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Ireland’s Leading Women Scientists Get On Their Soapboxes to Showcase Research

Apr 30, 2014

Associate Professor in Pharmacognosy at Trinity, Dr Helen Sheriden, tells the public about nature's gifts to us in the form of therapeutic remedies provided by flowers, frogs and ferns.

Ireland’s leading women scientists took to their soapboxes last weekend to deliver dynamic 15-minute ‘performances’ designed to inspire and educate the public about science.

Over 200 people enjoyed ‘Soapbox Science Ireland’, which featured 11 different ‘performers’ who braved the elements to talk about their research during the three-hour event.

Assistant Professor in Zoology at Trinity, Dr Natalie Cooper, helped to coordinate things. She said: “The event was a great success and really highlighted the amazing science going on in Ireland, as well as the amazing women doing it.”

‘Soapbox Science’ joined forces with Trinity College Dublin’s Centre for Women in Science & Engineering Research Centre (WiSER), and the Trinity Equality Fund, to transform Trinity’s Front Square into a hive of scientific activity where learning and discovery were the buzzwords. The event, piloted in London three years ago, was designed to help eliminate gender inequality in science by raising the profile of women scientists and the amazing research they perform.

Geneticists, vets, doctors, chemists, psychiatrists, nanoscientists, and ecologists were among the speakers. Specific topics that were explored included antibiotic resistance, bird flu, dairy cow health and fertility, how our genes work, and how and where nature provides us with new drugs to combat diseases.   

Each of the speakers delivered three 15-minute ‘performances’ (one each hour). These performances were exciting as well as educational; attendees interacted with mummified bats and Count Dracula, misbehaving brains, and papier-mâchè cows as the speakers make their science tales more engaging.

Professor in Zoology at Trinity, Yvonne Buckley, was one of the speakers. She added: “Soapbox Science was lots of fun! It’s not often you get to chat about how insects contribute to the taste of red wine, why brussel sprouts taste ‘yucky’, or show how heavy elephant teeth are. Interacting with the public is great – I probably learn as much from the questions I get asked by them as they learn from listening to me!”