Thousands descend on Trinity as researchers open doors

From medical breakthroughs to understanding why babies kick during pregnancy

Zoology Phd Student Thomas Guillerme from France shows an armadillo shell to Nuala and Michael Walsh from Rathfarnham in Dublin, while they were visiting the Zoology Department of Trinity College Dublin during Discover Research Dublin 2015. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Zoology Phd Student Thomas Guillerme from France shows an armadillo shell to Nuala and Michael Walsh from Rathfarnham in Dublin, while they were visiting the Zoology Department of Trinity College Dublin during Discover Research Dublin 2015. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

Thousands of people descended on Trinity College Dublin (TCD) on Friday for the Discover Research Dublin 2015 exhibition which featured over 60 interactive events and demonstrations in dozens of fields of research.

The event, organised by TCD and the Royal College of Surgeons, was designed to showcase “what researchers really do and why research matters” by exploring abstract and practical questions through a variety of digital and traditional formats.

Prof Cliona O’Farrelly, who was involved in organising the event, said it would “allow the people behind the work to tell their unique stories in an interactive, accessible, engaging way”.

“Research is about investigation and discovery, and we are keen to show everyone how dynamic the process is,” she said.

“We are also delighted to challenge the stereotypes that are sometimes attached to ‘researchers’ by showing just how varied the people behind tomorrow’s real-world solutions truly are.”

Yvonne Buckley, head of the zoology department, said her work involved researching animals and their lifestyles.

“That involves looking at how long they live for, how many babies they have, and why animals are different in the way they see the world,” she said.

“We also work on ecological stability, including how that relates to stability of economic systems. We can take ideas developed for plant and animal communities and use them when we talk about how quickly economies recover from depressions.

“We work on intelligence in animals – everything from ants to killer whales – so different kinds of intelligence. Also, animals of different sizes perceive the world very differently. So, a fly would be able to perceive a tiny movement much more quickly than an elephant for example.”

She said the reason why offspring kick during pregnancy was because “movement in the womb affects skeletal development”.

“There are really rare foetal disorders where babies don’t move in the womb and their skeletons are deformed because of that,” she said. “Movement is essential to the development of the skeleton.”

Nuala Walsh (82) and Michael Walsh (84) said they were visiting the zoology department as they are “very into nature”.

“They have tapeworms – the size of them,” they said. “It’s not a nice subject but it’s very interesting. We have a pond at home and there is lots of wildlife in there. We’ll keep going as long as we’re able.”

Elsewhere, participants could take part in 3D visualisations of the brain, control computers with nothing but their minds, and create colourful visualisations of the music they play with magnetised instruments.

The robotics and cybernetics showcase displayed how engineers are creating robots to help the elderly and those living with disabilities, while the Dublin Language Garden explained how linguistics evolve and teach people to speak a language like a local in a mere five minutes.

People could also go behind the scenes at the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute, where “cutting-edge” medical and scientific research takes place. Researchers explained how technology allows them to make life-saving breakthroughs and design drugs that are revolutionising the treatment of diseases.