How did Cell EXPLORERS 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 University of 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!) at the University of Galway as well as the Galway Science and Technology Festival and Forum.
Currently we are funded by a new two year SFI Discover award (2021-22).
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 a national network of 13 teams, with 213 team members engaging directly with 5900 members of the public in 2022.
The history of our national expansion
Due to the success of the Cell EXPLORERS model piloted in the University of Galway in 2012, we decided to expand nationally to other higher education institutions across Ireland, in an effort to form a community of practice for education and public engagement in science. These additional teams are referred to as Cell EXPLORERS partner teams, and are made up of volunteer students and staff, each coordinated by a volunteer local staff member. Each partner team is aided by the central coordinator team based at the University of Galway. Supported by several Science Foundation Ireland Discover awards, Cell EXPLORERS has gone through several national expansions and have established a large-scale programme.
2015: The first Cell EXPLORERS partner teams established as part of the national network was the University of Limerick and Athlone Institute of Technology
2016: Cell EXPLORERS expanded again, gaining new teams in the Institute of Technology, Tralee and Dundalk Institute of Technology.
2017: Five new teams were added to the Cell EXPLORERS network: Letterkenny IT, IT Carlow, NVRL-UCD, Maynooth University and University College Cork
2019: Three New Cell EXPLORERS partner teams were established in Cork IT, GMIT, Limerick IT and Future Neuro
2021: The Cell EXPLORERS network currently comprises of 13 national teams (ATU Donegal, DkIT, FutureNeuro, ATU Galway city, SETU Carlow, MTU Cork, MTU Kerry, NVRL, TUS Midlands, TUS Midwest, University of Galway, UCC and UL) and one international team based in the University of Katzulu-Natal, South Africa.
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. We hope by establishing and maintaining this community of practice that we can share activities, learnings and ideas and engage areas in Ireland that are currently poorly serviced by science outreach efforts.