Wednesday, 31 July 2019

A new study by the LUNG SAFE Investigator group led by academics from NUI Galway, Galway University Hospitals, University of Toronto and University of Milan-Bicocco, have examined the differences in the management and outcomes of critically ill women and men who were diagnosed with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and found that mortality rates were significantly higher in women diagnosed with severe confirmed ARDS and highlight the potential for better ventilatory management in females to improve their outcomes.  Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), is a form of acute lung injury that results from damage to the lung, in response to an injury such as pneumonia, sepsis or major trauma. When the breathing unit becomes inflamed it results in a reduced ability for gases including oxygen to be absorbed and carbon dioxide to be excreted. The condition occurs in a tenth of all patients admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, and nearly a quarter of all patients that require mechanical ventilation. There is no direct treatment for ARDS, and current management focuses on supporting lung function with artificial ventilation. ‘Protective’ lung ventilation approaches, which use patient height to guide the size of the breath delivered by the ventilator to the patient, help to reduce the risk of further lung damage, and improve survival in these patients. Professor John Laffey, Professor of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine, NUI Galway and Galway University Hospitals and Professor Giacomo Bellani, University of Milan-Bicocco were the joint leads of the LUNG SAFE study, that included a group of over 1,000 researchers from 549 Intensive Care Units across 50 countries throughout the globe. The LUNG SAFE study gave the clearest picture of the incidence of ARDS globally. ARDS was seen in 10% of all patients admitted to Intensive Care Units and 20% of all patients requiring artificial ventilation. The current study, published today (30 July 2019) in the European Respiratory Journal, examined differences in risk factors, management and outcomes between women and men who were admitted to an Intensive Care Unit with ARDS. The investigators reported important sex differences in the management and outcomes of patients with ARDS. Only half of females received protective lung ventilation, with shorter women more likely to receive non-protective ventilation compared even to men of similar height. Of particular concern, mortality rates were significantly higher in women with confirmed severe ARDS. Females with ARDS require particular care in order to optimise their ventilatory management and to improve their outcomes. These findings highlight the potential for better ventilatory management in females to improve their outcomes from ARDS. Speaking about the study’s findings, Professor John Laffey from NUI Galway, said: “We found that shorter females with ARDS were at high risk to receive injurious lung ventilation, while mortality rates were significantly higher in women with confirmed severe ARDS. We concluded that better ventilatory management may improve outcomes in females with ARDS.” Dr Bairbre McNicholas, Galway University Hospitals and joint first author of the study, stated: “The study brings to attention physiological differences between men and women in their response to acute lung injury - women could potentially fare better with ARDS if we are meticulous about how we manage their ventilation.” This new study is a follow-up to the LUNG SAFE study in 2014, and is the largest observational study ever undertaken to understand the global impact of severe acute respiratory failure. The study found that ARDS has a higher incidence than previously thought, and is frequently underdiagnosed by physicians. Protective lung ventilatory strategies that reduce lung injury were not widely implemented across the world. The study looked at outcomes for countries based on how wealthy the country is based on their GDP as this would influence the availability of Intensive Care Unit resources. It found that despite differences in the wealth of countries, there was less differences in the incidence of ARDS than previously reported. Overall mortality for the condition is 40%, higher for patients with more severe versions of the disease. This new LUNG SAFE study included a research group of scientists and intensivists (physicians who specialise in the care of critically ill patients in intensive care), was led by principal investigator Professor John Laffey, Professor of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine, NUI Galway and Galway University Hospitals, intensivist and joint co-author of the study, Dr Bairbre McNicholas, Intensive Care Unit, Galway University Hospitals, and Dr Claire Masterson and Dr Shahd Horie, researchers in Lung Biology at NUI Galway. The new LUNG-SAFE study was sponsored by the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine (ESICM) trials group.  To read the study in the European Respiratory Journal, visit: or for a full pdf version of the study contact Gwen O’Sullivan at -Ends-

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Gig workers in the UK are twice as likely as the wider population to be in the early stages of setting up a business, largest global study of entrepreneurs finds Sharp fall in entrepreneurship among BAME Britons and immigrants Rise of crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending sees people increasingly willing to invest in “strangers with good ideas” Workers in the gig economy are increasingly seeing their “side hustle” as a launchpad into longer-term entrepreneurship, according to the largest annual survey of UK entrepreneurs. Although often portrayed as a precarious option to supplement low pay, latest data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), has found gig workers are twice as likely as the wider population to be planning to start a business or to be early-stage entrepreneurs. But more worryingly, the study also suggests that previously-higher entrepreneurship rates among black and minority-ethnic (BAME) British people and BAME immigrants to the UK have nosedived since 2017, reducing to levels similar to non-minority and non-immigrant residents. The researchers behind the UK edition of the global report, sponsored by NatWest, believe the findings show the changing shape of the UK economy may be benefiting some groups more than others, with Brexit fears weighing disproportionately on minorities and migrants. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor tracks rates of entrepreneurship in 49 economies, making it the world’s most authoritative comparative study of entrepreneurial activity. Researchers from NUI Galway, Aston University in Birmingham, Queen’s University Belfast and Strathclyde Business School analysed responses from more than 9,000 people. The GEM report’s key measure of Total early-stage Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) tracks the proportion of people who are ‘nascent entrepreneurs’ at the early stages of setting up a business, as well as new business owners who have been running their firm for between three months and three-and-a-half years. Using the most up-to-date data collected in 2018, the researchers found that the TEA rate of 7.9% in the UK compares favourably to France (6.1%) and Germany (5.0%) but is lower than that of the US (15.6%). This year’s survey is the first to look in detail at entrepreneurship among gig economy workers. It found that 19.2% of people doing gig work for firms like Uber and Deliveroo were intending to start a business within three years, compared to 8.5% of the general population, while almost 9% considered themselves ‘nascent entrepreneurs’, compared to 4% of all people. A further 25% of gig workers describe themselves as new or established business owners, suggesting their ‘side hustle’ is part of a wider embrace of entrepreneurship. The study also found differences in entrepreneurial activity according to gender, ethnicity, migration status and socio-economic group. Around one in ten men were at some stage on the entrepreneurship journey, compared to one in 20 women. And in a reversal of the long-running trend for ethnic minorities and immigrants to display higher entrepreneurship rates, the TEA rate for BAME British people fell by more than half in a single year, from 14.5% to 6.9%. For immigrants to the UK of all ethnicities there was a similar collapse, with their TEA rate falling from 12.5% in 2017 to 7.2% in 2018, but this drop was particularly pronounced among non-white immigrant groups, whose TEA rate fell from 17.5% to 4.9%. By contrast, UK-born people of any ethnicity who had lived abroad were the most likely of any group to be early-stage entrepreneurs, at 12.2%. Regional and socio-economic differences were also observed, with the highest rates of entrepreneurship found amongst the most deprived fifth of areas in England (12.6%), with lower rates in the other UK nations. The GEM report also suggests that attitudes among entrepreneurs towards external finance are changing. Over half (53%) of entrepreneurs intend to fund their venture themselves, with 15% looking to banks for support and 6% to crowdfunding sites. Meanwhile, while only 2.8% of the population invested in someone else’s business in 2018, mainly close friends and family, 23% of these informal lenders gave their money to a “stranger with a good idea” through peer-to-peer lending, up from 16% the previous year. Jonathan Levie, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Regional Development, J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics, NUI Galway, said: “What’s troubling is the big drop in entrepreneurship we’ve seen among BAME communities and immigrants to the UK. In the past, these groups have set the pace of enterprise among our population, so we have to question what factors could have caused such a pronounced collapse in such a short space of time. Starting a business is an act of faith in the future. This finding suggests that BAME immigrants see their future in the UK as more uncertain now than before. If this is the start of a new trend rather than a blip in the data, then we should be investigating the reasons for it urgently.” Mark Hart, Professor of Small Business and Entrepreneurship at Aston Business School, said:“Interestingly, the gig economy seems to be an attractive way of working for those intending to start a business or who are in the early stages. Given the flexibility inherent with this type of work it would seem ideal for those individuals who wish to spend time getting their business off the ground and earn a wage at the same time. The latter point is particularly important for those early-stage entrepreneurs who may not yet have a steady monthly income arising from their business venture.” Commenting on the launch of the GEM Report, Paul Thwaite NatWest MD, Head of Sales, Specialist Businesses & Business Banking said: “NatWest is delighted to sponsor this report, the most authoritative research into entrepreneurial activity and trends in the United Kingdom. This year’s report highlights that the UK’s entrepreneurial spirit is still strong, with 20% of working age individuals engaged in some type of entrepreneurial activity or intending to start a business within the next three years. However, it also highlights some areas where more attention is required, and this insight helps us ensure that our Entrepreneur Accelerator programme is tailored to reflect the needs of entrepreneurs at every stage, whether they are an early stage start-up, established SME, or a high growth business looking to scale. As the UK’s biggest bank for business, we understand that SMEs are the lifeblood of the economy and are committed to supporting entrepreneurs achieve their ambitions.” To read the full Global Entrepreneurship Monitor study, visit: -Ends-

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM at NUI Galway has been elected to Fellowship of the Irish Academy of Engineering. This distinction has been bestowed on Professor Pandit by the Academy in recognition of his “exceptional career and contribution to the advancement of engineering and economic and social progress in Ireland”.  The Irish Academy of Engineering is an all-island body with a mission to advance the wellbeing of the country by marshalling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to policy makers on matters involving engineering and technology. Fellowship of the Academy recognises outstanding distinction in engineering in Ireland and overseas, covering academia, public sector, industry and engineering consultancy, with a current membership of 146.  Abhay Pandit is an Established Professor of Biomaterials. He is Scientific Director of CÚRAM, the Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway, a multi-disciplinary academic-industry-clinician translational research centre funded by Science Foundation Ireland. Professor Pandit’s research integrates material science and biological systems in developing solutions for chronic diseases. Professor Pandit has developed advanced drug delivery vehicles, which facilitate highly controlled localised and sustained delivery of multiple biomolecules to target injury mechanisms at the molecular and cellular levels. These biomaterial platforms have been demonstrated to act as templates for constructive reorganisation of existing tissues and for the induction of new functional, site-appropriate, tissue formation. These platforms have been developed for neural, musculoskeletal and cardiovascular clinical targets with numerous other targets currently under development. Professor Pandit has received numerous awards and distinctions. He was the first Irish academic to be inducted as an International Fellow in Biomaterials Science and Engineering by the International Union of Societies for Biomaterials Science and Engineering and elected as a Fellow of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative International Society. He was also elected to the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) College of Fellows in recognition of his outstanding contributions to establishing a national centre which will develop transformative device-based solutions to treat global chronic diseases. Abhay Pandit has been an elected member on the Council for both the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society and European Society for Biomaterials Society. He has hosted the TERMIS-EU meeting in 2010 and ESB in 2011, both for the very first time in Ireland. He is also the current chair-elect of TERMIS-EU since 2019. Professor Pandit has published more than 250 papers in peer-reviewed journals, filed numerous patent applications and has licensed four technologies to medical device companies. Professor Pandit serves on the Executive Editorial Board of the Tissue Engineering journal and is an Associate Editor of the Biomaterials journal. He has coordinated four EU grants to date and has generated research contracts from industry and government funding agencies totalling €90 million. President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “On behalf of colleagues at NUI Galway, I extend warmest congratulations to Abhay on this recognition by the Irish Academy of Engineering. His election to Fellowship signals the immense and continuing contribution which Abhay continues to make to the field of engineering in Ireland, in particular to the area of tissue engineering. I’m delighted to see his achievements so justly recognised by the Academy in this way.” Speaking about his Fellowship, Professor Abhay Pandit, NUI Galway, said: “It is an honour to be elected to the Irish Academy of Engineering. I look forward to building on this achievement to further enhance the impact of tissue engineering at NUI Galway and to further the growth and international recognition of the medical device sector here in the West of Ireland.”  For more information about the Irish Academy of Engineering, visit: -Ends-

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Qpercom Observe assesses clinical skills of Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing students through a consecutive series of scenarios performing critical clinical tasks : NUI Galway spin out, Qpercom has been awarded a national tender in Norway to deliver their advanced assessment solution, Qpercom Observe, used in healthcare education to assess the clinical skills of students. The tender represents all higher education institutions in Norway including the four major universities; University of Oslo, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, University of Tromsø (The Arctic University of Norway) and the University of Bergen. Established in Galway in 2008, Qpercom supplies advanced assessment solutions to universities worldwide, including the University of Dundee, Karolinska Institute and the National University of Singapore. The successful outcome of the Norwegian tender comes just after Qpercom’s recent win at the prestigious e-Assessment Awards for Best Use of Summative Assessment for Observe. Dr Thomas Kropmans, co-founder and CEO of Qpercom, said: “There is no room for error when it comes to making decisions on life and death during high-stake exams and ultimately in clinical practice in Medicine and Health Sciences in Norway or elsewhere in the world. Winning the Norwegian tender just after winning the e-Assessment award re-confirms the value of Observe as an assessment solution globally.” Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs) are used worldwide to assess clinical skills in Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing and other health sciences. Students go through a consecutive series of scenarios performing critical clinical tasks, being observed and marked by an assessor. Compared to training and assessment in Aviation, Medicine and associated sciences have a lot to learn where pass marks vary between 50 to 85%. “ Dr Kropmans states: “I don’t think a pilot would get away with a positive result if only 50% of their flight scenarios were completed successfully. We come across situations where junior doctors walk away with a pass mark of 50%. Standards in Norway are very high and we expect our software and analysis solution will assist in taking the remaining error out of the procedures used.” The Norwegian tender required a service to automate the administration of practical examinations, a flexible digital process support for exam activities and results, and an integrated, user-friendly and scalable service for all exam user groups. According to Senior Adviser, Per O Bruvold from University of Bergen, Norway: “The main difference between Qpercom and the other tenderers is Qpercom already have the best service with rich functionality. Qpercom have a nice user-friendly administrative tool for setting up practical exams. Therefore, they fulfilled our first two goals better than the others. Qpercom also have an advantage in terms of the ability to monitor the marking process in real time, allowing a streamlined interaction between markers and administrators, as a simultaneous marking process with dozens of markers required.” For more information about Qpercom, visit: or follow on Twitter @qpercom.  -Ends-

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

NUI Galway awarded research fellowship for project to carry out the first study in Ireland investigating the background level of exposure to the herbicide, glyphosate among families NUI Galway has been awarded a research fellowship to carry out the first study in Ireland to investigate the background levels of exposure to glyphosate among families. The NUI Galway researchers with collaborators from the Institute for Prevention and Occupational Medicine in Bochum, Germany will collect and analyse urine samples from 50 non-farm families and 50 farm families for glyphosate and its main metabolite Aminomethylphosphonic acid. Each family will be asked to produce one urine sample each (two parents and one child aged between 6–17 years) and complete a questionnaire from each participant. The herbicide glyphosate is the active ingredient in over 750 products including Roundup®. Glyphosate is the highest volume herbicide used globally, and extensively used in agriculture and horticulture to combat weeds, and is sprayed as a pre-harvest drying treatment on certain food crops. It is also widely sprayed in parks, public spaces, lawns, gardens and roadsides as well as for amateur use. Dietary exposure through pesticide residues that remain on fruit, vegetables and grains after spraying, or home use of glyphosate based pesticide products, are thought to be the most common exposure routes among the general population. This new research fellowship follows on from a four-year study that identified low levels of pesticide exposures among professional gardener’s and amenity horticultural workers in Ireland, led by Exposure Science lecturer Dr Marie Coggins and Dr Alison Connolly from the School of Physics at NUI Galway. Postdoctoral scientist, Dr Alison Connolly, was awarded the research fellowship to conduct this new study, the IMAGE project: ‘Ireland’s bioMonitoring Assessment of Glyphosate Exposures’- an environmental assessment of exposures to glyphosate among the Irish population using a human biomonitoring sampling strategy. The previous NUI Galway study among amenity horticultural workers conducted human biomonitoring studies where urine samples were collected and analysed for the detection of glyphosate. One human biomonitoring study of 50 Irish adults working in horticultural amenity was conducted to estimate background levels of exposure among the Irish population. Of the 50 samples analysed, 10 (20%) of the participant’s urine samples had detectable trace levels of glyphosate. The median concentration of the detectable data (10 samples) was 0.87 µg L-1. Though these are low level exposures, it warrants further investigation. Dr Marie Coggins, Principal Investigator of the Image project and Exposure Science lecturer, School of Physics, NUI Galway, said: “There is a lack of data across Europe on human exposure to chemicals such as pesticides. Although detectable levels were low, studies such as this one are required to fully understand how chemical exposures affect human health, and to inform policy and manage exposure.” Fellowship recipient, Dr Alison Connolly, School of Physics, NUI Galway said: “I am delighted to have been awarded this prestigious research award to continue research from my PhD. The IMAGE project will produce important results on human exposures to a chemical of public concern, as well as highlighting the benefits of using human biomonitoring for the evaluation of human exposures and characterisation of risk for chemicals.”  Dr Connolly’s Fellowship was awarded through The Irish Research Council Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions COFUND Postdoctoral Fellowship Programme entitled CAROLINE – ‘Collaborative Research Fellowships for a Responsive and Innovative Europe’. The IMAGE study is a co-fund project of the Irish Research Council Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme. To participate in the project, contact Dr Alison Connolly at, visit: and on Twitter @IMAGE_IRE. -Ends-

Monday, 22 July 2019

NUI Galway campus bedrooms, which are marketed during the summer months for visitors staying in Ireland, have been successfully accredited as ‘Approved Tourist Accommodation’ under Fáilte Ireland’s Welcome Standard Programme. This development comes following a comprehensive assessment by Fáilte Ireland, which resulted in over 8,000 campus accommodation bedrooms across the country successfully achieving the quality assurance award. The emphasis of the Fáilte Ireland Welcome Standard Quality Assurance Programme places particular focus on the customer journey - meeting customer expectations and the quality of the overall experience. Welcoming over 22,000 visitors to the NUI Galway campus in 2019 alone, excellent customer service is at the forefront of Campus Living’s offering, with the company also recently receiving a Fáilte Ireland Customer Service Excellence award. According to Karl Reinhardt, General Manager at Campus Living: “We are delighted to receive both Fáilte Ireland’s Service Excellence Award and accreditation to the Welcome Standard. These awards recognise our ongoing commitment to providing our guests with a positive, genuine and memorable experience. Whether it’s a family or friends looking to experience the wonderful city of Galway or explore the Wild Atlantic Way, staying at Corrib Village in one of Ireland’s most attractive University campuses is a fantastic option, and it is great to be recognised for this.” With its riverside location on the University grounds, Campus Living accommodation offers guests a unique experience. Museums, an art gallery and a biodiversity trail are just some of the interesting attractions open to visitors at NUI Galway, which was recently shortlisted as ‘A Great Visitor Experience’ by InflightFlix International. Campus Living offers summer rooms and self-catering apartments, ideal for individuals or groups looking to explore the West of Ireland. To make an enquiry about summer visitor accommodation at NUI Galway, which is available from May – August, contact Campus Living at or 091 527112. For information about accommodation in any of Ireland’s university campuses, visit the On Campus website at: -Ends-

Friday, 19 July 2019

Report on technology transfer offers 12 business models to help research centres commercialise their discoveries A new report led by the IESE Business School in Spain in collaboration with NUI Galway and other European Partners, sets out to address a major issue faced by leaders of research centres around the world: how to achieve economic sustainability while preserving academic quality. The report is based on an in depth analysis of 3,881 research centres in 107 countries, and it offers an informative guide for how research leaders can best commercialise their discoveries. While research centres are crucial for developing new technologies and scientific discoveries, every year many are shutdown. The authors say these closures often stem from a failure to turn research ideas into economic value, rendering the innovation research unsustainable or broken.  To counteract this, the 40-page report tracks three phases of a research centre’s work: (1) research (discovery), (2) transformation (invention) and (3) commercialisation (innovation). It then presents a quick overview of six gaps to watch out for, 18 mechanisms to address them and 12 business models (with successful examples) that are working at research centres within universities, industry and government. The report was created in collaboration with the STARTED Project which is coordinated by NUI Galway and aims to reinforce and structure a European network for promoting entrepreneurship and innovation in the Research and Development (R&D) area while improving the flow of knowledge and win-win cooperation between Higher Education Institutions and businesses. From NUI Galway, Professor John Breslin is the STARTED project coordinator and Mr Gabriel Mullarkey is the project lead with support from Dr Paul Flynn. All three are part of TechInnovate at NUI Galway, a forum which combines resources to catalyse and lead technology innovation. Professor John Breslin, NUI Galway, said: “Leveraging innovations should be a priority for all HEIs and R&D-active companies, however the lack of entrepreneurial skills within these organisations results in lost commercialisation potential. “Fundamentally, the STARTED Project, funded by Erasmus+, will empower researchers to transfer innovative research projects through to becoming robust startup opportunities through our new project-based entrepreneurship training approaches.” Mr Gabriel Mullarkey, NUI Galway, said: “The STARTED Project consortium is made up of a diverse group of experienced partners consisting of HEI institutes, SMEs and a European entrepreneurship network. This diversity ensures we take a real-world approach in building the entrepreneurial supports for researchers; uncovering their unmet needs in the commercialisation of their innovations and providing them with new tools and resources to start up.” The STARTED Project will ultimately lead to the setting up of a European Research to Startup Centre (ERSC) allowing for a paradigm shift in entrepreneurship teaching and learning approaches. The report was led by Josemaria Siota and Antonio Dávila of IESE Business School, in collaboration with STARTED Project partners NUI Galway, Roma Tre University, European Young Innovators Forum, VentureHub and Translated with contribution from Opinno’s Xavier Contijoch, the European Commission. For expressions of interest from researchers and research centres interested in learning entrepreneurial skills from the STARTED Project, please email To read the full report ‘Technology Transfer: Commercialising Discoveries at Research Centres Through Linked Innovation’ visit: or -Ends-

Thursday, 18 July 2019

A team at NUI Galway has been awarded funding of US$300,000 from The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research to develop a novel approach to brain repair for Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is a condition that primarily affects a person’s ability to control movement leading to a progressive deterioration in ability. The symptoms of the condition are caused by the degeneration and death of brain cells that regulate movement. Brain repair for Parkinson’s involves replacing these dead cells by transplanting healthy brain cells into the brain, but the widespread roll-out of this therapy has been hindered by the poor survival of the implanted cells. In research that made global headlines recently, Dr Eilís Dowd’s research team at NUI Galway demonstrated that the survival of the cells was dramatically improved when they were implanted into the brain within a supportive gel made from the natural material collagen. The funding from The Michael J Fox Foundation will allow Dr Dowd to take this research to the next level where she will test if the collagen gel can also improve the survival of healthy brain cells generated from adult stem cells. Commenting on the funding award, Dr Eilís Dowd at NUI Galway, said: “In our previous research published in the Nature journal, Scientific Reports, we showed that collagen provides the cells with a nurturing, supportive environment in the brain and helps them to survive the aversive transplant process. This funding from The Michael J Fox Foundation will allow us to test if this approach can also improve survival and reparative ability of healthy brain cells derived from adult stem cells. If so, this could lead to a dramatic improvement in brain repair approaches for Parkinson’s – a field that has been hampered for years by poor transplant survival.” The Michael J Fox Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease and to ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s today. Dr Liliana Menalled of The Michael J Fox Foundation, said: “Cell replacement therapy is a promising approach to restoring cell function and easing symptoms of Parkinson’s. This approach of enhancing cell survival with collagen is an innovative way to overcome a persistent challenge and may significantly advance these therapeutics for the many people living with this disease.” The research will be led by Dr Eilís Dowd, in collaboration with colleagues from the Galway Neuroscience Centre and CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway, and University of Edinburgh. Dr Dowd’s ongoing research in this field featured in the short documentary Feats of Modest Valour which won the coveted Scientist Award at the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York, as well as the Professional Documentary Award at the Raw Science Festival in California. Dr Eilís Dowd has been working in the field of pre-clinical Parkinson’s research for almost 20 years, and her research focuses on understanding the cause of the condition and on developing novel pharmacological, cell, gene and biomaterial therapies for it. She received her PhD from University of Edinburgh, after which she completed post-doctoral research at University of Cambridge, McGill University, Canada and Cardiff University. Dr Dowd is currently president of Neuroscience Ireland, Ireland’s official neuroscience society. She sits on the governing councils of both the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and the International Brain Research Organization. To view a short trailer of the documentary Feats of Modest Valour, visit: For more about The Michael J Fox Foundation, visit: -Ends-

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway has announced a formal collaboration with Rutgers University, New Jersey regarding complementary medical device programs. The formal Agreement will focus on developing multi-disciplinary collaborations involving research on medical device technologies, commercialisation of medical technologies, and business incubation and acceleration. As global leaders in the field of medical device research, and because of its close collaboration with MedTech industry leaders, CÚRAM's expertise was sought by a delegation from Choose New Jersey, an economic development organisation with a mission to encourage and nurture economic growth throughout New Jersey. The organisation is developing an innovation HUB in New Brunswick which will have two million square feet of office, laboratory and incubator space. Together with Rutgers University, the delegation travelled to NUI Galway to learn from the experience and knowledge of CÚRAM with a view to creating a similar program at the HUB, potentially in partnership with CÚRAM. The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Rutgers and CÚRAM took place with Scientific Director of CÚRAM, Professor Abhay Pandit, Dr James Walsh and Vincent Smeraglia from Rutgers University, and representatives from Rowan University, Hackensack Meridian Healthcare, DEVCO, the HUB in New Brunswick and BioInnovate Ireland. Speaking at the signing, Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM, said: “This event is a testimony to CÚRAM's position as a global leader in the field of medical device research and we welcome the opportunity to share our expertise with our colleagues in New Jersey. We look forward to working with them further as they develop the HUB.” Dr James Walsh, Senior Director for Innovation, Rutgers University, said: “On behalf of Chancellor Christopher J. Molloy and Provost Prabhas Moghe, we are very excited to launch this alliance with our friends and colleagues in Galway. We believe that together, we can build on the strong links between New Jersey and Ireland’s highly innovative indigenous and multinational MedTech companies. Rutgers’ extensive research capabilities, faculty expertise, and business incubation leadership offer the alliance a strong foundation. We look forward to building on this with our colleagues at NUI Galway and Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology.” For more information about Rutgers University, visit: and for Choose New Jersey, visit: -Ends-

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

NUI Galway student, Róisín McManus, is representing Ireland at the major international Future News Worldwide Summit for young journalism students in London this week. This is the second year that an NUI Galway Journalism student has been chosen for the summit. Third year BA with Journalism student, Róisín is one of two students selected from Ireland to be a delegate at the highly prestigious summit, hosted by Thomson Reuters in Canary Wharf in London. She was chosen from more than 3,000 applicants to be one of just 100 delegates from 53 different countries globally at the event. The Future News Worldwide summit is a three-day intensive media training programme where students engage in workshops, lectures and discussion groups with world-leading editors, broadcasters, writers and reporters, and see how publishers around the world are using technology. It is a partnership programme between the British Council and some of the world’s leading media organisations and technology companies including Google, Facebook and Reuters. From Bawnboy in Cavan, Róisín said she was delighted to be chosen to attend the event: “I am so grateful to have been chosen for FNW19 in London. I’m excited to hear all the speakers talks over the next couple of days, to meet people from over 50 countries worldwide, and I’m proud to be representing Ireland doing so.” Tom Felle, Head of Journalism and Communication at NUI Galway, said: “This is a tremendous honour for Róisín and NUI Galway is very proud that one of our students has been chosen to be a delegate. Future News Worldwide brings together the cream of the crop in terms of journalists of the future. They get to meet with and share ideas, listen to industry leaders talk about the importance of journalism in democracy worldwide, and are introduced to digital skills training. Following the conference Róisín will be part of a year-round global alumni network, helping her and other delegates to engage with one another, implement their learning and continue their professional development.” Young journalism students from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, across the US, Europe and South America are attending the event. NUI Galway offers programmes in journalism at undergraduate and postgraduate level. A new BA Journalism launches in 2019 as well as a new MA Sports Journalism and Communication programme.  -Ends-

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Side impacts to the head can be just as dangerous as frontal impacts, new research suggests, which was published this week in the international scientific journal Soft Matter. A research team from NUI Galway and UCD measured the effects of rotational accelerations (side impacts) of the head, such as those experienced in football headers, boxing hooks and side impacts. They found stretches and stresses in the brain as high as those of linear accelerations (frontal impacts, whiplash).  Large motions can occur in the brain when the human head is accelerated violently by an impact, be it accidental or even voluntary as in a football header. The resulting mixture of pressure, stretch, shear and twist can impair neurons and lead to concussion, brain injury and even permanent damage. A lot of research has focused on the effects of linear accelerations (frontal impacts) of the brain, such as those happening in frontal collisions, such as car accidents and American football. Rotational accelerations (side impacts) are in fact as likely to happen in modern life as linear accelerations (frontal impacts). In a frontal collision car accident, the head rotates forward and backward (whiplash). Similarly, for many football headers, or for uppercuts in combat sports. These sports also involve rotations of the head about the vertical axis, or tilting from one side to the other.  Linear accelerations are expected to create large stresses and stretches in the direction of the impact. This research shows that rotational accelerations (side impacts) create pressure and forces of the same magnitude in all directions, which could have grave implications for traumatic brain injury. The researchers at NUI Galway and UCD measured the twisting properties of brain matter using advanced torsion techniques. They then fed the data into computer simulations of a rotational acceleration of the head, typical of a boxing punch. Dr Valentina Balbi led the study from NUI Galway (now a Lecturer of Industrial and Applied Mathematics at University of Limerick) with co-authors Professor Michel Destrade, School of Mathematics, Statistics and Applied Mathematics at NUI Galway, and Dr Aisling Ní Annaidh and Dr Antonia Trotta from the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, University College Dublin. Commenting on the findings, Dr Balbi, said: “We found that large shear forces develop in the horizontal plane, as expected. But we also found that a high-pressure level and large vertical forces also develop in the brain, especially in the frontal cortex, as a result of the twisting motion.” Mark Ganly, CEO of Contego Sports, a company that developed the N-Pro Rugby headguard, which is scientifically proven to provide impact protection, said: “We are keenly aware of the dangers of impacts in the game. This research confirms my intuition that it is crucial to protect Rugby players from side impacts as well as from frontal impacts to the head. In my experience, they are just as likely to lead to concussion or mild traumatic brain injury.” To read the full study in the journal Soft Matter, visit: To view a short video about the study, visit:  -Ends- 

Monday, 15 July 2019

The Royal Society-SFI University Research Fellowship scheme 2019, representing an investment of €2.8 million has been announced today (15 July). NUI Galway Biomedical Engineer, Dr Eimear Dolan was one of the four outstanding researchers in the Republic of Ireland who received the prestigious award. In total, the Royal Society announced the appointment of 43 new University Research Fellowships for 2019. The researchers will take up their new posts at 24 institutions across the UK and Ireland at the start of October. The University Research Fellowship scheme was established to identify outstanding early career scientists who have the potential to become leaders in their chosen fields, providing them with the opportunity to build an independent research career. The scheme is extremely competitive and University Research Fellows are expected to be strong candidates for permanent posts in universities at the end of their fellowships, with many alumni having gone on to enjoy significant national or international recognition for their work. Dr Eimear Dolan, a Biomedical Engineer from NUI Galway was appointed a University Research Fellow and awarded over €732,000 for her research project – A Soft Robotics Approach to Reduce the Foreign Body Response to Medical Implants. Dr Dolan has developed a proof-of-concept soft robotic implant, which she plans on adapting as a treatment for Type 1 Diabetes; Dr Dolan plans on establishing relationships with other research institutes to become the global leader in innovative medical devices. During her Fellowship Dr Dolan will be based at NUI Galway and will also spend some time at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Speaking about her Research Fellowship award, Dr Eimear Dolan, College of Science and Engineering, NUI Galway, said: “I am delighted to be awarded a Royal Society-SFI University Research Fellowship. It is a great honour to be an awardee of such a prestigious Fellowship. The award will provide me with time and funding to establish my independent research group and achieve my research goals. I am at a very exciting stage in my career and I look forward to working with the Royal Society, SFI and NUI Galway.” Welcoming the announcement, Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for the Royal Society in SFI, said: “The Royal Society-SFI University Research Fellowships Scheme, which contributes to Ireland’s international reputation for research excellence, recognises those with the potential to become Ireland’s future research leaders. I am delighted to congratulate the four researchers who have been granted these prestigious awards and wish them every success for the future. We are delighted to work together with our UK partners, the Royal Society, to ensure that young researchers have access to stellar opportunities such as these which will launch their research careers.” For more information about the Royal Society University Research Fellowships, please visit: -Ends-

Monday, 15 July 2019

NUI Galway seminar on ‘Decarbonising Ireland with Zero-Carbon Technologies’ to coincide with launch of €1.4 million Hydrogen Utilisation and Green Energy project  NUI Galway will host a public seminar on ‘Decarbonising Ireland with Zero-Carbon Technologies’, presenting current activities in Ireland and abroad around the use of renewable hydrogen as a clean energy vector. Successful examples of small and large-scale installations will be presented by leading experts in the field along with breakthrough research. The event will be opened by Minister of State for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands, Sean Kyne, TD on Tuesday, 16 July.  In the last six months, hydrogen has experienced an exponential growth in interest with large car manufacturers and oil and gas companies among others, showing a clear shift on their investment strategies towards this chemical. Notwithstanding, hydrogen as a clean energy vector meets targets of a number of Sustainable Development Goals with a direct impact on climate change mitigation. Recently, Energia announced a €3 billion investment in renewable energy in Ireland with hydrogen being a key actor. This seminar aims to bring together all stakeholders from the island of Ireland to discuss opportunities and challenges for the deployment of hydrogen technologies in rural and peripheral regions. This includes green hydrogen production through excess wind and/or solar energy use in transportation, power-to-gas, energy storage and gas for industries, among others. It will also look at low-carbon technologies for public infrastructure and housing.  Dr Pau Farràs Costa, Energy Research Centre, Ryan Institute, NUI Galway, says: “The seminar is a stepping stone towards a wide dissemination to the public and stakeholders of the advantages of hydrogen as a fuel for the future, with direct implications for climate change, energy resilience and the development of jobs in rural communities.”  The seminar includes presentations and open discussions with a panel of experts on:  Hydrogen developments in Iceland Northern Netherlands TSO2020 project, large-scale deployment. Haeolus project in Norway, hydrogen in extreme climate conditions. SEAFUEL project (Sustainable integration of renewable fuels in local transportation) GenComm project (GENerating energy secure COMMunities) Hylantic (Atlantic Network for Renewable Generation and Supply of Hydrogen to promote High Energy Efficiency) Feasibility study for wind-to-hydrogen for local transportation - bus fleet Hydrogen in Northern Ireland Hydrogen Mobility Ireland Launch of HydrogenIreland @Galway The seminar will coincide with the kick-off meeting of the INTERREG Northern Periphery and Arctic project, HUGE (Hydrogen Utilisation and Green Energy). HUGE is a €1.4 million project led by The Environmental Research Institute with Dr Pau Farràs Costa at NUI Galway as partner. The project aims to provide communities with energy security by delivering to them the necessary tools to assess the hydrogen renewable energy chain opportunities in the Northern Periphery and Arctic area and beyond. This seminar is also part of the knowledge transfer activities designed in HUGE to engage with potential stakeholders and communities at the different regions of the partnership. Galway and the west coast of Ireland is an excellent example of the huge potential for production and use of hydrogen as a clean energy vector. In the seminar, successful examples of hydrogen activities occurring in Europe will be showcased to demonstrate the viability to invest in the technology and the benefits it can bring to the region. Ireland is starting to play a key role that include the formation of the Hydrogen Ireland Association, which will be presented for the first time in Galway, as well as a presentation of the Hydrogen Mobility Ireland group, with clear targets for the deployment of hydrogen refuelling stations and vehicles in a short timeframe. The event will also see one of only the two hydrogen-fuelled cars in Ireland, a Toyota Mirai owned by Photonomi Group CEO, John Quinn. The seminar is co-funded by the INTERREG Atlantic Area project SEAFUEL led by Dr Pau Farràs at NUI Galway. SEAFUEL targets the production and use of green hydrogen for local transportation in isolated territories, in particular islands. The project is looking at the Aran Islands as a key location for the technology, and aims to demonstrate the viability of hydrogen to be a key energy vector for the decarbonisation of the islands following their renewable energy targets (see The free event will take place in the Institute for Lifecourse and Society, North Campus, NUI Galway on Tuesday, 16 July from 9.30pm to 3pm. To register and attend this free event, visit: and enter ‘HUGE’ or ‘Decarbonising Ireland with Zero-Carbon Technologies’. To live stream the seminar, logon to: For more information about the seminar contact, contact Dr Pau Farràs Costa, Ryan Institute, NUI Galway at or 091 492765. -Ends-

Monday, 15 July 2019

Creating medical solutions to help feed patients, preserving our rich history, gamifying navigating University campuses and improving the quality of lives of children with sensory processing disorders are among the 2019 Student Explore Innovation Awardswinning concepts NUI Galway LaunchPad recently hosted their Annual Explore Awards celebrating student innovation across the campus, with projects with significant potential to become business or social enterprises awarded €10,000 in start-up funding.  The annual ‘Explore Innovation Awards’ uncovered some of the most promising and innovative activity on campus. Winning ideas included: creating medical solutions to help feed patients, preserving our rich history, gamifying navigating university campuses and improving the quality of lives of children with sensory processing disorders are among winning concepts. The awards ceremony took place at NUI Galway’s inaugural Student Innovation Summit, a day-long event celebration all aspects of student enterprise and innovation on campus.  Campus awardees and projects: The College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies awardee was Liam Alex Heffron. Liam Alex’s project ‘Anseo’, a phrase used by pupils to indicate their attendance at school, seeks to preserve the national school roll-books and registers. In 1922 due to a massive explosion at the Public Services Offices most records were lost. Using innovative techniques including crowdsourcing photography, ‘Anseo’ digitally created and saved all national school records in North Mayo and Sligo. To date over 484,000 images have been processed, making it the largest such voluntary project in Ireland. The College of Business Public Policy and Law awardees were ‘The Quiet Beanie’ team of Alexander Selby, Eric Callanan, Aislinn Connaughton and Sarah O’Donnell. The project aims to improve the quality of lives of children with sensory processing disorders and their parents. ‘The Quiet Beanie’ is a modified beanie made from 90% organic cotton, and the organic cotton addresses the tactile sensory issues. A sound reducing foam is then incorporated into the design of the hat which helps to tackle sensory noise issues. The Quiet Beanie also provides a secure sense of pressure, a feature that children with sensory processing disorders require. As a social enterprise, the project believes in inclusion and acceptance and hope to promote these values throughout Ireland and afar. The College of Engineering and Informatics awardee was Mark Harrington who developed a mobile and web app which utilizes gamification to pinpoint locations and services on campus. It offers a dynamic map of the NUI Galway campus that allows users to search out locations and navigate to them using any GPS enabled smartphone. The app’s second feature is the Campus Challenge, a system of quests and a leader board which uses gamification to encourage exploration by new students. The app is now fully developed and ready to implement as a permanent fixture on campus. Additionally, the app lends itself to adaptation suitable to other universities or organisations and has further potential on boarding applications. The College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences Explore Award winners were Eoghan Dunne and Nuno Silva, their novel device is a smart tube intubation solution. Nasogastric tubes are commonly used in hospitals to feed patients who have difficulty swallowing. However, serious medical problems can result if the tube is incorrectly placed. The current methods to determine the location of the tube after insertion include a pH test and a chest X-ray. However, both tests have limitations including detection/interpretation errors as well as resource and time demands. The team is building a solution to detect a nasogastric tube in a simple and an efficient way. The smart tube solution has the potential to allow the patient to be fed faster without the need to wait several hours for additional tests. The College of Science awardees were the ‘RewardEd’ team of Albert Dolan, Robert Walsh and Sean Kilmartin, who aim to promote small businesses and empower students. The technology helps student reduce distractions by providing them with a reward system for not using their phones for pre-set periods. The RewardEd team has partnered with small businesses to develop the reward scheme providing students with unique discounts and rewards. Speaking at the event Natalie Walsh, Executive Director of NUI Galway Launchpad said: “The diversity and creativity that we have across our campus is inspiring. These awards give students the opportunity to flourish, to develop their innovative ideas in a supportive, enabling and results driven environment. In partnership with our Innovation office we have invested €10,000 in supporting these early stage ideas to develop and grow over the remainder of 2019. In addition to funding, each team will receive mentorship from LaunchPad and our broader community of innovators and alumni.” NUI Galway has been actively fostering new ideas and has supported over 120 collaborative staff and student projects since 2012 through the EXPLORE programme. EXPLORE is part of a wider innovation ecosystem at NUI Galway, explains David Murphy, Director of Innovation at NUI Galway: “Programs such as EXPLORE contribute toward a culture of Innovation on campus, it is pervasive from student to start-up company. Many of the outputs of our extensive research portfolio are licensed to industry or leads to a new spin-out company. Our Business Innovation Centre and the wider campus is currently home to over 40 companies, where we provide business supports and excellent facilities including labs and co-working spaces to start-ups. This all feeds into and connects with the wider region, supporting innovation and enterprises both locally and globally.” For more information about Explore, visit: -Ends-

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

NUI Galway report on the current levels of pension provisions has found that tax relief on pensions in Ireland is not working and citizens need a pensions system they can trust A report recently published by NUI Galway and launched by Deputy Kate O’Connell, Fine Gael TD, concludes that the Irish Pension System is not fit for purpose, calls for revisiting the tax relief provisions on pensions, and suggests policymakers need to begin to listen to what citizens want with respect to pensions. The study was undertaken against the backdrop of population ageing, which has been identified as a major societal challenge for all Western nations, and a key challenge for the Irish government is in relation to the sustainability of current levels of pension provision. It reflects the voices of the people who are directly affected by these reforms which has been largely absent from the discussions and debates in the pensions reform process. Speaking at the launch of the report Deputy Kate O’Connell, TD, said: “Research informed policy recommendations for us to consider like the ones arising from this study, will certainly impact our political and public debate on this matter, and helps bridge the gap between society and Leinster House.”   Like most countries, Ireland provides tax advantages and financial incentives to advance a policy goal of promoting savings in private pensions as a means to improve coverage and the overall adequacy of the incomes of older people. In Ireland the tax reliefs are generous by international standards and include tax relief at the marginal rate of tax on pension contributions, and exempting the gross build-up of private pension funds. As highlighted in this report, the tax foregone in the majority of cases as a result of the tax relief granted on pension savings raises questions of fairness and efficiency in relation to tax expenditure. As evidenced in this study, some citizens see the tax relief on pension contributions as nothing more than an important way of reducing their tax liability, and accumulating wealth. Many citizens were not aware that they could receive favourable tax treatment on any pension contributions they had made. For others, in particular those on low incomes and in precarious jobs, the idea of tax subsidised retirement savings made little difference, as they did not have the capacity to either save or increase their savings for retirement. The latter is a major factor contributing to the gender gap in pensions in Ireland. In addition, participants in this study seemed troubled by wealthy people receiving a subsidy they probably did not need. The irrelevance of the tax incentive for those outside the tax net altogether was also noted. Lead Author of the report, Dr Emer Mulligan, J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway, says: “Based on our findings, there is now a clear need to investigate the true cost to the taxpayer of the arguably overly generous provisions in the tax system for pensions. Any investigation should cover the differential effects by gender and the relevance for those on low incomes, and consideration should be given to abolishing generous tax reliefs for a private pension.  The tax relief for pensions may well represent a good return on investment for individuals availing of it, but it does not appear to be achieving its objective of increasing pension coverage.” Mulligan also highlights the need to address the important issue of trust in the system: “I was particularly struck by the low level of trust interviewees who participated in the study have in the current pension system. They are concerned about how the Government is addressing the challenges we are facing with respect to pensions, and many interviewees spoke of their lack of trust in the ‘pensions industry’, and the latter of course is somewhat worrying in light of recent proposals on Automatic Enrolment (a supplementary pension scheme whereby employers would introduce a workplace pension scheme and employees would be automatically enrolled in the scheme). There is a real and urgent need now to build trust between citizens and government, pension fund managers, and financial intermediaries.” Other key recommendations from the report included: Needs for a greater focus on preventing cumulative disadvantage in old age by addressing inequalities across a broad range of domains including education, work, income and health at all stages of the life course. Capacity of people in physically demanding jobs to work longer needs to be considered in policies concerned with extending working life. Flexibility needs to be built into pension reforms such as extended working life policy, to take account of, reflect and cater for the diverse work/life experiences and trajectories in the lives of women and men. This requires extended working life policies to be customised, with more flexible working and retirement options available from which people can choose. Concerns that Automatic Enrolment could worsen the pensions outcomes for women. It is recommended, in line with the National Women’s Council of Ireland, that a gender impact assessment of Automatic Enrolment is undertaken, and indeed of pensions reforms more generally. Automatic Enrolment needs to be made attractive and affordable for low earners and people in precarious jobs. There is an onus on the government to develop and reform a pension policy that is gender-sensitive. The report was co-authored by Dr Emer Mulligan, Dr Dinali Wijeratne and Dr Michelle Maher at NUI Galway.  Read the full report, ‘Pensions in Ireland: The Perspectives of Irish Citizens and Implications for the Irish Pension System and Reforms’ at: -Ends-

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Pioneering first-in-world technique development in human genome research at NUI Galway takes another step towards completing the human genome  The McStay laboratory in the Centre for Chromosome Biology at NUI Galway has made a significant contribution to the ongoing *human genome project. Contrary to popular belief the human genome sequence is incomplete. Professor Brian McStay has led the development of a pioneering new technique that provides new human genome sequences, essential to support advances in a field important for improving human health. Professor McStay’s laboratory at NUI Galway study uncharacterised regions of the genome, aiming to understand their normal function and how genetic alterations within them influence human health. This latest genome discovery will boost Ireland’s biomedical research credentials internationally and underlines the quality of world class research taking place in Ireland.      It is now over 18 years since the first draft of the human genome was released, yet, key regions of our genome remain uncharacterised. Due to difficulties in determining the DNA sequence of these missing regions and their critical role in our biology, they are sometimes referred to as genomic dark matter (analogous to the missing mass in the universe). Prominent among these missing regions are five chromosomes with unusual short arms, the so-called acrocentric chromosomes, numbered 13, 14, 15, 21 and 22 (see Figure 1 attached). Chromosomes are cellular structures for packaging DNA molecules, which in turn contain genes that define a person’s physical traits and uniqueness. Each of a person’s cells contains DNA measuring nearly two meters in length, yet the cells containing them only measure millionths of meters in length. Therefore, within chromosomes, long DNA molecules are wound into ever tighter coils ultimately producing short squat structures, with long arms either side of a central constriction. When at their most condensed, chromosomes are often described as resembling butterflies with each wing corresponding to a chromosome arm, and are now small enough to be successfully partitioned into new cells during cell division. The acrocentric chromosomes are unusual in that one of the arms is very small and highly specialised. Through an ill-understood process DNA contained within their small arms is required to form factories, termed nucleoli, to produce complex machines, termed ribosomes. Ribosomes are machines within our cells that convert the genetic information that is coded in the DNA of a person’s genes into the functional proteins that build people’s bodies.  Professor Brian McStay, Professor of Biochemistry, Centre for Chromosome Biology, NUI Galway, said: “Given their fundamental role in our biology it is critical these missing regions of our genome be included in updated human genome references as this will make them accessible to researchers worldwide and accelerate the discovery of how they function.” Professor Noel Lowndes, Established Professor of Biochemistry and Director of the Centre for Chromosome Biology, NUI Galway, said: “The McStay laboratory have developed novel genomic methodologies that can now be applied to other regions of the human genome still missing from the latest human genome releases. Support for pioneering biomedical research like this is critical to better understand our fundamental human make up, which in turn is central to providing new avenues for scientists to explore in the search for more effective treatment of disease.” The McStay laboratory has a long-standing interest in understanding how nucleoli form and function. In work that is funded by a partnership between the Wellcome Trust in the UK, Science Foundation Ireland and the Health Research Board in Ireland, they have developed and implemented novel approaches at determining the DNA sequence required to form nucleoli. These DNA sequences, previously part of the genome dark matter have now been incorporated into the most recent human genome draft by the Genome Reference Consortium (GRC). See links below to recent GRC blogs associated with the latest release (GRCh38.p13) of the human genome which references this work. Genome Reference Consortium on the latest releases of the human genome and references to the work of the McStay laboratory: For more information about the Centre for Chromosome Biology, visit: -Ends-

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

NUI Galway develop zoology partnership with the University Ibn Zohr in Morocco sharing strengths in ecology, ecosystem conservation and sustainable use of natural resources In the coming three years, NUI Galway will assist with the development of the first natural History Museum in Southern Morocco, participate towards the teaching of ecology courses and provide internships for Moroccan students. NUI Galway undergraduate and postgraduate zoology students will also have the opportunity to travel to Morocco for up to two months to work and sharpen their skills in a range of North African ecosystems, including the Sahara Desert, national parks and coastal regions.  In 2018, NUI Galway’s College of Science and the Ibn Zohr University of Agadir in Morocco formed a general Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and are continuing to develop teaching and research partnerships through the discipline of Zoology in the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway and the Ibn Zohr University Faculty of Sciences. In May 2019, NUI Galway was successful in securing its first Erasmus Plus proposal worth over €65,000 to strengthen the relationship between the two institutions with the long-term goal of raising the profile of NUI Galway as an international partner on the African continent and developing a stream of incoming international students. Ibn Zohr University is the largest of the Moroccan universities and provides third level education to over 120,000 students on 16 campuses in eight cities across Southern Morocco. This is NUI Galway’s first partnership with a major African university to collaborate simultaneously on a research-led staff exchange programme, teaching and learning technology exchange programme, co-teaching of undergraduate/postgraduate modules in both institutions and undergraduate/postgraduate summer student exchange programmes. For the 2018/2019 academic year, undergraduate students in Zoology were already part of an eight-day module on ‘Practical skills in Zoology in Souss Massa National Park in Morocco’ that provided a succession of field-based training, focusing on the study of various ecosystems within the National Park, including coastal, semi-arid and steppe ecosystems, delivered and coordinated by staff at both universities. The success of this module has led to an increase in the intake of fourth year students and postgraduate students for the 2019/2020 academic year. Speaking about the partnership, Dr Michel Dugon, Zoology, Ryan Institute, NUI Galway, said: “Morocco is fast becoming a pan-African political and economic leader. It is ranked second in Africa for foreign direct investment, and emphasises high-skill industries such as green energy. The Ryan Institute and the Ibn Zohr University Faculty of Science share strengths in ecology, bioprospecting, ecosystem conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources. This is a great opportunity for our students to gain international exposure and develop skills in unfamiliar environments. It also further establishes the position of NUI Galway as a leading partner for the development of high-standard Higher Education in emerging countries.” Dr Colin Lawton, Zoology, Ryan Institute, NUI Galway, said: “Developing this teaching and research partnership with Ibn Zohr University Faculty of Sciences offers exciting opportunities for our students and researchers to learn about diverse ecology and ecosystems like Southern Morocco. The discipline of Zoology is also in the process of applying for grants to fund further research in partnership with Ibn Zohr University and local stakeholders.”  For more about NUI Galway’s Zoology courses, visit: or email -Ends-

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Collaboration between the School of Education and UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway to address young people’s education and well-being needs  The School of Education and UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway have announced a new research collaboration which will enable partnership and collaborative expertise to address key priority areas for young people’s education and well-being, in Ireland and internationally. The new collaboration will initially explore developments to enhance NUI Galway’s research capacity and impact across a number of identified priority areas, including education for empathy and well-being; inclusion and diversity; STEM education; special educational needs; educational policy; participatory and practitioner research methodologies; and educational design. Speaking about the innovative collaboration, Professor Gerry Mac Ruairc, Head of the School of Education at NUI Galway, said: “This new initiative provides greater, enhanced capacity at NUI Galway for shared impactful research and graduate study in the promotion of young people’s education and well-being, in and outside of school.” Professor Pat Dolan, Director of the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre noted the potential of this timely partnership and how bringing together the cognate research areas of both the School of Education and UNESCO Centre at NUI Galway will help to promote and enhance education in formal and non-formal contexts. Professor Dolan, said: “Our alignment in research will impact significantly on our current and future work, particularly in terms of augmenting our impact with schools, practitioners, families, parents, and our educational partners and stakeholders, including the regulatory context and policymakers.” For more information about this research collaboration, contact Dr Tony Hall, Deputy Head of School of Education, NUI Galway at or 091 492153. -Ends-

Monday, 8 July 2019

Scientists have pinpointed the “pace” and “shape” of life as the two key elements in animal life cycles that affect how different species get by in the world. Their findings, which come from a detailed assessment of 121 species ranging from humans to sponges, may have important implications for conservation strategies and for predicting which species will be the winners and losers from the global environment crisis. “Pace of life” relates to how fast animals reach maturity, how long they can expect to live, and the rate at which they can replenish a population with offspring. “Shape of life”, meanwhile, relates to how an animal’s chance of breeding or dying is spread out across its lifespan. The scientists from NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin, Oxford University, the University of Southampton, and the University of Southern Denmark, have today(8 July 2019)published their work in leading journal, Nature Ecology and Evolution. The wide range of animal life cycles Animal life cycles vary to a staggering degree. Some animals, such as the turquoise killifish (a small fish that can complete its life cycle in 14 days) grow fast and die young, while others, like the Greenland shark, (a fish that glides around for up to 500 years), grow slowly and have extraordinarily long lifespans. Similarly, the spread of death and reproduction across animal life cycles also varies greatly. Salmon, for example, spawn over a short period of time with the probability of dying being particularly high both at the start of their life cycle and when they reproduce. Fulmars and some other sea birds, on the other hand, have wider time periods of reproduction and face relatively similar chances of dying throughout their lives. Humans and Asian elephants have long lifespans and face a relatively low risk of mortality until later ages, but have a fairly narrow age range for reproduction due to having both long juvenile periods and as they can live after the reproductive part of their life-cycles. Both species share a similar lifespan with the Australian freshwater crocodile, but the crocodile has a completely different reproductive strategy – its reproduction is spread relatively evenly throughout its lifespan but its young have a low chance of reaching adulthood and reproducing. The puzzle of different life cycles Why animal life cycles vary so much has long been an important puzzle that scientists have sought to solve. Among the reasons are that understanding why animals age, reproduce and grow at different rates may 1) help shed light on the evolution of aging itself, and 2) help identify how species will respond to global environmental change. In their study, the scientists used population data to compare detailed life cycles for species ranging from sponges to corals, salmon to turtles, and vultures to humans. By mapping 121 life cycles, the scientists noticed that certain animal ecologies and physiologies were associated with certain life cycles. Dr Kevin Healy who conducted the research at Trinity, now a Lecturer of Zoology at NUI Galway, and the lead author of the study, said: “When we mapped out the range of life cycles in the animal kingdom we saw that they follow general patterns. Whether you are a sponge, a fish or a human, your life cycle can, in general, be described by two things – how fast you live and how your reproduction and chance of dying is spread out across your lifespan. “As we expected, species with low metabolic rates and slow modes-of-life were associated with slower life cycles. This makes sense; if you don’t burn much energy per second, you are restricted in how fast you can grow. Similarly, if you are an animal that doesn’t move around a lot, such as a sponge or a fish that lives on the sea bed, playing a longer game in terms of your pace of life makes sense as you may need to wait for food to come to you.” Conservation implications The scientists also investigated whether certain life cycles made animals more susceptible to ecological threats, by looking for associations between an animal’s life cycle and its position on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of endangered species. Professor of Zoology and Head of the Zoology Department at Trinity, Yvonne Buckley, a co-senior author of the research, said: “We found that extinction risks were not confined to particular types of life history for the 121 species. Despite these animals having very different ways of maintaining their populations, they faced similar levels of threat. “Populations of a particular species, like the Chinook salmon or Freshwater crocodile, vary more in how mortality and reproduction are spread across their life-spans than they vary in their pace of life. This is important for the animal populations that we need to conserve as it suggests it may be wiser to consider actions that boost reproduction and/or impart bigger effects on the periods of the life cycles when mortality and reproduction are more likely – rather than simply aiming to extend the lifespans of these animals.” Associate Professor in Ecology at the University of Oxford, Dr Rob Salguero-Gómez, a co-senior author of the research, said: “This comparative work, which builds on previous research we have developed testing basic assumptions of how life structures the Plant Kingdom, highlights important commonalities in the ways that both animals and plants go about making a living and adapting to different environments. Indeed, classical works in life history theory predicted a single way to structure life strategies. Our work with plants and now here with animals shows the range of possibilities is much wider than previously believed. “The unparalleled wealth of animal demographic schedules used in this research” produced by an initiative led by Assoc. Prof Salguero-Gómez & co-author Assoc. Prof. Owen Jones, “opens up new exciting ways to explore what are the most common strategies used by different species to thrive in their environments, but also to use demographic models to make predictions about what species will be the winners and losers of climate change.” The research was funded by Science Foundation Ireland, the Natural Environment Research Council (UK), Australian Research Council, Danish Council for Independent Research and the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (Germany). To read the full study in Nature Ecology and Evolution, visit: -Ends-

Monday, 8 July 2019

Given growing prevalence and resulting impact on health care resources, there is an urgent need to provide specialist training in diabetes NUI Galway’s College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences has launched Ireland’s first Masters in Diabetes programme. The Masters programme aims to prepare healthcare professional graduates to effectively contribute to diabetes management through comprehensive clinical and academic training.  Diabetes is a global health emergency with over 600 million people expected to have the condition by 2030, representing approximately 10% of the world’s population. Therefore, the World Health Organisation has classed diabetes as an epidemic requiring urgent action for both prevention and management. This has been echoed in Irelands Health Service Executive national policy and clinical strategy for diabetes. It is a chronic metabolic condition that can cause significant cardiovascular morbidity and mortality if not managed correctly. Central to this management is controlling key physiological indices such as blood sugar, blood pressure and blood lipid levels, as well as promoting health behaviours such as regular exercise, healthy eating and not smoking. Unfortunately achieving these biological targets and lifestyle goals is extremely challenging. As a result, the University has developed this innovative multidisciplinary Masters programme which will appeal to both clinicians and researchers and provide them with the toolbox needed to manage this common chronic disease. This postgraduate programme will be delivered through blended learning, so that students will learn through online activities and approximately three days per month face-face workshops at NUI Galway. The course modules in this programme show clear connections between diabetes, cardiovascular health, good clinical practice, health promotion and advanced research methods. Speaking at the launch of the new programme, Professor Sean Dinneen of NUI Galway’s School of Medicine and HSE National Lead for Diabetes, said: “Understanding the role of health promotion, as well as new therapies and technologies and how they will enable patient centred diabetes care will be important to ensure good outcomes for our patients. This Masters in Diabetes programme will deliver on this for students.” The first student intake of the Masters in Diabetes will be in September 2019. For more information visit or -Ends-

Thursday, 4 July 2019

NUI Galway-based Biomedical Engineer, Oisín McGrath has been awarded a grant from Enterprise Ireland for €500,000 to further develop his project ‘Galenband’ for commercialisation. The project aims to provide a convenient and reliable wrist-worn device to monitor the heart activity of people with atrial fibrillation, and ultimately aims to reduce the rate of stroke and heart failure caused by the pathology. Atrial fibrillation occurs when the electrical impulses that coordinate heartbeats don’t work properly, causing the heart to beat irregularly. Tens of millions of people globally suffer from this dangerous heart arrhythmia which often presents with infrequently occurring symptoms, making it challenging to detect with currently used monitors due to their short recording durations. Years of suffering, and lives themselves could be saved if a heart monitor were available which could be worn discretely and unobtrusively for extended periods of time, whilst continually capturing data. Galenband seeks to provide cardiac clinicians with a wrist-worn device capable of drastically increasing detection rates of the infrequently occurring symptoms of intermittent atrial fibrillation. This notoriously difficult-to-detect pathology is responsible for half of all fatal ischemic strokes, and is a leading cause of heart failure. Galenband is a data collection and analysis device that will monitor the heart activity of wearers on a long-term basis, recording episodes of infrequently occurring heart arrhythmia. The initial inspiration for the project came from Oisín McGrath’s own personal experiences with heart arrhythmia. For 13 years, Oisín suffered with an undiagnosed heart arrhythmia. A standard response for a clinician when a heart arrhythmia is suspected is to issue a 24-48-hour heart monitor in order to capture the symptoms. This would ideally allow for the diagnosis of the condition. As Oisín’s symptoms were often spaced out by a week or more, the short recording duration of these monitors failed to capture any symptoms, and the arrhythmia continued to go undiagnosed, causing great mental anguish, high financial costs, and a potential danger to his life. During that time 11 different heart monitors failed to capture anything. Eventually, a cardiac pacing procedure was necessary in order to diagnose the arrhythmia. From this experience, Oisín recognised that a change in recording strategy was required in order to increase the efficacy of non-invasive symptom detection methods. Galenband project lead, Oisin McGrath, says: “The achievements of the project are a strong endorsement of the level of teaching and research in Biomedical Engineering at NUI Galway. With the support of academic staff and the Technology Transfer Office in NUI Galway, and the funding received from Enterprise Ireland, Galenband will press forward in an effort to change the lives of atrial fibrillation patients on a global scale.” Professor Mark Bruzzi, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering and Science, NUI Galway, said: “This innovation is a great achievement and demonstrates the potential of teams innovating new technologies through the Master’s in Biomedical Engineering programme at NUI Galway.”  In 2010, shortly after his cardiac pacing procedure, Oisín began work on the earliest version of what would become Galenband. Cardiac rhythm monitoring methods formed the subject of Oisín’s Biomedical Engineering undergraduate thesis at NUI Galway, to allow him explore possible methods of accurately measuring heart rhythm with a long-term monitoring device. The needs-led innovation approach of the Biomedical Engineering degree programme at NUI Galway provided him with the perfect platform through which development could be furthered. During his Master’s in Biomedical Engineering, Oisín collaborated with students David Kerr, Belén Enguix, and Syed Kumail Jaffrey to investigate the logistical feasibility of the Galenband system ranging from a competitive landscape review to an overview of the regulatory pathway. The work carried out during this time received the Zenith award from Aerogen Ltd. The Galenband project was the first Irish project chosen by the world’s top University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as part of their IDEA² Global program and won the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES) award for research in the field of medical engineering. Additionally, the project won the Technology category of the 2019 Universal Design Grand Challenge, organised by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design at the National Disability Authority, and supported by Enterprise Ireland. -Ends-

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

NUI Galway will host an international exhibition detailing the life of forgotten Irish nobleman and Croatian national hero, Laval Graf Nugent von Westmeath. Count Laval Nugent (1777 – 1862) was born in Ballynacor, Co. Westmeath, and went on to fight in the armies of Austria and the Two Sicilies. In the process he became a major collector of classical sculpture and other archaeological finds. The exhibition, Laval Nugent - Warrior and Art Collector, will run in the Hardiman Research Building, NUI Galway, until August 2019. Laval Nugent - Warrior and Art Collector was funded by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia and developed by the Archaelogical Museum of Zagreb and the Embassy of the Republic of Croatia in Ireland. It was displayed in Dublin’s EPIC Museum earlier this year and is supported by NUI Galway’s Moore Institute and archival and print material from the James Hardiman Library. This exhibition is part of a programme of events highlighting the links between the cities of Galway and Rijeka - both European Capitals of Culture in 2020. It details Laval Nugent’s legacy as a Croatian national hero as well as his extensive achievements as a collector of cultural and archaeological artefacts. The exhibition was launched at NUI Galway on 28 June to coincide with the visit of a delegation from Rijeka n to the University. The group included Vojko Obersnel, Mayor of Rijeka, and Professor Snježana Prijić Samaržija, Rector of the University of Rijeka, accompanied by His Excellency, Ivan Masina, Ambassador of Croatia to Ireland. Hosted by University President Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, the delegation discussed future collaboration in areas such as student and staff exchange, research collaboration and public engagement. Laval Nugent’s personal story provides rich material of academic interest, and among those engaging with the exhibition include researchers from the Moore Institute and the disciplines of archaeology and history, in particular. From the 16th century onwards a sizeable contingent of those who left Ireland were dispossessed and defeated rebel soldiers, commonly referred to as ‘The Wild Geese’. They went on to serve in armies and navies across the European continent often in distinct ‘Irish Brigades’. Laval Nugent was son of Count Michael Anton Nugent von Westmeath, Governor of Prague. In 1793, he joined the Austrian Army, becoming Colonel in 1807 and Chief of Staff of the Army corps of Archduke Johann of Austria in 1809. He was appointed the Supreme Military Commander in 1817 and also served in the Croatian parliament. Laval Nugent ranks among the most distinguished of this elite cadre of noble Irish émigrés and rose to the very top of the Habsburg military and social establishment in the 19th century. Among his notable achievements, Nugent defeated Napoleon’s brother-in-law in battle, liberated Rome from the French, founded his own museum and campaigned for Croatian independence. He was even made a Papal Prince in 1816 for driving Joachim Murat from Italy. Throughout his lifetime he developed a strong affinity with the Croatian people, their heritage and their culture. The archaeological collections he assembled can still be viewed in the Archaeological Museum of Zagreb. Nugent died on 22 August, 1862 in the Bosiljevo Castle, near Karlovac, and his body was later transferred to a sarcophagus in the Doric temple “Peace for the Hero”, in Trsat above Rijeka, next to the sarcophagus of his wife, Countess Giovannina Riario-Sforza. Daniel Carey, Director of the Moore Institute, NUI Galway, commented: “Laval Nugent is a fascinating figure whose distinguished military career and remarkable collecting habits gave him a leading profile in the nineteenth century in Croatian history. Developments in the 20th century obscured his legacy, but the emergence of Croatia as a separate nation has restored him to prominence. This exhibition provides a chance to renew our relationship with an exceptional individual and to remember him in the country of his birth.” -Ends-

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

NUI Galway study will monitor the quality of indoor air within high energy efficient homes among the Irish population Researchers from the School of Physics at NUI Galway are seeking to recruit 100 households to measure indoor environmental air quality within Irish homes that have been built to be highly energy efficient, by deploying remote sensors within the homes. In Ireland, homes are currently being built to a higher energy efficiency standard to reduce the country’s climate change impact, which can also contribute to reducing household heating costs. This study will evaluate and assess the indoor environment of these homes, to ensure these energy efficient measures are not adversely impacting upon the indoor air quality.    The research team, led by Dr Miriam Byrne and Dr James McGrath in NUI Galway’s School of Physics have initiated the project, which will investigate homes that have the highest energy efficiency standard, an ‘A’ Building Energy Rating (BER) certification. The research team will use a remote sensor and continuously monitor air quality within the home for 18 months. The study will measure the following pollutants: Volatile Organic Compounds Radon Thermal comfort parameters (Temperature, Humidity and Pressure) Carbon Dioxide Volatile organic compounds are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids such as paint, furniture polish, soap, varnishes, aerosol sprays and cleaning products. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas which has no taste, colour or smell and is regulated in Ireland by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Radiological Protection. The thermal comfort assessment measurements will evaluate people’s subjective comfort (how warm or how cold they feel) within their homes. The carbon dioxide measurements are taken to assess ventilation systems effectiveness. Commenting on the study, Principal Investigator, Dr Miriam Byrne, lecturer in the School of Physics at NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted to have received SEAI funding for this important project. There is a delicate balance to be struck between ensuring that a home is energy efficient, and also providing enough ventilation to guarantee acceptable indoor air quality. The use of low cost sensors that wirelessly transmit data will allow us to collect detailed air quality and thermal data over a much longer period than has previously been possible.” For eligible participants who would participate in the study, a researcher will come to their home to install remote sensors (similar to a smoke detector in size) in four rooms in the home; the kitchen, living room, master bedroom and bathroom, and they will access information on the four pollutants within the home for 18 months through remote monitoring. Participants will also be asked to fill in a contextual information sheet, with questions on their home, such as heating and ventilation, as well as a thermal comfort survey and activity diary, activities such as cleaning and cooking, three times for the duration of this project. Benefits to participating in this study is that all participants will receive an overview of the indoor air quality assessment within their home and all participants will keep the sensors that are provided during the study, so that they can continue to measure pollutants within their homes after the study is completed. In addition, participants will assist research in NUI Galway and contribute to indoor air environment science. The VALIDate project is funded by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). For more information and to participate in the study contact, Dr James McGrath, School of Physics, NUI Galway at and 091 493437. To read more about the VALIDate project, visit: -Ends-

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

An innovative project at NUI Galway which encourages students to explore the evolution of life on Earth through the medium of film has received a significant international teaching award. The History of Life film project was overall winner in the category for ‘User-Generated Education Media’ at the 2019 MEDEA Awards in Leuven, Belgium. It also scooped the ‘Audience Favourite’ prize amongst the shortlisted finalists, which was decided through a live vote taken by the international delegates attending the ceremony. The MEDEA Awards were established to recognise best practice in the use of media in education and are supported by the Media and Learning Association. Since 2011, final year undergraduate science students at NUI Galway taking the class module History of Life, have worked in small groups to produce short documentary-style films on any aspect of evolution they choose. A diverse range of topics have been investigated by the student teams in the nine years the project has been running, including the origin of life on Earth, the evolution of the first forests and land animals, catastrophic past mass extinction events and the emergence of early human ancestors. These short films are then uploaded to a specially created YouTube channel, where they have reached a wide global audience online. All past student film productions are available on the playlist section of the History of Life YouTube channel here: The project was developed and is run by geologist and palaeontologist Dr John Murray from Earth and Ocean Sciences in NUI Galway, with continuing support from the University’s Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). Dr John Murray commented: “This teaching initiative is primarily an exercise in science communication; it allows students to enhance their learning through visual expression and experimentation. The message all of these student-produced films convey is an extremely important one - it principally concerns the story of where ultimately all life on Earth has come from, including humans.” Dr Murray added: “The vast majority of the students who make these films have no prior training in film-making, nor do they have any production budgets. Neither of these factors have ever proven to be a limitation. The student teams have consistently risen quite admirably to the challenge and the very high levels of enthusiasm, imagination and creativity on display in these films has always been nothing short of inspiring.” The finals of the 2019 MEDEA Awards took place in June in the historic Town Hall of Leuven, Belgium. The prizes were presented at the ceremony by recently elected mayor Mohamed Ridouani, who highlighted the position of Leuven as a deeply multicultural city with strong roots in the past.  Entries to the MEDEA Awards this year came from all over Europe, as well as Australia, Canada, Iran, Mexico, Morocco, Turkey and the US. According to the judging panel, the History of Life film project “is a very good attempt to encourage students’ interest and curiosity in science and also to help in building their research, communication and presentation skills. The project already has quite a good database of videos that can be used for different purposes both from teacher and learners, both for classroom and individual use.” Alida Zauers, an Earth and Ocean Sciences graduate from NUI Galway, created a short film examining the evolution of the beak in birds with a team of fellow students in 2015. She is currently Public Engagement and Outreach Officer at Tyndall National Institute, UCC. Congratulating NUI Galway on their awards, Alida Zauers said: “The History of Life film-making project was the first time I was exposed to science communications in my undergraduate degree, which ultimately led me to pursue a career in public engagement and outreach in the area of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). While it was challenging at times, I really enjoyed the entire process from start to finish. It taught me the importance of communicating science without the jargon and helped me realise how crucial communicating science to our peers and the public is. This project is vitally important in preparing students for what lies ahead in their future careers, and I hope it will be adapted and rolled out across all science disciplines in the future.” A short film compilation explaining more about the project, which was premiered at the MEDEA Awards event in Leuven and features music by alt-rock Dublin band Empire Circus, is available on the History of Life YouTube channel here: -Ends-

Monday, 1 July 2019

New €3.9 million NUI Galway-led European consortium to train researchers in developing new treatments for multiple sclerosis Monday, 1 July, 2019: Dr Una FitzGerald, Principal Investigator of the Multiple Sclerosis Research Lab and Director of the Galway Neuroscience Centre at NUI Galway, collaborating with CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices, has secured €3.9 million in EU funding to lead a consortium of researchers across Europe. The project aims to develop novel devices and treatments for the devastating neurological disease multiple sclerosis (MS) and involves researchers from Denmark, Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic. MS is the most common neurological disease to affect young adults and there are currently approximately 8,000 people in Ireland suffering from the disorder. The disease usually has two phases, an early “relapsing remitting” phase, during which sufferers undergo impairment, such as double-vision or limb weakness, followed by symptom dissipation for a period. The second phase, termed “progressive MS” is degenerative, when individuals experience deteriorating symptoms, frequently resulting in much-reduced mobility, increased fatigue and cognitive challenges. These worsening symptoms impair quality of life significantly, and in some cases, can lead to an inability to continue in full-time employment or to work at all. There is a plethora of treatments, or disease-modifying therapies, which can help dissipate the many debilitating symptoms of MS during the earlier part of the disease. Sadly, however, there is only one disease modifying therapy, Ocrelubzimab, which is approved for treating the progressive and degenerative phase but is only suitable for a subset of patients. This research programme will combine expertise in biomaterials, neuroimmunology, stem cell biology, neurological disease, biomarkers, computer modelling of cerebrospinal fluid flow and medical device design. The consortium, coordinated from NUI Galway, aims to develop much-needed treatments for the progressive phase of multiple sclerosis. Part of the EU Initial Training Network (ITN), the programme will fund 15 PhD students across Europe, five of whom will be based at NUI Galway under the supervision of Dr Fitzgerald and her co-awardees Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM and Dr Nathan Quinlan from the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway. Professor Pandit will contribute expertise in the development of biomaterials for drug release and Dr Quinlan will generate in silico models of biological systems that are integral in the development of medical devices. Together with Dr Fitzgerald’s experience in the field of neuroscience and pathology, this will prove an exciting opportunity for students to train as scientists, as well as developing a novel medical device. Dr Una Fitzgerald, Principal Investigator of the Multiple Sclerosis Research Lab and Director of the Galway Neuroscience Centre at NUI Galway, said: “This award is a huge boost to our multiple sclerosis research efforts here at NUI Galway. By combining our university’s expertise in MS, biomaterials, medical devices and fluid dynamics and computer modelling with that of our partners across Europe, this project could yield PhD graduates who are MS experts and who have helped pioneer a new medical device that could eventually help those suffering from the later stages of MS.”  Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM in NUI Galway, said: “Partnering in this unique consortium provides CÚRAM with the opportunity to combine our unique areas of research excellence to produce real solutions for those who urgently need it. That, combined with the training of PhD graduates with expertise and experience, makes this funding a very exciting award and is testament to Dr Fitzgerald’s excellence in the field of MS research.” This project has been funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 Programme (H2020-MSCA-ITN-2018) under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Initial Training Network and Grant Agreement No. 813263. -Ends-

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