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’s research interests include optical searches for extra-solar planets using telescopes on a number of sites in both the northern and southern hemispheres. As a central figure in developing and implementing the concept at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory, he is very interested in encouraging more of the population, young and old, to gain a better insight into the scientific method and its importance to society. Dr. Smith has co-authored over 30 papers and conference proceedings, 1 book chapter and has supervised 15 postgraduate students. He is also a member of the International Astronomical Union.


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 works full time at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory, with school groups and general public and can often be heard as the ‘voice’ of BCO on national radio. Frances work is a key element of BCO’s “Astronomy for Inclusion” remit; By bringing our experience directly to disadvantaged communities at a discounted rate, she gets to address the financial and logistical barriers that can make STEM opportunities inaccessible. Frances has extensive experience in astronomy, 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 science facilitator, 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 Space Speaker in Your Classroom programme and is a core member of the team that runs Space Week Ireland.