The science of optimism tops the bill at science teachers conference

Professor Elaine Fox
Professor Elaine Fox, scientist, best selling author of  ‘Rainy Brain Sunny Brain: From Pessimist to Optimist: Can We Really Change?’ and an expert in the neuroscience of optimism will be speaking at the ISTA conference in Galway on 11th April

From training the brain to be more positive, to improving science communication skills, to learning about life-saving chemistry, better combating obesity and all manner of science workshops there is an exciting programme on offer for teachers who attend the upcoming Irish Science Teachers Association (ISTA) Conference, which takes place from 11 to 13 April at NUI Galway.

Undoubtedly, one of the biggest names on view will be Professor Elaine Fox, an Irish neuroscientist and best-selling author of ‘Rainy Brain Sunny Brain: From Pessimist to Optimist, Can We Really Change?  She will be speaking at the conference on Friday 11th April at 8pm.

Among the fans of the book is Michael J Fox, the US actor (no relation to Professor Fox!) who has famously suffered from Parkinson’s disease. Prof Fox, who grew up in Dublin, but is now Director of the Oxford Centre for Emotions and Affective Neuroscience (OCEAN) will be talking about why some people are more resilient and what the rest of us can do to train our brains to become more able to withstand life’s stresses.

Science lovers all agree that chemistry is interesting and important, but how many of us know that it can also save lives. To find out more, delegates should go along after breakfast on Saturday to hear Professor David Smith‘s talk at 9:30am.

Those more interested in physics, however, might rather hear Keith Gibbs, retired physics teacher, give his talk, at the same time, on fun and useful experiments in physics.  Keith is also the author of ‘The Resourceful Physics Teacher, 600 Ideas for Creative Teaching

Keith was a physics teacher for 30 years and now gives lecture demonstrations to teachers and students. He produces material for physics education, much of which he provides for free here.

For pure entertainment and fun, however,  Fergus McAuliffe‘s talk at 10:45am on Saturday should not be missed. Fergus, a UCC PhD candidate is a brilliant, insightful speaker on the subject of science communication and very witty too. It’s little surprise that he is now a presenter on the RTE 1 television series, the Science Squad.

There is a strong health theme running through the conference this year, and Professor Donal O’Shea, consultant doctor, who runs Ireland’s only dedicated anti-obesity clinic at Loughlinstown will be in attendance. Dr O’Shea has seen close up the frightening increase in obesity related illness in Ireland. He reports from the frontline of what is, for some, a  life or death battle of the bulge.

Keeping with health, Dr Mark Foley is giving a talk on Saturday at 11:45 on the ways physics can be used to treat cancer, and to potentially identify it at an earlier stage in people.

What used to be called ‘new media’ are often these days an important part of the classroom experience. Teachers interested in looking at what can be done with these media might be interested to hear Professor Martyn Poliakoff‘s talk on Saturday at 2pm.

Professor Poliakoff, who is a chemist at the University of Nottingham, will be talking about his video-making collaboration work with journalist Brady Haran. The two came together to produce science videos for youtube which can be seen here

Meanwhile, the weird and wonderful world of quantum mechanics and whether organic life is governed by its rules is the subject of a talk by Professor Jim Al-Khalili at 5pm on Saturday.

Elsewhere there are an abundance of workshops on all the science subject areas, and one for primary science too, with many interesting exhibitors providing information on new educational products and methods.

There will also be a welcome speech by Galway’s own Marie-Geoghegan Quinn, the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science