Bright Sparks



Bright Sparks is an Athena Media production asking what happens when we enable bright people to follow their curiosity and solve the worlds problems. This 8 part series follows TCD physicist Dr. Shane Bergin as he talks to leading researchers and scientists in Ireland and uncovering why our small island is leading globally in many scientific fields. Bright Sparks is an Athena Media science series made with the funding support of the BAI and the Irish TV licence fee. It was broadcast from May 24th to July 12th 2015 on RTE Radio 1.


  • Shorts 10 - David McKeown

    13/08/2015 Duration: 02min

    Bright Sparks: David McKeown - Rocket Scientist Engineering plays a significant role in science exploration and innovation. We had robot engineer Conor McGinn and now rocket scientist and engineer David McKeown. David is a research engineer working in University College Dublin, conducting research for the European Space Agency on contracts dealing with vibration control of the next generation of rockets. He was part of the team that worked on Deleon, a robot arm for the Mars Rover. In this short clip David talks to presenter of Bright Sparks, Shane Bergin about how he became a rocket scientist and how he feels about people travelling to Mars.

  • Shorts 9 - Richard Roche

    11/08/2015 Duration: 03min

    Richard Roche is a Lecturer in the Department of Psychology in Maynooth University specialising in the area of cognitive neuroscience. In this short clip, Richard talks about the brain and memory, and how context can be used in recall to update, distort or even remove a memory.

  • Shorts 8 - Michelle McKeon Bennett

    10/08/2015 Duration: 02min

    Michelle McKeon Bennett is head of the Department of Applied Science in Limerick Institute of Technology as well as the principal investigator of the controlled environment laboratory for life sciences research group there. Yet, Michelle also holds another title.. since 2008 she is an official Astronaut Candidate for the European Space Agency. In this short cut Michelle tells us about her opportunity to become the first Irish Astronaut.

  • Shorts 7 - Peter Gallagher

    07/08/2015 Duration: 02min

    Peter Gallagher is a solar physicist at Trinity College in Dublin where his research involves studying the sun and the effects it has on the Earth. He is obsessed with the sun and in this short clip Peter tells us what makes the sun, and closest star in our universe, so intriguing to him.

  • Shorts 6 - Peter Lynch

    06/08/2015 Duration: 05min

    Mathematician and Emeritus Professor of Meterology Peter Lynch, like many other of our Bright Sparks, is driven by his fascination in discovering how things in the world work. In this short clip Peter Lynch talks to presenter Shane Bergin about Galileo, why he became a mathematician and why maths plays an integral part in understanding the world we live in

  • Shorts 5 - Cindy Van Dover

    05/08/2015 Duration: 03min

    Cindy Van Dover is a deep sea biologist and the director of the Marine Laboratory at Duke University. In this short clip, Cindy tells us of her intrigue to explore the deep sea and how studying the survival of life forms in such an extreme environment can inform what we think about our planet and the potential for life on other planets.

  • Shorts 4 - Conor McGinn

    04/08/2015 Duration: 02min

    Conor McGinn is an assistant Professor in the Mechanical Manufacturing Engineering Department, Trinity College, Dublin. Conor is also a robot engineer, building many robots like Trinity's Robbie Robot to assist Cork teenager Joanne O'Riordan who is one of few in the world suffering from Total Amelia. In this short, Conor tells us of his passion for engineering and doing work that can help people.

  • Shorts 3 - Valeria Nicolosi

    30/07/2015 Duration: 05min

    Valeria Nicolosi is a nanotechnologist and professor in the schools of chemistry and physics at Trinity College Dublin and is also a principle investigator in the nanotechnology institute CRANN at TCD. She describes how nanotechnology surrounds us nowadays and how it will impact our lives in terms of new materials, wearable technology and energy storage in the near future.

  • Shorts 2 - Aoife McLysaght

    28/07/2015 Duration: 03min

    Aoife McLysaght is a Professor in Genetics in Trinity College Dublin. In this short clip Aoife describes how genetics, and more specially DNA, physically connects us all as humans, and how that realisation sparked her passion to uncover those links. She talks about her current research and the discovery of a human specific gene in her lab.

  • Shorts 1 - Emma Teeling

    27/07/2015 Duration: 03min

    Emma Teeling is a Professor in the School of Biology and Environmental Science in UCD, or also known as Ireland's Bat Lady, spends most of her time studying the evolution and ecology of bats. In this short clip, Emma tells Dr Shane Bergin about the unique qualities of the bat as a mammal, and what we can stand to learn about ourselves as humans by studying them.

  • Ep 8 - Space, The Final Frontier

    13/07/2015 Duration: 52min

    What contributions has Irish science made to unraveling the mysteries of the universe through space exploration and astronomy? Prof. Shane Bergin learns the history of the observatory in Birr, where he finds out the importance of studying the heavens, and meets the Irish scientists working in the orbit of Earth, Mars and even The Sun. From astronauts in the making to developing sun cream for rockets, Shane uncovers some of the intricacies that are involved for our scientists in space exploration.

  • Ep 7 - Climate Change

    06/07/2015 Duration: 52min

    How can Ireland help turn the tide against climate change? Prof. Shane Bergin learns the difference between climate and weather, how to reap the benefits of wind and wave energy in Ireland, and how we can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels through the use of biogas. It poses the question should scientists get involved in the political debate around climate change, or is the research their only responsibility?

  • Ep 6 - Food and Water

    29/06/2015 Duration: 52min

    Resources - How can Irish research help us utilise and protect our most precious resource; our food and water? Prof. Shane Bergin takes a tour down our waterways learning how we keep them safe from bacteria and disease. From the rivers and the lakes to the sea, Shane discovers the wealth of life and information that can be found within the deep blue, yet with only a small group of researchers across the globe it remains a zone that is vastly unknown to us. Shane also uncovers the role science plays in our farming and food production, and how the way we treat our animals is affecting the food we eat.

  • Ep 5 - Super Bodies

    22/06/2015 Duration: 52min

    How do we make our bodies stronger or rebuild the parts that don’t work? Prof. Shane Bergin meets the researchers around the country who are trying to enhance and augment our bodies, to cure ailments and fight disease. Shane learns about potential of stem cells in medicine, but when rejuvenation within our own bodies is no longer an option, it’s robots that can help us survive. From ekso bionic suits to help a paralysed man walk to a robot assistant, Shane also uncovers the world of robotics and what Irish scientists are doing to help us repair, rebuild and create our ultimate super body.

  • Ep 4 - Nanoscience

    15/06/2015 Duration: 52min

    Theres plenty of room at the bottom - What impact is Irish technology having on our lives and what are the tangible results of Irish research? Prof. Shane Bergin guides us through the field of nanotechnology which is shaping our modern world and where Irish research, at centres like CRANN in Trinity College Dublin, is leading. Shane looks at the scientists breaking ground in nanoscience and the implications of their work, from software systems developed in Limerick, to the future of drug manufacturing and building robots to assist dementia patients.

  • Ep 3 - Combatting Disease

    08/06/2015 Duration: 52min

    How are Irish researchers helping the global battle against diseases like cancer and Motor Neurone Disease. Prof. Shane Bergin talks to scientists committed to switching off diseases from immunologists to microbiologists.

  • Ep 2 - The New Darwinians

    31/05/2015 Duration: 52min

    Where did life come from? Prof. Shane Bergin learns about the origins of life on Earth and how Darwins “Tree of Life” might actually be a “Web of Life” and about unlocking the evolutionary secrets behind animals like bats, dogs and fruit flies. Shane explores the genetic line that connects us physically, to our ancestors and in an economic environment where genetic research is underfunded due to questions of applicability, one Irish company Equinome, is breaking the mould. Voices in this episode include Prof. James McInerney, Prof. Emma Teeling, Prof. Kay Nolan, Prof. Aoife McLysaght, Prof. Emmeline Hill

  • Ep 1 - How We Learn

    25/05/2015 Duration: 52min

    Geneticist Emma Teeling opens the conversation on what makes you a scientist with a lovely description of the thirst for knowledge which drives science and scientists to discover. What happens when you enable bright people to follow their curiosity and solve the world’s problems? Bright Sparks, an exploration of ideas innovation and discovery is an 8 part radio series presented by physicist Dr. Shane Bergin.