Richard O'Kennedy's LIYSF journey

13 March 2018 By Richard Myhill

Q 1. When did you attend LIYSF and what was it like coming to the LIYSF?

I was a participant, one of about 15, representing Ireland at the LIYSF in 1972. This was on completion of my first year at University. It was a great opportunity to learn about many aspects of science and to meet so many young people from all over the world with similar interests. The chance to visit London was a very exciting opportunity.

Q 2. What was you involvement after first attendance at LIYSF?

Following my initial attendance I was invited back as a ‘Counsellor’ in 1973. After that I was host of a Hall of Residence (College Hall in Malet St; part of the University of London) for 10 years. Subsequently I was a member of the Advisory Committee on the programme, a lecturer and gave both the opening and closing lectures over a period of 18 years. Finally I was invited to be President, the first past-participant to hold that position (2005 – 2017).

Q 3. What parts of LIYSF inspired you the most (then and since)?

LIYSF was very stimulating scientific environment as the meetings addressed key scientific issues and challenges. The participants from all over the world had very diverse interests, views and backgrounds so the environment was always exciting, continually changing and often very challenging. It was in fact a ‘melting-pot’ of ideas and made me think a lot and change many of my pre-conceptions. Indeed, it had a huge impact on my life and subsequent career.

Q 4. What are your comments on the importance of getting young people into science?

Science plays a huge role in modern life but the perception of science is often very poor. The major global challenges include health, hunger, the optimal use of the environment and the applications of new technologies. They cannot be adequately addressed without those involved having a real understanding of the underpinning associated science. This requires a high level of public understanding and young people need to be well educated in all aspects of science. It is particularly important that we attract many highly enthusiastic, dedicated and analytical young people into science to undertake research and lead informed decision-making on all key issues that affect our future.

Q 5. In few words, how would you describe your two weeks at LIYSF?

A really vibrant community of young scientists open to new ideas and having the opportunity for informed debates on key scientific challenges. This can lead to significant career opportunities, the future capability of significantly impacting international scientific activities and improving the world in many important areas!

Q 6. Could you tell us about your career, highlights and current position?

I have focused on both scientific research and on education both in Ireland and globally.

Q 7. What are your top tips for giving young participants advice on following through their research ideas or studying science?

My top tips would be:

  1. Do what you really enjoy and you will do very well at it. This is particularly vital in choosing an area for research.
  2. People are vital to everything – treat all as you would like to be treated. Remember everyone is due respect and fair treatment and from that, you will find that we all ‘grow’ and prosper. This is true of everything and not just science.
  3. Take what opportunities that come your way and be global in your perspective. Science is international. It provides great opportunities to work internationally and you will learn much about science, about others and indeed yourself.
  4. Mentor others and ‘give back’ some of what you have received. It is highly rewarding and is necessary, particularly in science.

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