Female scientists to take to the streets to talk STEM this weekend for Soapbox Science Galway 2018

Some of the scientists taking part in Soapbox Science Galway on Saturday, from left: Dr Karen Molloy, Morag Taite, Dr Dara Stanley, Dr Kathryn Schoenrock, Cécile Robin, and Dr Jessamyn Fairfield, NUI Galway, La Daana Kanhai, GMIT, Eimear O’Hara and Alice Selby, NUI Galway.  Photo: Aengus McMahon.

Some of the scientists taking part in Soapbox Science Galway on Saturday, from left: Dr Karen Molloy, Morag Taite, Dr Dara Stanley, Dr Kathryn Schoenrock, Cécile Robin, and Dr Jessamyn Fairfield, NUI Galway, La Daana Kanhai, GMIT, Eimear O’Hara and Alice Selby, NUI Galway. Photo: Aengus McMahon.

This weekend will see female scientists bring their research to the masses at the second annual Soapbox Science event in the city.

Twelve researchers from a range of disciplines in technology, science, medicine, and engineering will literally take to their soapboxes at the Spanish Arch on Saturday to deliver short presentations on their specialist subjects.

The event attracted large crowds last year, and the organisers are hoping this year's Soapbox Science will be even bigger.

According to organisers Dr Dara Stanley and Dr Jessamyn Fairfield, the event aims to highlight both the research being done by the participating researchers, and the wide range of people, particularly women, working in the sciences.

"The two main goals are to highlight the research and bring it to the public, but also to highlight the women who are in science and engineering and the great work they are doing," Dr Fairfield said. "People don't realise necessarily, if they haven't met a scientist, the diversity of people working in the sciences."

“Soapbox Science is unusual in that it brings science directly to the streets," Dr Stanley added. "This means that anyone going about their daily business may meet a scientist, perhaps even for the first time.”

The event also helps participating scientists to learn how to communicate their work, free of jargon, and promotes science literacy to the public.

The event will take place from 11am to 2pm at the Spanish Arch this Saturday, July 7, and is free and open to the public.

Scientists from NUI Galway, GMIT, and UCC will showcase research talent across the western seaboard.

This year’s speakers will cover a diverse range of topics, from microbial brains to AI and everything in between.

Alice Selby of the School of Physics, NUI Galway will discuss Human-Machine memory, while Cécile Robin, of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at NUI Galway, will answer the question, ‘How do computers read fairytales?'

Morag Taite of NUI Galway's Department of Zoology will present on ‘Octopuses and their ancient relatives’, and Dr Kathryn Schoenrock, Botany and Plant Science at NUI Galway, will deliver ‘Kelp me! What does kelp do for its community?’

Marine microplastics also feature among this year's talks, with La Daana Kanhai of the Marine and Freshwater Research Centre at GMIT speaking on ‘Microplastics in the oceans: Why the fuss?’

Eimear O’Hara, of the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway, will discuss ‘Mechanical engineering: not just boys and cars’, and Dr Claire Conway, also of NUI Galway's College of Engineering and Informatics, will explore ‘Engineering a virtual beating heart: testing medical implants using computer simulation.’

Dr Jean O’Dwyer of UCC will discuss her research on groundwater with a presentation titled ‘What lies beneath? Assessing groundwater quality in Ireland.’

Dr Karen Molloy of NUI Galway's School of Geography and Archaeology will discuss ‘Fossil pollen – nature’s own time machine.’

Dibyangana Dana Bhattacharyya, also of NUI Galway, will reveal interesting advances in breast cancer research with her presentation, ‘Battling evolution: Our DNA and its role in breast cancer.’

Alison Connolly of NUI Galway will answer the important question, ‘When you use pesticides at work, do you absorb the chemical into your body?’ Finally, Laura Cutugno of NUI Galway will discuss ‘The brains of microbes.’

Each presentation lasts about 20 minutes, with the speakers rotating among four soapboxes, each giving her presentation three times.

Soapbox Science was founded in the UK in 2011, and has grown to become an international phenomenon. Over the past seven years, Soapbox Science events have been organised in countries such as Italy, Canada, and Australia.

The event builds on the Galway tradition of public discourse from soapboxes, this time with a scientific twist, bringing the general public and scientists together, while also highlighting the work of the many female scientists in Ireland in a fun and friendly way. It also aims to highlight the continued need for a skilled science and engineering workforce, where the scientific community needs to continue to attract the best talent in an open and inclusive way.

Dr Jessamyn Fairfield is a nanoscientist and lecturer in the School of Physics and CÚRAM, and a comedian who runs monthly Bright Club research/comedy events across Ireland. Her research is focused on building electronics like the brain. Dr Dara Stanley is a scientist interested in ecology and biodiversity, and in particular in plants and the insects that pollinate them. She is a lecturer in botany and plant science in the Ryan Institute.

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