatics, researching the interactions between pathogenic gut bacteria and our immune system. He then moved to a postdoctoral role in Trinity College, working on drug candidates for autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Mark began working in AIT in 2018 in the Bioscience Research Institute, where he is involved in a broad range of studies, from pollinator health, to antimicrobial resistance. 

Mark is very passionate about science communication, and helping to spread the excitement and wonder of scientific research.

Lyndsey O'Kane

CE AIT Coordinator 2019-2020

PhD Candidate

Bioscience Research Institute

Athlone Institute of Technology

Lyndsey O'Kane (Ratcliffe) received her B.Sc in Forensic Toxicology and B.Sc (honours) in human and animal Toxicology at Athlone Institute of Technology, graduating in 2016 with a first class honours. Her current research studies are focused on the improvement of livestock populations through quantitative genetic methods which allows the identification of lethal recessive disorder carriers, and the increasing of advantageous heritable traits related to production and health in future livestock populations through genetic screening and prediction.


As a mother of three children, Lyndsey is passionate about science education for young children and became involved with the Cell explorers team at AIT in 2016, when she first started her postgraduate research. 


Maya Frost, MSc

CE AIT coordinator 2017-2018

PhD Candidate

Bioscience Research Institute

Athlone Institute of Technology

Maya Frost trained as a critical care paramedic at the Oregon Health Sciences University. Her long career as a firefighter/paramedic has augmented her academic career. She received her B.Sc. in Analytical & Forensic Science and B.Sc. (Hons) in Bioanalytical Science from the Letterkenny Institute of Technology. Ms. Frost was the inaugural awardee of the Norbrook Barnett Pharmaceutical Sciences Scholarship, earning her MSc. in Pharmaceutical Sciences through the University of Ulster. She currently lectures part-time while studying for her Ph.D. at the Athlone Institute of Technology. Her research is in the development of next generation smart polymers for use in targeted drug delivery applications. She is an associate member of the Royal Society for Chemistry. She volunteers for the Bat Conservation of Ireland - where you may find her recording bat sounds on summer evenings.  She was a demonstrator for Cell EXPLORERS AIT team in 2015 and has participated in SciFest Events at AIT. She is an accomplished musician, likes medieval history, and is an avid textile crafter.

School visits

School Visits

The first Cell EXPLORERS TUS midlands school visit took place in 2015 to as a training visit with the coordinators from the University of Galway team. The team went on to do two further Fantastic DNA school visits. Since then AIT team has brought Fantastic DNA to a number schools.

In 2018 the TUS midlands Cell EXPLORERS team (As AIT) visited an incredible 13 classes across 8 schools in 2 counties, engaging with a total of 309 children. The visits were taken place around Athlone town and further afield in counties Roscommon and Westmeath.

In 2022 the team facilitated 7 Fantastic DNA in a box online workshop to 5 schools, engaging a total of 192 children. If you would like to schedule a visit with the Cell EXPLORERS TUS Midlands team contact them by email.

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Map of TUS Midlands team school visits in 2022.

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 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 below to discover the TUS Midlands team visits over the past years.

TUS midlands Fantastic DNA school visits

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