Archive for Maynooth University

Maynooth University Library Cat Update

Posted in Maynooth with tags , , on April 3, 2020 by telescoper

Quite a few people have been asking me how the Maynooth University Library Cat is coping with the lockdown. I always visit him when I take the daily exercise (usually after lunch) allowed by the Covid-19 restrictions. I know that others are looking after him too so he’s doing well.

When I saw him yesterday he was asleep in his box. He emerged to climb onto his wall to eat the food I put out, paused for a photo-opportunity on his usual post, then descended to ground level for a quick wash, after which he went back into his box to resume his kip.

Incidentally, you will see in the middle picture that the metal gate near his spot is now locked so it’s not possible to get from the South Campus to the North Campus past the Library. Not for us hoomans, I mean. The cat can manage it!

The Appliance of Science

Posted in Biographical, Education, Maynooth with tags , on March 25, 2020 by telescoper

Well, today is another beautiful sunny and surprisingly warm day in Maynooth. It’s just a pity that owing to the additional measures announced yesterday people aren’t really able to get out and about to enjoy it.

I know some people are experiencing a lot of anxiety over this disruption to normal life. I have experienced severe anxiety and panic attacks in the past, but they have almost always been triggered by the presence of large crowds of people around me. There’s not much chance of that happening these days! I do wish I could sleep a bit better though. I don’t want to be dealing with insomnia again on top of everything else.

I did however have some anxiety yesterday. Rather irritatingly, the washing machine in my flat chose to conk out a few days ago. I didn’t fancy the idea of being able to do my laundry for the best part of a month so was thinking of getting a new one. I suddenly thought yesterday that the shops I might buy one might be closed so dashed around to a little store just around the corner from me. The guy in charge got a reasonably priced model for me ready last night and today came around and plumbed it in and took the old one away for recycling. Emergency over, almost before it started.

In any case it seems there in an exemption from the special measures for businesses deemed essential because they involve selling “products necessary to maintain the safety and sanitation of residences and businesses”. I presume a washing machine counts under that!

Anyway, apart from that little flurry of excitement, we’ve been busily trying to conduct online teaching sessions as best we can. It has become apparent that the mathematical work we do in the Department of Theoretical Physics really requires drawing tablets and pens so we’ve had to purchase a few of those for tutors who didn’t have them already. Apart from that it seems the staff at least are adapting to the new regime, and perhaps even enjoying the novelty of all this technology. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and maybe when (if) this is all over we’ll carry on using some of the new gadgets and software in the future.

Now that we’re rolling with the teaching, though, we have to give some thought to how we’re going to do the end-of-term examinations. I have a cunning plan..

Business (Cards) as Usual

Posted in Biographical, Education, Maynooth with tags , , on March 15, 2020 by telescoper

One of the things that happened just before Maynooth University closed down last week was that I received delivery of my new business cards:

I’m sure they will prove useful at some point in the future, but I can’t see myself handing any out for a while!

I have subtly removed the telephone numbers from the above image because I was warned that people could use my number to do nefarious things, such as trying to contact me. They are my work numbers, of course, so I never answer them anyway, but you can’t be too careful.

Incidentally, today the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced that pubs and bars in Ireland should close down until March 29th, which will include the St Patrick’s Day holiday on Tuesday. I don’t know why this wasn’t done earlier and wonder how many people have been infected with Coronavirus because of the delay.

Anyway, after a weekend of not working, tomorrow we resume working from home. Fortunately it’s Study Week so we don’t have to try doing remote teaching until next week.

Break Points

Posted in Biographical, Education, Maynooth with tags , on March 11, 2020 by telescoper

It is now Week 6 of the Spring Semester at Maynooth University.  My lectures on Engineering Mathematics take th place on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday so today I gave the 18th of the semester, which means I am halfway through the module. Next week is a scheduled Study Week so there are no lectures planned after this Friday until 23rd March. Just two days to go before the breaking

It remains to be seen whether teaching does indeed resume on that day. If the coronavirus situation in Ireland gets much worse we may stay closed for a longer period.

There is a subdued mood around campus, and the number of students in my class this afternoon was significantly lower than usual. I don’t know whether that is because of coronavirus or because some students have headed home early for the break or because they didn’t fancy learning about curves and tangent vectors!

Last night the University issued updated guidance. The main thing is that we stay open but the Conferring Ceremonies for postgraduate degrees scheduled for Thursday and Friday next week have been postponed indefinitely.  The students will formally receive their degrees in absentia although they will (hopefully) be able to attend a ceremony to get their certificates in person at some point in the not-too-distant future.

I blogged on Monday about contingency planning and I’ve been spending quite a lot of time this week making the best arrangements possible for students in case we don’t reopen on 23rd March. That includes getting all the notes and examples sheets ready for Engineering Mathematics, which is now done.

My other module is Computational Physics. For that one there’s a small project that the students do (usually) in pairs. I published the list of projects for the students to pick from earlier than originally planned and will hopefully be able to allocate them before the end of this week. That way, if there’s a campus closure they can at least get on with their projects. Fortunately Python is free so they can run code on their laptops. All the other resources for that module will be available online too so disruption shouldn’t be too bad: even if we have to cancel the laboratory sessions the students can still work through the scripts on their own.

What will happen with examinations is not yet clear, but those don’t take place until May so they’re not the immediate priority!

I asked the students in my Engineering Mathematics at the end of this afternoon’s lecture please to keep an eye on their email and social media for announcements about changes in the situation. The positive message for students is that they are actually at very low risk of serious illness themselves (although they should of course take precautions to ensure they don’t infect others).

I feel a bit guilty for thinking about the positive message for staff, but I do have quite a bit of writing-up to do and a nice long campus closure would seem to provide an ideal opportunity to `self-isolate’ and get on with it. For the time being, though, it’s business as usual…

Coronavirus Contingency

Posted in Education, Maynooth with tags , , , , on March 9, 2020 by telescoper

Today we heard that the annual St Patrick’s Day Parades due to take place around Ireland next week on 17th March have been cancelled. Although it seems the Government was reluctant to take this decision, it seems to me an entirely sensible precaution.

I also noticed an article this weekend that academic staff at a St Mary Immaculate College in Limerick have been asked to draw up “…contingency plans for delivering module content in the event of there being on-campus restrictions due to the coronavirus.”

I’d be very surprised if there is an educational institute that has not asked staff to undertake contingency planning of this sort. It would indeed be irresponsible to fail to plan for such an eventuality. The fact that such processes are going on is no reason at all for students or staff to feel anxious.

All Heads of Department here at Maynooth (including myself) have been briefed about the University’s contingency planning and have in turn briefed their staff. In general this planning, which is led by the official advice from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), seems sensible and proportionate. It also seems very similar to what is going on in Limerick.

For the time being here in Maynooth teaching carries on as normal, but if the situation deteriorates and the advice from HSE changes then contingency arrangements will be adopted. That may include restricting student access to campus and delivering some teaching online instead of in person. That won’t be ideal but it could be managed and we’ll do it circumstances require it.

We have a Study Week break for the week including St Patrick’s Day so after this Friday students won’t be on campus in large numbers anyway. That gives us a bit of time to assess developments.

In the meantime I’ll just share the official poster again.

Building Up Maynooth

Posted in Education, Maynooth with tags , , , on March 6, 2020 by telescoper

I thought I’d share the above picture as part of an occasional series of updates about the new building going up on the North Campus at Maynooth University.

This artist’s impression of what the new building will look like has appeared on the fence surrounding the construction site; you can see cranes and part of the skeleton of the new structure behind the board.

It looks like the Science Building in which I am currently based will be almost completely hidden from the road: it is the building immediately behind the grey rectangular block to the right of the larger brick-coloured edifice which is the main part of the new structure. The road across the middle of the image that divides the North Campus from the South is called Kilcock Road.

Apparently the new building will be opened early in 2021. I look forward to seeing the new development completed!

The Journal of Military History and Defence Studies

Posted in History, Maynooth, Open Access with tags , , , on February 13, 2020 by telescoper

I’ve been a bit busy with Computational Physics lectures and labs today so I couldn’t make it to the launch event of a new online Open Access Journal by Maynooth Academic Publishing, who also publish the Open Journal of Astrophysics. The new publication is the Journal of Military History and Defence Studies and its website is here.

Here is the description of the journal:

The Journal of Military History and Defence Studies is a bi-annual peer-reviewed open access online journal that publishers original research and contributions in military history and defence studies. In addition to publishing work by established authors and scholars, the journal has the particular aim of making available to a wide audience the best work completed by postgraduate students studying within these fields at Maynooth University, the Irish Military College and other similar institutions. The journal also aims to publish special editions that make available original research presented at conferences, research seminars etc. As the title suggests, the journal focuses on military history and defence studies, taking a broad view of these subject areas to include the history of war and of militaries, and also of the impact of these on wider society, in addition to the study of war, strategy, security and military organisation today and into the future.

You will see from the website that, as well as catering for a different discipline, this one has a look and feel that is quite different from that of the Open Journal of Astrophysics , but the ultimate aim of both journals is the same, to make high quality research available free of charge to the largest possible audience.