Volume 1, Issue 2.
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School Newsletter

Issue 2 | July 2017


Welcome to the second issue of our School of Chemistry newsletter. The quarterly publication focuses on school news, events, highlight recent achievements from staff and students and include some special features.


Issue Highlights

- Introducing School of Chemistry

- SEFS Student Teaching Awards

- School of Chemistry App Update

- Summer Conferrings

- Applied Nano Group Visit New Orelans

- 2017/18 Chemical Society Update

- Where Are They Now?

- Chemistry's Choral Connection


School of Chemistry

We are delighted that the formation of a School of Chemistry was approved by UCC’s Governing Body on 13 June 2017. Building upon the strengths of the Department of Chemistry at UCC, the new School structure will provide an inclusive framework for staff and students to operate effectively and proactively in their core academic and research activities.

Prof. Justin Holmes has been appointed as the first Head of the School of Chemistry.

New Staff Member

The School of Chemistry, the ERI and CRAC would like to extend a very warm welcome to Dr Stig Hellebust, our new lecturer in Physical Chemistry. Stig is an expert in atmospheric and environmental chemistry whose research is currently focused on determining the sources of atmospheric particles and their impact on air quality and health. Stig was previously a Marie Curie Research Fellow and senior postdoctoral researcher in the CRAC and Aix-Marseille Université in France. Stig will work closely with researchers in the Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry (CRAC), which is a leading Irish research centre on air quality and atmospheric analysis.

Prof John Wenger, Director of CRAC said “Stig is an outstanding researcher with expertise in atmospheric chemistry and data analytics. He will undoubtedly make a highly valuable contribution to our research activities at UCC. We are delighted that he is joining our team.”

We welcome Stig to the School of Chemistry and ERI team and wish him all the best in his career at UCC.

SEFS Student Nominated Teaching Staff Award

The Seventh Annual Student Nominated Staff Teaching Awards across SEFS Programmes have been selected for 2016-2017.

Award recipients were blindly selected by the College of SEFS Teaching Learning & Student Experience (TLSE) Committee following a two stage process organised through the College of SEFS Office, whereby students across the College were initially invited to nominate teaching staff they deemed worthy of the award from which an initial shortlist was drawn, followed by a second stage whereby (other) students taking modules of the teaching staff on the shortlist were randomly selected and invited to provide additional feedback.

Congratulations to Dr Stuart Collins, the 2016-2017 winner. Stuart in pictured above receiving his award from Prof Paul Ross, Head of SEFS, and Dr. Martina Scallan, Chair of the SEFS TLSE Committee.

Winner: Dr Stuart Collins, School of Chemistry.

Runners-Up (Joint): Dr. Simon Harrison, School of BEES, Mr. David Waldron, School of Food and Nutritional Sciences.


School of Chemistry App

Following our transition to a School, our mobile app has recently been updated and modified. The app, which has been downloaded over 1,000 times, is available at no cost from the Android Google Play store and iOS App store.

The app has been redone to use a completely new and very popular mobile app framework called the Ionic Framework - the same one used by IBM, NASA, Airbus, GE and other top companies to power some of their apps. Using this framework resulted in much better usability, look-and-feel and performance when compared to the previous app.

RSC Social Gathering Held in UCC

A social gathering of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) was held in the Aula Maxima at UCC on Thursday June 29th. Over 60 people were in attendance with representatives from industry, academia, teachers and students. The event was sponsored by the Republic of Ireland Local Section. The idea behind the gathering was to inform members of RSC activities in Ireland, in particular where UCC are active and to highlight to members opportunities within the RSC. Overall, it was a very successful and enjoyable evening and it is hoped that this will now be an annual event in Ireland on the RSC calendar.

Research News

Dr Colm O'Dwyer selected as Bell Labs Prize Finalist

Dr Colm O’Dwyer, School of Chemistry and Applied Nanoscience Group, has been shortlisted as a finalist in the 2017 Nokia Bell Labs Prize. The prize recognizes innovators with game-changing ideas in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics with the potential to disrupt or profoundly change the state of human existence and experience by a factor of 10. The competition is geared towards innovative proposals that look to solve broader societal and humanistic challenges. These might include ideas that offer disruptive innovations connecting all humans, senses, things, systems, infrastructure, or processes that enable a future where new knowledge is created with an associated ‘sixth sense’ whose purpose is to save time.

Dr O’Dwyer’s idea was one of several selected from thousands of applications worldwide. He travels to Bell Labs Research HQ in Murray Hill NJ, to link up with a dedicated Bell Labs researcher and to highlight his groups innovation in remote telecoms power sources at the Bell Labs Prize Innovathon. Winners will be announced after a second round submission in September 2017.

Lindau Award Ceremony

Last week saw Dr David McNulty, one of just three people from Ireland selected to participate in the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, collect his award at the Irish Research Council Lindau award ceremony. Congratulations to David on his award. Dr McNulty is a postdoctoral researcher in Dr Colm O’Dwyer’s Applied Nanoscience Group.


Impact of Electric Cars on Climate Change

Emeritus Prof John Sodeau spoke to Cork's 96 FM  recently to discuss the topic of electric cars and their impact on climate change, in comparison with more traditional petrol and diesel fuelled cars. Click Here to list to the full podcast.

Prof Sodeau regularly updates his blog page with features on topical environmental issues.

Postgraduate Student Focus

Summer Conferrings 2017

Congratulations to Dr Victor Langsi and Dr Aoife Ring on their Ph.D. graduation on June 15th.

Dr Victor Langsi
Supervisor: Prof Jeremy Glennon
Thesis Title: New Thin Shell Silica Particles and Hilic Phases for Liquid Chromatography: Synthesis, Characterisation and Functionalisation.

Dr Aoife Ring
Supervisor: Prof Anita Maguire
Thesis Title: Enantioselective Transformation of Alpha-Diazacarbonyl Compounds; Catalyst and Substrate Effects.

Tyndall National Institute Internal Conference

Congratulations to postgraduate student, Jessica Doherty, on winning ‘Best Long Talk’ at the Tyndall National Institute’s Internal Conference. Jessica’s talk was part of the Chief Scientist’s Selection, which saw five high impact papers published by members of Tyndall, from the last year. These were chosen by Chief Scientist Eoin O’Reilly. Jessica presented work from her research group, which focused on direct band gap germanium tin nanowires. This work was published in Nature Communications last April.

Jessica carries out her research with the MCAG group in the School of Chemistry, under the supervision of Prof Justin Holmes.

Irish Environmental Researchers Colloquium

Congratulations to postgraduate student Paul Buckley, awarded best oral presentation in Air Quality at the 2017 Irish Environmental Researchers Colloquium, held in Athlone IT. Environ is the longest running and largest forum for environmental researchers in Ireland with over 275 delegates attending the event annually. It provides a high-visibility platform for young researchers to present their findings to an audience drawn from academia, government bodies and industry.

2017 Irish Universities Colloquium

Dublin City University hosted the 69th Irish Universities Colloquium on June 22nd & 23rd. Well done to all of our postgraduate students who gave presentations and a special mention to Vuslat Buk on her poster presentation award.

Oral Presentation: Mary McKee
Poster Presentations: Vuslat Buk, Aoife Foley, Phyllis Hayes, Fionán Davitt, Anas Alfarsi.

On Our Travels

Research Conference - New Orleans

Words by: Sally O'Hanlon
Supervisor: Dr Colm O'Dwyer

Last month, the Applied Nanoscience Research Group, led by Dr Colm O’Dwyer, attended the 231st ECS meeting held at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside hotel. Nearly 2,000 people from 58 countries attended the meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. Attendees participated in 46 symposia, covering over 1,200 oral talks, 615 student presentations, and nearly 400 posters. It was a great opportunity in which myself, Darragh Buckley, Han Shao and Dr David McNulty got to share our current research through several talks given by each member and a poster session. Our research looks at the ever growing technological world. The main focus of our research is in battery technology, and the drive to develop safer batteries with higher power and longer battery life, and developing new materials are key for these advancements. 

The ECS meetings are a forum for sharing the latest scientific and technical developments in electrochemistry and solid-state science and technology. The ECS meeting allowed us to highlight our work with fellow scientists and researchers, and to potentially set up some collaborations with people who shared similar research and background.

The conference was held in the heart of New Orleans, which we got to explore throughout the week. New Orleans is a city abundant in culture, food and history, where we saw many attractions such as the French Quarter, Bourbon Street, the Mardi Gras warehouses and the Garden District. We also tried the world famous Louisiana creole cuisine and visited Café du Monde where we got to sample the famous and delicious beignets.

Undergraduate Student Focus

Undergraduate 2017 Autumn Graduations

The 2017 autumn graduations, which take place between October 17th to 26th, will see a large number of students graduate from our degree courses. Full date and time details are given below.

Thursday October 19th, 10am.
BSc (Hons) (Chemical Physics)

Thursday October 19th, 12.30pm.
BSc (Hons) (Chemistry)
BSc (Hons) (Chemistry with Forensic Science)
BSc (Hons) (Chemistry of Pharmaceutical Compounds)

SCILs Project Publication

Congratulations to B.Sc. Chemistry alumni students Russell Banta and Shane Daly. Russell and Shane carried out a project for their third year SCILs module in 2013/14, under the supervision of Dr Ger McGlacken, and researched in the area of Chiral Chemistry.

Their findings were published in April's edition of Chemistry Review, a science magazine aimed at A-level students in the UK. Russell is current studying a Ph.D at the School of Chemistry in UCC, while Shane is studying a Ph.D at the School of Chemistry in University of Leeds.

UCC Societies STAR Award

Congratulations to third year B.Sc. Chemistry student Christina O'Neill who was recently awarded a UCC Societies STAR award for her contribution to societies within UCC. Since arriving in UCC, Christina has played an active part and undertaken responsible roles in a number of societies such as the Knitting Society and ChemSoc. Christina has been previously awarded a STAR Employability award by the UCC for her contribution to extracurricular activities within, and outside of, UCC.

Chemical Society Update

2017/18 Chemical Society Committee and Year Plans

A new Chemical Society (ChemSoc) committee was elected on April 3rd. The positions filled were as follows:

Chairperson: Christina O Neill
Secretary: Sinéad Murphy
Finance: Marielle Baltero Cruz
PRO: Rachel Doyle
Vice PRO: Emma Birney
Events Officer: David Sheehan
2nd Year Rep: Rachel O Sullivan
4th Year Rep: Lavina O Shea
OCMs: Darran O Driscoll & Roshna Elsa Robin
Ex-Officio: David Hickey

Events to look out for in 2017/18 include the return of the Chem Cup, a 5 aside soccer tournament, which is provisionally set for the first week of October and the annual ChemBall has been confirmed for October 19th.

In 2017/18, ChemSoc will be placing a particular emphasis on positive mental and physical health promotion, in response to the stress faced by staff and students in UCC. ChemSoc will be hoping to tackle this by creating a new position on the committee, a Physical and Mental Health officer, who will be responsible for organising events promoting positive attitudes to health, including meditation sessions, self-confidence skills for interviews as well as yoga classes and some canine visitors.

Full details on all ChemSoc events for 2017/18 will be available on their Facebook and Twitter pages. In the meantime, if you would like to get in contact with ChemSoc, to offer some suggestions for events or general feedback, you can email Chemical@uccsocieties.ie

Outreach Focus

2017 Schools' Analyst Competition

Congratulations to Coláiste an Chroí Naofa (Carrignavar, Co. Cork) on winning the Cork heat of the inaugral Republic of Ireland Royal Society of Chemistry Schools Analyst Competition. The event took place in UCC on Thursday April 27th. Coláiste an Chroí Naofa have since been selected to represent Ireland in the School's Analyst Finals, which will take place this month in England.

Read More
View Photos

2017 Salters' Festival of Chemistry

The 2017 Salters' Festival of Chemistry took place in UCC in May. Thanks to all schools, students and teachers for taking part and congratulations to this year's winners:

Salters' Challenge
1st Place: Scoil Mhuire, Sydney Place, Cork City.

2nd Place: Mary Immaculate College, Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare.
3rd Place: St. Francis College, Rochestown, Co. Cork.

University Challenge
1st Place: St. Brigid's Secondary School, Killarney, Co. Kerry.
2nd Place: Coláiste na Toirbhirte, Bandon, Co. Cork.
3rd: Scoil Mhuire, Ballincollig, Co. Cork.


2016/17 Spectroscopy in a Suitcase Review

The RSC's Spectroscopy in a Suitcase scheme is an outreach activity wthat gives school students the chance to learn about spectroscopy through hands-on experience. As well as covering the principles of spectroscopic techniques, the activities use real-life contexts to demonstrate the applications of the techniques.

In 2016/17, the School of Chemistry were SIAS hosts for a third consecutive and very successful year. Covering secondary schools in the Munster region, our SIAS team this year carried out 60 sessions, in 53 schools and reached 972 leaving cert chemistry students.

Where Are They Now?

In this section, we will profile and focus on alumni students. Each graduate will go through their student memories, experiences and update us on what they have done since leaving UCC.

Dr Frank Dillon

Photo: Dr John O'Callaghan

B.Sc. Chemistry (2002), Ph.D. Chemistry (2006).

What year did you arrive in UCC?
I arrived in UCC way back in 1998, from Kerry originally.

What course did you study?
CK402 - Biological and Chemical Sciences.

What was your favourite Chemistry topic?
Inorganic Chemistry.

What was your best ‘Chemistry’ moment and why?
Too many to recall! Maybe the first time retrosynthetic analysis or symmetry clicked. Possibly the fourth year undergraduate Christmas party. Then again, winning the John Tobin Quiz at the fifth time of asking was great!

Who was your favourite chemistry staff member?
Dr Ni Dhubhghaill was always very helpful and her lectures were always very interesting but for sheer entertainment value, Prof John Sodeau sticks out.

When did you leave UCC?
In 2006 after a Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry with Prof Trevor Spalding.

What did you do straight after graduating?
I worked for two years as a Post-Doc with Prof Martyn Pemble in the Tyndall Institute. In 2008 I moved to Oxford to take up a position in their Materials department.

What are you doing now?
Still in Oxford! Researching nano-materials and composites whilst lecturing the postgraduates in electron microscopy with a Kerry accent. I am also involved with the local GAA team, Éire Óg abú!

Have you any advice for current students?
Whilst exams are very important, they are not the only aspect of university life. Remember to enjoy yourself, as chances are you will never have this amount of free time again until you retire. More chemists are needed so get involved with science promotion and if you can, visit your old secondary school to spread the word. Ask not what your department can do for you but what you can do for your department. Also, second year undergraduate chemistry is tough for everybody; work hard and stick with it and you will do fine.

Special Feature

Chemistry's Choral Connection

Name: Olga Dennehy
Course: Ph.D. Chemistry
Year: Third Year

From: Bishopstown, Co. Cork.

Olga is a 3rd year Ph.D. student in Organic Chemistry and studied Chemistry of Pharmaceutical Compounds for her undergraduate degree in UCC. She has been a member of the Choral Society since her first year in college and has been quite involved since then. She has passed through many different committee positions and founded the UCC Singers Choir.  After studying music before coming to college, she was very keen to keep up the hobby once in UCC, and she would say, "joining the Choral Society was one of her best decisions." She has had so many great opportunities with the society, especially when travelling to international competitions in Budapest, Verona and Ghent, while making great friends along the way.

Olga says "Singing in a choir provides a constructive and creative break from study where you can interact with students from all different faculties and walks of life. It involves a team mentality where everyone has the common goal of making the best sound and blend together, and there is a huge sense of accomplishment when you perform and it all comes together."

The UCC Choral Society was established in 1937 and is celebrating its 80th birthday this year. It is made up of students from every academic faculty and international students from a variety of countries around the world, who have a common interest in choral music and who love to sing. The society is run completely by students and promotes singing in a welcoming and relaxed environment. The society rehearses every Tuesday at 7pm in the Geography Building and sings at lots of different events on campus, including our Christmas and Spring Concerts and this year they performed at the School of Chemistry Coffee Morning, in aid of Marymount Hospice.

UCC Singers is a competitive, audition choir that is part of the UCC Choral Society, and has been in existence for 3 years. The aim of the choir is to represent the university at a local and national level and spread the joy of choral singing throughout UCC and the wider community. Most recently, UCC Singers placed second in the Light, Pop and Jazz category of the Cork International Choral Festival 2017, they won in the Chamber Choir Competition at Feis Maitiú 2017, placing second in the Adult Choir Competition, and they won in the mixed voice category at the City of Derry International Choral Festival 2016.

In addition to Olga, a number of current chemistry undergraduate students are part of the UCC Choral Society and UCC Singers. Recently, they recorded their own version of Brian Deady's 'Clap Both My Hands' at various locations in UCC. Watch them below.

Sticking with the music theme, last month an Ed Sheeran parody "The Molecular Shape of You" appeared on Youtube. You can watch and listen to this excellent music video below.

Did You Know?

Interesting Chemistry Facts

- Although oxygen gas is colourless, the liquid and solid forms of oxygen are blue.

- The human body contains enough carbon to provide 'lead' (which is really graphite) for about 9,000 pencils.

- There is about 1/2lb or 250g of table salt (NaCl) in the body of an average adult human.

- Hot peppers get their heat from a molecule called capsaicin. While the molecule acts as an irritant to mammals, including humans, birds lack the receptor responsible for the effect and are immune to the burning sensation from exposure.

- Hydrofluoric acid is so corrosive that it will dissolve glass. Although it is corrosive, hydrofluoric acid is considered to be a ‘weak acid’.

- Approximately 20% of the oxygen in the atmosphere was produced by the Amazonian rainforests.

Countdown to Key Dates

Start of 2017/18 Academic Year


Next Issue

We hope you enjoyed this issue of our newsletter. The next issue will be released in September. To submit news, features and feedback, please contact us.

Best Regards
Prof Justin Holmes | Head of School
021 4902379

Editor | Dr Trevor Carey
© School of Chemistry | UCC

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