Dublin Rose glad to preach science

Thu, Jul 12, 2012, 01:00

CELEBRITY SUPPORT:THE ROSE of Tralee festival has produced one famous winner who was also a science graduate – Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin. There might well be another one during the forthcoming festival.

The Dublin Rose is Arlene O’Neill (25), a PhD student in nanoscience at Trinity College Dublin (TCD). She was put forward for the heat by Dublin City of Science and the Euroscience Open Forum (Esof) and duly won.

She is now ambassador for the festival and will be attending events over the next few days.

Arlene has a first-class honours degree in applied physics from Dublin City University.

When she is not attempting to unlock the secrets of the smallest structures in nature, Arlene is a corporal in the Army reserves, where she is a physical training leader, hence her interest in the talk on building a better athlete, which will be held today.

She has a passion for science communication and frequently goes around schools talking about the subject. “I’ll talk to anybody all day if they will listen about science,” she says. She works in the Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (Crann) in TCD, which has some of the most powerful microscopes in the world.

Her ultimate goal is to produce materials such as super strong plastics which will have commercial uses.

She is full of praise for Ms Ní Shúilleabháin, who has gone on to present a popular science programme on RTÉ.

“Aoibhinn is an incredible role model for female science,” she said. “I really admire her. If I could be a fraction of what she is, I’d be very happy.” Among those who are doing their bit to popularise science was the compere of yesterday’s opening ceremony, the comedian Dara O Briain.

O Briain, a mathematics graduate, was a presenter of the BBC programme Stargazing Live, which attracted huge audiences. He has gone on to present Dara O Briain: School of Hard Sums, a popular maths programme.

He told the delegates there was an Irish institution where people met to converse and exchange ideas. “It is called the pub,” he said. The unit of measurement was the pint and it was sacrosanct.

Others who have sought to promote the festival include Dublin football goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton, who is a science teacher.