UROP Intern Blog
Summer 2022 UROP Interns
CÚRAM's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP), is designed to support underrepresented undergraduate student development by providing fully paid summer internships in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) laboratories across University of Galway. The programme was started in 2022 with Science Foundation Ireland Discover Programme funding.
Saoirse Ryan- Biomaterial-enhanced cellular brain repair for Parkinson’s Disease
About the Programme
UROP is a brilliant opportunity to build professional relationships, advance your scientific knowledge and gain insight into a potential future career. The programme allows underrepresented students to learn valuable skills including both laboratory skills and communication skills. Working within a scientific environment allows you to understand what a career in research might entail. You can connect with fellow science students and researchers at events like the CÚRAM Summit. It is wonderful to be able to meet so many new people and make new friends. It was a really great event for all of us to attend as we got the chance to meet each other as a group and get to know each other. We got to hear about each other’s projects which was interesting. The Summit also gave us an idea of what a scientific conference is like, to attend some science communication workshops and to see some scientific presentations.
I enjoyed working as part of a scientific team and learning to communicate and work in a new environment. I was able to learn a lot from the PhD students in the Department, who were always very helpful. The chance to do some scientific research was very valuable. Due to the pandemic I missed a lot of laboratory classes and this internship allowed me to learn new laboratory skills. This was particularly important as I am going into final year of college and I need to decide what career path to take. The opportunity to participate in scientific research meant I could try a possible future career. The research was very interesting with many different activities involved including both laboratory work and statistical analysis. I did some immunohistochemistry and was able to try new things such as sectioning brain tissue and mounting slides. The statistical analysis was important to learn some new mathematical calculations and to be able to construct graphs clearly. I also had the chance to try some cell culture which was exciting. The focus of the project I was working on is to use biomaterials to treat Parkinson’s disease. Hydrogels with growth factors and human induced pluripotent stem cells are used as treatment. The idea is that the hydrogel acts to protect the cells when they are transplanted. The cells are transplanted to replace the dopamine neurons that are degenerated during Parkinson’s disease. The growth factors help the transplanted cells to grow and survive. The hydrogel prevents the immune system from attacking the transplanted cells. An experimental model is used and the stem cells are transplanted along with the hydrogel and the growth factors. We can then analyse the results of the transplant by using Tyrosine Hydroxylase (TH) which is a dopamine precursor so if we have a lot of TH present we have a lot of dopamine present and therefore the transplant was successful. We then constructed some graphs to show the results clearly. The hydrogel and growth factors dramatically improved the survival of cells. Biomaterials have a lot of potential as treatment for Parkinson’s disease.
Another key aspect of the programme is having to make a poster. In my opinion this is very important as you have a poster of everything you did and learnt to be proud of. It is really nice to get a chance to see other posters as everyone is doing something completely different so it was good to learn new things and see what a diverse group we are. If a career in research is something you might be interested in, I would definitely recommend applying for an internship. You get an insight into life as a researcher, the opportunity to learn new things, you get to meet new people and you have great fun. The weeks went by so quickly for my internship and I only wish I had another few weeks of research left and to spend it with a great bunch of people. I am extremely grateful for the experience.
Hi, my name is Caitriona O’Sullivan, I am 20 years old, and just finished third year in general science, I’m also a recipient of the UROP internship program thanks to NUIG. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to work in a lab over a period of 6 weeks to see exactly what happens in the lab and how it works. The internship was an amazing experience which provided me with new insights as to what a career in science can be. The variety of different supervisors and teachers I had in my lab ranged from masters’ students to PHD’s to research assistants and Postdocs. Galina Brychkova was my supervisor and always had her door open. This meant everyone had interesting views on why they choose to work in a lab, how they made the decision, and how they got to where they are.
The topic I was working most on was genome editing in Ryegrass, and I learned invaluable techniques and a wide range of skill sets under this topic. I got to practice tissue culture techniques and was shown how skills developed early can be honed and refined and how every scientist should have basic knowledge of molecular biology and biotechnology to utilize their time in the lab. Working in a dynamic lab such as the Spillanelab was completely different to doing experiments in the lab during the undergrad experience. This internship provided the opportunity to understand more about the techniques used every day in lab work and understand the experimental process, how to make an experiment and create optimal protocols for future work. This lab definitely encouraged independence and forward thinking from its members but also emphasized how important it was to talk to the other members and share experiences and procedures, you can definitely save time just by talking to other scientists!!
I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity as it has given me a deeper understanding of what a career in science can be and how enjoyable it is to be actively seeking new data and experiments, my supervisors were incredibly supportive, and this made learning both more straightforward and enjoyable. I feel I have developed many interchangeable skills in this internship, in areas such as genetics, biotechnology, bioinformatics and molecular biology. The internship meant that no two days had the same experiments as the procedure was constantly being modified and updated according to our results and published papers we used as reference points.
Ryegrass is a vital crop for the bioeconomy. It is the basis for 70% of the world’s meat production and 80% of the worlds milk production. This vital crop for agriculture flowers only once a year and one lab worker ( Nikita), showed me how she was working on speed breeding programs by keeping the plant in 22hours light and 2 hours dark to increase flowering time by causing the plant to flower twice a year, in six-month intervals, instead of producing seeds once a year via traditional means.
The main gene I got the opportunity to work on was the “ruby” reporter gene, if our plants produced this ruby red color, it meant transformation was successful and our protocol could be adapted to be used in conjunction with any agronomic trait of interest. I was involved in every aspect of Ryegrass genome editing and plant transformation, altering sequences of genes involved in important agronomic traits.
The work I got to be part of is new and exciting and I definitely want to continue work of this type in the future and see this vital plant improved using methods I have now learned.
The entire experience was amazing, and I would absolutely recommend it as it gave invaluable perspective on life in a lab!
Hi! My name is Eve Sheridan and I have just completed final year of the Biomedical Engineering degree in NUIG. Coming to the end of a degree can be an uncertain time, trying to figure out what to do next. Should I do a Masters? Get a job? It’s a lot to think about when you are doing exams and assignments. So, I was delighted when I got an email advertising the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP) from the WiSTEM Society. UROP, which is a 6-week, paid internship programme over the summer sounded like the perfect first step in taking on the world as a Biomedical Engineer.
The title of the project I was going to be working on was ‘An implanted device to improve heart function in heart failure.’ I was excited to get stuck in and learn more about this idea on my first day as I have a keen interest in implantable devices, particularly when they are in relation to the heart. I was delighted to be working with Dr Eimear Dolan as part of this project, a researcher and lecturer in the Biomedical Engineering department. From our first meeting we had a great rapport and were able to discuss ideas freely, a key factor in the success of any project. We had meetings biweekly throughout the course of the internship and sometimes had catch-ups in between if necessary. She was great at guiding the work I was doing in a constructive way that also allowed me the freedom to explore different ideas and come up with design concepts on my own.
The project came about when a cardiologist approached Dr Dolan several months ago about an idea he had for an implantable pump to improve heart function for heart failure patients. It was a fantastic experience getting to work with him. In particular, I had a 1-1 Zoom meeting with him where he explained the project background to me in detail and the motivation behind why he thinks this novel device is necessary. I felt very fortunate to have this experience as an undergraduate student, and it emphasized how important the perspective of the surgeon is in designing a medical device.
The project deals with heart failure, which affects over 90,000 people in Ireland. Heart failure is when the heart’s function as a pump to supply the body with blood is failing, leading to disability or death. The heart has two pumps, or ventricles, one for the lungs (right) and one for the body (left). In heart failure the ventricles become dilated and weakened and are unable to pump sufficient blood around the body. In the early stages of heart failure there are options to receive pharmacological treatment or implantable devices such as pacemakers, but these options can only alleviate the symptoms of heart failure without doing anything to treat the failing heart itself. In advanced heart failure there is the option of getting a transplant or a ventricular assist device (VAD) which both require highly invasive surgeries, have high mortality rates and are costly, making them unrealistic treatment options for the majority of patients. Therefore, it is clear that there is an unmet need for a therapy that provides circulatory support for patients with heart failure, that supplements the failing heart rather than replacing it.
So that is where our project comes into play. There were several design inputs to consider when setting out on designing this novel implantable device. Firstly, the device must fit inside the dilated left ventricle of a typical heart in heart failure. Hence, the outer diameter of the device was limited to 60 mm. The pump will be delivered using a minimally invasive approach through a commercially available introducer sheath, the largest of which is a 26 Fr (8.7 mm internal diameter). Therefore, considerations had to be made to configure how the device would fit inside an introducer of this size. A pacemaker will be implanted, and will send signals to the novel pump device to ensure it beats in conjunction with the native heart. Cardiac output also had to be taken into consideration, to ensure our novel device was supplying the failing heart with sufficient fluid flow.
To tackle the problem, I started out by doing simple calculations in Microsoft Excel to generate a sense of what amount of force might be required for the pump to work. I also looked at the volume of the pump to consider if it was big enough to provide the correct volume of blood per heart contraction. I then moved on to developing finite element models of the device, and had several design iterations to present to the project team at the end of my internship. Finite element analysis is a computerized method which simulates how a component will react to real-world forces. In my final presentation, using the finite element models I had created, I was able to provide a visual of how the different pump designs would work and under what conditions. Both Dr Dolan and the cardiologist we were working with said that these models would be really useful to the project going forward and that I had done great work throughout my UROP internship.
Overall, I had a fantastic experience this summer on the UROP programme. I think this experience will really stand to me as I go forward to pursue my career as an engineer. I would recommend it to any undergraduate student interested in going into research.
My name is Julia, and I'm a third-year General Science student specializing in Applied Mathematics. I've been working on data augmentation for medical imaging during my internship under the supervision of Dr. Bharat Tripathi. This internship was my first opportunity to apply my mathematical skills in medicine. When I saw the description of this internship for the first time, it occurred to me that I've never really thought of applying applied mathematics in medicine. Since I started college two years ago, I have been very fixated on going into Astrophysics after graduation. I applied for this internship to become more open-minded when choosing my career path.
The main goal of my internship was to research scientific papers and review data augmentation techniques based on their suitability for deep learning in medicine. Data augmentation is mainly used to increase the number of images using the original set of medical images. Then using a large, artificially generated dataset, we can train a deep learning machine to detect abnormal changes in our bodies, such as cancer.
In the first week of my internship, I mainly read the existing scientific papers to familiarise myself with the topic since I knew nothing about data augmentation. It all seemed very complicated at the beginning. Still, with the help of my supervisor and team members, I started to understand the main aspects of data augmentation and its applications. I was documenting my work using LaTeX. Then, after I collected enough information, I started creating a table that would present the advantages and disadvantages of each technique. I also developed my coding skills by generating augmented images. My coding skills were fundamental at the beginning, so I started by researching some sample codes on the internet to get a better understanding of TensorFlow and Keras. In the end, I understood all the codes' components and was able to modify them according to my needs. The internship was held online, so I did most of the work from home; however, I attended weekly meetings with my supervisor to share my work. I also stayed in touch with one of the team members.
What I liked most about this internship was that I could work independently – I didn’t have any fixed deadlines or tasks. It gave me an authentic feel of what it is like to work in research.
I believe I greatly benefited from this experience. I've always known that after I graduate I will continue my studies to secure a position in academia. However, I was very fixated on Astrophysics. This internship showed me that there's more than one path to take and that it's essential to keep an open mind. I also saw this experience as an opportunity to see how it would feel to work as a part of a lab team and if that's something I would like to do for the rest of my life. Applied Mathematics is a broad field, so exploring all its branches during four years of the college course is impossible. Therefore, an internship like this is a chance to look at my studies from a slightly different perspective.
Hi, my name is Rosa Machado Mooney. I am a second year student studying Mechanical Engineering in NUIG. Like many students do, I began thinking about what I would like to study in college during my final two years in secondary school. For a long time I felt that I had no idea what I would like to study, but I found that narrowing down my decision based on the subjects that I enjoyed the most helped me hugely. I had a strong interest in both physics and mathematics and so I decided that a STEM course might be suited to me. I have always had a keen interest in the way things work and I loved the idea of working in a field that would have a positive impact on the world we live in. For these reasons I decided to go into Undenominated Engineering ,not really knowing exactly what it would be like or what the job opportunities were.
In my second year of college,I decided that my chosen denomination would be Mechanical Engineering as I felt that it was most likely the broadest of all the denominations and felt that this would be of benefit to me in the future. Upon completing and really enjoying the first two years of Engineering, I still felt that I wasn’t entirely sure what the career opportunities were or what types of jobs would be available to me once I had finished my degree. To discover more about what it would be like to work in STEM research I decided that it would be both an interesting and a useful experience to take part in a research Internship with the college in an area that was of particular interest to me.
Given that climate change and it’s many implications is a current problem that needs solving, I felt that a research internship working on the CRIMSON project would be beneficial to me going forward. I knew that the internship would be an enjoyable opportunity given that the content of the internship was of interest to me. The title of the research internship that I took part in was “Structural Testing of Tidal Turbines Blades”. I worked as a Research Assistant with the CRIMSON project team under the supervision of my Supervisor Dr. William Finnegan. Throughout the course of my internship I attended all of the official in-person and online team meetings which gave me an insight into the workings of a high-scale project and the many aspects that are involved when working as part of a large team. During a detailed lab tour I had the incredible opportunity of seeing full-scale Tidal and Wind turbines that had been previously tested in the heavy structures lab in the Alice Perry Engineering building. During my internship I was given tasks to complete using Inventor, a high-level Engineering design software. I was tasked with designing a safety-cage that would act as a barrier in the lab during testing if a machine were to malfunction or if someone unauthorised attempted to enter the testing area. I then priced my designs by researching various suppliers of the elements that were needed. This was enjoyable and through doing this, I became more proficient in CAD which is a useful skill to have going forward. I also carried out research relevant to the project and took part in the testing of the foil in the Heavy Structures Lab.
As part of my internship I also had the incredible opportunity of going to the overnight 7th Annual Cúram Summit where I gained further insight into what a career in STEM research is like. I had the pleasure of watching many important and talented people give impressive presentations and talks. During my internship I met and made friends with the other interns and learnt about some of the research that they were carrying out in their respective fields.
I would recommend a STEM course to anyone who has an interest in science, the way the world works, or who wants to make a difference. Taking part in an internship has revealed to me some of the cutting edge technologies and advancements that are being made daily by people working in the STEM field. I hope to someday see the difference that a project that I have worked on has had on society, and you can too.
Hello! I’m Sarah Loughnane. I’ve just finished my second year of biopharmaceutical chemistry in NUI Galway. This summer I undertook my UROP internship in Dr Eddie Myers’ laboratory in NUI Galway. I decided to do an internship in a chemistry laboratory as I wanted to gain practical experience in the research field of chemistry and to expand my knowledge further than my studies. Although no day of my internship has been the same, this entry is to give you an idea of what entailed during my internship and so I thought it useful to share some of the things I did. To give you context, the aim of my project was to assess the hydrogel forming properties of short peptides containing formylglycine residues. In essence, this means I was responsible for determining whether a chain of 5 amino acids containing a formylglycine residue could form a hydrophilic polymer which retains water (a hydrogel), and if so, to assess the properties of the hydrogel via characterisation tests such as inverted vial tests.
The first thing I do every morning when I arrive in the lab is to put on my safety glasses and lab coat. Safety is paramount! To synthesise the peptide containing formylglycine of the sequence LIVAG(FGly) I needed to follow a detailed procedure. I also synthesised another peptide of the sequence LIVAGD for comparison purposes with LIVAG(FGly). Both peptides, LIVAGD and LIVAG(FGly), were prepared as unacetylated and acetylated peptides. An acetylated peptide is one with an acetyl group (CH3CO) attached to the peptide. In this case the acetyl group was bound to leucine (L). Once again, this allowed for comparison in the hydrogel formation stage whereby the acetylated LIVAGD acts as a control for LIVAG(FGly). Prior to the synthesis of LIVAG(FGly) I performed a series of experiments to make the formylglycine building block. I got a variety of experimental experience throughout those experiments which cemented my love for chemistry. I won’t be going into detail of this here although I will outline the process of the synthesis of LIVAG(FGly). The experiment write-up including the scheme, method, calculations, and risk assessment was completed prior to beginning the experiment. I always read over the protocol and risk assessment right before carrying out each of my experiments to minimise any potential hazards that might arise throughout an experiment.
The peptide was synthesised using solid phase peptide synthesis (SPPS) whereby a resin acts as the solid component on which the peptide will be formed. In this experiment the formylglycine building block was added first. In SPPS the amino acids are added sequentially whilst utilising a protection process which places a protecting group on the reactive sites of the amino acid to inhibit it from reacting to form an undesired polymer. A deprotection process is used to add the subsequent amino acid: here this was glycine (G). This removes the protecting group from the reactive parts and allows for the addition of the next amino acid in the peptide. These two steps are performed in a particular order in between washing steps to remove impurities and excess reagents. Once the sequence has been formed the peptide is cleaved from the resin and centrifuged with tert-Butyl Methyl Ether (TBME) to remove impurities present. The TBME was allowed to evaporate generating the peptide.
Next comes an important part of chemistry – the analysis! After all, how could I be sure that the material I’ve synthesised is in fact the peptide LIVAG(FGly)? This is where the analysis of compounds comes in and was how I first encountered Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) analysis. I found analysis of NMR spectra to be overwhelming at first but I became more comfortable analysing spectra with practice. I relied on NMR to analyse each of the products produced in each of my experiments, and this experiment was no exception. Thankfully, NMR confirmed the presence of the peptide LIVAG(FGly). Yay!
Now it was time to attempt to form a hydrogel from the peptide LIVAG(FGly). Initially, I dissolved a fixed amount of each peptide, acetylated and unacetylated, in four vials in MilliQ water. Following some time, no hydrogel formation was observed. Next I made phosphate buffered saline (PBS) and
dissolved the peptides in water and PBS. Hydrogels were not observed following this methodology. Unfortunately, my project finished before I could follow other methods of hydrogel formation.
I’m tremendously grateful to have gotten this experience in Dr Myers’ laboratory. It has solidified my love for chemistry! The internship has been a wonderful personal development journey too. There were some setbacks along the way with things seeming like they were not going to plan but as is life. It’s taught me how to problem solve and given me an invaluable insight into life in a research laboratory.
Thank you to Dr Myers, Ardra, and to everyone at CÚRAM and SFI for facilitating my project.
Project Title: Generalising from simple images: a task for artificial intelligence.
Supervisor and Institution: Dr. James McDermot, School of Computer Science, University of Galway.
My name is Tia Nolan. I’m a 22 year old student from County Laois and I am about to start the 4th year of my degree in ‘Physics with Astrophysics’ with National University of Ireland, Galway. For my internship I worked closely with Dr. James McDermott on a research project looking at Artificial Intelligence (AI) methods and their ability to generalise from simple images.
As Humans we have the ability to learn new concepts from just one or two examples, however AI has some difficulty with this. It requires hundreds or thousands of examples to achieve the same results. 1 As this is a time consuming and inefficient process, there is a significant amount of research currently being done to improve these methods. So how do we tackle such complicated problems? We go back to the basics. By working with simples images and simple tests for these images we hope to gain insight into more complex machine learning human learning itself.
The overall aims of the project was to build a system that would generate an image that passes our tests and could confidently be considered a ‘space invader’.3 The project was completed in 2 main phases; Phase One was to create the tests themselves using the 3 space invaders from the game as a control. These tests would look for the typical properties of a space invader such as left-right symmetry, the centre of mass and if it had features like eyes or legs.
In total we created 21 test and the results for these tests would then be used as a scoring system in the next phase of the project. In Phase Two we would then create a model that would generate a random image and score it out of 21. We would then get the computer to modify the random image with the aim of improving its score. In the end the highest score we recorded was 17 out of 21. Although we didn’t create an image that scored 21/21, we did achieve our main goal of creating a system which generates new images and filters for the right properties. The project was carried out over a six week period but I am confident that given more time we could improve the overall scoring of the system.
I started this project as a physics student with admittedly little knowledge on Artificial Intelligence methods & applications and computer science as a whole. On completion, my knowledge of this area of science and how it impacts the world has greatly improved. From conducting background research, I have a better understanding on how much our society and economy is being shaped by the use of AI, as can be seen in all aspects of our lives from our homes, to our health to our working world.
While this project may be a small contribution in AI research, it is perhaps a step towards a bigger result for an area of AI. While working through the project, I felt discussion and collaboration with my supervisor was integral to a successful outcome.
Personally, in doing this project, I am much more confident in my abilities heading into my final year and excited to work on my final year project. I have a deeper appreciation of the workload, structure and discipline involved in conducting a research project which will be of great benefit.
Adam Poyntz-Regenerative Medicine in Dogs
My name is Adam Poyntz. I grew up on a farm in county Cavan. I’m a third year biomedical science student at NUIG specialising in the field of anatomy I was honoured to get to work under Dr. Ana Ivanovska this year on a project in collaboration with Ark vets in Knocknacarra Galway. Our aim was to characterise canine mesenchymal stem cells (CMSCs) in dogs in the hopes of helping create stem cell based therapies for dogs in the future. This was a highly valuable experience in the lab as I got to learn and observe numerous lab skills that aren’t shown in a lecture hall.
This project is driven by the initiative “One Health”. This initiative works to translate our current knowledge of stem cells in humans and see if it applies to stem cells in other animals to produce new stem cell therapies for companion animals.
With the owner’s consent, samples were taken from the adipose tissue of puppies while they go through the neutering procedure. When the samples arrived to the lab, we processed them and broke down the adipose tissue to retrieve the stem cells. These cells were then placed into flasks, grown in culture, fed with media and passaged when needed. A secondary aim for our project was to build a bank of frozen stem cells that can be used to study in the future.
Once enough cells are grown we can analyse them using tri-lineage differentiation, growth curve analysis and QPCR to test their abilities to differentiate into different types of cells, their growth rate and their DNA. Tri-lineage differentiation consists of getting the cells to differentiate into osteoclasts (bone), adipocytes (fat) and chondroblasts (cartilage) by exposing the cells to a similar scenario as if they were in the body.
I gained a lot of experience in cell culture and using aseptic technique as we had to grow our cells in culture for our experiments. I also got experience DNA analysis which can be very confusing at times for an undergraduate student. One of my most valued skills that I have learned from my experience is optimisation. For most of our experiments we were using the protocols for growing and analysing human MSCs. This naturally means that we may have to alter the procedure and adapt the protocol to suit the nature of the CMSCs. For example, we needed to conduct experiments to assess what media is most suitable for the CMSCs to grow in, without overfeeding/underfeeding the cells. This experimentation is very common in the field of science.
On top of the amazing lab experience I obtained, I also got to be invited to the weekly lab meetings in Prof. Frank Barry’s group along with Bi-weekly CALIN meetings. This was a great insight into what is necessary for a lab to be organised and effective along with listening to fascinating presentations on current research being done at NUIG for osteoarthritis and cell therapies and technologies. I was also invited to the CURAM summit which allowed me to experience my first conference style event where many talented scientists in Ireland shared their work with each other. Overall I really enjoyed my experinece in my internship. It was really fun and I highly recommend that other students search for internships to gain a similar intriguing experience.
BS – General Science, University of Galway Supervisor: Abhay Pandit
In this blog post, I hope to give an account of my time within the UROP programme so those reading this can gain a small insight to my experience of the programme, and see it through my eyes. I also hope for this post to serve as a guide to anyone who is considering a future in any STEM fields.
My time in the UROP programme has been amazing. It has provided me with the existential experience that one can only gain by working day to day in a research laboratory. Most people are not lucky enough to get an opportunity to understand what happens in a research laboratory until they begin their Masters or PhD. However, University of Galway in conjunction with Science Foundation Ireland have made this possible for me and many others even earlier than this. The programme has helped me realise a career in research is not a hard to reach, unattainable career that is only for the elite or the perfect.
From day one, I have learned that research is a team effort and that it is okay to not know everything. Every day I walked in the door of CÚRAM I could see first-hand how the entire team support each other and have a desire to help each other. This atmosphere of teamwork made everyday a joy and gave me the confidence to feel I could handle any task placed in front of me.
I am very glad to be able to say that there were indeed many tasks placed in front of me. I am a very practical person and to constantly get to work with my hands everyday gave me great joy. When you are studying a STEM subject it can feel like a very daunting and book heavy career path. Thus, because of this I can see why many people may turn against a STEM path. However, that has not been my experience. Since starting I have not done a single day where I wasn’t spending several hours working with my hands to create something new.
To then give a contrast, every day, in my downtime when I was not doing practical work, I got the opportunity to let my curiosity run wild. Some days I would investigate topics relating to my lab work to help me get a greater dept of knowledge. Sometimes it was scientific topics
that were completely unrelated. The balance of mental learning and physical learning was extremely satisfying.
This balance, can even be tilted more towards whichever end of the scale suits you best, because, after all, everybody is different and learns in different ways. If you are the type of person who is not afraid to ask “why”, then even every day in a lab can be different and used to give you vast opportunities to improve yourself. For me I like to learn from people, so each week I would start in the lab early, get through my personal project (protein isolation) and then once I was in a comfortable place with this, I used the remainder of my time to go around to others in the lab. I would ask them what they are working on, in an attempt to learn at least one thing from someone each day. This opened the cannels for organising one on one time with amazingly intelligent people for my week ahead. Everyone I spoke to had their own personal stories and backgrounds/disciplines in STEM, yet they all arrived here in CÚRAM at the same time. This showed me how a career in STEM is not just one linear approach towards a final outcome. It in fact showed me that it doesn’t matter what discipline of STEM you come from, you will constantly be mixing your path and collaborating with amazing people from amazing backgrounds and levels throughout your career.
If like me, you are constantly compelled to ask “why” and wake up each morning seeking to gain new information about the world around you, then why not pursue a field of STEM and let your imagination run wild. Do not fear it or dismiss it because you feel like you are not the best, you are never alone in a research lab.
When I first put down denominated Physics on my CAO during leaving cert I had no idea what I actually wanted to do as a career. I only started to get an idea of the job opportunities and different pathways in physics halfway through my first year in university.
My name is Jennifer and I am going into the final year of my four year bachelor of science degree in physics with astrophysics in NUIG. The modules we cover in my course are spread over a wide range of disciplines, mostly maths and physics but also mechanics and programming. I picked astrophysics as my pathway at the end of my first year. There are four other pathways available in NUIG’s denominated physics course: theoretical, applied, climate and biomedical physics. The astrophysics pathway is one of the more programming orientated pathways in physics, but we also have specific modules about the universe, astronomical objects and telescope design.
Astrophysicists make models of astronomical objects and use then to relate properties to each other, then analyse images of outer space and use these modelled laws to calculate the non- observable properties of the target object using the observed properties. For example you can calculate the distance to a star using trigonometry and the position of the star in the sky when we are at separate points of our orbit around the sun.
Astrophysicists also program image analysis software and design telescopes and cameras. When a new set of images is received from a satellite like ESA’s Gaia observatory, astrophysics will analyse and catalogue the astronomical objects that can be seen. Every star is assigned a class depending on its size and colour.
Astrophysics is an important area of science because a lot of the technology that is designed for astrophysics can be applied to other areas like medicine and industry. Physicists in general strive to understand how the universe works and try fit laws onto what can be observed. Astrophysics allows for observation of things that are too large scale to be recreated experimentally on earth. Of course another extremely tempting aspect of this area is the search for life of other planets.
My internship research focuses on flare stars, which are red dwarf stars that undergo unpredictable increases in brightness that last a few minutes. Red dwarfs are small cool stars, which are very dense. The density of these stars makes the radiation of energy produced by fusion in the stars core to the surface of the star very inefficient. A lot of the produced energy can’t be radiated through the star, so convection occurs to compensate. The movement of energy via the convection current induces a magnetic field, similar to how the convection currents in the earths liquid core produces a magnetic field that protects earth. The magnetic field gradually increases and becomes unstable, then it collapses and ejects matter in a solar flare. We study cool stars like red dwarfs because this mass ejection increases the brightness by a large fraction of the overall brightness of the star, as the star is relatively dim compared to other star classes.
This stabilisation of the magnetic field is called a magnetic reconnection event and is the main thing being studied in this type of research, as it is largely unknown why and how it actually happens.
I’ve found my internship really interesting and engaging. I’ve been working remotely from my laptop on analysing images taken by the Galway Ultra Fast Imager (GUFI) in Arizona, US. Once I have the images which are taken 0.5 seconds apart prepped, I take note of the relative brightness of the flare star I’m looking at and plot that against time to get a light curve.