Trinity College Dublin and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) offered the public a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with the world of research – and researchers – at Discover Research Dublin on Friday, September 26th.
Over 50 free, exciting, and interactive events and demonstrations took place in and around central Dublin, with Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, officially launching the event on the Dining Hall Steps, Trinity College Dublin, with Professor of Comparative Immunology, Cliona O’Farrelly, who fronted the bid for Trinity to host this EU-wide initiative.
Discover Research Dublin showcased what researchers really do and why research matters. Exploring abstract and practical questions through a variety of unique digital and traditional formats including interactive installations, apps and social media, debates, digital archives, tours, presentations and photography, Discover Research Dublin featured something for everyone.
Participants immersed themselves in 3D visualisations of the brain, heard how we mend broken hearts, took on their peers in the LEGO challenge to build abstract prototypes under time pressure, and went behind the scenes at the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute (TBSI), where cutting-edge medical and scientific research takes place.
Gardens grown out of languages, duets involving raindrops and musicians, literary translation slams, experimental performances responding to Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, readings by some of Ireland’s leading and emerging writers, and fascinating workshops exploring the interaction between texts and contexts from Papyri to Yeats also offered something for all age groups.
And, as well as enjoying tours of the TBSI labs, where researchers will explain how technology allows them to make life-saving breakthroughs, visitors will have a chance to engage in a lively debate about the position of science in our society. They can also hear about all the research taking place in Zoology in 'Night Life'.
Additional highlights saw people help astrophysicists rank solar eruptions seen in the Sun, consider the biodiversity in our everyday lives, learn about the motion of muscles by immersing themselves in 3D video pieces, hear about TCD Medical Graduates in World War 1 in the Old Anatomy Department, and meet researchers from different disciplines and hear about their work in snappy ‘three-minute thesis’ presentations.
Cliona O’Farrelly, Professor of Comparative Immunology at Trinity College Dublin (TBSI) and leader of Trinity’s bid to front Ireland’s contribution to what is a Europe-wide Discover Research initiative is delighted by the rich variety of events on offer. She said: “This event was a wonderful opportunity to engage the public in all of the amazing research that takes place at Trinity, and to demonstrate how that research creates careers and companies as well as discoveries.”
“I was delighted with the packed and varied programme put on by colleagues from all disciplines, departments and faculties. Research is about creativity and discovery – we wanted to share that excitement with the public.”
Professor Ray Stallings, RCSI Director of Research, said: “Discover Research Dublin was part of a European-wide initiative taking place simultaneously in cities all across Europe. The night was dedicated to popular science and fun learning, and made research accessible to the general public.”
One very exciting element of the programme saw the public take part in the Hello Brain challenge, which was specially designed to flex the grey matter by routing visitors to different events that each require a different cognitive workout. On the night,people followed the five steps to develop ‘healthier brains’ (by getting physically active, staying socially engaged, challenging their brains, managing stress, and adapting lifestyles) by visiting specific events related to these themes, where they answered questions and collected stickers confirming completion of these events.
Another dynamic addition to the programme was ‘The Pregnant Box’, which saw audience members, one-on-one, enter a confession box, to hear operatic performances delivered by a roving choir, which were designed to make us think about the secrets we harbour and the judgements we make. Collaborators from Trinity’s School of Social Work and Social Policy and School of Drama, Film and Music worked to translate women’s narratives about concealing pregnancy into this dramatic piece of music.
Specific Event Highlights included:
Science Behind The Smile – People met the researchers in the Dublin Dental Hospital and learned about the dental chair, high-tech sensors of tooth grinding and the science behind the smile!
Robots With Personality – At Trinity's Speech Communication Laboratory, Professor of Phonetics and Speech Sciences, Nick Campbell, of the CNGL Centre for Global Intelligent Content, is building ‘companion machines’ that are capable of understanding and reacting to our social behaviour. Visitors:
- Chatted with Herme, a robot trained to have conversations with humans
- Enjoyed coffee with the Tin Woman, a multimodal interactive language learning agent
- Listened to voice synthesis systems that are turning computers into expressive communicators
Mending Broken Hearts –Visitors saw what happens during and after a heart attack and learned why there is a need for new treatment options. There were demonstrations on loading stem cells into biomaterial gels and how these gel carriers will be delivered to the heart. Spectators also got hands-on experience of the methods used to form drug delivery systems with nanoparticles, and saw how adult stem cells are grown and what they look like before implantation.
Tours of TBSI – Visitors enjoyed tours of state-of-the-art research facilities to find out how medical breakthroughs are made. They also met the researchers behind these breakthroughs and asked questions about future research directions.
Must Research Lead to Innovation? Public Discussion – Why do we do research? What is it for? What is innovation? And what relationship does it have with Research? Does all research lead to innovative ways of thinking? Or is research better suited to creating new products?
Science Communicator Brian Trench chaired this interesting discussion on research and its position in society. He was joined by:
Orla Hardiman (BSc MB BCh BAO MD FRCPI FAAN), who is an Irish consultant neurologist. She was appointed as the first full Professor of Neurology in Ireland by Trinity in 2014, where she heads the Academic Unit of Neurology, housed in Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute.
Dr Enda Dempsey, Irish Medical Device Association (IMDA), who achieved his PhD from Trinity in 2009 while researching novel anti-malarial therapeutics. This project was commercially funded by Enterprise Ireland and had both academic and industry collaborators.
Martin McAndrew – M.Phil Modern Irish History, who recently completed an M.Phil in Modern Irish History with his research focusing on The Courts of Justice act 1924 and its effect on the political elite of the time.