Spotlight Series - Science Week Focus - Dr Chris McCormack - There are no facts that are not scientific!
Our “Spotlight Series” profiles our faculty, staff, student and research stories that make our Institute the amazing community it is. This week we continue the focus on our science stories, given that it is national science week and the theme is “Believe in Science”. Here we profile Dr Chris McCormack from AIT’s Faculty of Science and Health to find out what’s happening in the college during our Science Week.
Chris, Can you give us a flavour of some of the events you are hosting at the college this year?
We have a dolly-mixture of events, hopefully everyone is catered for. We have talks and shows ranging from bogland biodiversity to the science of relationships. We have a talk about why dogs “woof” and another about home-made probiotic foods. We have invited professional experts and life-long enthusiasts to share their valuable knowledge and they are being very generous. For example, one of our speakers is an expert in the little Irish Black Bee, a protected species. He has nurtured these bees all of his life and his enthusiasm is extremely contagious! Every year we host a wonderfully whacky science roadshow for National School children, and we have a morning dedicated to healing herbs and bees for young children; we’ve called this “Have scents and bee happy”. Transition Year students also have activities. The various afternoon and evening talks are open to students and members of the public. A full menu of our activities is available through the Midland Science website, and at sfi.ie
Can you tell us about your own role in AIT and a little about your background?
I worked in industry and as a consultant for years before working at AIT. I am part of the Faculty of Science and Health. My core areas are Occupational Health and Environmental Protection. I am also qualified in Research Practice – I’m curious about how humans are curious, and communicate their findings to other curious people. I also teach “Learning and Development for Higher Education” and “Enquiry Based Learning”, innovative modules that open up new ways of learning to the student while developing their confidence in Science communications. I have morphed a few times during my life, and intend on morphing again!
Along with my colleague, Dr Brian Murphy, we organise Science Week at AIT.
What do you think we can be doing to inspire and encourage more young people to choose science as a subject and indeed as a third level college choice?
I believe we should be encouraging young people to be “renaissance” men and women, developing both their creative and logical or problem solving abilities side-by-side. The human mind can do multi-disciplinary thinking, it is not limited or compartmentalised. Science doesn’t live alone; it is part of every component of life. Science belongs to the curious small child in all of us. I am an advocate of STEAM, which brings about innovative thinking. Science has been pigeon-holed for too long. I’d like young learners to be curious, to consider their discoveries every day. Choosing science helps us to be comfortable in our world, to be hopeful of the future and to give us information about our past.
Why do you think events like the Midlands Science Festival are so important?
This festival takes Science out of the classroom and onto the street. It allows access to people who wouldn’t get a close-up of these fascinating things in their day-to-day lives. It is a colourful and creative presentation of Science. Valuable activities are free of charge for all the family. Our resources are pooled for this festival; the conventional edges of ownership are blurred. I think it’s a breath of fresh air for Science, a playful offering of so many otherwise hidden strengths.
What is your favourite science fact?
Oh dear, just one? I’m like Michelangelo in one thing: “Ancora Imparo” – I am still learning! There are no facts that are not scientific! Last week, I learned that the plural of “octopus” is “octopodidae” – apparently, the word comes from the Greek, not the Latin! My colleague’s 15 year old daughter knew this. This word makes me laugh and I might just need it for Scrabble! I have also recently learned how the tangible brain creates the intangible mind; in the Wernike area we integrate information into image patterns, then the Broca area converts these images into concepts. Magical! It sounds quite nerdy, but like our toes, we all have them! I’m going to look after my Wernike and Broca areas as they make me very happy.
I could give you new favourite facts, forever. The world is a thrilling place and I’m happy to be greedy about it.
For a full listing of timetabled events for Science Week please see www.sfi.ie and https://goo.gl/RbjW5H