8 November 2021: CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices based at NUI Galway and Galway Atlantaquaria have been educating students at St. Nicholas’ Parochial School in Galway about how marine organisms are helping scientists develop new ways to heal our bodies. Working with teaching artist, Alison Mac Cormaic, the “Tiny Sea Life, Big Cures” project inspired students to design their own marine-inspired medical devices. Alison featured the students’ designs to co-create a large-scale, interactive mural on the school building to share with the community.

An understanding of the role of marine life in human health is at the heart of the project. Educators from Galway Atlantaquaria discussed with students about marine life in Ireland and the importance of conservation, while CÚRAM researchers are taught students about marine sources of biomaterials and how they can heal the body.

Inspired by the scientific material investigated from the aquarium and CÚRAM, artist Alison Mac Cormaic will teach the students how to imagine, design and create models for devices that may aid human health and recovery. In addition, guest Lecturer Enda O’ Dowd introduced the Medical Device Design course that he coordinates in the National College of Art and Design Dublin (NCAD).

Alison created a permanent mural on the outer school wall incorporating students’ designs. Through this cross-curricular co-creation process, students became aware of their locality and its link to scientific achievements, conservation, and the role of the artist and scientist in our community.

Project collaborator Dr Nóirín Burke from Galway Atlantaquaria, says: “The research and innovation happening in CÚRAM is truly fascinating. Working with everyone in this programme, exploring ways in which our health can benefit from the ocean, and considering our role in the ocean’s future has been a pleasure. This is also of particular interest now as we begin the UNESCO Decade of the Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. We are also super excited about seeing the student’s final art piece, which will help share this project with the wider community, through families and the public.”

Ms Deirdre Grace, 5th and 6th class teacher at St. Nicholas’ Parochial School, says: “This project has been a real learning experience for the students, they are highly engaged and motivated to learn more about the topics, and they are thoroughly enjoying the experience.”

CÚRAM is focused on creating devices that help patients living with chronic illness and runs a very active and varied public engagement programme called ‘Breaking Barriers’ that aims to engage artists, filmmakers, teachers and the general public in creating new ways of accessing scientific knowledge and research.

Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM, said: “We are always looking for ways for our researchers and diverse community groups to collaborate and create a better understanding and awareness of our research and their work to illustrate our coexistence in the society. This collaboration with the National Aquarium, National College of Art and Design Dublin, Alison Mac Cormaic and the wonderful staff and students of St Nicholas’ Parochial School has been hugely successful and is something we will be building on in the future and hoping to replicate with numerous schools around the country.”

For more information about CÚRAM visit: www.curamdevices.ie.