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Leaving Cert biology students get hands on experience at University of Limerick

Pictured at University of Limerick running experiments on Photosynthesis are Scariff Community College's Hazel Mosbacher, Grainne Colhoun and Yolanda Ramirez Picture: Arthur Ellis
Thu, 09 Jan 2020

Hundreds of Leaving Certificate biology students are getting practical experience in state-of-the-art laboratories at University of Limerick this week.

Over 450 second-level students are being given the opportunity to carry out laboratory practical experiments set on the Leaving Certificate Biology curriculum at UL.

A group of over 80 leaving certificate students from Clare and Galway were at the University this Wednesday where they carried out 18 of the mandatory Leaving Cert biology practicals – including dissecting a sheep’s heart, DNA extraction, food and plant-based experiments and more.

Sinead Holland, biology and maths teacher at St Killian’s College, New Inn, Ballinasloe, said it was “the right time, just before the mocks, to give them the perfect revision of all the experiments, which is a major part of the Leaving Cert exam.

“It gets them really focused into the exam. They are getting the practical, hands on experience and see what a university is like and sometimes when you do experiments in isolation, they kind of forget them, whereas when it is a full day of it, it really concentrates on the practicals and we will have a test in two days’ time to concentrate the mind,” she laughed.

Teacher Noreen Meagher from Scariff Community College said it was a “great experience” for her students and “a really good reminder of all the experiments that they would have done through the last two years”.

“They are getting a chance to do them in a university setting, with suitable equipment. It is a great experience to get them done all in one day, with experts in the field that will go around and assist and support them with questions as well,” she added.

The Leaving Certificate Biology Practical Sessions have been taking place at UL for over a decade. Jackie Kennedy, Chief Technical Officer in UL’s Department of Biological Sciences, said: “The fact that we have students coming into us is very important because they are getting to experience what a laboratory setting is like in third level. We have state of the art labs here, which we are always delighted to show off.

“On average we have 400 to 500 students here for a week at this time of the year, from different schools throughout the region.

“Many biology Leaving Cert students throughout the country do not get the opportunity to actually carry out and practice the experiments included in their course work and a lot of secondary school laboratories simply don’t have the facilities to allow this. 

“Our biology laboratories have the most up to date experimental equipment to facilitate in depth research and experimentation. It is a great opportunity for secondary school students to practically engage with the University also,” she added.

The department’s technical team, as well as postgraduate students and final year BSc Ed students who will be qualified as second level biology teachers at the end of this semester, are present in the laboratories to assist students throughout the week and instruct them in conducting the experiments.

The biology students will also be given information on UL programmes offered by the Biological Sciences Department and the Faculty of Science and Engineering at UL.

Over 450 students from schools in Limerick, Clare, Galway, Tipperary and those from Access programmes and further education are due to attend over the course of the week.