Joe interviewed in The Irish Times

Claire O’Connell interviewed Joe for a write-up in the Irish Times about his recent trip to Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings in Germany, meeting chemistry Nobel winners, and my current research programme in  into sensors for bacterial infections. Read the full article here.

May Outreach Activities

In May Karolina participated in two outreach events, talking about science to both adults and children alike! Pint of Science was held on the 11th of May in Massimo’s Bar in Galway. The first Pint of Science Festival to be held in person in two years was a sold-out event and over 50 people of all different backgrounds enjoyed Karol’s talk about antimicrobial resistance and how we can fight it using sugars, over a pint. 

The second event was the annual START Competition, held in NUI Galway on the 20th of May. An event geared towards primary school children in 4th, 5th and 6th class to mark the anniversary of the first documented randomised clinical trial in 1747, and learn more about all the different disciplines of science that make clinical trials possible. Karol along with her colleagues volunteered as part of Kitchen Chemistry to chat to students from three different schools and show them fun and safe experiments they can easily do in their kitchen. After lunch she also put on a show demonstrating how to make “elephant toothpaste” and the freezing power of liquid nitrogen with help from Darragh, Lamis and Hanka. 

Chemistry talks now supported on ResearchSeminars

Since working on Project Anansi as part of the Lindau Sciathon event, I’ve been very interested in the prospect of implementing a platform that would allow chemists to share open access webinars, thus broadening their audience globally. See the previous posts [1 and 2] for more details on why. Anansi partnered with the team in MIT who had developed earlier in 2020 to expand their platform to support other disciplines (including Chemistry and Economics).

I worked together with @AnywhereChem in order to develop a list of sub-topics in chemistry, which are now listed on ResearchSeminars website. Please see below an email I have circulated asking people to consider adding content. The flyer is available here [PDF].

Make chemistry seminars and conferences accessible worldwide:

Dear colleagues

I would like to draw your attention to a new resource now available to chemists to both share and discover webinars, talks, conferences and more, which are happening online all around us:

This strange year with its lockdowns and travel restrictions has been very difficult, however one silver lining has been a golden age in online chemistry talks on every topic imaginable, available right at your desk. It has become clear that online research talks, seminars and conferences are here to stay in one form or another, even as many other aspects of our work return to normality. This will continue to benefit researchers and students, particularly those who are not based in big universities or large cities, including researchers in the developing world. However, it is still very challenging to keep up-to-date with all these interesting events with different hosts advertising in different ways, and making sure you don’t miss the most relevant talks. can be a solution to that obstacle. Some mathematics researchers at MIT built this free site, which is available to all and has valuable search tools, such as filtering by topic and language. Thanks to our positive interactions with the founders, since September, the site is accepting Chemistry talks. This is in addition to its use to great effect by researchers in Physics, Maths, Biology, Economics and Earth Sciences, which were supported since earlier in 2020, now totalling thousands of talks. Adding listings is easy (requires a free account) and will amplify the possible audience of your events once chemists start using this resource in earnest. Making our seminars and events “open access” is a positive step and ought to be the default choice unless a speaker does not wish to (e.g. presenting unpublished results). I know from my experience of organising a seminar series during lockdown that many of our speakers welcomed the opportunity to invite guests and promote their talk more widely when given the option to share a link on Twitter.

During this year, Twitter has been a great resource for keeping up to date with online events. For nearly 6 months, @SuperScienceGrl kept an index of upcoming webinars in addition to an ongoing list of chemistry conferences. The Twitter account @AnywhereChem was set up in response to the glut of exciting talks online, in order to share them far and wide and make sure no one missed out. Many of us benefited from this increased publicity alerting us to relevant talks. It is not sustainable to rely on just a few individuals, however, to keep the entire community up to date. provides the opportunity for event organisers themselves to commit to posting their timetables in a central database, making it easier for others like @AnywhereChem to publicise further from there.

I am asking you to seriously consider adding any upcoming events you are organising to and give researchers around the world an opportunity to find out more about what is happening in your university, research group or organisation. If you are planning to attend an online event in the near future, please forward this email to the organiser and see if they will take part. And most importantly, check in to see if any events in your field are occurring soon. This is a great opportunity to open the doors of seminar halls around the world and to the benefit of all.

Please find attached a flyer highlighting the main points and advantages of this new platform. I encourage you to forward this further to your network and to get in touch if you have any questions.

Kind regards,
Dr Joseph Byrne, School of Chemistry, NUI Galway

[See press release from MIT about the initial launch of ResearchSeminars in May 2020 here]

Lindau Sciathon: “Anansi Webinars” (3rd Place)

A new platform for sharing details of online seminars, and a call to “open the doors of seminar rooms worldwide” was the proposal of Team Elmiger, a group which Joe joined to compete in the inaugural 48-hour Sciathon contest, taking place as part of the Lindau “Online Science Days 2020”.

Team Elmiger meeting over Zoom to work on their project

The team of scientists and economists from around the world wrote a report and made a video over the course of the weekend about the importance of connecting the world to inspiring research talks. In particular, they highlighted the value of harnessing the shift to online events, which has been a consequence of the Coronavirus crisis, to invite researchers from the developing world to attend seminars in leading universities. The team built a prototype website to demonstrate how this could be achieved, and set out a plan about how this could be developed in future to create a more open and connected world. The team was a collaboration between researchers in the developed and developing world, and a clear example of the strength of bringing diverse people together, which is key to the vision of the Lindau-Nobel Foundation.

A panel of international judges awarded Team Elmiger the 3rd Prize in the Category “Implementing the Lindau Guidelines“.

See the video below:

Karolina and Joe at Young Scientist Exhibition stand

Kitchen Chemistry at BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition 2020

Karolina and Joe joined the team from Kitchen Chemistry, who spent a day representing NUI Galway’s College of Science at the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition. It was a long but engaging day of demonstrating simple chemistry experiments to members of the public of all ages, from primary school children up. In particular it was a chance to talk to the many secondary school students who attend this annual event about studying science, and particularly chemistry, at university level.

There were some very high-quality projects on display at the competition, presented by students who had a good understanding of how to carry out a well-designed scientific project. The future is bright.

Dillon Symposium Public Session videos

The Public Session of the Dillon Centenary Symposium is available to view on YouTube. This includes the Dillon Threesis Challenge (young researchers talking about their work for 3 minutes with zero jargon), a chemistry-inspired ballet and historical talk about Prof Dillon.

Selected lectures from the Scientific Session are available as a playlist here.

Not all lectures were broadcast. Consult the programme to see who is currently speaking. The “Public Session” from 17.00 GMT was broadcast.

Update 20/12/2019: More edited videos of the threesis and ballet, filmed from various angles are now available as a playlist here.

Walk for Cystic Fibrosis Ireland

Joe raised funds for Cystic Fibrosis Ireland by taking part in their annual Head2Head walk around Dublin Bay. Our research aims to develop diagnostic tools that could speed up diagnosis of P. aeruginosa infections, a widespread problem for people with CF – it seemed only right to try to raise some funds for organisations supporting people with the disease. Thanks to everyone who donated!

Joe in Sandymount starting his walk. The destination is at the end of the headland just next to his left ear!

CÚRAM Poetry Slam

In June 2019, CÚRAM SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices invited its researchers to write some poetry in a workshop with Todd Robinson and recite these poems in public at ‘The Dark Horse’ pub in Athlone. This is the work of Team ‘Drug Delivery 1′ and comprises Liam Fitzgerald, Neville Murphy, Marita Dangol, Joseph Byrne, Miriam O’ Duill and Antonio Monterru.

This was a strange departure from normal scientific communication, and I think we learned a lot about how to use language (but I’m not sure the examples in the video were necessarily the best examples of that!)