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 and Dr Joanne O'Gorman, all staff of NVRL, UCD. 


The team will bring the Fantastic DNA School Roadshow to primary schools around Dublin City this November around the time of National Science Week 2018. 


To contact the Cell EXPLORERS NVRL team you can email them at cellexplorersnvrlucd@gmail.com.



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. Joanne O'Gorman, NVRL's deputy director. Karen is a senior medical scientist responsible for NVRL's staff training and Education, Dr. Jaythoon Hassan is a Senior Clinical Scientist and Dr. Joanne O’Gorman is a Clinical Microbiologist.


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 (or from Colleges of Science and Medicine) and 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 NVRL building at University College Dublin

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.  


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 NUI Galway team. The team went on to do a second Fantastic DNA school visit in June 2017 to Our Lady of Mercy Booterstown NS.


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!

The team will be continuing further school visits in October and November 2019.

If you want the NVRL team to visit your school contact them at cellexplorersnvrlucd@gmail.com

If you would like to learn more about the activities of Cell EXPLORERS NVRL, download the infographics below for 2018 and 2017.


School of Natural Sciences, Arts and Science Building, National University of Ireland, Galway

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Cell EXPLORERS is funded by Science Foundation Ireland under the SFI Discover programme, NUI Galway and the Galway University Foundation.