Cell EXPLORERS UL
The Cell EXPLORERS University of Limerick (UL) team was established in April 2015 and is based in the Life Sciences building of UL. It was developed through collaboration with the Course Director for Science Education in UL, Dr. Audrey O'Grady. You can learn more about the Department of Biological Sciences here.
The team has consistently brought the Fantastic DNA School Roadshow and the newly developed Fantastic DNA In a Box remote activity to primary schools near Limerick city during National Science Week since November 2015. In 2022, it will continue to deliver outreach activities to more schools around Limerick. Learn more about the past school visits of the team and the evaluation feedback by scrolling down/
Dr. Audrey O'Grady coordinates the team with the help of Stephanie Brosnan and Samantha Prior, all members of the Department of Biological Sciences in UL, with strong backgrounds in teaching and interests in community engagement outside the university.
Together with her team of volunteers, Audrey will be engaging and inspiring primary school children around Limerick city, teaching them about DNA and helping them perform DNA extractions in their own classrooms!
Cell EXPLORERS UL team members 2015
Dr. Audrey O'Grady
Lecturer in Biology & Science Education
Course Director for Science Education
Department of Biological Sciences,
University of Limerick
Audrey O’Grady is a lecturer in Biology and Science Education in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Limerick. She is the Course Director for Science Education and is the UL coordinator of the SFI funded Cell EXPLORERS. She also serves on the board of management of Epi-STEM, National Centre for STEM Education. At present she is the Irish PI on the Consus Tempus project Connecting Science- Society Collaborations for Sustainability Innovations. Her main research interests are in the area of STEM Education and Ecology. Her current research projects are on Scientific Inquiry, Misconceptions in Biology, Insect Ecology and Restoration Ecology. Audrey is actively involved in promoting innovative teaching strategies at third level and was nominated for the Shannon Consortium Teaching Award in 2013 and 2014. She is also engaged in many outreach programmes and has developed the Science Education Volunteering Initiative which promotes STEM Education at both Primary and Second level. She also trains Student Teachers to tutor Second Level Senior Cycle Students as part of this volunteering initiative. Audrey works with training Science Teachers to develop inquiry based teaching resources for all levels of Education. These resources are aimed at promoting Science and engaging Students.
When was the first UL Cell EXPLORERS visit?
The first UL Cell EXPLORERS school visit took place in April 2015 to Scoil Íde, Corbally as a training visit with the coordinators from the NUI Galway team. The team went on to do two further Fantastic DNA school visits in October and November 2015 to Salesian Primary School and Monaleen NS and hosted two schools at Fantastic DNA workshops at the University of Limerick (Buree NS and Castleconnell NS).
Since then, the team has been active in Limerick and the surrounding counties bringing the Fantastic DNA Roadshow to primary schools of the area and hosting classes in the UL labs on campus. In 2018, the team hosted four schools from counties in Limerick and Clare on campus as part of the National Science Week.
What has CE UL been up to lately?
During 2019, UL Cell EXPLORERS team delivered 3 school visits engaging with 159 children in 5 classes. 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 UL team were able to provide 19 boxes to 6 schools and facilitated 5 online Zoom sessions. This gave an amazing 560 children the opportunity to extract DNA from bananas, meet a real scientist and gain a glimpse into the life of a molecular biologist.
In 2022, UL Cell EXPLORERS team facilitated 2 Fantastic DNA in a box sessions on campus and delivered boxes to 2 schools so that teachers could facilitate 6 sessions themselves, engaging with 256 children.
UL Fantastic DNA in a Box visits 2022
Team UL attempts world record in DNA extraction!
In June 2021, CE UL coordinator Audrey O'Grady helped pupils and teachers Monaleen NS in Limerick to attempt a world record in DNA extraction. On this exciting day a total of 300 pupils extracted DNA from bananas - all at the same time!
Whilst the world record attempt was not achieved - it still meant for a very exciting day of molecular biology!
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 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.
Click on the links to discover the UL team visits over the past years.
Download the UL infographics by clicking on the year below:
UL Team training visit to Scoil Íde
Past Cell EXPLORERS UL members
Samantha was one of the original UL team members and played a fundamental role in setting up the team for success. Together with Audrey, she co-coordinated UL Cell EXPLORERS for several years until she completed her studies. Samantha is now a brilliant Science teacher in a secondary school in Limerick.
Cell EXPLORERS UL co-coordinator