I get to meet scientists working in all types of fields and their enthusiasm for their work is infectious.

I get to meet scientists working in all types of fields and their enthusiasm for their work is infectious.

Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin

PhD Candidate in Mathematics Education / TV Broadcaster

You’re the presenter of The Science Squad on RTÉ One! What is that like?

I get to meet scientists working in all types of fields and their enthusiasm for their work is infectious. It’s great learning about what they’re researching and why it interests them so much. 

And you’re a PhD candidate in Trinity College...

Yes. I’m researching a school-based model of professional development for secondary school mathematics teachers. I also lecture mathematics pedagogy (the methodology of teaching) with the School of Education. I think helping students to enjoy mathematics and science is incredibly important. I started teaching in 2008 and loved being in the classroom and science lab with my students.

Who inspires you most in the field of science?

Richard Feynman – he was able to communicate his work in physics with the public at large and was a really charismatic character. He wasn’t tied to the blackboard with chalk but it’s where he did all of his important research. 

What area of physics still fills you with awe?

I’m always amazed at how light works. How electrons get displaced and emit photons. Then that information reaches our eyes and is communicated to our brains and that’s how we see. It’s fascinating.

One thing I’ve learned is that it’s never as hard as you think it will be.

When I’m at home in rural Mayo – where there’s little or no light pollution – you can see the night sky light up with stars and know that that light has been travelling for millions of years to our small solar system and our insignificant little planet. I think that’s truly amazing. 

Any advice for secondary school students thinking about a career in science?

If you’ve any interest in science, then you should think about studying it in secondary school and beyond. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s never as hard as you think it will be. Sometimes you’ll come across problems that are challenging, but the fun is trying to find a solution that works and a solution that suits the way that you think. 

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