Laurie Ryan | Smart Futures

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Laurie Ryan
Laurie Ryan works in Science Foundation Ireland as a Senior Executive in Education and Public Engagement, and is also captain of the Clare Ladies Football Team. She has a passion for Science Communication and wants students all across the country to get involved with STEM.
Job title
Senior Executive in Education and Public Engagement
Science Foundation Ireland
Qualified Biology, Chemistry and Agricultural Science teacher. Currently doing a PhD in Science Education and Outreach in the University of Limerick.

I am a qualified Biology, Chemistry and Agricultural Science teacher. I am sports mad and currently doing a PhD in Science Education and outreach in the University of Limerick. I am also working full time in Science Foundation Ireland in Dublin. My job involved coordinating Science Week 2018. This was a huge task as there was 12 festivals, 206 roadshows, 1400 registered events and a lot of media coverage involved. In my spare time I play football with Clare Ladies and my club The Banner.


Has your opinion of STEM changed since you were a teenager?

Yes, I think I was very naïve and I though the tech and engineering side of STEM are male subjects. I did technical graphics in school and loved it, but I was too afraid to pick it for my leaving cert as it’s a ‘boys’ subject. Also, I wanted to do chemistry but when I told my friends I was doing it they all thought I was a ‘geek’. I believed both of those perceptions at the time and nearly changed my mind about doing chemistry because of it. I now understand that STEM is for everyone, there is no label that says this isn’t for you.


In your opinion, what is the biggest myth about STEM careers?

Personally, I feel people assume anyone working in STEM got 625 in the leaving cert and sits in a lab working on calculations or with chemicals. That is not the case, STEM careers are not narrow, there is many options and different routes available depending on what interests you.


What do you love about your current role?

There is so much I love about my role at the moment, it is so challenging. Every day is different; I love that I am part of a team of people and I get to communicate with such a wide variety of people. The team is something that I enjoy the most and I think this comes from playing sports as well. Doing a PhD can get quite lonely so having a team of people that you can rely on really helps. I also enjoy the fact that I have got to do career talks with students around Ireland, this is something that really appeals to me as it allows me to link my education, sports and work life together to try have a positive influence on a student.


Do you ever get to travel abroad for work?

Currently with work I haven’t had a chance to go abroad, but because I am doing a PhD I have got to travel to numerous places for conferences. I am usually doing a presentation when I get there so I don’t get to enjoy the place until I have finished that aspect. In the last 3 years I have got to travel to Finland, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Spain and I am off to Italy in a few weeks.


Is your current job, and the work of the wider team, making a difference in the world?

I think so. Science Week is my main project and I feel that the job allows me to think of interesting and new ideas that will help the general public of Ireland get involved in Science. With 1400 events nationwide there is a high possibility that they will find and event that will interest them. This year a good example was the Dubland podcast with PJ Gallagher & Suzanne Kane, this hit an audience of people that may not come to a talk on a specific area of Science. Another example was the Off The Ball Facebook Live on weight management, the panel discussion had some high profile names that looked in to the research of weight cutting.


If a young person told you that they would like to get into your role, what advice would you give them?

DO IT! My job is so enjoyable and the area I am working in means that no one day is the same. I get to meet so many people, work with fantastic students and organise really interesting events. I do have to complete admin work in the office as well, but the positives outweigh the negatives.  The key advice I would tell them you need to love what you do in this role to get the most out of it.


Did you complete any sort of placement or internship during your studies? If so, did it prepare you for what you do now?

Because my initial background was science teaching, I was on teaching placement twice. This involved going to a school in 2nd year for 6 weeks and again in 4th year for 11 weeks. Having the opportunity to go in to a school and become part of the staff was really good, it really allowed you to get the full teaching experience. I also did a summer internship in the University of Limerick. This usually involves working on a specific project for 6-8 weeks over the summer. I did mine on Transition Year Science modules and found it very useful.  I would highly recommend doing this if you get the chance, I feel that this gave me a stepping stone in to understanding what was required in research fields. I also got to meet a lot of people that helped me develop my skills in many different areas.  


Name one thing on your bucket list.

One thing on my bucket list currently is to go to a music festival in Europe, I have been waiting to do it for a while, but every year I put it off until after the football season. I will get there eventually but for now as long as I am fit enough to play I will give football my full commitment during the summer.


What television series are you currently watching?

I just finished YOU on Netflix. My guilty pleasure is watching any kind of baking or cooking show, I tend to use it is as my stress relief (still can’t cook or bake yet!).


What living person do you most admire, and why?

I have to say that I always struggle picking one person that I admire, there are so many people that do amazing things. At the moment one person that I admire and would love to meet is Roger Federer. What stands out to me the most is his hard work, honesty and gratitude. He loves what he does and treats his opponents with such respect. If he wins or loses, he is gracious, and his ability to consistently be one of the best player in his sport is inspiring. 

STEM is for everyone, there is no label that says this isn’t for you.