Dr Sheila Donegan, Director of the Calmast STEM engagement centre at Waterford Institute of Technology, has been awarded the Network Ireland National Business Woman of the Year award in the STEM category at an awards ceremony in Roscarbery, Co. Cork. The award category was sponsored by Facebook Ireland.
The Network Ireland Business Woman of the Year awards recognise and celebrate extraordinary women in business across all areas of the Irish and international business world.
Dr. Donegan received the award for her national role in public engagement and the promotion of STEM. Since 2003, she has been director of Calmast, WIT’s STEM engagement centre and has been very active promoting STEM with regional, national and international activity. Calmast promotes all areas of STEM to all. Established in 2003 its activities have scale and impact, reaching 30,000 annually in the South-East region and 400,000 nationally (for Maths Week).
“I’m delighted and honoured to win this prestigious award,” said Dr Donegan. “It’s great to see the importance of STEM recognised by Network Ireland, with this new award. It’s important that everyone, and in particular girls and young women, realise that there are many rewarding careers in STEM available to them. I hope that by winning this award, I can continue to work as a role model and encourage more young women to engage with STEM. This award endorses the importance of work in promoting STEM which is benefiting women and wider society, and which needs greater focus particularly for young women.”
Sheila Donegan has been very active on the national stage in the promotion of STEM, and in 2006 co-founded Maths Week with her colleague in Calmast, Eoin Gill. In 2018, over 400,000 participated in Maths Week Ireland, making it the biggest maths festival of its kind in the world. This model is now being replicated in Scotland and England and has inspired events in Madrid, Oxford, the USA and other countries.
Calmast also works to promote STEM as part of culture – founding the Robert Boyle Summer school to engage scientists and non-scientists in important “big-picture” science.
Through Calmast ‘s multifaceted programmes in STEM, Dr. Donegan has made an outstanding contribution to STEM, raising awareness of STEM to all ages and all abilities. She has developed many STEM activities for schools and the public, and developed the Calmast centre to be the STEM Hub for the South East, working with schools, industry and the public with 30,000 participating regionally.
The Centre has developed a hub and cluster model to deliver STEM engagement programmes across the region. Calmast’s new programme STEMreach, a peer teaching modular programme links primary and secondary schools and community groups to industry and other local resources with Waterford Institute of Technology as the coordinating hub. This programme is already showing exceptional impact under the coordination of Dr. Cordula Weiss, herself a finalist in the Network Waterford Rising Star category.
Awards and accolades
Dr. Donegan has won many national and international awards for her work including In 2006 the EU Descartes award, (the EU’s highest award in science communication, won previously by Sir David Attenborough and Bill Bryson) for Eureka, a weekly primary science magazine with the Irish Independent, which she won with colleague Eoin Gill. She is a member of the RDS Science and Technology Committee and the Council of the RDS. She is the Chair of the Royal Society of Chemistry Education Division (Ireland) and serves on the Education Council of the RSC Division (UK).
Maths Week Ireland takes place from 12th – 20th October, 2019, details at www.mathsweek.ie