Friday, January 21, 2022

My Green Labs @ Biological Sciences Department in UL


Working "green" (environmentally sensitive, resource-efficient, and socially responsible) in laboratories has become the gold standard in both the Biological Sciences department undergraduate and research labs. Together with My Green Labs, all laboratory work carried out within the Biological Sciences department has adopted 'Green Lab' practices and programs. The aim of this initiative is to reduce the departments laboratories' environmental impact in four key areas – energy, water, waste, and chemical use – through a combination of organisational initiatives and behaviour change programs.

The aims of this initiative are to involve scientists in efforts to minimise environmental impacts, build a culture of sustainability in the lab, advance sustainability goals and identify waste-reduction opportunities. The departments Green team are working closely with UL’s Building & Estate department and has signed up to the ‘Optimising Power at work’ initiative at the University of Limerick.

This initiative is run in conjunction with the Office of Public Works and involves monitoring a number of buildings on Campus for energy efficiency. Among some of the new measures we have introduced includes a traffic light system for electrical equipment where, using coloured stickers, equipment is turned off as soon as its not in use. Ultra-low temperature freezers (ULT, -80°C) are one of the most energy-intensive pieces of equipment found in labs and can be operated more efficiently by implementing simple cold-storage management best practices. Among these measures include an increase of running temperature from -80c to -70c. This change in temperature of 10c results in up to 30% less energy consumption.

The Biological Sciences department are the first labs nationally to include the undergraduate labs and students in the initiative and we will introduce the plan to all new students and returning students starting in Semester 2 2022. The sum of these small changes will lead to a large impact on the sustainability of labs going forward and by focussing on behavioural changes we hope to change of mindset to build on this culture within the laboratories.

The Green Team includes:

 Jacqueline Kennedy (Project leader)

Edel Durack (Project leader)

Martina O’Keeffe

Valerie Cliffe

Mary Barrett

Stephanie Brosnan

Etaoin Murphy

Azza Naik

Miriam Stiavnicka

Harishkumar Rajendran

Murali Kumar

Lea Deinert

Elisa DiCarlo

Elizabeth Ryan 

Monday, January 17, 2022

Department of Biological Sciences offers Leaving Certificate Biology Practicals to Students


The Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Limerick welcomed Leaving Certificate Biology students from all over Munster into their state-of-the-art laboratories last week. The Department provided the students with the opportunity to conduct the laboratory practical experiments set on the Leaving Certificate Biology curriculum.  Biology Practical Sessions were first presented by the Department of Biological Sciences at UL over fourteen years ago.

Biology Teachers have described the opportunity to attend the LC Biology Practicals as follows: "This is a great revision opportunity for our students, they get to re-take the practical experiments in the Leaving Certificate syllabus using the state-of-the art facilities.  In addition to preparing students for their Leaving Certificate exam it gives them an insight into life as a university student, creating an added impetus to strive to reach their full potential." 

"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. The Dept of Biological Science’s biology laboratories have the most up to date experimental equipment to facilitate in depth research and experimentation.  It's a great opportunity for secondary school students to practically engage with the University within a laboratory setting".

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

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

Thursday, December 16, 2021

UL Class 2020: Graduate Outcome Reports

All higher education institutions in Ireland survey their graduates within 9 months of completing full-time courses. This national survey is conducted under the aegis of the HEA (Higher Education Authority) and the results are compiled in the HEA report on 'First Destinations of Award Recipients in Higher Education' which is published each year. 

Top line Results


  • 75% of the Class of 2020 went directly into employment.


  • 7% of graduates are working globally. This is down from 12% and is likely attributable to travel restrictions and cautious behaviours around Covid-19.


  • 17% of the class are engaged in further study or training.


  • 7% of graduates are seeking employment, with ca. 1% unavailable for employment (for reasons of e.g. health, family, gap year).


  • The results suggest that higher educational attainment is positively linked to higher employment rates, with 96% of UL PhD/Research graduates and 80% of Taught Masters graduates in employment.


  • The sectoral spread of the Class of 2020 employment is of interest viz., Human Health and Social Work (19%), followed by Professional, Scientific and Technical sector at 15%, Financial, Insurance and Real Estate (14%) and Industry (13%). At 11%, Education remains a significant sector for graduate employment.


  • The average graduate salary was €34, 987, with 59% of graduates earning in excess of €30,000.


  • The results indicate that higher educational attainment is positively linked to higher salaries, with PhD/Research Masters graduates earning an average salary of €51,250 and the average salary of Taught Masters Graduates calculated at €37,934.


  • In line with recent trends, the Western Corridor (West, Mid-West and South West) continues to be the preferred destination for UL graduates, accounting for almost two-thirds (63%) of graduate employment. This compares with 26% in the East. Globally, the most popular destinations were North America (29%), EU (25%) and the UK (23%).

For the Faculty of Science and Engineering, the relevant data are here.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Athena Swan : presentation of the award to the Department of Biological Sciences


Following the earlier announcement of the renewal of Athena SWAN bronze award to the Biological Sciences Department, the co-chairs Dr Audrey O’Grady and Dr James Brown received the award and certificate on behalf of the departmental self-assessment team (co-chairs pictured with Prof Mey), on Tuesday 12th October, 2021. 

The award was presented on behalf of Athena Swan Ireland to the co-chairs by the first female president of an Irish university, and current UL president Professor Kerstin Mey (in a limited capacity COVID safe ceremony), along with presentation to awardees of the other eight Athena SWAN awards that UL attracted in 2020-2021, including Irelands first departmental Sliver award. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Teaching Hero: Dr Audrey O'Grady


In April 2021 Dr. Audrey O’Grady, was recognised as a Teaching Hero in the 2021 student-led Teaching Hero awards. The Awards are organised by the National Forum in collaboration with the Union of Students in Ireland and provide an opportunity for students across the country to recognise and celebrate outstanding teaching in Irish higher education institutions. This year students were asked to describe why their nominees deserved recognition as an innovative or inspiring teacher. Audrey was nominated by her undergraduate students who submitted both a written report and video. There was particular recognition for Audrey’s support of students during online teaching during restrictions.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Athena Swan Bronze Award

The department of Biological Sciences Athena Swan Committee are delighted to announce that we have had our Bronze Athena Swan Award renewed. Originally, the department was one of the first in Ireland to receive this award, recognizing our early leadership and commitment towards achieving equality for all staff and students.

The application was co-chaired by Dr. James Brown and Dr. Audrey O’Grady, and made possible by the hard work and helping hands of many staff and students in the department over several months. This award recognizes the department's commitment to creating a workplace that is inclusive, welcoming, and where everyone is treated equally, and with dignity and respect. This culture is important to us, to inspire and support all our students and staff, and we follow the motto “if you can see it, you can be it”, both as educators and as leaders in our communities.

The Athena SWAN charter is a framework that is used internationally to support and transform gender equality in higher education and research. The charter launched in Ireland in 2015 with a specific remit to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women STEMM employment. The charter has since been expanded to include arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL) and staff working in professional, managerial and support roles (PMSS). Notably, the department of Biological Sciences is the first department in UL to have a PMSS champion- Jackie Kennedy. We look forward to implementing our plan over the next 4 years, further building our department into a place where everyone is truly treated equally, and is a beacon of diversity and inclusiveness.