Thursday May 19, 2022: Cell EXPLORERS has celebrated ten successful years of informing, inspiring and involving the public in hands-on modern biology.
The science education and public engagement programme, based at NUI Galway, is delivered nationally by the University and its nine partner institutions: Atlantic Technological University in Donegal Letterkenny and Galway City; Dundalk Institute of Technology; Future Neuro, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Chronic and Rare Neurological Diseases; Munster Technological University in Cork and Kerry; South East Technological University, Carlow; Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands MidWest; University College Cork; University College Dublin in the National Virus Reference Laboratory; and University of Limerick.
First created in 2012 by founding director Dr Muriel Grenon and ten project students, Cell Explorers was piloted with funding from the EXPLORE Innovation initiative: a project by NUI Galway and its Student’s Union, which supported collaborations between staff and students.
The next two years saw the Cell Explorers educational outreach model developing further with funding from Royal Dublin Society, the Galway Science and Technology Festival, Science Foundation Ireland and The Wellcome Trust.
Ten years later, Cell Explorers has expanded nationally to 13 teams. It has delivered either in-person or remotely-facilitated hands-on science to 750 classes in 500 schools, and activities to 26 counties across the Republic of Ireland.
Having raised close to €1 million for several projects, and secured Science Foundation Ireland support since its inception, it has trained more than 2,600 Cell Explorers scientists, students and staff. It has engaged more than 45,000 young people and their families in hands-on science in Ireland.
The programme has also started to develop its own research to understand how to combat misconceptions and stereotypes that relate to science and scientists and which prevent young people from seeing that science could be for them.
Professor Phillip Nolan, Director General of SFI, noted: “I would like to pay tribute to all involved in the Cell Explorers programme, in particular past and present volunteers and coordinators of its 13 teams. By acting as authentic role models and sharing your excitement in research and innovation, you are helping to engage our young people, so that they maintain an interest in science and consider pursuing a career in research. Thank you for making a real difference to our society and the growth of the research community in Ireland.”
The Cell Explorers programme has become a reference in terms of public engagement in science in Ireland and internationally. In 2019, the programme received the Outstanding Contribution to Science Communication award by Science Foundation Ireland. It is a member of the European Science Engagement Association (EUSEA) and a part of Scientix, the community for science education in Europe, as well as the 'Falling Walls Engage' community, ranking in the top 50 of their global competition in 2021.
Professor Ciarán Ó hOgartaigh, President of NUI Galway, said: “As I reflect on and note the Cell Explorers mission - to Inform, Inspire and Involve - a mission that the team has remained true to throughout the exponential growth in their first ten years, I can’t help but hear echoes of our own Institutions core values - respect, excellence, openness and sustainability.
“These are the values that NUI Galway strives to uphold, to sustain and support each other and, through combined effort, to work for the public good and enhance our university’s distinctiveness. That these very same values have underpinned the Cell Explorers model from its onset a decade ago speaks to the value this programme brings to our University community and society more generally.”
For further information on Cell Explorers network visit https://www.cellexplorers.com/our-teams.