Cell EXPLORERS Informing, Inspiring and Involving People in the Excitement of Science

It is the 5th anniversary of Cell EXPLORERS’ participation at the Galway Science and Technology Festival. This year the wonderful team of volunteers from the outreach group based at NUI Galway School of Natural Sciences are offering 5 workshops to the young public of the west of Ireland. We asked Muriel Grenon, founding director of the programme, a few questions about Cell EXPLORERS and their involvement at this year’s Exhibition day on Sunday 26th November 2017.



All events at the GSTF are free. School events can be booked here and online booking for free tickets to events and shows at the Festival Exhibition Sunday 26th November will open on Saturday 18th November at www.galwayscience.eventbrite.ie


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1. Tell us a bit about yourself and Cell EXPLORERS


I am a lecturer in Biochemistry at NUI Galway and the founding director of the Cell EXPLORERS programme. Cell EXPLORERS is an outreach and public engagement initiative based in the School of Natural Sciences of NUI Galway that 9 students and I founded in 2012.


The programme aims to “Inform, Inspire and Involve” people in the excitement of science. It is run by students and staff from the university to deliver hands-on modern biology activities to young people and their family. This working model has the dual benefit of engaging children in local schools and communities whilst contributing to the training of tomorrow’s science communicators, educators or researchers.


The initiative uses various interactive outreach approaches and activities, which are designed to give an insight into how scientists work on a daily basis and are linked to current scientific research. We want to fight the stereotypical image of the crazy old scientist in lab coat by providing a positive engagement between young children and local scientists.


Our hope is that by providing a positive science experience to children at an age when they decide if they like science, they can see that science is for everyone and will perhaps decide to pursue it as a career. Our activities include school visits, workshops at science festivals, science classes, holiday science camps and on-campus activities such as open days, public workshops and science fairs.


2. Tell us about your 2017 GSTF events and what you have planned!



We are very excited about the 2017 Festival. We are planning to offer 5 workshops this year. We have 3 old favourite workshops that are popular every year where the public can learn more on DNA and cells; an Art workshop where children can draw themselves as life-size portraits of scientists; and a new workshop which is an astrobiology-themed (study of life in space) quest.

We have a team of more than 40 volunteers who are really excited about bringing these workshops to our public! There is a lot of work done behind the scenes in advance of the day. We get a lot of NUI Galway support, in particular by the Biochemistry discipline allowing us to use its facilities.


3. When are the workshops taking place and where?



All our workshops are taking place on exhibition day on the NUI Galway campus on the 26th of November. We will be in the blue zone once again this year. We are asking the public to move away from the busy Bailey Allen Hall to find our team in the workshop rooms. There will be free space for people to attend each session.


4. Who are the workshops suitable for?



Our shows are suitable from 4 to 99 years old. The Exhibition Day brings us a lot of young people and we encourage having all the family involved. We are delighted when siblings and parents engage together in the excitement of science.


For maximum enjoyment, the suggested minimum ages for our workshops are as following: “Little cells” (from 5+), “Exploring under the microscope” or “The arty scientist” (from 5/6+), “Fantastic DNA” (from 7/8+), and “Mission to Mars – operation green fingers” (8+).


5. Why is Galway Science and Technology Festival important to you?


It is the best day of the year for our team members. We get a chance to meet young people and families and share our love for science. It is a cherished day as everyone is here to enjoy themselves and take time to play and discover together. It is building link between people within family and between families and the local research community. For our team, made of NUIGalway undergraduate, postgraduate students and staff it is an opportunity to be all together as a large team delivering some of our science content and exchanging about this positive experience.


We first got involved in GSTF in 2013 with the Cell EXPLORERS show funded by the Royal Dublin Society, an NUI Galway Staff and student EXPLORE award and an outreach grant by the Biochemical Society. The public’s answer was so positive that we won an award for best science communication that year. GSTF got us started and we keep coming back with our school visits and more workshops year after year.


Our programme has grown since and we now have 10 teams based in Universities and Institutes of Technology running “Fantastic DNA” both at schools and in festivals in their local communities.

Our partnership with the festival is very strong, we have been very encouraged and supported by Tom Hyland from our beginning and we are delighted to get as much support with the new Festival chair.


6. What can children look forward to seeing at your workshops?



Here are some details of what you can do with us:

  • The “Fantastic DNA!” Workshop has 2 discovery activities based around DNA, the key molecule to life. Participants will extract DNA from a banana and build a DNA model.
  • “Little Cells” introduces young children to the concept of cells through playing visual and tactile games to discover the human body and some of the cells that it is made of. Children will make their own cell from jumping clay and take it home.
  • “Exploring under the microscope” introduces children to the use of microscopes. They learn how they are used to discover the world around us by looking at insects and spiders and to figure out how they can walk on walls.
  • Last year we decided to bring ART into one workshop dedicated to fight the myth of the mad scientist – The “ARTY SCIENTIST” is back this year with sponsorship from the French Embassy in Ireland. In this workshop children draw a life-size representation of themselves as scientists with the help of both scientists and artists.
  • This year we have a new workshop on Astrobiology – our first attempt to talk about the study of life in space. In “Mission to Mars – Operation Green Fingers” participants learn about conditions on Mars, and life adaptions to extreme environments, and have to design plants that can live outside of Earth!
  • Finally, on top of the workshops, there is a science hamper to win in each of our rooms for one lucky winner, we’ll be picking the winners from those who have left feedback.


Cell EXPLORERS is funded by Science Foundation Ireland, Galway University Foundation and NUI Galway. Some of the Cell EXPLORERS shows this year are sponsored by the French Embassy in Ireland, the Biochemical Society and the Galway Science Festival.


For more information about Cell EXPLORERS log onto their website at www.cellexplorers.com, follow them on social media at @cellexplorers on FB, Twitter and Instagram #cellexplorers.


Galway Science and Technology Festival (13th – 26th November) is part of Science Foundation Ireland’s national Science Week 2017 #believeinscience.