The competitors in UCD's Science Uncovered face a difficult
challenge - to cut out the off-putting jargon and reach the
layperson, writes Dick Ahlstrom
The dangers of an "evil twin", using wetlands to mop up
pollutants, and developing computers that can write the news are up
for discussion next week when University College Dublin stages
The event serves a range of issues, according to the organiser,
Annette Forde of UCD's department of biochemistry; the single most
important issue is public understanding of science.
"We are trying to reach the public and get science out to a wider
audience," she says. "You have to communicate with the public and
business community and let them know how their tax money is being
spent on research."
It is also an important part of the university's 150th
anniversary celebrations, and also links with Science Week Ireland
The free event takes place on Tuesday, November 16th at 7 p.m. in
the O'Reilly Hall on the Belfield campus. It will be chaired by RTÉ
presenter Ryan Tubridy, and the Minister of State at the Department
of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Tony Killeen, will be on hand
to present awards to the five participants.
Science Uncovered follows the winning formula of UCD's other main
foray into public understanding of science, the highly successful
Merville Lay Seminars, this year renamed AccesScience 04.
Both involve young graduate researchers who must stand up before
a lay audience and explain their work in ordinary language. No
jargon is allowed and success is measured in how effectively they
While AccesScience is a competition involving just two UCD
science departments - pharmacology and biochemistry - Science
Uncovered is a straightforward presentation bringing in all 12
These 12 have been reduced to just five presentations covering
biomedical sciences, mathematical sciences, biological sciences,
computer science and the physical sciences.
The topics included in Science Uncovered, a one-off event that
Forde hopes may become an annual one, cover a variety of scientific
Niamh Tuite of the department of pharmacology opens proceedings
with a talk on the search for non-animal alternatives to chemical
testing. Her research involves using cultured kidney cells to
Kevin Jennings of the department of mathematics will discuss
"perfect difference sets", a mathematical concept linked to natural
symmetry in nature. Perfect difference sets are difficult to find
and to build, even with powerful computers, Jennings says.
Ciara Finnegan of the department of botany will detail her work
using wetlands to clean up pollution. Wetlands are ideal because the
plants and organisms growing in them trap pollutants naturally.
Nicola Stokes of the department of computer science will discuss
how computers can be used to take large amounts of text and produce
summaries. The system "reads" the words and writes its own précis
after analysing the content.
Theresa Ahern of the department of chemistry will deliver the
final presentation, on drugs that have "evil twins", complementary
forms that can have a hidden toxic
© The Irish Times