Pictures of Dr Ann-Marie Creaven and Dr Jennifer McMahon
Dr Ann-Marie Creaven and Dr Jennifer McMahon, Department of Psychology, UL
Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Two University of Limerick projects to receive funding under the SFI Discover Programme will seek to introduce science to a young audience.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris TD and Minister for Education Norma Foley TD have today announced an investment in 47 projects nationally aimed at improving public understanding of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The funding, which totals €3.7 million, will be focused on encouraging diversity and inclusion in STEM, while also targeting a wide range of ages including young children, teens and adults.

Two UL projects - MY-Sci: Mental health promotion in Youth through Science and The Science of Us – have received funding under the SFI Discover Programme.

Announcing the funding, Minister Harris said: “I am delighted to announce today the 47 projects receiving funding through the SFI Discover Programme.

“These projects will have an invaluable impact, starting conversations about the role of STEM in society and inspiring our young people to explore careers in these areas.

“Through initiatives such as the SFI Discover Programme, we must support the public to have access to, and understand, the issues that impact our collective future, and the role science and technology can play in providing solutions. I wish all the recipients every success in the rollout of their projects.”

Speaking of the projects co-funded by the Department of Education, Minister Foley said: “We are pleased to collaborate with the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science by supporting five projects that will receive funding through the SFI Discover Programme.

“These projects are designed to grow and encourage participation in STEM education and public engagement, inspiring our young people to explore STEM roles in the future. I want to congratulate all of the individuals and teams involved in their work to date on these projects.”

Commenting on the announcement, Prof Philip Nolan, Director General, Science Foundation Ireland, said: “The SFI Discover Programme is a key part of our education and public engagement strategy and aims to grow opportunities for dialogue between the research community and the public.

“Our research improves people’s lives and we can only do that if we work in partnership with the public at all stages of the research process. The programme also aims to improve diversity and inclusion in science, broadening participation geographically and amongst less represented voices in research.

“STEM is such an exciting area to study and work in and we want to make it more accessible to a wide range of people. We are looking forward to working with these fantastic, creative education and engagement programmes.”

UL projects:

MY-Sci: Mental health promotion in Youth through Science – Project lead: Dr Jennifer McMahon

MY-Sci, led by Dr Jennifer McMahon, Department of Psychology, UL is a collaboration between the School, Child & Youth (SCY) Mental Health & Wellbeing Lab, the Junior Health Sciences Academy (JHSA), the Limerick Clare Education & Training Board (LCETB), the UL Hospitals group, Jigsaw and other key education stakeholders.

Dr McMahon explained: “MY-Sci seeks to enhance youth understanding of psychological science, engage youth in science based enquiry and support youth leaders in health promotion with a focus on mental health and wellbeing. During this pilot programme transition year students will examine the predictors and determinants of wellbeing through the lens of psychological science and related scientific disciplines. Using a co-creation model with youth and educational stakeholders, the MY-Sci team will design and deliver a five-module, blended programme that will scaffold youth to implement scientifically informed initiatives that promote positive mental health and wellbeing for their peers. The innovative programme will also facilitate engagement between scientists and young people, helping our target group to see science in a new light.”

The Science of Us – Project lead: Dr Ann-Marie Creaven

“This project is the design, delivery, evaluation, and revision of The Science of Us, a short course introducing topics in psychological science to an adolescent audience,” explained Dr Creaven, a senior lecturer in psychology at UL.

“Through participation in The Science of Us module, we aim to: develop psychological and scientific literacy skills in transition year students; showcase psychology as a scientific discipline by discussing the science of human affect, behaviour, and cognition; develop students' skills in articulating and challenging misinformation related to psychological topics - for example social media influences on mental health.

“The Science of Us pilot will be evaluated for its effectiveness in developing content expertise in psychology and in developing scientific literacy as related to psychology, using a mixed methods approach.

“The pilot will be revised with input from stakeholders - students and teachers. We plan to create open educational resources to support the delivery of the module i.e., slides, promotional materials, and implementation handbook. The project meets a clear gap in the provision of psychological and scientific literacy at second-level,” added Dr Creaven.