Ten questions: Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin

Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin is the second guest on the 10 Questions series

What do you do on a Friday night? How important is it to be liked? When did you last cry? Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin is the second guest on the 10 Questions series. Interview: Kate Holmquist. Video: Daniel O'Connor


Talking about what she doesn’t like about herself is so complicated it would take an hour, says TCD maths lecturer Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin. The last time she cried was a few days ago, tears of frustration while working on her PhD in maths education. Girls fear maths because they hate making mistakes, whereas boys use their mistakes as building blocks, she says.

With a list of academic achievements as long as your arm and on her way to present a paper on maths pedagogy in Philadephia shortly, Ní Shúilleabháin wears her considerable accomplishments lightly. There’s no mention that she’s a former Rose of Tralee on her TCD website profile, or that she’s a broadcaster in radio and TV, with two RTÉ TV programmes: Getaways , a travel programme, and Science Squad , for young people.

What’s the most sexist thing about the Rose of Tralee? Only that men aren’t in it, she says. It’s full of “phenomenal” women and she’s currently helping to plan her year’s 10th reunion.

She values her friends, loves her mother’s bacon and cabbage with turnips and her happiest moments are Sunday mornings in bed with a cup of coffee and a book. She’s currently reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Lacuna .

Her dream dinner party guest? Physicist Richard Feynman with whom she would presumably discuss quantum mechanics, plus “he was a ladies’ man”, though any current beaux needn’t worry as he died in 1988.

Ní Shúilleabháin also has a career as a brand ambassador, representing Science Week last year and was on hand to help launch Electric Ireland's new loyalty scheme Powering Rewards, which sweetens what would often be PhD candidate penury.

Her private life? Apart from having cocktails with her friends on Friday nights after a hard evening’s academic writing, and her admiration of her mother, she could be any other girl about town, which is her way of saying, her private life stays private.

She lives in a period house by the sea in Monkstown, Co Dublin, with radio and TV broadcaster Ryan Tubridy. No wedding plans, yet.

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