Funding awarded for projects that encourage interest in STEM

A project to unlock and showcase Ireland’s fossil heritage, a community led climate action project, research into the microbiome of Irish Travellers and turning our campus into a ‘living classroom’ are among the seven UCC research projects awarded funding through the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Discover Programme. 

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, announced a national investment of €5.2 million through this programme which aims to improve public understanding of science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) and engage a wide audience of people with STEM topics. 

Speaking about the announcement Minister Harris said: These projects will play a role in starting conversations about the role of STEM in society and inspiring our young people to explore careers in these areas.” Commenting on the announcement, Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for Society said: “The SFI Discover Programme is a key part of our education and public engagement activity.  It aims to support projects at local level, as well as at regional and national levels, to stimulate engagement and understanding with STEM.” 

Close to €1 million euro was awarded to UCC projects and Vice-President for Research and Innovation at UCC, Professor John Cryan stated, “an interest and engagement in STEM is vital for the future of our society. Congratulations to all researchers on their funding for this innovative projects.” 

Read media coverage on one of the projects here. 

The full list of UCC projects are: 

Appetite for Knowledge 

“Appetite for Knowledge” is a science communication forum for young people to explore and chat about food-nutritional agricultural sciences through their chosen creative presentation styles, with a simple goal of sowing a seed of awareness, engagement and empowerment amongst the next generation. 


Caroline Seacy
Dingle Peninsula 2030 – A Model Enabling Community-led Climate Action

Established in 2018, Dingle Peninsula 2030 is a multi-partner initiative on the Dingle Peninsula, Co. Kerry, involving the Dingle Creativity and Innovation Hub, ESB Networks, North East West Kerry Development (NEWKD) and MaREI, the SFI Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine. The premise of the initiative is based on the Quadruple Helix Model involving science, policy, industry and society. Partners actively collaborate with the local community, schools, business, transport and farming sectors to enable the broader societal changes required for the sustainable transition. 


Aoife Deane
Ireland’s secret past – unlocking our fossil heritage 

A ground-breaking interactive exhibit hosted at national and regional science fairs will showcase Irish fossils and incorporate cutting-edge technology previously inaccessible to the public. Workshops will be delivered to schoolchildren around the country via videolink and/or in person. Collaborations with artists will encourage the public to engage with fossils in new ways through workshops, creation of an exhibition and e-book and art competitions. Other national events include public lectures, a touring photography exhibition and a vote for Ireland’s favourite fossil, promoting palaeontology, and STEM more broadly, as topics of national importance. 


Prof. Maria McNamara

NatureWatch: Exploring the Benefits of Nature to Wellbeing using Technology 

NatureWatch is a new citizen science project aimed at engaging older populations with the science of phenology (i.e. the seasonal life cycle events of animals and plants) through technological engagement. 

Dr. Paul Holloway
Redefining STEM: Science of Traveller Ethnicity and Microbiome 

This project will promote science among Irish Travellers by highlighting how microbiome science can shed new light on their ethnic identity, history and way of life. Previously this research project has shown that Irish Travellers retain an ancestral, non-industrialized microbiome distinct from that of the settled, non-Traveller community 


Prof. Fergus Shanahan

Science 4 Sight Loss 

There are 1.4 million children in the world who are blind or visually impaired – over 5,000 of them live in Ireland. Science 4 Sight Loss is a unique partnership between the INFANT Research Centre, University College Cork (UCC) and Ireland’s national sight loss agency, the National Council for the Blind (NCBI). This project will focus on increasing engagement and participation in health based STEM amongst children and young people who are blind or visually impaired. 



Prof. Geraldine Boylan

Tree Explorers 

‘Tree Explorers’ will make use of the historic and nationally important University College Cork Arboretum to engage primary school students as well as adults with STEM topics. ‘Tree Explorers’ will co-create, develop and deliver a 3-stage programme of engagement with 3 DEIS schools in Cork city involving in-school activities with project team members as well as visits by the students to the UCC Open Arboretum – 2,500 trees of over 120 different species. The adult strand of the project will deliver a tailored “UCC Tree Tour” as well as a series of workshops and talks for the general public throughout 2021 in addition to specific tours as part of Science Week, National Tree Week and other important STEM festivals. 




Dr. Eoin Lettice