Our Team

Here at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory, we are committed to ensuring that our team is as diverse and passionate as the communities we have the privilege of serving. Since our inception in 2007 our team has grown year on year, and we look forward to bringing more amazing people into the fold in the near future.

Our team is comprised of people from multiple nationalities and backgrounds; Scientists, artists, activists, and more, have all come together to champion our shared belief that space is awesome, and it belongs to everyone.

We’d like to introduce you to some of our core team members who make all of this possible:


Head of CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory – Dr Niall Smith

Niall studied astrophysics at University College Dublin and graduated with his PhD in 1990. He lectured in the Department of Applied Physics & Instrumentation in Cork Institute of Technology for 18 years before becoming the Institute’s first Head of Research in 2005, now providing strategic oversight of a budget of €14m per annum across disciplines from science and engineering to arts and music. Niall is the Founder-Director of the internationally award-winning Blackrock Castle Observatory which has just celebrated its 12th anniversary and over 1.2 million visitors. In 2017, Niall was the host Director for the International Space University Space Studies Programme which is the largest conference programme ever to come to Cork, lasting a total of 9 weeks and involving over 320 global space experts. Niall’s research focuses on space topics including ultra high precision photometry and the uses of small satellites in low earth orbit for a wide range of functions from high resolution imaging to space cybersecurity to rural broadband. He was the Higher Education representative on the National Steering Group for the Irish Government’s recently published Space Strategy for Enterprise and considers Space 4.0 to be a significant opportunity for the Irish business community.


Chief Operations Officer and Centre Manager- Clair McSweeney

Clair has been leading the team on many successful projects, both national and international, at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory since 2007. Clair is the National Outreach Coordinator in Ireland for the International Astronomical Union and Education and Public Outreach Network Representative for the European Southern Observatory. She sits on Ireland’s ESO National Advisory Committee, and has successfully bid to host science conferences in Ireland. Clair is a Fellow of the Walton Sustainability in Science Museums program.


Chief Technology Officer & Senior Researcher – Alan Giltinan, MSc.

Alan has a passion for all things STEM and how Space – STEM benefits all aspects of society. A co-founding member of CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory (BCO), Alan started out in the pharmaceutical industry before moving into education and research. Within both astronomy and instrumentation research, he has multiple internationally peer reviewed publications, conference proceedings and a book chapter. Alan regularly does guerrilla astronomy around his neighbourhood to bring the wonders of the universe to both old and young alike.


Education and Outreach Officer – Frances McCarthy

Frances thinks of herself as a ‘performance astronomer.’ She studied Physics and Astronomy at the University of Toronto, taught secondary school in the UK for 10 years and now works full time at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory, with school groups, teachers and general public. Frances can often be heard as the ‘voice’ of BCO on national radio. Frances has extensive experience in astronomy education and she still remembers a time when there were no known exoplanets and the Universe appeared to be younger than the stars in it!


Artist in Residence – Dr Niamh Shaw

Niamh is an Irish engineer, scientist, artist, communicator & space explorer. She is passionate about igniting peoples curiosity & believes that if we aspire to be a society of STEM-literate citizens, we need to engage the disengaged in novel & accessible methods. She explores boundaries between STEM, art, and communication to share the human story of science. She presents this work as performer, public speaker and writer, via online media, TV and radio.


Marketing and Communications Officer – Rob O’ Sullivan

Rob brings a background of human rights activism to the team, along with award-winning science communication skills. He passionately believes that astronomy can be used as a tool to address social issues by empowering marginalised communities to avail of new opportunities. Rob joined our team because he recognised that a commitment to equality, diversity, and social progress was as integral to BCO’s mission as our scientific endeavours. He was an inaugural recipient of the Science Media Awards and Summit in the Hub Fellowship, for his achievements in science communication.


Operations and Events Officer – Danielle Wilcox

Danielle is a telescope operator, at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory. She educates the public on astronomy through planetarium shows, guerrilla astronomy, videography, and other outreach methods. Her background in events management and operations has been invaluable in facilitating innovative growth of the outreach programs offered at BCO. She is a firm believer in disruptive science communication approaches that make science more accessible to everyone. She currently runs the ESERO Space Goes To School programme and is a core member of the team that runs Space Week Ireland.