Nobel Laureate Prof William Campbell launches Undergraduate Science Programme

Nobel Prize winner and Trinity graduate, Professor William Campbell launched Trinity’s Undergraduate Science Programme to a packed  lecture theatre of secondary students and their teachers at Trinity College Dublin today.

The Nobel laureate who has said about Trinity that “there’s no other university I would rather have been to,” launched the new Undergraduate Science Programme during a special return visit to his alma mater.

Prof William Campbell with students, Leah Paul and Eimhin Bolger from Wesley College, on the occasion of the launch, inspecting some parasites.

Professor Campbell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2015 for his development of the drug Ivermectin that has almost eradicated river blindness. This work, carried out at Merck pharmaceuticals, was a direct extension of his education on parasitology in Zoology at Trinity. His interest in parasitology started here, where he was inspired by his professor and well known parasitologist, Desmond Smyth.  He has said about Professor Smyth that he “changed my life by developing my interest in this particular field”. The young Campbell went on to obtain a first class honours degree in Zoology, graduating in 1952.

It was particularly appropriate then that the leading scientist who was so inspired as an undergraduate science student at Trinity, launched the new Undergraduate Science Education Programme, which will have its first intake of students in 2018.

Commenting on the renewed programme, the Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Mathematics and Science, Professor Vinny Cahill said:

“We aim to provide our graduates with an education that equips them with the knowledge, skills and flexibility to avail of increasingly diverse career options arising from advances in science and technology. Trinity Science graduates are well prepared to take advantage of current and future scientific developments. Approximately a third of our graduates become practicing scientists, in academia, industry or in clinical settings. A similar number go into aligned areas, such as teaching, medicine, science journalism, patenting law or forensic science. The remainder proceed to a diversity of careers not directly related to science but for which their scientific education makes them eminently suitable and highly sought after.”

One noteworthy change in the renewed Science programme is that there are now four entry routes, each focusing on one distinct area of science: Physical Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, and Geography and Geoscience. Each stream leads to a diverse range of possible degree specialisations, which include those previously accessible only through direct entry.

Within each stream, students will engage in a customised foundational curriculum in the first two years. This will centre on core modules relevant to each major subject domain, as well as mathematics, statistics, data analysis and computing modules. Students will also be able to take elective modules from the other streams or from related areas such as education, entrepreneurship or science communication. All students will also take a module in the history and philosophy of science, including a core element in ethics.

At the end of their second year, students will choose a degree subject in which to specialise and are eligible to enter all those offered within their chosen stream. These span all areas of modern science and reflect the cutting-edge expertise of Trinity’s scientists. They range from studies on the subatomic scale to the exploration of the cosmos; from the design and development of new chemical entities to their application in medicine; from the inner workings of cells at the molecular level to the evolution of species over millions of years; and from the geological forces that shape our planet to the environmental and social dynamics of our own species.

In their final year each student will undertake a capstone research project. It is at this point that they move from just learning about science to becoming practitioners, applying their scientific understanding and skills to an original problem. This affords an opportunity to learn how scientific research works in practice at the highest level, and to make their own contribution to the discoveries shaping our world. In some disciplines, students will be able to carry out their projects in clinical research laboratories in Trinity’s affiliated hospitals, in industry, or in collaborating institutions worldwide

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Science Education, Professor Kevin Mitchell commented:

“The goal of science education in Trinity is not just to train the next generation of scientists, but also those who will work in other careers enabled by advances in scientific knowledge. In doing so we hope to instil an understanding of how science works in all our graduates and provide the ultimate in transferable skills – an ability to evaluate and synthesise evidence, think critically and learn rapidly and continually.”

For more details on the Undergraduate Science Programme click on

Studying science at Trinity:

  • Programmes in four broad streams
  • Each stream leads to a diverse range of possible degree specialisations
  • Broad choice of additional approved and elective modules
  • All students do a capstone research project
  • Additional emphasis on transferable skills
  • Excellent career prospects

While visiting Trinity, Professor Campbell also returned what will now be revered as a remarkable heirloom to the Zoology department from which his remarkable, world-changing career in science began. You can read about this heirloom, and about awards Professor Campbell presented to current Zoology students here.





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