How did we begin?
Cell EXPLORERS was started as a pilot outreach project in February 2012 by Dr. Muriel Grenon, a research scientist in the School of Natural Sciences, in collaboration with Barry McGuire, a 5th class teacher at Galway Educate Together NS. The project was supported by the NUI Galway/Student's Union EXPLORE Innovation initiative.
Subsequent funding from The Royal Dublin Society and the Biochemical Society allowed development of this pilot activity. In 2013-2014 Cell EXPLORERS received funding from the Wellcome Trust in the UK to allow the pilot of the integration of science outreach projects into the undergraduate science curriculum, as well as funding from Science Foundation Ireland's Discover Science and Engineering Awards to expand outreach activities in Galway. In 2015 Cell EXPLORERS was granted a two year SFI Discover Award and support from the Galway University Foundation to continue its outreach efforts throughout County Galway and to expand nationally. Cell EXPLORERS receives continued support from the College of Science, the School of Natural Sciences and from the Discipline of Biochemistry (our home!) of NUI Galway as well as the Galway Science and Technology Festival and Forum.
From the initial pilot activity of 10 team members designing and presenting an outreach session to one class of 30 primary school children, the programme has expanded to 160 volunteers in 2015-2016 with a direct reach of over 6,600 people.
A key recent development is the national expansion of the Cell EXPLORERS model to other higher education institutions to allow further dissemination of outreach activities and sustainable public engagement.
In 2015, Cell EXPLORERS teams were established in the University of Limerick and Athlone Institute of Technology, while in 2016 new teams were established in the Institute of Technology, Tralee and Dundalk Institute of Technology. These partner teams are made up of volunteer students and staff and are coordinated by local staff members with help from the central coordination team at NUI Galway. You can find out more about all the Cell EXLORERS teams on the Our Teams page. The new teams have and will continue to bring hands-on Cell EXPLORERS activities to schools in their localities, starting with the Fantastic DNA school roadshow for senior cycle primary school children. It is hoped to continue the expansion of the Cell EXPLORERS model to further national research and education institutions, to create a science outreach network that can share activities, learnings and ideas and one that can engage areas in Ireland that are currently poorly serviced by science outreach efforts.