What is Smart Futures?

Smart Futures is a government-industry programme providing science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) careers information to second-level students, parents, teachers and careers guidance counsellors in Ireland. On this website you can:

  • Browse STEM ‘Career Stories’ about people working in all kinds of STEM-related roles or look up a specific career area by entering a keyword (e.g. chemistry) in the search box (top left hand corner). 
  • Request a STEM volunteer to visit your school for free here or become a volunteer yourself!
  • Watch careers video with people working in areas such as food and sports science, cybersecurity, engineering, energy, app development, biotechnology, medical devices and lots more hereSTEM Infographic

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National Career Skills Competition 2015

Career Skills comp logo

The National Career Skills competition is open to all second level schools in Ireland running Transition Year or one of the Leaving Cert programmes (Established, Vocational or Applied).

The competition is organised through the coordinators / teachers of these programmes and guidance counsellors.

To enter the competition, students are advised to contact the appropriate person in their school.

Prizes

Careers Portal are giving away superb prizes for the top three entries in each of three categories: TY, Leaving Cert (Including LCA & LCVP) and Irish Language entries.

In addition, the school of the winning student from each category will receive a cash prize for the relevant programme.

Visit the website for more information.

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Career Stories: Elizabeth Collins, Senior Quality Director, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals

Elizabeth Collins STEM photo

Elizabeth Collins talks to Smart Futures about her career as a senior quality director at Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals.

What are the main tasks, responsibilities and skills required?

I am responsible for the quality of all my company’s products manufactured externally at contract manufacturing sites around the world.

Describe a typical day?

I have teams in both Dublin and the USA, therefore mornings are when I have meetings with the Dublin Quality and wider teams based in Europe.

From lunch time onwards, my calendar gets very busy with teleconferences with colleagues in the USA.

In fact, most of my meetings are done over the phone.

In addition to the day to day activities associated with my job, I deal with complaints or significant quality issues associated with the products I am responsible for.

I am also involved in a wide variety of other activities such as due diligence, which is where we do research and analysis of a company or organization of companies we are looking to do business with or acquire, and then I work on integrating those we do acquire.

As this is a relatively new group, I am also working with our Operations Vice President to develop the group’s strategy and mission.

What’s cool?

I enjoy the travel that my job involves. I get to travel a lot to the USA and Canada, and also within Europe.

I enjoy the variety of my day and the activities I get involved in.

I like understanding the very different medicinal products I am responsible for, and I feel proud of the real impact my role has on people’s lives.

In addition, having the opportunity to be involved in projects that have significant impact for my company and its future is very exciting.

What are the main challenges?

Although I enjoy travel and the opportunity it brings to see new place and meet different people, sometimes it can be too frequent and impacts on my personal life.

The nature of a global role is that the afternoon / evening can be very busy and sometimes I need to take meetings late in the evening while I am much more of a morning person.

Who or what has most influenced your career direction?

I always liked science and maths but nobody in my immediate family had ever done anything like this.

I decided to do a science degree as I didn’t know leaving secondary school what I specifically wanted to do.

Chemistry appealed to me most as I could see the real life implications for it.

Once I completed my PhD, I started out in R&D / Process Development but quickly figured out that I really preferred working closer to the customer or patient.

As a result, I became involved in the support of production and then moved into the Quality arena.

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

I have always prioritized my family and when my children were young, I did not actively pursue career progression.

However, in that time, I did continue to develop skills, including six sigma certification, a diploma in management and a Qualified Person (QP) Qualification, which I believe allowed me to get the role I currently have when the opportunity arose.

My current role has some time flexibility associated with it as some meetings can be taken from home in the evenings for example.

Our company is also in an exciting phase of development right now which is providing great opportunities for personal development and growth.

What subjects did you take in school and did they influence your career path?

I always loved science and maths, so I took all the science subjects (Chemistry, Biology and Physics) for my Leaving Cert.

What is your education to date?

What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?

Working for a PhD allowed me to develop strong problem-solving skills which have proven critical throughout my career.

The QP qualification has also been very important for my career as it provided a broad overview of pharmaceutical manufacturing.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

  • An interest in science
  • Ambition
  • A desire to succeed
  • The ability to adapt
  • Problem solving skills
  • Ability to relate cross culturally

What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?

Any experience in a pharmaceutical company would be relevant

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Career Stories: Aisling Connolly, PhD Student

AisCon

Aisling Connolly talks to Smart Futures about her job as a PhD Student.

What are the main tasks, responsibilities and skills required?

The way I see it my job is to ask the questions that no one else will ask and to find answers to these questions.

I spend my time reading a lot of scientific papers to try to figure out what questions have been asked, and learning about the solutions that were used to answer these questions.

Along with reading, I write a lot of code that models and simulates the real world.

This is like experimenting with the ideas that I come up with to see how viable my answers to these big questions are. I also do some teaching, which can be a lot of fun too.

I work in computer science so useful skills in this area are good mathematical and computer skills, a deep curiosity to understand the world a little bit better, and patience!

The skills required to do a PhD will be similar in any area, except the subject focus will be different.

Describe a typical day?

I spend a lot of my time reading, coding, thinking, teaching and solving!

What’s cool?

For me, the coolest thing is being able to hang out in a university all the time!

Not only are you surrounded by some of the brightest and interesting people in the country, there are so many other perks.

From clubs and societies to academic things, everything is so open and you can just join in anytime.

For instance, if I want to take a dance class, I can just go along to the gym and there are classes every day.

If I want to take a swim, I can. If I want to learn some Philosophy or Physics, I can just go along to a lecture or event on campus.

There is something to satisfy any interest I may have from day to day.

What are the main challenges?

As I said, for this job you need to have patience.

The work is hard and because it is original, there is not necessarily a ‘rule-book’ to follow so sometimes it can be a bit frustrating when your work or ideas or experiments don’t work out as you would hope.

This is all part of the learning process though and is super exciting when you finally get things to work!

Who or what has most influenced your career direction?

I have always loved to ask questions and solve puzzles, figuring things out is a hobby of mine, so it seemed like a natural progression to continue through school and university so that I wouldn’t have to give up my hobbies.

I found that I was lucky in school and in university and had some inspirational.

I used to look up to them and thought it would be nice to be like them some day.

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

Yes, for sure!

The hours that I work are not set in stone and this works really well for me. I now get paid to study and learn and practice my hobbies, so I can’t imagine anything better.

There are always more questions to ask, so in terms of progression, if you’re good, the opportunities are there.

What subjects did you take in school and did they influence your career path?

Maths, Economics, Geography, Physics.

I think all subjects in school help towards a career in a university. Becoming good at studying and having a general interest in everything will stand to you.

Maths was the one that influenced me most. It was the one subject that I was best at and I got a satisfaction from solving problems.

What is your education to date?

I went to secondary school in the Jes (Colaiste Iognaid) in Galway.

After that I got an Arts degree in N.U.I.Galway in the areas of Maths and Economics.

After that, I moved to UCD to do a masters in Simulation Science – This is where I learned to model and simulate real world problems.

For the Simulation Science masters, I wrote my thesis in the Power Tower with Paddy Power! I was building models that would predict information about soccer matches.

After this, I came back to UCD and started into the PhD.

What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?

I think for a career in academics, all education is important.

As you progress through university and postgraduate study your focus narrows.

If you start in a Science degree, you may do many subjects in first year, a couple of subjects in second year and by your final year, you generally specialize in one subject eg Physics, or Maths.

It is important to choose the right subjects as you progress and your studies narrow.

My advice would be to choose your favourite subject, this makes it a lot easier to work hard at it.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

I think somebody who actually enjoys school and learning things would do well in my job.

You need to be very patient and self-disciplined in order to get good work done.

Someone who is genuinely excited about the world would also do well. Although, if you’re excited about the world, you’ll do well in any job!

What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?

There are many ways to get a taster of the type of work I do.

All school activities will give you an idea, but so will an involvement in any type of project like Coder Dojo, BT Young Scientist, Competitions and debating.

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Ireland’s largest science competition for second level students officially launches for 2015

George Porter,  CFO SciFest, Sheila Porter CEO SciFest, Carol Farrell, SFI, Gretta Collins, Boston Scientific and Dr Pádraig Ó Murchú, Intel

SciFest is an all-Ireland science competition where second-level students showcase science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) projects at a series of one day science fairs held regionally in the 14  Institutes of Technology, DCU and St. Mary’s College, Derry.

The winners from each regional science fair go on to compete at a national final in November, while the national final winner(s) of SciFest 2015, will be presented with a trophy and will represent Ireland at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Record numbers

This national project is now in its eighth year and Sheila Porter, SciFest CEO said that in 2014 they saw a record number of students and schools taking part in SciFest, with 6,059 students exhibiting 2,594 projects in schools and Institutes of Technology across the country.

At the launch of the 2015 competition, Sheila commented: “Through participation in SciFest students develop their creativity, team-work and problem-solving skills, all of which are transferable skills for later in their careers or academic life.”

Last year’s national final winner was 6th year student Christopher Carragher, from Our Lady’s Secondary School, Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan, for his project Memory Buddy. Using Google Calendar the Memory Buddy can alert a person about appointments and medication via flashing lights, sound and also via the TV. It includes a remotely controlled medicine drawer that presents the appropriate medicine at a particular time and there is a feedback facility that notifies a carer when medicine has or has not been taken.

Christopher will represent Ireland at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Students are encouraged to visit www.scifest.ie and download an entry form.

Completed entry forms must be submitted by Friday 13th March.

Boston Scientific Medical Devices Award

A prestigious new award, the Boston Scientific Medical Devices Award, is being introduced in 2015 and will be presented at each of the 15 regional science fairs. The overall winner of this award will receive the inaugural Boston Scientific Medical Devices Trophy at the national final.

The programme is also funded and supported by SFI Discover and

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