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:

  • Read career stories profiling people working in all kinds of STEM in our blog; browse STEM ‘Career Stories’ or look up a career 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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PLC courses offer alternative route to further education

Students that did not get the CAO points required for particular courses following their Leaving Certificate this year, or those looking for other routes to third level, should check out an interesting article in the Irish Independent, written by a guidance counsellor, which takes a look at using the PLC route after school to go on to further education.

The article outlines how over 15,000 students take this route to study a variety of subjects, including a number of science and technology options, with Level 5 and 6 courses traditionally being FETAC certified. Many of these students are then in a good position to go to apply for a number of Level 7 and 8 degree courses in other colleges.

Read the full article here.

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Career Stories: Myles Watson, Geologist

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Myles Watson talks to Smart Futures about his career as a geologist.

What is your job title?

I am a junior geologist with Providence Resources.

What work does a junior geologist do?

Finding oil fields is crucial to understand how the area has evolved over geological time, and that involves taking a look at all the information gathered over decades. I assist in these investigations by looking at geological evidence, rocks samples, research and geophysical surveys.

How did you choose geology as a career?

Coming out of school I had a strong interest in science, but I hadn’t the foggiest which avenue to take.

I studied biology and chemistry and had a notion that’s what I wanted to do, so I chose the science omnibus course in UCD to give me a broad spectrum and to see what I liked. That involved 12 modules in first year and I gravitated toward geology and modules that involved field work, because I always had a strong interest in the natural world.

What advantages are there to being a geologist?

A main advantage is that a petroleum geologist can work absolutely anywhere and everywhere. Irish geologists are working all over the world, including places like Africa and Canada, working onshore or offshore on an oil rig. It is a pretty cool to travel by helicopter to work every day. Besides being financially rewarding, the work is exciting too.

What’s a typical day like?

There isn’t a typical day. We are a small company and we have a range of projects, so I work on different projects on different days. I might be looking at data from drilling rigs or seismic surveys. Recently I investigated new areas that might be rewarding for the company, and I assisted with a geophysical survey on Rathlin Island.

Is field work then a big attraction for you?

I’m from the country and I like getting out and about. For my final-year project in UCD, I spent almost the whole summer doing a mapping project in the Alps in France, which was an amazing experience. Physically looking at rocks, making observations and then interpreting these observations is, for me, a very elementary kind of science.

How did you become interested in science?

I’d always an interest in the natural world. That would have come from my dad, who has a strong interest in science and is outdoorsy; he would have had science magazines in the house so that sparked my interest. And in a way, geology found me, as I just chose subjects I liked and gradually moved into it.

What subjects in school helped?

Science subjects like biology and chemistry get you thinking in the mind-frame of a scientist. I also did art, and surprisingly that helped a lot. Undergraduate geology involves a lot of drawing, sketching specimens and picking out important details. English is also important, because there is lots of report-writing in science.

You are now doing a master’s degree?

Yes, I’m doing the MSc petroleum geoscience course in UCD. This is the first year it has run and it’s a fantastic course. It was something I needed to do [for my career]. I put the idea to Providence Resources and they offered to sponsor me. The people here in Providence have been fantastic since I joined as an intern [in the summer of 2012].

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Career Stories: Dr Ida Milne, Medical humanities historian

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Dr Ida Milne a social historian who researches the history of disease talks to Smart Futures about her career.

Her career has taken a number of paths over the past 30 years and from this experience, she recommends students keep following their interests!

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

I didn’t take any science subjects but I had four granduncles who were in the Royal Army Medical Corps. I’ve always been fascinated by disease. Other people played with dolls, I played with my granduncles’ surgical knives.

What courses or training did you do after school?

When I started off in the early 1980s, I did a year in Trinity College Dublin studying French and didn’t like it. I moved to journalism but I couldn’t pass shorthand. I didn’t realise it at that stage, but I’m dyspraxic. I went to work in the Irish Independent – for a while as a freelance journalist and then with the clerical staff in the library. I worked there for almost 20 years.

How did you go about getting your current job?

I took redundancy from the newspaper and started a BA in humanities from Oscail, DCU’s distance learning programme. I liked that so much I did a taught MA in history in NUI Maynooth.

For my masters, I did a thesis on Spanish influenza in Ireland. This disease happened just as we were moving from being part of the British Empire to being an independent state so it was forgotten in an Irish context. I couldn’t leave it after 15,000 words so I went to Trinity to do a PhD on it.

You’ve just been awarded an Irish Research Foundation Elevate Fellowship. What is that?

The fellowship is part of the EU Marie Curie scheme. It funds you to complete research and you must travel to acquire international knowledge. I’ll be based out of NUI Maynooth for the next three years but for the first two years I’ll be working out of Queen’s University Belfast, which is the international part of the fellowship.

What were you funded to research?

The changing landscape of childhood diseases in Ireland from 1910 to 1990. It starts from a situation in 1911 when 2,000 children under the age of two died from diarrhoeal diseases because of the appalling housing conditions, sanitation and poverty.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

Science and medical history is a growing area. Many colleges are now offering some element of medical history. There’s a master’s course in the Centre for History of Medicine in UCD. Also, some courses are offered by NUI Maynooth, UCC and Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.

What are the main challenges?

It’s very hard to find a job. However, no matter how old you are, no matter how much you’ve failed, there’s always a way to pick yourself up. I didn’t even do science or honours history for the Leaving Cert but now I have a PhD.

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STEM film competition

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Filmmakers aged 4-25 across UK and Ireland, are being invited to create and submit their short films to the AES Cinemagic Young Filmmaker Competition which honours the best of young filmmaking talent across different categories, from best script to best director!

This year, energy company AES Northern Ireland are lending their support to the initiative and the competition has a new category ‘we are the energy’ calling for films about renewable energy, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) and energy and the environment.

Entrants have the chance to win filmmaking prizes as well as the accolade of Cinemagic Young Filmmaker of the Year!

The deadline for the main Young Filmmaker Competition is 19th September and the deadline for the ‘we are the energy’ competition category is 14th November 2014.

Please visit www.cinemagic.org.uk for entry forms and guidelines.

 

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