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.



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.

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.

Transition year work experience

The TG group were delighted to host transition year student Mark Lynes from Colaiste Treasa, Kanturk, Co Cork, as part of his TY work experience programme. Mark has a keen interest in pursuing science at third level and during his time in the lab, he was able to assist with some synthesis, get a tour of the department and various facilities, while also gaining an insight into the day to day life of a research scientist. Mark took part in this years BT Young Scientist competition, with his project on international road safety winning a highly commended rosette. IMG_2659

Student work experience


We were delighted to host secondary student Niamh Murphy from Mercy College for a week in the TG laboratory. Niamh is very interested in pursuing a career in scientific research and so, as part of her Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme course, she got in touch with us about getting some work experience in a working research lab.

Niamh worked with Dr Joe Byrne, helping with the synthesis of a number of ligands for ongoing research and made a valuable contribution to the lab while there.

The TG Group often hosts students for work experience in order to open up the possibility of research to the wider community.