Niamh Murphy in Nature article on “Teen spirit in the lab”

Niamh Murphy in the lab with PhD student Dermot Gillen

Future chemist Niamh Murphy, a part-time student in the group, was recently featured in the journal Nature, talking about her experiences working with the TG Group while at school and preparing for university.

Niamh first joined the group for a week of work experience in 2015 and has been returning during the 2017-2018 part-time, working with PhD student Dermot Gillen. Currently, Niamh is working on interesting Amonafide derivatives.

 

The article by Chris Woolston, in the Nature Careers section describes:

Nature - Teen spirit in the lab“The Gunnlaugsson lab made an impression on Niamh Murphy, who was 15 years old when she spent a week working there in November 2015. “It was like walking into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory,” Murphy says. “Everything was so new to me.” Murphy, who just turned 18, parlayed that week-long introduction into a 7-month stint as a lab assistant. She’ll finish that position in May, before starting studies in chemistry at the Dublin Institute of Technology. “I still feel like a puppy running around with a lot of older dogs,” she says. “

To me, column chromatography is so cool. But the postdocs do it every day.” […]  Murphy feels lucky to be in a lab where she can contribute to the research itself. Some teens she’s talked to, she says, have no chance to run equipment or perform other such tasks. She says that students should talk to lab alumni to determine whether the principal investigator will make teaching them a priority. “If you can find someone who is really invested in young people, like Thorri, you’ll be on your way,” she says.”

Also in the article, Thorri voiced his opinion on the benefits of welcoming young students into the lab, the benefits to them and to the wider public:

“We get quite a few requests,” he says. “We take them in for three or four weeks and let them do some experiments. They can see that scientists are not portrayed correctly on television most of the time. There’s a lot going on.” […] Gunnlaugsson says that he never expects adolescents to make immediate contributions to his lab, but he adds that his government grants over the years have imbued him with a sense of duty. “That’s money from the public, so we’re obliged to engage with the public,” he says. “We have to let them know what we’re doing.” Opening the doors to adolescents is an important part of that outreach effort, he says”

The group regularly hosts young students in the lab, as well as contributing to outreach of our own research and programmes run centrally in the School of Chemistry through the participation of a number of group members, both PhD and Post-doctoral researchers.

Well done Niamh for sharing your experience with other students, so that they might also be inspired to find a placement, and with academics world-wide, so that they might consider providing the same opportunities to others!

The full article is available here, and is part of a special issue on Adolescence.

 

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Sam, Anna and Dermot teach TY students about molecular logic

As part of the School of Chemisty’s annual Transition Year (TY) programme, Sam, Anna and Dermot gave an interactive demonstration on molecular logic to a group of sixty TY students. This is the second year in a row that the group has presented on smart materials and chemical computation, in an informative lecture that covers the life and legacy of mathematician George Boole, logic gates and the life-saving work of Prof A.P. de Silva in Belfast, and our own group’s work with lanthanides.

The students learned how logical functions operate in a series of interactive exercises, before testing out the gel-based logic gates themselves. The demonstration was originally developed by Sam and Joe as part of Discover Research Dublin 2015, and to mark the 200th birthday of Boole.

Dermot becomes a SFI Smart Futures Ambassador

Dermot attended the SFI Smart Futures ambassador training this week at the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) head office in Dublin. As part of Smart Futures, Dermot will be teaching secondary school students about careers in science, technology, engineering and maths, or STEM.

Smart Futures is coordinated by SFI in partnership with a variety of other groups such as Engineers Ireland, BioPharma Ireland, and the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). The training was provided as part of the RSC’s Spectroscopy in a Suitcase programme in which PhD students travel to schools to provide students with hands on experience and a much richer understanding of spectroscopy.

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Dermot outside the SFI Head Office at Wilton Place

Secondary school teachers who are interested in having Smart Futures or Spectroscopy in a Suitcase come to their schools should apply online (here and here).

TG Group bid farewell to summer project undergraduate student Aisling Ryan

Aisling completed her two month summer project within the Gunnlaugsson group which she started on 6th of June and finished on 29th of July 2016. She has been an excellent addition to the group and has been working on the synthesis of tripodal terpyridine-based ligands for the formation of supramolecular polymers and gels with Sachi and Oxana. We wish her the very best of luck in her future studies and endeavors!

Dermot teaches Leaving Certificate students spectroscopy with the RSC

Students measure the concentration of aspirin in a sample of "blood plasma" with a UV-vis spectrometer.

Students measure the concentration of aspirin in a sample of “blood plasma” with a UV-vis spectrometer.

Over the last few months, TG group member Dermot Gillen has been working with Dr John O’Donoghue Trinity’s RSC Education Coordinator  to bring applied chemistry to secondary schools. As part of the RSC’s Spectroscopy in a Suitcase programme, Dermot has been helping Leaving Certificate students gain hands-on experience with state-of-the-art instruments that are used in both research and forensics. The students work together in teams, using chemical principles and portable spectrometers to find out what killed the unfortunate Dr Green!

After the case has been solved, students learn and can ask questions about undergraduate study in science, career paths in STEM and postgraduate research in Trinity, including the work of the TG group. This week’s visit to Loreto College was the last such visit before the summer holidays. Dermot, Olan and Joana had the chance to run the session themselves in what was a great success!

Dermot, Olan and Joana with the girls from Loreto College.

Dermot (far right), Olan and Joana with the girls from Loreto College.

TG Group host annual School of Chemistry Transition Year Programme

Between the 29th February and 4th of March, the TG group facilitated the Transistion Year (TY) outreach programme in Trinity. Each year the School of Chemistry invites TY high school students to visit the school to learn about the scientific research conducted in our laboratories.

On the Monday and Tuesday of the week long programme, one of our PhD students, Anna, was involved in demonstrating various practical laboratory experiments in the Cocker Lab, Trinity, such as, for example, the preparation of soap, the analysis of water hardness and the synthesis of Aspirin . They were then accompanied on a visit of the TG research lab on Wednesday where they engaged with post-doctoral researcher, Dr. Joe Byrne, who guided them through the research process, from synthesis to publication of scientific articles.

 

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Sam and Joe presenting to TY students

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On Thursday morning, Joe and PhD student, Sam, shared their work on molecular logic gates, recently published in Chemical Communications: DOI: 10.1039/C5CC05009J. They also gave a lecture on smart materials and chemical computation, which included the historical stories of the science behind logic and molecular logic in Ireland, ranging from the works of George Boole in Cork to A.P. de Silva in Belfast, to the most recent work from our own group. The students learned about molecular logic, lanthanides and soft materials, getting hands-on experience with real materials from our laboratory.

Students from Sion Hill, Blackrock

Students from Sion Hill, Blackrock

On Friday 4th March two classes from the Sion Hill school in Blackrock came to visit our laboratories and were taken on a guided tour of the facilities in TBSI by post-doctoral researcher Dr. Emma Veale, and PhD students, Amy, Dermot and Eoin followed by an interactive demonstration with Sam and Joe.

After the visit the students we had lunch together and the students had the opportunity to ask questions about research, science and future career.
Any other School interested in Chemistry outreach programs can contact Dr. Noelle Scully in the School of Chemistry, TCD.

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Students chatting with TG Group over lunch

Students chatting with TG Group over lunch

“Luminescent Logic in Soft Materials” presentation wins prize at Discover Research Dublin open night

Recent research from the TG Group on the use of lanthanide luminescent soft materials as molecular logic gate mimics was presented to the public as part of the Discover Dublin Research Night in the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute on 25th September 2015. The work was described in an RTÉ News bulletin the day before and many people attended the laboratory where Sam Bradberry, Joe Byrne and Anna Aletti showed them how research chemists can create functional materials from commercially available building blocks, step by step. Illustrations by artist Sophie Longwill helped communicate the complex ideas to an audience of all ages. The presentation won a prize as a result of feedback from visitors.

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The research was recently published in an article in Chemical Communications. It describes the use of lanthanide luminescent bundles based on the “Trinity Sliotar” and the btp motif as components in methacrylate-based soft materials and their use as responsive functional materials, and with luminescent outputs which can be described in terms of logic gates. The article can be read here.