Students gain food career insights

Dr Frank O'Mara, Teagasc

Secondary and third level students will gain insights into careers in food science, research and nutrition at a series of one-day science fairs hosted by Teagasc, Smart Futures and SciFest.

Teagasc research director, Dr Frank O’Mara, said five Teagasc researchers are involved in promoting STEM careers to students as part of SciFest.

“I am sure students will be excited, and maybe a little surprised, about the great opportunities for STEM-related careers in the agri-food industry, and how many of these opportunities involve interdisciplinary research,” said Dr O’Mara. 

“For example, in the area of smart or precision agriculture, we see the application of sensors, networking, data analytics and other digital technologies to issues related to sustainable food production.”

The agri-science talks within SciFest kicked off last Friday at Cork IT. Dr Orla O’Sullivan, a researcher based at Teagasc Moorepark, Co Cork, discussed how exercise and diet influence the bacteria in your gut and how this information can be used to add value to food. Dr O’Sullivan is an SFI starting investigator research grant fellow.

On Wednesday, May 4, Teagasc Ashtown principal research officer, Dr Declan Bolton, will address students at IT Blanchardstown, and will map the journey from inquisitive student to career scientist and provide a new perspective on research as a career choice.

Also on May 4, Tom O’Connell and Dr Sinead McCarthy will speak at Dundalk IT. 

Mr O’Connell is a Teagasc adviser in the Dunleer and Sreenty/Corduff agricultural catchment, working with both farmers and researchers. 

He will stress the need to enjoy one’s job and the personal satisfaction to be gained from helping other people.

Dr Sinead McCarthy, a researcher in the spatial analysis, food marketing and agri innovation department at Teagasc Research Centre, Ashtown, Dublin, will cover everything from studying science and nutrition to working on exciting research projects at Teagasc — trying to understand what influences the types of food people eat each day.

On May 13, Carol Griffin of Teagasc Ashtown’s food industry development department will speak at Letterkenny IT. 

She will explain how Teagasc helps food companies to carry out new product development and sensory analysis on their new and current food products, giving interesting examples and case studies.

Prof Mark Ferguson, director general of Science Foundation Ireland, said: “Smart Futures aims to help students make informed decisions about their career choices. 

"By working with industry and academia it delivers science, tech and engineering career talks to schools across the country. 

"Science Foundation Ireland, which manages the programme, is delighted to be partnering with Teagasc to inspire the next generation of innovators.”


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