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Our Researchers Took Brain Research to the Pub

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At FutureNeuro, we are committed to building stronger connections between our researchers and the public to ensure we deliver impactful research that will benefit society. To help us achieve this, we’ve taken some of our pioneering science out of the lab and into the pub! During this year’s Pint of Science festival, several of our exceptional researchers shared their latest FutureNeuro research with pub-goers. 

Pint of Science is the world’s largest festival dedicated to public science talks. Its mission is to connect researchers with the public and open conversations about science in relaxed, informal settings rather than traditional lecture theatres. Here, our PhD candidates, Rosie Giglia and Tammy Strickland, tell us about their research, share their experiences at Pint of Science and discuss the importance of public engagement events like this. 

What is the significance of your research? 

Tammy: I work in the Chrono Epilepsy lab in the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences under the supervision of Dr Cristina Reschke and co-supervision of Dr Jennifer Dowling and Prof David Henshall. My research focuses on the temporal (i.e. the timing) aspects to seizure generation and epilepsy. In particular, I study how disruptions to circadian rhythms (i.e. the 24-hour functional rhythms that regulate all cells in the body) impact the immune system in the brain and how this might contribute to the development of epilepsy. 

Rosie: Many people with neurodegenerative conditions like Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Motor Neurone Disease (MND) experience changes in their thinking. My research focuses on analysing electrical signals in the brain to try to measure these changes. By understanding these changes, I hope to understand why they happen and if they respond to treatments. 

Did you have any memorable interactions or questions from the audience? 

Tammy: There was an interesting question about how and when epilepsy can develop. Many audience members assumed that epilepsy is inherited and only develops in early childhood. In reality, many people develop an acquired form of epilepsy, which can occur at any stage of life. It was fantastic to have the opportunity to dispel common myths about epilepsy! 

Rosie: I was surprised by the volume and diversity of questions. It was great to see the genuine curiosity people had for our work and fields. 

Do these events help to bridge the gap between scientists and the public? 

Tammy: We’re navigating an era dominated by misinformation and disinformation, which significantly affects public trust in science. Building trust isn’t a simple task, but informal outreach, where everyone brings individual value to the room, regardless of their qualifications, are helping to drive change by facilitating discussion and showing what scientists do and why.  

The pub (for better or for worse) is an inviting, informal spot that’s deeply embedded in Irish culture. Sharing stories of our daily lives in the pub is how people connect. Scientists should be no exception. 

Rosie: I truly believe that these events play a crucial role in bridging this gap. We had several groups who were visiting Dublin and likely would never have prioritized attending an academic talk during their holiday. However, they were genuinely enthusiastic about the opportunity to engage with science in a more informal and accessible setting – there is a genuine appetite among the public for learning and discussing science, that we can tap into by making our work approachable. 

Does public engagement benefit your research? 

Tammy: It’s a privilege to work at FutureNeuro, where there’s a big focus on understanding the patient journey. The Centre runs various activities to engage with different stakeholders, including people with epilepsy and their families. Their insights are immensely valuable. Engaging with the broader public is also crucial for directing our research efforts to where they are most needed. Public engagement has immense value for me, both as a scientist and as an individual. It has taught me to truly listen. 

Rosie: Public engagement activities have made me better at communicating my work and its potential impact, which in turn has helped me understand for myself what new directions might be worth pursuing going forward. 

Would you encourage other researchers to get involved?  

Tammy: Yes, it’s definitely worth it! Not only does it allow skill development, but it also facilitates invaluable idea exchange with people who aren’t directly involved in your work. Moreover, I believe it’s incredibly important as a publicly funded PhD researcher to talk to the taxpayers who ultimately make my work possible. 

Rosie: Yes, get involved, in addition to being fun and motivating, they are a great chance to practice reflecting on and communicating our work. 

Pint of Science gave our researchers the chance to meet people they would never have otherwise met. Tammy tells us: “I met so many people that knew nothing about me or my work. This is a major strength of Pint of Science – it decontextualizes you. Sometimes research can become so focused that we miss the bigger picture. Meeting lots of different people and exchanging ideas can really help you to see the potential impact of your work and get the creative juices flowing.” 

We raise a glass to all our researchers for their commitment to our public engagement mission at FutureNeuro, and to Pint of Science for providing this fantastic opportunity. Find out more about Pint of Science, and Our Research.