So, you want to be a scientist?

But, who are scientists?

Firstly, not all scientists wear white coats and work in labs – check out ‘The Arty Scientist’ project to see what we mean!

Some do, but many work in lots of surprising places including in the production of foods, medicines, electronics, cars, and much more! They also predict the weather, and find cures for diseases and solutions for climate change.

Scientists are needed now, more than ever, to help solve new problems and develop new ideas for our changing world. Without Science, we wouldn’t understand how the world works and our modern lives would be very, very different!

University of Galway PhD student Pietro Marchese exploring the coral reef in Okinawa, Japan. Image: Pietro Marchese

Below are just some of the different aspects of Science at University of Galway, from studying for a science degree, some noteworthy scientists past and present, hands-on science activities for you to try out and, if you visit our beautiful campus, what you might be able to see on our wonderful biodiversity trail and in our three science museums.

Click the photo to download the primary and post-primary ‘Science @ NUI Galway’ posters

Why choose University of Galway for your Science degree?

University of Galway offers 13 different B.Sc. degrees through the CAO, with over 30 different specialisms available, from Anatomy to Zoology. See the range of options in the video below:

For A-level students, check out the video below for more information:

The B.Sc. in Genetics and Genomics, launched in 2020, is aimed at students  interested in the study and use of DNA data in life sciences.

Our B.Sc. in Marine Science is the only marine science degree in Ireland.

University of Galway is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Connemara, the Burren and the River Shannon, offering unique access to outdoor labs for ecological study.

Our students can study abroad in the USA, Europe and Hong Kong.

Galway is a global hub for the medical technology industry. Eight of the world’s top ten med-tech companies are based here, and the medical devices designed and made in Galway are saving lives all over the world.

If you want to find out more about studying Science in University of Galway, visit to register for the on campus Open Day on October 7th and 8th and the Science and Engineering Information Evening on Thursday November 24th.

University of Galway Scientists Past and Present

University of Galway has been home to some remarkable scientists over the years. Below are just two examples of scientists who became world-renowned experts in a number of different fields during their careers.

Prof. William King

One of those was William King, appointed in 1849, as the first Professor of Geology at Queen’s College Galway (now University of Galway), publishing more than 70 papers in his time there, as well as establishing a geology museum in 1852.

However, Prof. King is best known as the first person to name a new extinct group of humans, Homo neanderthalensis, more commonly known as Neanderthals. His study of a cast of a recently discovered human skull cap from the Neander Valley in Germany, led him to believe that it belonged to a species different from modern humans. In 1863, just 4 years after the publication of ‘On the Origin of Species‘ by Charles Darwin, he presented his findings at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and published them the following year.

Prof. William King and his groundbreaking 1864 paper ‘The Reputed Fossil Man of The Neanderthal‘.

King’s pioneering work initiated the study of human evolution which continues to this day. Advancements in molecular techniques such as ancient DNA sequencing has, in turn, led to the discovery that the DNA sequence of modern humans outside Africa, has between 1 and 4% Neanderthal DNA, indicating a much closer relationship between the two species than was previously thought.

Much more information can be found in the recently published Irish Journal of Earth Sciences paper ‘The Contribution of William King to the Early Development of Palaeoanthropology‘ by Murray et al. and the video below featuring Dr. John Murray (Lecturer in Palaeontology in the Discipline of Earth & Ocean Sciences) and Prof. Heinz Peter Nasheuer (Professor of Biochemistry).

Video by Claire Riordan, Education and Public Engagement Manager at CÚRAM .

Prof. Louise Allcock

Prof. Louise Allcock on board a submarine as part of the Nekton project exploring the Indian Ocean

In more recent times, Head of Zoology at the Ryan Institute, Prof. Louise Allcock has used modern techniques and technology to explore the hidden depths of Ireland’s seas, while becoming one of the world’s foremost experts on cephalapods (octopuses, squids, cuttlefish, and nautiluses).

The Real Map of Ireland: Image courtesy Marine Institute

Using Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV), such as the Holland I deployed from the Irish research vessel Celtic Explorer, photos and live video of the deep sea floor and canyon walls can be streamed via fibre optic cable to the scientists and science students on board. This enables them to discover novel habitats and find new and rare species, including corals and sponges, which can even be sampled by the ROV for further study on board or back on campus. Chemical compounds produced by these animals are currently being studied by Louise and her colleagues in University of Galway as potential treatments against cancer, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and various pathogens.

In March 2019, Louise was part of the Nekton First Descent project to explore the depths of the Indian Ocean, one of the last unexplored regions of the world.

You can read more about Louise’s research into cephalapods and biodiscovery and see some of her stunning marine photography on the Marine Science Ireland page

Hands-On Science Activities For You!

Scientists at University of Galway love to engage with the public, through lectures, workshops, festivals and even art projects. Below are three hands-on activities you might like to try out at home or in school.

CÚRAM Lesson Plan Kits

CÚRAM is Ireland’s National Centre for Research in Medical Devices, bringing together experts from Ireland’s leading universities, research institutes and companies. CÚRAM researchers are developing medical devices that will work for different parts of the body, such as the heart, the brain and the musculoskeletal system. Below, you can check out lesson plan kits developed by CÚRAM’s Teachers in Residence.

Science Activity 1: Build A Model Hand

Model hand image courtesy CÚRAM

In the video below, learn about bones, muscles and tendons, and how doctors treat damage to these tissues. You can also find out how to build the model hand above and act as a surgeon to fix a tendon using “biomaterials”. Click here to download the Musculoskeletal System Lesson Plan for this activity.

Science Activity 2: Jelly Brains!

Jelly Brains image courtesy CÚRAM

In the video below, learn how neurons send and receive messages, and the causes of Parkinson’s disease. You can also design a medical device to treat Parkinson’s disease and test it on ‘jelly brains’. (Don’t eat the ‘jelly brains’!) This lesson is a bit more advanced. Click here to download the Brain Lesson Plan for this activity.

Cell EXPLORERS DIY Protocols

Cell EXPLORERS is a science education and outreach programme based in the School of Natural Sciences in the University of Galway. Their aim is to promote hands-on discovery of molecular and cellular biology and they are currently funded by Science Foundation Ireland to support their outreach work in the West of Ireland and the national expansion of the programme to other Higher Education Institutions.

Science Activity 3: Extract Banana DNA

Banana DNA Extraction image courtesy Cell EXPLORERS

One of the activities Cell EXPLORERS run is Fantastic DNA, a primary school outreach session involving activities based on the topic of DNA. During school visits and at festivals, the children get to do an experiment following a protocol and using equipment brought into the classroom, just as a scientist would do in a lab.

You can try out the Fantastic DNA experiment for yourself, to easily extract DNA from a banana using the Cell EXPLORERS DIY Banana DNA Extraction Protocol and some household items. The video below is also a great help and shows you all the steps!

Visit the University of Galway Biodiversity Trail

The University of Galway Biodiversity Trail is designed to guide you through our natural habitats, which are often also used for teaching and research. The campus is home to over 600 species of plants and animals across nine different habitats, from the Eglinton Canal through deciduous woodlands and along the majestic River Corrib.

Watch the video below to take a virtual tour of our campus, and when you visit, bring a printed copy of the Biodiversity Trail map, or pick up a copy at the Archway Reception at the Quad.

University of Galway Science Museums

University of Galway is home to three unique science museums, the James Mitchell Geology Museum, the Zoology and Marine Biology Museum and the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland.

James Mitchell Geology Museum

University of Galway’s famous Quadrangle. Photo by Enda O’Connell

Located in the Quadrangle, and established by Prof. William King in 1852, the James Mitchell Geology Museum houses a collection of 1,587 rocks, 1,725 mineral specimens and over 5,000 fossils, still used as an educational resource for University of Galway students and staff, as well as visiting primary and secondary school students. Many of the rocks and minerals originated in nearby Connemara and the Burren, but the collection also contains uncut samples of diamond, ruby, sapphire and topaz from around the world.

The fossil collection contains many invertebrate fossils, including corals, sponges, brachiopods and trilobites, as well as framed Ichthyosaurus and Plesiosaurus specimens from the Jurassic period. A more recent addition is the ‘William King and the Naming of Neanderthal People’ display, containing the Neanderthal skull cap cast that prompted Prof. King to write, “I now feel strongly inclined to believe that it is not only specifically but generically distinct from Man.”

The James Mitchell Geology Museum. Photo by Sharonlflynn

Zoology and Marine Biology Museum

Gibbon skeleton on display in the Zoology and Marine Biology Museum. Photo by Joxerra Aihartza

Galway’s ‘Dead Zoo’ is located in the Martin Ryan Institute across from the Quadrangle, and while only established in 2009, many of the 500 specimens date back over 150 years. Highlights include four specimens collected by Charles Darwin and purchased from the Zoological Society of London in 1855, and a collection of ‘Blaschka models’, which are intricate glass representations of marine creatures. Check out the video below about studying Zoology in University of Galway, featuring the Zoology and Marine Biology Museum.

Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland

Image courtesy Brendan Smith

Established in 2010 and located in the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics in the IDA Business Park, Dangan, the Computer and Communications Museum of Irelandtells the fascinating story of key moments in the history of computing and communications.’ The museum is home to a collection of computer and communication artefacts and archives and organises events for computer enthusiasts young and old.