Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Owen Ward, an Irish Traveller who is a Professional Master of Education student at NUI Galway, has been elected by postgraduate students onto the University’s Údarás na hOllscoile (Governing Body of the University). This is the first time that an Irish Traveller has been elected onto a University Governing Body in Ireland. Údarás na hOllscoile, is the University's governing authority and is responsible for managing all the affairs of the University. It is chaired by The Hon Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, with members including President of NUI Galway Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, Registrar and Deputy-President Pól Ó Dochartaigh, representatives the University staff, Ministerial nominees, Student Union and local authority representatives. Speaking about his appointment to the Governing Body Owen Ward said: “As an Irish Traveller who has overcome many barriers, this successful outcome demonstrates how open and respectful NUI Galway has become. This reflects the values of the current strategic plan at NUI Galway. I plan to bring a proactive postgraduate voice to this forum and to represent the diversity of issues that affect postgraduates on campus.” Owen became an early school leaver at 16 years old and never sat the Junior Certificate or Leaving Certificate. Instead, he returned to education on an Access programme at NUI Galway, where he successfully completed the programme, secured his place in university and graduated with an Honour’s degree. He is the first in his family to go to University. At present he is in the final months of completing a Professional Master of Education. He also mentors’ students from disadvantaged backgrounds at NUI Galway to be successful within higher education. Last summer Owen was elected on the University Societies Coordinating Group the Cultural and Social Representative. Within the role he aims to work hard to ensure an enhanced positive student experience for all students within the cultural and social constituency including international students, students with disabilities, LGBT+ and ethnic minorities. Additionally, he was a co-founder of the Mincéirs Whiden Society with fellow Traveller students at NUI Galway and the Galway Traveller Movement. The first Traveller student society in higher education in Ireland. ‘Mincéir Whiden’ means ‘Travellers Talking’ in the Cant language, which is spoken by the Irish Travelling community. He has worked alongside the Student’s Union, senior university staff and the Higher Education Authority (HEA) to ensure a stronger student voice and better outcomes for all students particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Owen is also the coordinator of NUI Galway Schools of Sanctuary programme. The NUI Galway Schools of Sanctuary programme is an outreach component of the National University of Ireland Galway University of Sanctuary initiative and NUI Galway Access Centre. Schools of Sanctuary promote the welcoming of refugees, asylum seekers, Irish Travellers and other migrants into educational communities in meaningful ways. While highlighting pathways into higher education. Also, he sits on the University of Sanctuary steering committee which introduced University of Sanctuary Scholarships Programme for International Protection Applicants, refugees, vulnerable migrants and Irish Travellers. NUI Galway is the first Third level institute in Ireland to offer scholarships to members of the travelling community. The Hon Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, Chair of Údarás na hOllscoile, said: I would like to welcome Owen to Údarás na hOllscoile and it is great to have him join. I am delighted to see NUI Galway lead the way in this area and NUI Galway have a proud tradition of welcoming members of the Travelling community as students. It is great to see Owen take on such a senior leadership role within the University. I look forward to having the benefits of his experience and insights on Údarás na hOllscoile.” -Ends-      

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

NUI Galway is calling all wanna-be-engineers to participate in a free full day family event ‘Engineering Our Future: Family Fun Day’, which will take place on Saturday, 29th February 2020 from 10am–4pm in the Alice Perry Engineering Building at NUI Galway.  The Family Fun Day is part of the Engineers Week 2020, which celebrates engineering across Ireland. The Family Fun Day will provide plenty of science and engineering shows, movie screenings, workshops and hands-on activities that will inspire young (and older) people. Families can watch ‘Dream Big: Engineering Our World’ and ‘John Phillip Holland: Submarine Inventor’ on the day. ‘Dream Big: Engineering Our World’, which is narrated by Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges, celebrates the human creativity behind engineering marvels big and small from the Great Wall of China and the world’s tallest buildings to underwater robots, solar cars and smart, sustainable cities, and show how engineers push the limits of innovation in unexpected and amazing ways. ‘John Phillip Holland: Submarine Inventor’ delves into the life of a revolutionary Irish engineer, who was behind the first fully functioning modern submarine. Young and older attendees can engage with the ‘It's all Done with Mirrors' show by Dr Ken Farquhar, which blends magic tricks, illusions and stunts with extraordinary science and engineering. Trapped doors, mirrors or camera effects? Everyone can have their own theory. Whatever you discover and more may be revealed! Quirky stunts and illusions performed.  Science discovered. Engineering explored. In parallel, ‘Using physics to engineer a better future’ by Anyone4Science explores the physics behind forces, electricity, flight and energy through a range of experiments. Children can even examine the physics behind ice-cream by making their own ice-cream with the team! Families are encouraged to come and build their own wind turbine, investigate the ‘magic’ of cleaning water, explore the vast range of chemicals used in our daily lives (which typically end up going down our drain and into our environment!), have a closer look at the animal kingdom of ‘Leg to legless’, interact with CoderDojo Ninjas to learn about programming, test if they are stronger than a superhero, explore the GEEC: Galway Energy Efficient Car, relax at the free LEGO play area or learn about our rich engineering heritage. These and many other activities showing the world of civil, environmental, mechanical, biomedical and electronic engineering, and information technology will be available on the day. For the first time this year, there will be a sensory room available for our youngest engineers and all those who would like some timeout in peace and quiet. According to Professor Peter Mc Hugh, Head of School of Engineering at NUI Galway: “Engineering is in every aspect of our lives; it allows us to live, communicate, travel, work, play, stay safe and healthy. By taking maths and science from the lab engineers dream of, invent, design and build things that change the reality and future of all human beings.” Speaking about the Family Fun Day, Dr Jamie Goggins from the School of Engineering at NUI Galway and the MaREI Centre said: “Children are natural engineers. They love to design and build things, using whatever they can get their hands on. With knowledge, innovation and creativity engineers change the reality and future of all human beings. Join us for the Engineering Our Future: Family Fun Day and explore Engineering through exciting and fun hands-on activities and shows, as well as meeting with practicing engineers to better learn about the world around us, understand the role of Engineering in our lives and its impact on our future.” All details about the Family Fun Day are available at www.nuigalway.ie/engineersweek and bookings of free tickets can also be made through the website. Tickets can be booked in advance for some shows, but it will also be possible to attend shows without pre-booking on a first-come-first-served basis on the day. For further information on ‘Engineering Our Future: Family Fun Day’ contact Jamie Goggins jamie.goggins@nuigalway.ie, Magdalena Hajdukiewicz magdalena.hajdukiewicz@nuigalway.ie or William Finnegan william.finnegan@nuigalway.ie -Ends-

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

NUI Galway researcher Dr Elaine Toomey has been shortlisted for the Euroscience European Young Researcher Award in the Postdoc category. Since 2010 EuroScience has been awarding the European Young Researchers Award to the most talented young European researchers engaged in PhD projects and Postdoc projects. The award aims to recognise not only young people who have already made important contributions to their disciplines, but who have also succeeded in developing the societal context of their achievements and in promoting their field of research by notable outreach activities. Dr Toomey is the Associate Director of Cochrane Ireland, based in the School of Nursing and Midwifery in NUI Galway. Her research is in Open Science and Health Research Transparency, and aims to improve the scientific methods and processes used in health research to maximise the overall impact of health research for society. Research dissemination and outreach is central to Dr Toomey’s work, and she has consistently engaged in public outreach and communication beyond academia. Speaking on the shortlisting announcement, Dr Toomey said: “I’m incredibly honoured to be shortlisted for this award, and particularly want to thank my colleagues in NUI Galway and mentors Professor Declan Devane and Professor Molly Byrne for their wonderful support and encouragement.” Professor Declan Devane, Director of Cochrane Ireland and Evidence Synthesis Ireland, said: “That Elaine is shortlisted is testament to the quality and relevance of her work on an international platform. It reflects well on NUI Galway, but I am particularly pleased for Elaine herself who has worked hard for many years on her research. I wish her well for the award.” The overall winners will be announced at the award ceremony which will take place at the EuroScience Open Forum in Trieste, Italy, from 5-9 July. Finalists will also have a chance to compete for the Popular Prize which will be decided by an audience vote at the event. More information on the European Young Researchers Award can be found at https://bit.ly/2HVa5KW.    -Ends-

Monday, 24 February 2020

The study was published in world’s leading science journal Nature Energy A new study written by three NUI Galway academics on how renewable energy sources can generate storable hydrogen fuel through water electrolysis has been published by the world leading multi-disciplinary science journal, Nature Energy.  The study was written in collaboration with the University of Liverpool and the Technical University Berlin. The three NUI Galway academics involved include Dr Wenming Tong, Dr Roghayeh Sadeghi Erami and Dr Pau Farràs Costa. NUI Galway’s recently published strategy focuses on sustainability as one of its core objectives.  Hydrogen has experienced a massive growth in interest with large car manufacturers and oil and gas companies showing a clear shift of their investment strategies towards it.  Hydrogen is a clean energy vector and is seen as a key component in the energy mix to meet the targets of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals which relate to climate change mitigation. The NUI Galway study looks at how electric current in the form of electrolysis can be applied to water to produce a chemical reaction to produce hydrogen and how the renewable energy source can be stored. The study analyses current costly methods of electrolysis such as used in the desalination of sea water and addresses potential other approaches that yield stronger results to deliver more sustainable energy production and storage. Potable and clean water is a precious resource which should not be used to produce fuels. The lead author of the study, Dr Pau Farràs Costa of the Energy Research Centre at the Ryan Institute of NUI Galway, said: “Hydrogen is one of the world’s most exciting fuels and can be the key to unlock Ireland’s energy needs for the next 50 years.  This study looks at how installing an electrolyser, a device which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen using electrical energy, will allow us to achieve Ireland’s climate targets in transport, heating, energy and storage. With the right vision and drive, Ireland can be a world leader in developing new clean technologies as it doesn’t have other major energy industries to displace.  Hydrogen can deliver to all sectors of society, creating a zero-emission economy.” Dr Farràs Costa is one of Ireland’s experts in synthetic chemistry and catalysis, having received numerous awards and fellowships, including the prestigious Newton International Fellowship by the Royal Society in 2013 and the Great North Museum Fellowship in 2015 for outreach activities.  He has published over 30 papers in peer-reviewed journals and has been selected as Emerging Investigator 2018 by Chemical Communications. At present, there is a gap in Ireland in renewable energy and its storage, and hydrogen can be the key to solve the issue. NUI Galway has been working in this sphere for some time and is already involved in exciting projects to power transport fleets using hydrogen.  The full study can be viewed at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41560-020-0550-8. -Ends-

Monday, 24 February 2020

A new research study which explores the benefits of community-based advocates in improving the lives of young people and their families has been published at NUI Galway. The research study led by Dr Bernadine Brady and Dr Carmel Devaney from the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, NUI Galway involved interviews with 50 young people, parents, referrers and advocates involved with the programme, in addition to a staff survey and focus groups.  The study focused on the Youth Advocate Programme Ireland model, which is a unique way of providing intensive, focused support to children, young people, and families with a range of needs, based upon the development of a trusting relationship between a supportive, trained, and skilled adult advocate, the young person, and their family. The model aims to provide an alternative to the institutionalisation of vulnerable young people, through the operation of integrated, family- and community-based programmes of support services for young people and their families in need or at risk. The findings indicate that the Youth Advocate Programme Ireland model is seen as supporting young people and families to have their needs and issues resolved and helps to keep young people at home and out of the care system. Dr Carmel Devaney, UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, NUI Galway, said “A key feature of this approach is that the needs of the young person and family are central to the intervention.  Advocates are carefully chosen for their ability to relate to young people and their families and play a key role in facilitating young people to access local community activities and necessary services. This helps to ensure that the young person has access to sustainable supports after they complete their involvement with the programme. Young people and families greatly valued the positive, respectful approach taken by the programme and many feel that it has been effective in addressing their needs.” Siobhán O’Dwyer, Youth Advocate Programme Ireland CEO, said: “At a time when many children, young people and families face social, emotional and educational difficulties I am delighted that the research shows that this community based advocate model achieves very positive outcomes with them.  The strengths based, individualised service plan and employment of community based advocates who want to work with young people and families to achieve change is the key to the success of the programme as evidenced in the research.” -Ends-

Monday, 24 February 2020

NUI Galway’s Health Promotion will hold its annual Open Evening on Friday, 28 February, from 6-7.30pm in Áras Moyola, on the north campus. The Open Evening will provide an overview of NUI Galway’s full and part time postgraduate courses by the course co-ordinators. Current courses include MA/Postgraduate Diploma in Health Promotion, Outreach Postgraduate Certificates in Health Promotion including Workplace Wellness, Approaches to Cardiovascular Health and Diabetes Prevention and Oral Health. There will also be a short presentation from a Postgraduate Recruitment Officer, Valerie Leahy, who will offer advice on issues such as applications, funding, and what employers want from Health Promotion graduates. There will also be an opportunity for prospective students to meet with course lecturers and tutors, who will be on hand to answer queries. Dr Mary Jo Lavelle Director for Postgraduate and Specialist Certificate Programmes at NUI Galway, said: “The Open Evening gives prospective students the opportunity to get more information on the courses they are interested in, employment opportunities and the chance to talk to members of the teaching staff on a one-to-one basis. Graduates of our programmes have gone on to work in statutory services, non-governmental organisations, in the academic sector, and in a number of roles including dedicated Health Promotion specialist posts." For further information contact us at hpinfo@nuigalway.ie -Ends-

Friday, 21 February 2020

Autism most expensive condition internationally A new study published by NUI Galway health economists has provided the first assessment of the level and nature of unmet service needs of children and adolescents with an ASD as well as debt related to meeting needs of such families in Ireland. The study’s findings were published this week in the international journal – Health Policy - and are of great relevance given Ireland’s forthcoming National Autism Strategy to address the needs of the autistic community. It is the first international study to examine the predictors of unmet service needs and debt while controlling for predisposing, enabling and need factors.  The key findings from the study based on a national survey on the economics of autism spectrum disorder in Ireland among 195 families with 222 children aged between 2 to 18 years of age in 2014/2015 show: Prevalence of unmet service needs and ASD specific family debt: The findings from parental reported responses show over 74% of children and adolescents did not receive one or more services in the previous 12 months 33% of families incurred debt in the previous 12 months specifically due to the child’s/children’s condition resulting in an average ASD related family debt of €3,260 per year  ASD severity and families that had two or more children with an ASD were significantly more likely to experience unmet service needs, while families that had two or more children with an ASD were also significantly more likely to incur debt in the previous 12 months specifically due to the child’s/children’s condition  The study was based on a national survey conducted by Áine Roddy, J.E. Cairnes School of Economics and Business at NUI Galway and was funded by the Irish Research Council and Autism Ireland.  Áine Roddy, the study’s lead author said: “The publication of this study provides timely evidence on the magnitude of unmet service needs and the susceptibility to future unmet needs experienced by children and adolescents who are autistic in Ireland. The financial and quality of life implications of not addressing the needs of autistic people with appropriate services and supports are profound. Policymakers need to understand that we need to spend in order to save, as research shows that autism is the most expensive condition internationally due to the substantial economic burden on State expenditure for adult assisted care provisions, institutional care costs and high unemployment rates (80%) among autistic adults.” “We need to invest to improve long-term outcomes and support autistic people and their families. Their needs are across the lifespan for the 1 in 65 people who are autistic in Ireland and their 234,000 immediate family members who face significant daily challenges due to social and financial isolation. Last April a motion put before Dáil members in Ireland to set up a Parliamentary Committee on Autism and publish a National Autism Empowerment Strategy received unanimous political support.  Ireland is still awaiting the delivery of an overdue National Autism Strategy which requires a framework that draws from evidence-based research in partnership with the autistic community.” Reasons cited for having unmet service needs included: 55% of the 222 children had unmet needs arising from being on a waiting list for currently provided services Over 61% of children had unmet needs arising because the service(s) concerned were not currently provided  31% of children had unmet needs arising because no private services were available in their area Some examples of unmet service needs: Parental reports of unmet needs for occupational therapy for children showed 79% of children aged 2-4 years, 69% of children aged 5-12 years and 59% of adolescents aged 13-18 years had unmet service needs for occupational therapy in the previous 12 months Unmet needs for social skills training/group were reported for 46% of 2-4 year olds, 47% of children aged 5-12 years and 61% of adolescents aged 13-18 years 88% of children aged 2-4 years had an unmet need for speech and language therapy, with 57% of children aged 5-12 years and 48% of adolescents aged 13-18 years also having an unmet need for speech and language therapy Policy Implications for Future National Autism Strategy There is a significant level of unmet need and economic hardship, as evident in the level of ASD-related debt Issues exist with current capacity, geographic inequalities and inadequate publicly-funded provision that warrant a policy response Addressing unmet needs is complex and requires careful planning and commitment on behalf of policymakers regarding designing and delivering autism specific services. The future National Autism Strategy, forthcoming in Ireland, requires a framework which: draws on research; should tailor services to severity level; ensure all children with ASD have access to care per their rights under the Disability Act; identify families with two or more children/adolescents with an ASD and provide appropriate supports; families with children with an ASD, based on our findings require additional financial support and/or greater support around flexible employment and carer-giver leave; and investment to design and implement cost-effective services and supports to address unmet needs Professor Ciaran O’Neill the study’s co-author is Professor of Health Economics Queens University Belfast and Adjunct Professor of Health Economics at NUI Galway. To read the full paper entitled “Predictors of Unmet Needs and Family Debt Among Children and Adolescents with an Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evidence from Ireland” in Health Policy visit https://doi.org/10.1016/j.healthpol.2020.01.005. -Ends-

Thursday, 20 February 2020

New research carried out by the Palaeoenvironmental Research Unit at NUI Galway has proven that Céide Fields, situated on the north Mayo coast, date back to the early Neolithic (earliest farming period), almost 6,000 years ago. Céide Fields is one of the best preserved ancient farming landscapes not only in Ireland but in Europe, thanks to the extensive growth of blanket bog that covered, and preserved these landscapes. The research was carried out by NUI Galway’s Professor Michael O’Connell, Dr Karen Molloy and Dr Eneda Jennings, and was recently published in the international journal E&G Quaternary Science Journal. Widely regarded as dating to the Neolithic, i.e. 4000–2400 BC, and hence of great cultural importance, Céide Fields has been the subject of detailed study by archaeologists and other researchers for well over half a century. The dating of the stone-wall field systems to the Neolithic relies on evidence derived from, inter alia, archaeological surveys and excavations, pollen analysis, study of bog-pine timbers, i.e. bog deal, and radiocarbon dating. Professor Michael O’Connell, Professor Emeritus at NUI Galway, said: “This new research not only confirms the early Neolithic age of the field systems but also leaves no doubt as to the intensity of the initial phase of Neolithic farming in north Mayo. This started at 3800 BC and lasted for 400 years. Not only was it of long duration, but the fossil pollen data, provided by pollen analyst, Dr Karen Molloy, at NUI Galway, suggests that it was more intensive than any farming of Neolithic age so far recorded in Ireland or Britain.” The research shows that, in all likelihood, construction of the regular system of field walls at Céide Fields took place during the earlier part of the intensive farming phase during the early Neolithic. The fossil pollen evidence, taken in conjunction with the large, indicates that the farming was mainly pastoral, more than likely a cattle-based farming economy. Cereal cultivation, however, also took place and was, undoubtedly, an integral part of the local farming economy. The intensive, early Neolithic farming phase was followed by a period of three centuries with reduced, though still substantial farming. After that, there was a lull in farming that lasted several centuries. It was during this lull, in the late Neolithic and prior to the onset of the Bronze Age, that major expansion of blanket bog occurred. Blanket bog, today a dominant landscape feature in north-west Mayo, is sometimes referred to as ‘climatic peat’ because of its requirement for high and frequent rainfall. The NUI Galway researchers show that a shift towards wetter and cooler climate, in itself, does not provide a satisfactory explanation for the way in which Neolithic farming waxed and waned at Céide Fields. Other factors that were possibly involved include deforestation, soil acidification, and impoverishment though prolonged use with little or no replenishment of essential nutrients. However, abandonment of farming, in the context of a considerable population decline triggered by cultural and socio-economic factors, was probably more important than any fluctuations in climate. The phenomenon of pine growing within blanket-bog contexts, a frequent occurrence in the past, is also discussed at length by the researchers in the light of the many radiocarbon dates now available from fossil pine timbers preserved by bog, not only at Céide Fields but also elsewhere in Co. Mayo, including Erris, Garrynagran and Shanvallycahill. The new information, which relies mainly on research carried out by Dr Eneda Jennings at NUI Galway, sheds additional light on landscape development and climate change during prehistory in western Ireland. Professor O’Connell continued: “The substantial and multi-disciplinary body of evidence now available demonstrates, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the pre-bog field system at Céide Fields pertains to the Neolithic and indeed the earlier part of the Neolithic as known from Ireland, Britain and much of north-western Europe including Scandinavia, a view that is also shared by most archaeologists and other palaeoecologists.” The full study is available (open access) at https://www.eg-quaternary-sci-j.net/69/1/2020/ -Ends-

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

NUI Galway will celebrate Irish Traveller Ethnicity Day by hosting the ‘Travellers in Education: Building a Sense of Belonging’ event on Wednesday, 26 February. Irish Traveller Ethnicity Day marks the anniversary of Travellers gaining ethnic status, while celebrating Travellers culture and heritage including music, craft traditions and language. The event will showcase the rich cultural heritage of Irish Travellers through the Traveller Living Exhibition which is open to the public from 10am – 2.30pm outside Áras na Mac Léinn. The exhibition, a vibrant recreation of Traveller life in the 1950s includes a fully restored barrel-top wagon, a traditional tent, a flat cart, a working tinsmith, a storyteller, and a campfire. Irish traditional music and Sean-nós dancing will also feature. Parallel to the showcase, the Access Centre will facilitate workshops to highlight pathways into university, specifically medicine and law, while outlining the multiple supports available to potential students. Imelda Byrne, Head of NUI Galway’s Access Centre, said: “The Access Centre is delighted to collaborate with our student societies, the Office of the Vice-President for Equality and Diversity, and Traveller Organisations across our region in organising this unique event. The first of its kind in any third-level institution in the country the event is core to the University’s strategy, particularly the values of openness and respectfulness delivered through the School of Sanctuary programme. We are proud and excited to host this event.” At 1pm in the Bailey Allen Hall (NUI Galway), there will be panel discussions focusing on the student experience and Travellers in education with: Hannagh McGinley, PhD Student in Education; Owen Ward, Access Centre; Martin Ward, WestTrav; Senator Alice Mary Higgins, Dean of Students Michelle Millar, and others. The panels will also hear from current students and graduates from NUI Galway amongst other higher education institutions about their experience in higher education. NUI Galway’s Owen Ward, Schools of Sanctuary Coordinator at NUI Galway, said: “This event highlights the openness of NUI Galway and participating schools where equality, diversity and inclusion is embedded within all its actions. This creates the opportunity for all students, including Irish Travellers, to commence building their sense of belonging at NUI Galway, while building bridges between all communities.” The event is organised by the NUI Galway’s Access Centre, Mincéirs Whiden Society and in collaboration with local schools participating in the NUI Galway Schools of Sanctuary programme. The participating schools are St. Marys College, Our Lady’s College, Scoil Bhríde Shantalla and Scoil Chroí Íosa. NUI Galway’s Schools of Sanctuary programme aims to empower students to cultivate their sense of belonging within education while enhancing their knowledge of pathways into Higher Education. The programme is an important element of the NUI Galway University of Sanctuary initiative and the University’s Strategic Plan. -Ends-

Friday, 14 February 2020

Study shows how the jellyfish Hydractinia produces eggs and sperm more flexibly than humans A new study, led by Dr Tim DuBuc and Professor Uri Frank from the Centre for Chromosome Biology at NUI Galway, has found that Hydractinia, a North Atlantic jellyfish that also lives in Galway Bay, reproduces in a similar way to humans but does so far more flexibly. An article presenting these findings has been published today in the journal Science, with co-authors Dr Andy Baxevanis from the National Human Genome Research Institute of the US National Institutes of Health and Dr Christine Schnitzler from the Whitney Laboratory of Marine Bioscience of the University of Florida. Most animals, including humans, generate germ stem cells – the exclusive progenitors of eggs and sperm – only once in their lifetime. This process occurs during early embryonic development by setting aside (or ‘sequestering’) a small group of cells. All sperm or eggs that we humans produce during our lives are the descendants of those few cells we sequestered as early embryos. Importantly, there is no way for humans to replenish germ cells that were not sequestered during embryonic development or lost in adult life, resulting in sterility. In findings that may have implications for the study of human infertility, this research shows that Hydractinia uses a gene called Tfap2 as a ‘switch’ to commit its adult stem cells to produce gametes – eggs and sperm. Humans also use Tfap2 to commit cells to gamete production but only go through this process once, in a narrow time frame during embryonic development. In contrast, Hydractinia performs this process throughout its adult life. Therefore, the loss of germ cells in Hydractinia has no consequences with respect to fertility as its germ cells can be generated throughout its lifetime. Speaking today, Professor Uri Frank explained: “Looking at the similar, yet more flexible, system of reproduction in Hydractinia broadens our understanding of the issues affecting reproduction in humans. While much of a human’s capacity to reproduce is determined during embryonic development, we see that these jellyfish are far more adaptive and have a much greater capacity to regenerate their reproductive system throughout their adult lives. By looking at these genetically more tractable animals, we hope to understand core processes that control cells’ decisions in development and disease.”  The full article is published in Science and available at: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/367/6479/757 ENDS

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

A new book which brings together theory, research and practice in relation to youth mentoring in a care context was recently launched at NUI Galway. Mentoring for Young People in Care and Leaving Care was written by Bernadine Brady, Pat Dolan and Caroline McGregor from the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway. Mentoring for Young People in Care and Leaving Care provides a comprehensive synthesis of current international literature on theory and practice relating to mentoring for young people in care and leaving care. Illustrated with the details of original research with care-experienced young people, it offers much-needed insight into how young people interpret and make sense of their experiences in care and of mentoring. The research with young people in Ireland found benefits of mentoring included enhanced emotional well-being, educational progression, social capital and identity development.  The book also includes original research with young people in Ireland who have taken part in Foróige’s Big Brothers Big Sisters programme, offering valuable insights into how young people interpret and make sense of their experiences in care and mentoring. Co-author Dr Bernadine Brady, UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, NUI Galway, said: “There are over 6,000 children in care in Ireland, with the majority cared for in foster placements. Research has shown that the needs of young people in care are often complex and extensive because of the reasons for their admission to care and/or the challenges associated with being in care. While these needs often require formal supports, such as psychology or social work, there is increasing evidence that the availability of informal social support from a trusted adult can also make a significant difference in the lives of young people.  Research has shown that many young people in care draw on mentors – i.e. non-parental adults - for guidance, encouragement and emotional support and that those who do so tend to experience more positive outcomes.  Formal mentoring programmes aim to replicate the benefits of natural mentoring relationships by ‘matching’ a young person with a volunteer mentor who can be a friend and support to him or her.”  Speaking at the launch, Sean Campbell, CEO of Foróige, said: “The informal social support provided through a high-quality mentoring relationship can help young people in care to sustain positive mental health, cope with stress and fulfil their potential through adolescence and into adulthood. We are delighted to launch this book, which provides a highly readable synthesis of research findings in relation to mentoring for children in care and explores the challenges and considerations relating to practice in this area.” -Ends-

Monday, 17 February 2020

Five NUI Galway based programmes will engage more than 100,000 members of the Irish public with science in 2020 Five NUI Galway public engagement and education initiatives have been awarded funding of more than €175,000 through Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover Programme, to fund projects dedicated to educating and engaging with 112,000 members of the public in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in 2020. The funding awards were announced by Secretary General of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Dr Orlaigh Quinn as part of a national investment of €5.12 million. The five projects include Bright Club, Cell EXPLORERS Escape Room, SpaceShip Earth, CÚRAM ‘Curios Young Minds’ and ReelLIFE SCIENCE. Speaking about the funded projects, Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice President for Research at NUI Galway, said: “It’s part of our culture at NUI Galway to engage, to connect and to communicate. Our researchers have an excellent track record in public engagement and have devised fun and engaging programmes to highlight the importance of STEM in addressing societal challenges. The support from SFI is particularly important in helping us to carry on inspiring minds.” Speaking about the Programme, Dr Ruth Freeman, Director of Science for Society, Science Foundation Ireland said: “I am delighted to see such a strong contingent from NUI Galway this year. The SFI Discover Programme encourages people from all communities, age groups and backgrounds to engage with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). This is achieved by supporting a diverse range of engagement activities across Ireland, designed to help people explore STEM in meaningful and creative ways. All of the Discover projects are supported by a number of Higher Education Institutes, Research bodies, companies and councils. I congratulate the each of the teams and look forward to watching them inspire our future scientists, engineers and innovators.” NUI Galway Funded Projects Bright Club (€49,862 funding award) Bright Club is a variety show with a twist. Academic researchers become comedians for one night, using comedy to talk about their research. The researchers from science, engineering, mathematics, social science, and the humanities get training in humour as communication, before joining actual comedians on stage in front of the public to talk about their research in an informal pub setting. Bright Club has been running across Ireland for five years with over 70 live events and 200 academics trained, spearheaded by Dr Jessamyn Fairfield in the School of Physics at NUI Galway. More information can be found at www.brightclub.ie. Cell EXPLORERS Escape Room (€46,542 funding award) Cell EXPLORERS is a successful science education and public engagement programme delivering STEM activities nationally. By using hands-on activities facilitated by local scientist volunteers. In 2020, with the support of the SFI Discover strategic partnership fund 2018 (€298,778), the programme will run school visits nationally with the participation of 13 teams based in 15 universities and institutes of technology. More information can be found at www.cellexplorers.com. This year, the programme will also create a Cell EXPLORERS Escape Room to reach participants not normally engaged with STEM. Escape rooms, in which a group of participants solves puzzles to resolve a mystery and escape a confined space/situation, are a combination of intellectual challenge, hands-on experience and social gathering. The content will relate to modern biology and will be co-created with young people, teachers, scientists, and education specialists, including Escape Room artist Dr Ran Peleg from Southampton University. The Cell EXPLORERS Escape Room will be launched during Science Week 2020 in three distinct geographic locations and in one school, while kits will subsequently be circulated around the country making this project sustainable for several years. SpaceShip Earth (€39,200 funding award) Spaceship Earth will inspire, engage and educate teachers, students and the public about STEM through launching four high-altitude balloons from Ireland to the ‘Edge of Space’ and back on 4 May 2020 (May the Fourth Be With You - Star Wars Day). Space is an amazing way to enthuse people about STEM and, given the current justifiable concern for Climate Change, the ability of high-altitude balloons to carry student projects and cameras into the stratosphere (~30,000m), allows reflection on the uniqueness of our blue planet - Spaceship Earth. The Spaceship Earth format will engage students in real-world, project-based experiments, to develop collaborative problem-solving skills and a framework for asking and answering scientific questions. The project team (including NUI Galway/UL/Met Éireann) will work closely with participating schools for their first high-altitude balloon mission. This celestial pilot project proposal represents a new dawn of innovation for Irish STEM education and public engagement. CÚRAM ‘Curious Young Minds’ Project (€28,135 funding award) CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, together with community partners, scientists and artists will develop and deliver a series of hands-on STEAM workshops to families living under Direct Provision in Galway City with the ‘Curious Young Minds’ project. A creative approach to science learning will be at the core of the workshops, aimed primarily at children aged 4-12 and their parents. Workshop content will be designed in conjunction with participants to increase their interest in science as well as their confidence in learning about and exploring science topics. Workshops will be held throughout the year, exploring different science topics and culminating in the development of a STEAM toolkit which will be distributed to hundreds of families living in Direct Provision centres throughout Ireland. The contents of the toolkit will be developed directly by the children and parents participating in the workshops, making them the authors. CÚRAM’s Education and Public Engagement Programme ‘Breaking Barriers’ aims to forge collaborations between researchers and the community. More information is available at www.curamdevices.ie/curam/public-engagement/. ReelLIFE SCIENCE (€15,000 funding award) ReelLIFE SCIENCE is a nationwide science video competition, which encourages young people and the general public to discover more about STEM and its impact on individuals, society and the environment, while developing participants’ creativity, communication and digital skills. Young people from schools and youth organisations are challenged to research a STEM topic and communicate it for the public via an engaging and educational three-minute video. The deadline for entries is Friday October 16th, and the best videos are awarded €1000 and are screened for the public at the Galway Science and Technology Festival in NUI Galway. Since being launched by Dr Enda O’Connell in 2013, ReelLIFE SCIENCE has enabled more than 13,000 young people from 400 schools and community groups all over the country, to engage with STEM in a novel way. More information about this programme can be found at www.reellifescience.com. Science Foundation Ireland has invested in over 440 public engagement projects through the Discover Programme since 2013. This year’s funded initiatives are estimated to reach five hundred and eighty thousand people. 47 diverse initiatives will be supported by this year’s programme, with successful awardees being carefully selected through international peer-review. -Ends-

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

USI runs a Sexual Health Health Awareness campaign and launches a survey on campuses across Ireland Today the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) launched a Sexual Health Awareness and Guidance (SHAG) campaign running from the 10th -14th February. The campaign will include the launch of a ‘Sexual Experiences Survey’ with NUI Galway Active Consent, the distribution of 30,000 ‘SHAG Packs’, as well providing information on sexual health. The theme for this year is Sexual Empowerment amongst students. USI President, Lorna Fitzpatrick says: “The main focus of this campaign is to promote positive attitudes towards sex and raise awareness of all aspects of sexual health. In Ireland, talking about sex can still be considered a taboo subject and USI believes it is important to break through these barriers and encourage people to practice safer sex and to look after their sexual health. The truth is that many young people do not receive adequate relationships and sexual education while in school and for many the first time they learn about their sexual health is when they come to college. The USI continues to lobby for a more inclusive and evidence-based RSE programme for primary and secondary schools to ensure young people have experience of these conversations before going to college. This campaign allows us to directly reach 30,000 students with information about masturbation, consent, abortion information and sexual transmitted infections.” As part of the SHAG 2020 campaign, USI and NUI Galway Active Consent are working together in launching a national online students’ survey for third level students; the Sexual Experiences Survey (SES). The survey is designed to gain an insight on students’ experiences of sexual violence, attitudes towards consent, and perceptions of HEI supportsand responses to sexual misconduct. The Sexual Experiences Survey will help to address the knowledge gap by surveying students across all HEIs in the Republic of Ireland affiliated with USI. Survey findings will be presented in a report later in 2020 that highlights priorities across the HEI sector for prevention, awareness, and skills development. Dr Lorraine Burke, NUI Galway Post-Doctoral Researcher, leading the survey implementation said: “The 2019 Department of Education Consent Framework identified goals for HEIs in supporting students’ positive sexual health and to contend with the problem of sexual harassment and violence. The Sexual Experiences Survey will make sure we get comprehensive, up to date information on our students’ awareness of services, the prevalence of negative experiences, and the positive role of students in supporting a culture of respect”. Dr Pádraig MacNeela, Senior Lecturer in Psychology in NUI Galway and Active Consent programme leader said: “The issue of sexual violence and harassment will only be addressed successfully when all of us join forces and act together. We are delighted to partner with USI to carry out this important survey. Each of us brings important strengths, and through collaboration with third level colleges we aim to get a full picture of positive and negative student experiences. Once we know that information we can use it to help target sexual health education and supports”. USI Vice President for Welfare, Róisín O’Donovan says: “USI is delighted to be launching this survey in collaboration with NUI Galway Active consent on this important topic for students. The last time USI did a national survey on consent was the ‘Say Something’ survey in 2013, so it’s time for more up to date data to be reflective of the student society at the moment in Ireland. We’re looking forward to gaining a better insight into students’ sexual experiences and how we can best move forward with the ‘Consent Framework’”.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Sheol OÉ Gaillimh ionad nua taighde le gairid, an tIonad um Theangeolaíocht Fheidhmeach agus Ilteangachas (CALM). Cuirfidh an t-ionad nua, atá lonnaithe in Institiúid de Móra do Thaighde sna Daonnachtaí agus sa Léann Sóisialta, deis ar fáil do thaighde idirdhisciplíneach i réimse na teangeolaíochta feidhmí agus an ilteangachais agus cuirfidh sé le feasacht ar shaincheisteanna a bhaineann le foghlaim teanga, próiseáil teanga agus ilteangachas in OÉ Gaillimh agus sa phobal i gcoitinne.  Léiríonn téamaí taighde CALM go bhfuil níos mó ilchineálacht teanga i bpobail in Éirinn, san AE agus ar fud an domhain. Bhí Gaillimh go mór mór luaite i nDaonáireamh 2016 mar an chathair is ilchineálaí in Éirinn, ó tharla go bhfuil an céatadán is airde de dhaoine nach náisiúnaigh iad agus os cionn 60 teanga sa chathair. Tá tionchar suntasach aige seo ar oideachas agus mar thoradh air sin tá go leor leanaí ilteangacha i gcuid de scoileanna na cathrach agus an chontae. Ina theannta sin, tá céatadán ard leanaí i dteiripe urlabhra agus teanga agus i seirbhísí sláinte gaolmhara eile sa chathair agus sa chontae agus ar fud na hÉireann, agus tá líon na ndaoine fásta atá ag úsáid na seirbhísí seo ag dul i méid chomh maith. Ó tharla go bhfuil Gaillimh suite in aice le Gaeltacht Chonamara tá nasc ag OÉ Gaillimh leis an daonra is mó in Éirinn a labhraíonn Gaeilge. Tá timpeallacht dhátheangach san Ollscoil agus úsáidtear an Ghaeilge go rialta i gcúrsaí acadúla agus i gcúrsaí sóisialta ar an gcampas. Tá soláthar oideachais trí Ghaeilge i measc aidhmeanna straitéiseacha na hOllscoile. ‘Beidh taighde ar an nGaeilge i gcroílár obair CALM’, a dúirt an Dr John Walsh, Léachtóir Sinsearach Gaeilge agus comhstiúrthóir CALM. ‘Is réimsí suimiúla taighde iad an t-athrú teanga sa Ghaeltacht agus an caidreamh idir cainteoirí dúchais agus ‘nuachainteoirí’ ó thaobh an ilteangachais, na sochtheangeolaíochta, an tsealbhaithe teanga agus na teiripe urlabhra agus teanga’. ‘Is forbairt shuntasach é seoladh CALM a chuirfidh le hinfheictheacht an taighde atá á dhéanamh in OÉ Gaillimh i réimsí na teangeolaíochta feidhmí agus an ilteangachais, a mhéadaíonn comhoibriú idirdhisciplíneach agus trascholáiste agus, dá réir sin, a imríonn tionchar ar mhic léinn agus ar an bpobal i gcoitinne’, a dúirt an Dr Laura McLoughlin, Léachtóir Sinsearach le hIodáilis agus comhstiúrthóir CALM. ‘Cuireann CALM deiseanna iontacha ar fáil chun cur leis na comhpháirtíochtaí atá ann cheana idir Disciplín na Teiripe Urlabhra agus Teanga agus Scoil na dTeangacha, na Litríochtaí agus na gCultúr agus a chruthaíonn gur ionad barr feabhais i réimse an ilteangachais é OÉ Gaillimh’, a dúirt an Dr Stanislava Antonijevic-Elliott, Léachtóir Sinsearach le Teiripe Urlabhra agus Teanga agus duine de bhunaitheoirí CALM. Ag an am céanna le seoladh CALM fógraíodh MSc nua in Ilteangachas Feidhmeach atá le tosú i Meán Fómhair 2020 agus a bhfuil sé d’aidhm aige ceisteanna a bhaineann le hilchineálacht teanga in Éirinn, san AE agus ar fud an domhain a phlé. Is é an MSc an t-aon chlár dá leithéid in Éirinn agus tá sé dírithe ar mhic léinn ó chúlra éagsúla lena n-áirítear teangacha, na dána, na heolaíochtaí sóisialta agus teiripe urlabhra agus teanga. Tuilleadh eolais ag https://bit.ly/2voCxlk.   Tuilleadh eolais: www.nuigalway.ie/calm Críoch

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

NUI Galway also announce details of new MSc in Applied Multilingualism NUI Galway recently launched a new research centre, the Centre for Applied Linguistics and Multilingualism (CALM). The new centre, which is based in the Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences, will provide a platform for interdisciplinary research in the area of applied linguistics and multilingualism and increase the awareness of issues related to language learning, language processing and multilingualism within NUI Galway and the wider community.  CALM’s research themes reflect increasing linguistic diversity in communities in Ireland, EU and globally. In particular, Galway was identified in the Census of 2016 as the most diverse city in Ireland, having the highest percentage of non-nationals and over 60 languages. This has significant impacts on education resulting in many multilingual children in some of the city’s and county’s schools. In addition, there is a high percentage of children and a progressively higher number of adults in speech and language therapy and other related health services in the city and county and also across Ireland. The proximity of Galway to the Connemara Gaeltacht links NUI Galway to the largest Irish-speaking population in Ireland. The University offers a bilingual environment where the Irish language is regularly used in academic and social life. The provision of education through Irish is among the University’s strategic aims. "Research on Irish will feature strongly in the work of CALM", said Dr John Walsh, Senior Lecturer in Irish and Co-Director of the Centre. "Language change in the Gaeltacht and the relationships between native and ‘new’ speakers are interesting fields for research in multilingualism, sociolinguistics, language acquisition and speech and language therapy." "The launch of CALM is a significant development that will enhance the visibility of the considerable amount of research being carried out at NUI Galway in the fields of applied linguistics and multilingualism, increase interdisciplinary and cross-college collaboration and ultimately impact both students and the wider community", said Dr Laura McLoughlin, Senior Lecturer in Italian and CALM Co-Director. "CALM offers fantastic opportunities to firmly establish NUI Galway as a centre of excellence in the field of multilingualism", said Dr Stanislava Antonijevic-Elliott, Senior Lecturer in Speech and Language Therapy and CALM founding member. The launch of CALM coincides with announcement of the new MSc in Applied Multilingualism due to start in September 2020, which is designed to cater for increasing linguistic diversity in communities in Ireland, the EU and globally. The MSc is the only course of its kind in Ireland and is aimed at students from a variety of background including languages, humanities, social sciences and speech and language therapy. For more information on the MSc in Applied Multilingualism visit https://bit.ly/2voCxlk. Further information: www.nuigalway.ie/calm -Ends-

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Researchers from NUI Galway’s Whitaker Institute were recently commissioned to evaluate the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s (DPER) Executive Leadership Development programme. The report was recently launched in Dublin Castle by Robert Watt, Secretary General of the DPER, and was conducted by NUI Galway’s Professor Alma McCarthy, Dr Denise Holland and Dr Katerina Bohle Carbonell. The Executive Leadership Development is aimed at Senior Public Service (Assistance Secretary General) and Principal Officer grades across the Irish civil service and has been delivered to over 120 top civil service leaders. The programme is a senior talent development programme designed to assist participants in exploring different aspects and styles of leadership in order to reach the next level of their personal and professional development. The programme arises out of the Civil Service reform agenda.  The evaluation report completed by NUI Galway drew on data collected from programme participants, their line managers and other key stakeholders. The evaluation report found that the programme had a significant positive impact on a range of senior civil service managers’ leadership skills including the ability to empower their teams, develop their change leadership skills, enhance resilience, and develop the skills required to work across the political system.  The evaluation report also sets out a number of recommendations for the design of future executive leadership development programmes in the areas of executive coaching and post-programme networking and alumni supports to sustain and embed the learning. Speaking about the report, Professor Alma McCarthy said: “Almost 10 years ago, I completed a study on senior civil service leadership in Ireland. I am pleased to see that the recommendations of that study were instrumental in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform designing and delivering the current executive leadership programme for its senior leaders. Our evaluation of the executive leadership programme points to the value of investment in senior leadership development across the civil service. All organisations reap the rewards of effective leadership development that results in leaders more effectively managing their people and projects to achieve Departmental and organisational goals.” The full report can be viewed at https://bit.ly/2S4TTNd. -Ends-

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Science on Screen, run by CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway and Galway Film Centre are once again offering funding to filmmakers interested in producing a short scientific documentary focused on cancer research. Collaborating with thescheme this year are Precision Oncology Ireland (POI), a consortium aiming to develop new diagnostics and therapeutics for personalised cancer treatment, and the Patient Voice in Cancer Research, with financial supportthrough the Wellcome Institutional Strategic Support Fund at UCD and other philanthropic funds. Precision (or ‘personalised’) medicine uses data about a person’s genes (genomics), along with additional information on their cancer, to understand the unique pathways of a disease or treatment response in that person. With this new science, doctors can prescribe the right treatment in a timely fashion, saving the wasted resources and time our current ‘trial and error’ method incurs, while greatly improving response rates. The ‘Science on Screen’ scheme, a funding strand for creative documentaries set in the world of science, is now in its fifth year. The scheme will fund one 26-minute film with a budget of €35,000 that promotes the public understanding of science. The scheme forms part of CÚRAM’s public engagement programme which supports the Science Foundation Ireland objective of having the most scientifically informed and engaged public. Please note that teams who have been in receipt of Science on Screen funding previously are not eligible to apply in 2020. Science on Screen is a Galway City of Film initiative between Galway Film Centre and CÚRAM. Since 2016, five Science on Screen films have been produced. All have been broadcast on RTE and or TG4, screened at numerous international film festivals and scooped six international awards. The documentaries are used throughout the country at schools, for community screenings as well as at academic conferences and have reached an audience of over a million people to date.  The Science on Screen Information Day will take place on Wednesday 26th February 2020 at the Druid Theatre in Galway City for filmmakers and producers. Both researchers and patients will give an overview of their research and involvement, followed by a Q&A and opportunities to discuss ideas with the speakers. The schedule for the day will include: 10.30: Welcome by CÚRAM 10.45: Speaker 1 Professor Walter Kolch, Director, Precision Oncology Ireland 11:05: Speaker 2 Dr Roisin Dwyer, NUI Galway & POI Investigator 11.25: Speaker 3 Professor Maeve Lowery, Trinity College Dublin & POI Investigator 11.45: Patient/Lived Experience Panel [Perspectives from several cancer patients/family members] – chaired by Professor William Gallagher and Professor Amanda McCann 12.25: Speaker 4 Professor William Gallagher, Deputy Director, Precision Oncology Ireland 12.45: Speaker 5 Professor Amanda McCann, Chair, The Patient Voice in Cancer Research 13:05:   Galway Film Centre – Application Guidelines & Q&A 13:30:   Close For interested filmmakers, a limited number of places will also be made available to attend a separate event the evening before the Information Day, the ‘Patient Voice in Cancer Research’ Dragons Den workshop on Tuesday, 25th February from 4pm-7pm, which is being held in the Galway Bay Hotel, Salthill. For more information on this separate event, please contact Claire Riordan at CÚRAM on Claire.riordan@nuigalway.ie to book a place. What: Science on Screen Information Day When: Wednesday 26th February 2020 Time: 10:30am – 1.30pm Registration: Through Eventbrite Trailers for previously funded commissions are available here: Science on Screen 2016 ‘Feats of Modest Valour': https://vimeo.com/184564095 ‘Mending Legends': https://vimeo.com/189779551 Science on Screen 2017 ‘Bittersweet': https://vimeo.com/242714712 Science on Screen 2018 ‘A Tiny Spark’: https://vimeo.com/291731458  Science on Screen 2019 ‘The Patient Effect’: https://vimeo.com/367628357 For more information on Science on Screen see: www.galwayfilmcentre.ie  and www.curamdevices.ie ENDS

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

A study led by NUI Galway has found that on average, patients with severe and complicated obesity who were attending a weight management programme were more enthusiastic about participating in a programme to help improve their diet and physical activity than they were about having surgery if the methods of treatment had equivalent results and costs. The study of patients undergoing treatment and also using focus groups found that those with severe obesity issues wanted help and preferred lifestyle modification and drug therapies over bariatric surgery. The patients also felt they needed psychological services to be available to them as part of the treatment, indicating the need for multi-disciplinary interventions but that these were usually not readily available.  The study found there is a lack of a systematic interdisciplinary approach to treating severe obesity. Most of all the study, which invited the views of 192 patients, mostly women, showed they wanted treatment even if it was bariatric surgery as opposed to getting no treatment at all.  One in five of the group were unable to work due to health issues.   Despite obesity being a major issue in Ireland, only a tiny number receive surgery for severe obesity.  The study concluded that it is likely that patients with severe obesity receive sub-optimal treatments in Ireland. The NUI Galway study was led by Dr Michelle Queally of the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics and involved the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s University Belfast.  The study of patients with severe obesity is among the first to explore preferences for bariatric surgery relative to more traditional means of weight loss. The study has provided vital information at a time when Ireland is dealing with some of the highest rates of obesity in Europe, with one in four adults now classed as obese and one in four children overweight.  In valuing interventions, the study found great store would be placed by patients in psychological supports and they were anxious to lose significant weight and avoid fatal heart attacks. Individuals who are severely obese have on average much more complex health issues and encounter very different challenges in the healthcare system than the majority of moderately obese individuals (BMI ≥ 30–35). Structured lifestyle interventions are a cornerstone of the treatment of obesity and its complications in different patient subgroups, including those with prediabetes diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. However, meaningful, sustained reductions in weight over time can be difficult to achieve with lifestyle modification alone. Dr Queally said: “Delivering effective treatment for people with severe obesity represents a challenge for our healthcare systems. The study presents novel insights into the preferences of a group of help-seeking patients who are severely obese. It demonstrates that among this group of patients, there is a preference for lifestyle modification to achieve weight loss. The findings from this study should go some way to helping policy makers understand what factors influence participation in weight loss programmes and recognise the physical and emotional needs of the people involved. Developing such services requires the input of the patients involved.” To view the full study visit https://bit.ly/3988kG4. -Ends-

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Scientists from NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin and Species360 have quantified what drives attendance to zoos by assessing how variations in animal collections affect footfall. Crucially, they link their findings to the contributions made to conservation efforts in situ (in the wild), and find that zoos are making significant, positive impacts on our attempts to conserve biodiversity as our planet enters its sixth mass extinction. Among the headline findings are that zoos with lots of animals, lots of different species (particularly mammals), and with large animals such as elephants, tigers and pandas attract higher numbers of visitors. It is difficult for zoos to fulfil all of these requirements simultaneously however as large animals take up a lot of space and resources meaning relatively few can be accommodated. The research found that instead of a “one size fits all” approach to a zoo collection there are several different strategies that can be used to encourage attendance, including the inclusion of unusual animals. Ultimately higher numbers of visitors led to zoos contributing more conservation activity in the wild. This research used a global data-set for 458 zoos in 58 countries, including species holdings data from the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS) managed by Species360. More than 1,200 wildlife institutions curate and share animal data as members of Species360, contributing real-time demographic, medical, genetic, and population insights for more than 22,000 species and 10,000,000 individual animals, both living and historic. The research has been published today 04 February 2020in leading international journal, Nature Communications. Andrew Mooney, PhD Candidate in Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences,is first author on the paper. He said: “Zoos and aquariums not only breed and maintain populations of thousands of wildlife species but they also act as centres for public education, wildlife rehabilitation, scientific research and public entertainment. Zoos and aquariums attract more than 700 million people annually around the world and thus they provide an unparalleled audience for conservation education.” “Housing large, charismatic animals in zoos and aquariums is being questioned more and more from an ethical perspective, but our research concludes that these animals do not solely play an entertainment role but also serve a broader conservation purpose by indirectly increasing in situ project investment.” Key Results Larger animals are associated with greater attendance Lots of animals (rather than a few) are associated with greater attendance Zoos find it difficult to maximise both large animals and lots of them at the same time Unique collections of animals are associated with greater attendance, but not to a huge degree Zoo size (on its own) has no impact on attendance (although smaller zoos can house fewer animals, and fewer large animals…) Zoos closer to large populations of people enjoy greater attendance Greater attendance results in greater conservation contributions in the wild Zoos with more conservation-threatened animals invest more conservation projects in the wild (gold standard) Dr Kevin Healy, Lecturer at NUI Galway, said: “By looking at the make-up of various zoo and aquarium collections from around the world we were able to identify the aspects of these collections which draw in the large audiences that can help drive conservation funding.” “Interestingly, while having big charismatic animals is one way to gather an audience, having a more unusual collection of species is an alternative way to drive gate receipts and with it conservations funds.” Yvonne Buckley, Professor of Zoology at Trinity College Dublin,added: “Conserving species in the wild remains the gold standard and with multiple habitats and species coming under ever-more serious threats from a variety of angles, there is an increasing relevance and importance to the role played by the thousands of zoos and aquariums across the globe in supporting conservation in the wild.” “Our study provides global evidence to suggest that zoos don’t need to compromise their economic viability and entertainment value in order to have a significant value to conservation.” -Ends-

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

NUI Galway and Loci Orthopaedics Ltd recently initiated an Enterprise Ireland funded Innovation Partnership Programme project. The aim of this programme is to facilitate any company in accessing the latest skills and expertise from research institutes throughout Ireland. Commenting on the partnership, Dr Noel Harrison, Programme Director for the BE and ME Programmes in Mechanical Engineering at NUI Galway and Funded Investigator in the SFI centre I-Form, said: “Direct industry research engagement such as this, particularly with Galway’s Med-Tech global hub, is a critical feature of our activity in Mechanical Engineering. This project reflects the industrial relevance of 3D printing for our students and researchers. The state-of-the-art suite of printing capabilities in plastics, composites and metals in our Advanced Manufacturing Lab continues to attract multi-sector industry and academic collaborations for material and process optimisation and provides valuable experience for our students.” Dr Eimear O’Hara, NUI Galway graduate in Mechanical Engineering and Research Fellow on the project said: “I’m very excited to directly work with industry on this novel medical device project utilising the unique design freedoms of metal 3D Printing and our knowledge of the printing process and materials. It is fantastic to be able to design, manufacture and test novel orthopaedics devices in-house, thus enabling local start-up company growth.” Additive manufacturing continues to be an area of significant growth in the global healthcare technology space. The increase in the number of 3D-printed orthopaedic products along with the rise in orthopaedic complications are major growth aspects boosting the demand for 3D-printed orthopaedic implants. Declining cost differences between 3D-printed and traditionally manufactured implants are also enabling device manufacturers to expand the applications of 3D-printed in the musculoskeletal sector. In parallel to this, the number of 3D-printed medical devices cleared for clinical use by the FDA in the US has increased by 400% since 2014, indicating a tipping point has been reached in the acceptance of these implants by the regulators and the market. It is estimated that the total revenue generation associated with ‘additive orthopaedics’ in 2018 amounted to over $500M worldwide. This market is expected to grow at 6% per year. Speaking about the Innovation Partnership Programme, Loci Orthopaedics co-founder Dr Brendan Boland said: “The programme is a great opportunity to work within the Academia-Clinical-Industry model. The OsteoAnchor technology was originally developed by Dr Harrison, an international leader in the field of 3D printing for orthopaedic implants. The company now gets to work with Dr Harrison and his extensive technological knowledge to further develop this product. Loci Orthopaedics works with world-leading orthopaedic surgeons to develop evidence-based implants who can provide ongoing input into the incorporation of this technology into new implants. The company has already developed products in the area so have the expertise and extensive industry contacts that can help advance this product to market to enter into a rapidly growing and lucrative market segment.” -Ends-

Monday, 3 February 2020

NUI Galway’s Regenerative Medicine Institute has launched a new €7.45 million project to develop ground-breaking and innovative scientific and engineering platforms for the production of advanced cellular therapeutics for use in the treatment of osteoarthritis and other major diseases.  Funded by the EU Horizon 2020 programme the AutoCRAT project will address the critical need to develop industrially relevant, cost effective and fully automated manufacturing systems for this new area of medical treatment. Based on a strong interdisciplinary and collaborative effort, it will generate a deeper understanding of the science of stem cells and their therapeutic use as well as harnessing world-class expertise in advanced engineering and robotic systems. The project will also meet the need for development of an effective treatment for osteoarthritis and the demand for other cell-based treatments by transforming the way stem cells and their secreted therapeutic factors (mainly a novel type of biological nanoparticles, the so called extracellular vesicles (EVs)), are manufactured. Cellular therapies are being tested for a wide range of conditions including degenerative diseases, immune and inflammatory disorders and cancer. These revolutionary therapies offer great promise for patients and practitioners and may finally open the door to new and effective treatments which up to now have been unavailable. Several different types of cells may be used, (including stem cells, tissue-derived adult cells and cells of the immune system) depending on the specific treatment. The use of living cells as a medicinal product presents extraordinary challenges in terms of production and current manufacturing protocols are relatively inefficient and limited in scale.  They also require highly-skilled teams of technicians operating in a clean-room environment. As clinical trials progress and more treatments are available for patients, cost-efficient and high throughput manufacturing remains a major challenge.  The initiative is being led by NUI Galway and Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology, Aachen. AutoCRAT arises from strong and fruitful collaborations between these partners in the recently completed AUTOSTEM project, which led to the development of a fully automated and closed advanced robotic platform for the industrial-scale manufacture of cell products. The AUTOSTEM concept will now be further developed to include enhanced technologies for a wider array of cell types and products derived from cells. The AutoCRAT system will also include automated testing protocols so that process monitoring and quality control are managed within the robotic platform.   The AutoCRAT Regenerative Medicine Factory (ARM-F) will produce chondrocytes and stem cells for arthritis treatments using robots for every manufacturing step. It will also generate products based on proteins, RNA and other materials that stem cells produce and which are now understood to be key elements of their therapeutic mechanism. Thus, AutoCRAT will enable the production of cell-based therapeutics on an industrial scale, that is more controlled and at a lower cost compared to existing technology. This will accelerate the development of the cell therapy industry and make these treatments more accessible for the benefit of patients.  The AutoCRAT project will be led by Mary Murphy, Professor of Regenerative Medicine and a Principal Investigator at the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at NUI Galway. Professor Murphy said: “This is an exciting interdisciplinary project that will develop new cell therapies for arthritis and provide the platform for automated, robot-enabled manufacturing of the cell products to ensure that patients will benefit in the foreseeable future.” According to Frank Barry, Professor of Cellular Therapy at REMEDI, the adoption of best in class manufacturing protocols is still the most serious obstacle facing the cell therapy industry: “We know from our experience in managing cell therapy clinical trials that the  manufacturing side is inefficient and vulnerable with an unacceptably high cost of goods. The only way the field can progress is through the widespread adoption of highly automated production and testing protocols. AutoCRAT addresses these gaps and will be a game-changing innovation.”  Other essential contributions will come from: Valitacell Ltd (VC), based in Dublin will establish automated quality control tests for the automated factory. The University of Gothenberg and Leiden University Medical Center will work with REMEDI to develop and test these new arthritis therapies. Essen University Hospital and the University of Genoa will develop methods to produce EV-containing, cell-free therapeutic products for arthritis in the automated system. Panaxea BV will determine the costs of production and delivery of the developed therapies. They will also assess the potential benefits of an effective cell therapy for osteoarthritis to patients and their families as well as the broader European and worldwide economies. Pintail Ltd will assist with the management and administration of the Project and will ensure that AutoCRAT output is disseminated effectively to our target audience. The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 874671. The material presented and views expressed here are the responsibility of the author (s) only. The EU Commission takes no responsibility for any use made of the information set out. -Ends-

Friday, 14 February 2020

NUI Galway is exploring the designation ‘Age Friendly Campus’ through a student lead project that will see three initiatives on campus focus on welcoming members of the community to engage through a campus walk, public seminar and computer classes. NUI Galway students from second year Biomedical Science and the Older Persons Council (OPC) have worked together to organise these three events to progress a campaign for an Age Friendly University. The students have aimed to tackle three main areas: to raise awareness of the biodiversity walks on campus, to encourage participation in technology and to discuss the ‘Age Friendly Ireland’ programme. “Welcoming older people to our university is very important as it will encourage us all to engage more in wellness, cultural, social and educational opportunities” said Lorraine Tansey of NUI Galway’s Community Knowledge Initiative. “The main overall goals are to create a more diverse university campus, promoting more intergenerational engagement and helping to challenge stereotypes and combat ageism.” The World Health Organisation has identified aging populations as a major area of focus for cities, hospitals and educational institutions in proactive engagement with increasing diverse needs. The three events are free, open to all and are student-lead.  The Age Friendly Walk will be held Monday 17th of February at 11pm. Meeting point at the Cathedral. The Age Friendly Computer Classes will be held Tuesday February 18th, Tuesday March 3rd and Tuesday March 10th from 12pm-12:45pm in the ILAS building on the ground floor G007. The Age Friendly Designation for NUI galway Seminar will be held Tuesday 10th of March at 12pm in the ILAS building on the ground floor G007. The guest speaker Dr. Kieran Walsh, Professor of Ageing and Public Policy will offer an insight into the national Age Friendly initiatives. To book your place on these events please call Lorraine Tansey 091-495346.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Those who have never been in love report better healthSexual minority youth at increased risk of poor healthResponses from 15 year olds in eight European countries  A new study, led by Dr András Költőand the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) Ireland team, based in the Health Promotion Research Centre at NUI Galway, linking patterns of romantic attraction with self-rated health and health symptoms, has been published in the Journal of LGBT Health. ‘Self-reported health and patterns of romantic love in adolescents from eight European countries and regions’ is the first study to examine adolescent romantic love patterns across multiple countries, and to test whether they are related to health outcomes. NUI Galway researchers Dr András Költő and Professor Saoirse Nic Gabhainn carried out the study with their colleagues from other European countries to investigate the relationship between how adolescents rated their own health and who they were in love with. Adolescents aged 15 years from eight European countries and regions (Bulgaria, England, France, French Belgium, Hungary, Iceland, North Macedonia and Switzerland) were asked if they had ever been in love and whether they had been in love with someone of the opposite gender, the same gender, both or neither. The sample (which is nationally representative for all of these countries) comprised 13,674 young people. Adolescents who had never been in love reported the best self-rated health and fewest health symptoms such as headache, stomachache, feeling low, irritability or bad tempers, difficulties getting to sleep, nervousness and feeling dizzy. The rates of opposite-gender love (heterosexual) were 52% in England and 82% in France. Proportion of same-gender love (lesbian/gay) were around 2% in both countries. Having been in love with others of both genders (bisexual) was marginally more frequent, with 3% in England and 2% in France. However, 40% of the English and 13% of the French adolescents reported never being love. Rates of same- and both-gender attracted adolescents were similar in the other countries, but proportion of those who reported opposite-gender love varied more widely. Adolescents who had been in love with people of the same gender were three times more likely to report multiple symptoms and were one and a half times more likely to report having poor health than 15-year-olds who had been in love with people from the opposite gender. Those who had been in love with both boys and girls (which may indicate being bisexual) were three times more likely to report multiple healthy symptoms and were three and a half times more likely to report having poor health than 15 year-olds who had been in love with people from the opposite gender. These patterns persisted across the eight countries studied, even when factors such as levels of family affluence and the participants’ gender were taken into account. Commenting on the findings, lead author Dr András Költő stated: “This study suggests that bisexual young people and adults are even more affected by poor health than their lesbian and gay peers of the same age, and all sexual minority youth are faring considerably worse than their heterosexual peers. This is likely to be connected to the discrimination, prejudice and high levels of stress many LGBTI+ (the abbreviation stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex or belonging to other sexual or gender minority) young people experience in their everyday lives. We hope these findings will supplement Ireland’s National LGBTI+ Youth Strategy 2018-2020, the world’s first governmental strategy that aims to improve sexual and gender minority young people’s health and wellbeing.” The data does not feature Irish youths but NUI Galway plans to present findings on Irish young people in the coming months.  The article can be downloaded at: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/lgbt.2019.0107 ENDS

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Science breakthroughs such as this in schizophrenia at NUI Galway will be further enhanced when the University enroll its first class of students in a new undergraduate BSc degree in Genetics and Genomics in September 2020 Scientists at NUI Galway have identified how some genes may increase the risk of schizophrenia.  In a study led by Dr Derek Morris and Professor Ciaran Morrison, recently published in the leading international journal Human Molecular Genetics, reducing the function of a known schizophrenia risk gene called SDCCAG8 was found to cause changes in brain cell behaviour. This may indicate biologically how changes in our DNA increase risk of schizophrenia, thereby providing opportunities for new therapy development.  Schizophrenia affects on average one in one hundred people but its biology is poorly understood. Schizophrenia is highly genetic, meaning that many of the risk factors for developing the illness lie in the ~20,000 genes in the human genome. Large-scale genomics studies identified SDCCAG8 as a gene involved in schizophrenia. To explore how SDCCAG8 may be involved in illness, Irish Research Council-funded PhD student Mairéad Flynn used CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing to remove SDCCAG8 from cultured brain cells.  This resulted in the cells struggling to migrate and to change into more specialized brain cells. The team also found that the functions of hundreds of other genes were also affected in these cells, which potentially disrupts normal brain development and function and puts individuals at risk of developing mental illness.   Professor Ciaran Morrison, Head of NUI Galway’s School of Natural Sciences, explains: “Our analyses indicate that genes influenced by SDCCAG8 are important for different brain functions and this presents us with a model for how other genes may contribute to the biology of schizophrenia. This can be exploited to help understand the biology of schizophrenia in greater detail and open up opportunities for new drug development, which is badly needed for this mental illness.” In parallel with this research NUI Galway will enrol its first class of students in a new undergraduate BSc degree in Genetics and Genomics in September 2020. The new course offers students the opportunity to learn about the scientific advances that allow the identification and analysis of such disease genes. For more information on the BSc in Genetics and Genomics visit https://www.nuigalway.ie/gy321 According to Programme Director of the new BSc in Genetics and Genomics, Dr Derek Morris: “Advances in genome editing and sequencing over the last 15 years have revolutionised many areas of biology and biomedical science such as the study of common illnesses, as exemplified in our schizophrenia research. We want to teach students who are interested in biology and mathematics about the different applications of genetics and genomics in areas such as medicine, agriculture, evolution, the environment and biotechnology, and for them to critically evaluate the emerging ethical issues.” The study in Human Molecular Genetics can be viewed at  https://academic.oup.com/hmg/advance-article/doi/10.1093/hmg/ddz292/5683666 -Ends-

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Despite recommendations to intensify treatment in recent blood pressure guidelines, as many as 150,000 Irish patients may NOT need to increase blood pressure medication Embargo to 00.01 GMT on Wednesday, 29 January, 2020: A major research study from NUI Galway has interrogated the implications for patients of new, lower, blood pressure thresholds recommended in recently released American and European medical guidelines for the treatment of high blood pressure (also termed hypertension).  The findings from this NUI Galway study indicate that up to 150,000 Irish adults who are newly eligible for treatment to a lower than previously recommended blood pressure target, may in fact not benefit from increases in their doses or number of blood pressure medications. This may have knock on implications for the national drugs bill. The NUI Galway investigation, led by Professor Bill McEvoy, was conducted in collaboration with US investigators and is now published in a leading international medical journal, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The investigators looked specifically at the new American diastolic blood pressure threshold of 80 for the diagnosis of hypertension.  This new diastolic blood pressure threshold of 80 was a reduction from prior guideline recommendations that advised doctors to use a diastolic blood pressure of 90 or more to make a diagnosis. Diastolic blood pressure is the lower of two readings reported when describing blood pressure values, the other, top, number is called systolic blood pressure. High blood pressure can be diagnosed when either the systolic or diastolic (or in some cases both) numbers are above the threshold value. The NUI Galway investigation looked at a type of high blood pressure or hypertension, termed isolated diastolic hypertension. This occurs when the systolic (top) number is normal (i.e., below 130 according to new guidelines) but in contrast the diastolic (bottom) number is high (i.e., greater than or equal to 80 according to new guidelines).  Professor McEvoy and coauthors report that, when applying the new guidelines, approximately 5% of the US adult population will be newly diagnosed with high blood pressure (or hypertension) based on this pattern of isolated diastolic hypertension. That translates into approximately 12 million adults in the US being newly diagnosed with this condition. The corresponding Irish figure would be 100,000 new cases. Though there are differences between American and European guidelines in how high blood pressure is defined, both sets of guidelines recommend that a target blood pressure of 130/80 be achieved for the majority of adults who are receiving treatment to lower their blood pressure. Therefore, the findings from this NUI Galway study have implications for Irish adults in that approximately 600,000 are already on treatment for high blood pressure and up to 150,000 of these may now be newly eligible for increases in their treatment doses or number of medications just to get the diastolic (lower) number to less than 80 despite having a normal systolic (top) blood pressure of below 130. However, the research from McEvoy and collaborators suggests that increases in blood pressure drug therapy may not benefit adults with this pattern of isolated diastolic hypertension. Specifically, they found that as long as the systolic (or top) blood pressure was below 130, there was no increase in risk for adverse health outcomes among adults with a diastolic blood pressure over 80, compared to adults with lower diastolic blood pressure values. Professor McEvoy said: “Guidelines in both America and Europe advise that doctors treat blood pressure down to a level of 130/80 in the majority of patients. There is little doubt that treating the systolic (or top) blood pressure value down to 130 is beneficial and reduces heart disease and stroke. This is important to stress. However, the recommendation to also treat the diastolic (lower) value down to 80 is more controversial and our results would suggest that the more traditional target for diastolic blood pressure of 90 is also safe as long as the top number is controlled below 130. By focusing on good control of the top number and by relaxing drug treatment goals for adults with isolated increases in the bottom diastolic blood pressure number, we may be able to avoid potential overtreatment of a lot of people and instead focus on healthy diet and lifestyle.” -Ends-

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Nicholas Canny, Professor of History Emeritus at NUI Galway, former President of the Royal Irish Academy, and founding Director of NUI Galway’s Moore Institute, has been awarded the RIA’s highest honour, the Cunningham Medal, for distinction in research and for furthering the aims of the Academy. The medal will be presented to Professor Canny at a special ceremony at the RIA last night The Cunningham Medal was first awarded by the Academy in 1796, following a bequest from Timothy Cunningham, a legal scholar and Member of the Inner Temple. Distinguished past recipients include the mathematician William Rowan Hamilton, the physician, traveller and antiquarian Sir William Wilde, the historian David Beers Quinn, the poet Seamus Heaney, and most recently the chemist Dervilla M.X. Donnelly. Professor Canny, the foremost historian of early modern Ireland, has also made leading contributions to Atlantic history. He took his undergraduate degree at University College Galway and his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania. His numerous books, articles and edited collections have explored the Elizabethan conquest of Ireland; colonial identity in the Atlantic World; and Making Ireland British, 1580–1650. He is currently completing a major study entitled Imagining Ireland’s Pasts; Early Modern Ireland through the Centuries. Nicholas Canny first became a Member of the RIA in 1981, was elected Member of the Academia Europaea in 1995, became a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy in 2005, was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2007, and to the Real Academia de la Historia (Madrid) in 2011. He served as Dean of the Faculty of Arts, 1982-85 and was Vice President for Research at NUI Galway, 2005-2008. He was elected President of the RIA 2008-11 and was appointed by the European Commission to be a member of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council 2011-16, the only person from Ireland, so far, to have been given this responsibility. Professor Daniel Carey, MRIA, Director of the Moore Institute, said: “This is a major honour to one of the university’s most distinguished graduates, with an international reputation as an historian and leader in research policy and administration. His career has been an inspiration to colleagues in the humanities at NUI Galway and across the country.” -Ends-

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Researchers from NUI Galway’s School of Geography, Archaeology and Irish Studies, together with Forbairt Pobail Maigh Cuilinn (Moycullen Community Development Association), have developed a people powered plan for the future development of the village. The Moycullen 2030 Village Plan project was funded by the Irish Research Council. The village of Moycullen is set for change with a number of key infrastructural investments are due. A bypass of the village is set to commence in 2020, a new primary school will be built by 2022 and a dedicated cycleway in the form of the Connemara Greenway is due for completion in the same year. In all, 300 housing units have been granted permission within the village boundaries, and longer term infrastructural investments such as the planned ring road around Galway city will also have very real effects of the village. Conservative estimates would place these changes as at least doubling the population of the village by 2030. Principal Investigator Dr Patrick Collins, Discipline of Geography at NUI Galway, said: “With funding from the Irish Research Council we were keen to test our methodology for people powered planning. Today’s publication is essentially the culmination of the wishes of a community, a document that was collectively authored by the people of a place.”  The project acted as an effort to plan from the bottom up rather than the top down. It also sought to identify a sustainable future for a village in the context of a rapidly urbanising Ireland.  Local Councillor Noel Thomas said: “The people of Moycullen were given a unique opportunity to develop a community based plan for their village, a plan that should play a very important role in the development of the upcoming Local Area Plan for Moycullen. The results are very impressive and clearly show that the residents of Moycullen want to see the village develop into the future, in a progressive and sustainable manner.”   The project commenced in June of 2019, over the course of six months it far exceeded initial targets and today’s publication reflected the wishes of close to half the population of the village (820 people). Key concerns from schooling and infrastructure to a climate resilient village were expressed.   “Ensuring the best possible representation was key. We employed a number of new methods such as the development of the Village Plan App. This augmented reality App helped people appreciate broad considerations from the environmental to the social and the commercial in planning for future development”, Dr Collins continued.  Interviews, face-to-face surveys, focus groups, online engagement and a public event enabled the most comprehensive public engagement ever undertaken in the village. Over the past two months Dr Collins and colleagues have been sifting through the results.  Dr Collins said: “What we have ended up with is an extremely coherent and well thought out plan. This plan not only reflects the desires of the people of a place, but abides by key issues facing us all. It is climate aware, it recognises the key principles of design-led planning and abides by county level and national planning documents.”  The Moycullen Village Plan 2030 forsees future development of the village that is guided by the three following principles:  Community - universally recognised as a defining trait of the village, all development needs to be cognisant that any new building ensures the successful continuation into the future.  Connectivity - future development of the village requires better connections. Moycullen needs to be better connected to the city and to its outstanding natural environs. Of importance is a growing village that connects its people in better ways.  Collaboration - to achieve its full potential the future development of Moycullen must occur in an open, transparent and informed way. A community centred village requires community at the centre of its development.  Reflecting on the work, Peadar Mac Fhlannchadha of the Moycullen Community Development Association commented: “We are delighted to be involved with this innovative community study, we would hope that the community inputs will help in preserving Moycullen’s unique identity as it develops towards 2030. The facets of Community, Connectivity and Collaboration identified by the study need to be progressed ahead of the expected development of Moycullen, and we would look to the local authority and government agencies to recognise and action the Communities inputs.” Key recommendations set forth include: The purchase of a derelict building in the village to act as a cultural/community hub. The development of a public park in the village that will accommodate the successful farmers market and also act as a new village centre. Bus connections and the completion of the Connemara Greenway are seen as important for the village to develop in an environmentally sustainable manner. Further recommendations include the branding of the village as the gateway to the environment and activity pursuits and a new forms of local governance for the village and its people.  -Ends-

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

The National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway) has announced that it will continue its partnership with O’Donovan Rossa Club as club sponsors, promoting both sport and education within the region. Attending the event were NUI Galway’s Registrar and Deputy President, Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, Mayor of Belfast Daniel Baker and representatives from O'Donovan Rossa under-16 hurling, camogie and football teams who tried on their new kit. Speaking at today’s announcement, Registrar and Deputy President, Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh said: “Investing in young sporting talent is extremely important to us. Not only does it improve outcomes on the pitch, but dedication to sport is later reflected in a commitment to education and developing a career by applying skills such as determination, resilience, team work and communication.” Jane Adams, one of Ulster’s most decorated camogie stars and a Rossa legend, said: “I’m delighted that NUI Galway are renewing their sponsorship of Rossa under 16 and minor teams. I’m absolutely thrilled that their sponsorship is going to be extended to include girl footballers and the camogie teams.” Sport at NUI Galway recognises the relationship between academic performance, health and well-being. The Sport and Recreation Unit has a mission to promote participation in sport and physical activities by all students and staff, and to support higher standards of performance in sport for elite athletes and teams within NUI Galway. Over 6,000 students in NUI Galway are participating in weekly sporting activities, and 43% of these students are competing in a new sport for the very first time. Margaret Flynn, Chairperson of Rossa GAC, commented: “Renewing and developing our strong links with a world-renowned university like NUI Galway will help our underage teams to continue to improve. We believe that the majority of our young players will be going to university in the near future and it is tremendous that O’Donovan Rossa has such a close connection with a university like NUI Galway.” The announcement comes at a time when universities in the Republic are becoming more accessible to students from the North. Professor Ó Dochartaigh said: “The recent introduction of new, fairer A Level equivalences in the system in the Republic mean almost all courses are now within the reach of students with three A-Levels, and all are within reach if you have an AS as well. Every year, NUI Galway welcomes a strong cohort of students from across the North to study on our 71 undergraduate degrees. Low fees, the relatively affordable cost of living and its sheer proximity, NUI Galway is becoming an option for students in Northern Ireland to consider.” In October 2019, NUI Galway confirmed that in 2020 and beyond students who have been resident in Northern Ireland and have UK/EU/EEA/Swiss citizenship will be treated as EU students for the purposes of fees for the duration of their courses. The decision was taken by the University to provide certainty to A Level students as they make their college choices over the coming months. The fee status decision also extends to postgraduate students enrolling in 2020. For further information on applying to NUI Galway and Free Fees Initiative eligibility http://www.nuigalway.ie/undergrad-admissions/faqs/ -Ends-

Monday, 27 January 2020

“What we have developed is like a living Velcro that removes and traps pathogens” Nature-inspired wipes and masks which could capture and trap the Wuhan Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) are being developed by scientists at the Irish company Aquila Bioscience. This technology can be used by front-line personnel and civilians under risk of exposure as prophylactic measure to reduce viral transmission in places of contact such as hospitals and transportation hubs. The start-up, based at NUI Galway, has developed a chemical-free strategy that effectively removes bacteria, viruses, fungi and biological toxins from surfaces. Positive results have been achieved against a number of pathogens in a laboratory setting. The wipes have been under development for almost two years with the specific aim of not only removing pathogens from surfaces but also ‘trapping’ them within the material so prevent them spreading and so help effective disposal. In addition, the solution is non-toxic so can be used on human skin, mucosal surfaces and wounds. The development of this technology was funded by the European Defence Agency and was conducted in collaboration with the Irish Defence Forces and the Czech University of Defence.  “What we have developed is like a living Velcro at nanoscale. All cells are coated with proteins and complex carbohydrates. Every cell-to-cell relationship is ruled by interactions between these carbohydrates and proteins. We are tapping into this interaction by infusing our wipes with specific proteins and carbohydrates to which the pathogens bind – and stick,” explains Professor Lokesh Joshi, co-founder and director of Aquila Bioscience, and Vice-President for Research and Innovation at NUI Galway. Nature has been experimenting for millions of years to find solutions against infectious diseases, explains Professor Joshi who is also Director of the Glycoscience Research Group at NUI Galway. “There is an ingenious manner by which nature protects us from infectious microbes and most biological toxins which have carbohydrates and proteins on their surfaces. In nature, humans and animals produce, milk, urine and saliva/mucus full of specific proteins and carbohydrates that bind to the pathogens to protect us from most of the pathogens we encounter on a daily basis.” Currently all of the available decontamination strategies include artificial chemicals for example bleach, calcium hypochlorite and hydrogen peroxide. These strategies destroy biological agents, but are toxic, harmful to human beings and not safe for use on human surfaces (i.e skin). In addition, the use of conventional decontamination solutions can lead to recurrent infection and can interfere with forensic evidence due to their destructive nature and cannot be used for routine use as prophylactic purpose. Aquila Bioscience technology can deliver safe and effective decontamination that can be routinely used on sensitive areas like skin, nose, eyes and mucosa, where other methods are either not safe or cause skin reactions. It is also totally non-toxic and composed of biodegradable materials in contrast to the damaging environmental impact of chemically based solutions and the major problems caused by non-recyclable wipes in the environment.  Aquila Bioscience continues to collaborate with the Irish Defence Forces, with their needs to be prepared against biothreat agents. This collaboration has also brought the technology to the attention of other national and international security and humanitarian agencies who have expressed strong interest in using the technology to protect first-responders and affected people. “Our true hope it that this may indeed be an effective, safe and environmentally safe method to protect people from the potentially deadly pathogens they might encounter,” concluded Professor Joshi. -ends-

Thursday, 23 January 2020

UNESCO Chair Professor Pat Dolan and actor Cillian Murphy today (Thursday, 23 January) launched a new initiative to introduce Empathy education for secondary school students in Ireland. The programme, Activating Social Empathy, is part of a suite of work undertaken by a team of researchers at NUI Galway that has developed a concrete basis for understanding empathy education among adolescents. A major focus of the UNESCO Chair’s work both nationally and internationally, is the role of empathy in the development of social understanding and its potential to enable young people to foster better social responsibility, civic behaviour and critically, action.  UNESCO Chair and Director of the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway, Professor Pat Dolan said: “Within schools, empathy education initiatives like the one we launch today equip young people with vital skills in social emotional learning as well as offering them opportunities to engage in active citizenship and more compassionate caring towards others. Empathy education is urgently needed in schools to curb hate speech aggression and racial and other forms of negative profiling – it is imperative that the new incoming Minister for Education and Skills adopts empathy education in the same way as maths or other stem subjects.” Earlier work by the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre (UCFRC) research team conducted with adolescents identified a need for greater focus on the promotion of empathy related skills and social values in Irish secondary schools.  In response, researchers at the Centre have developed Activating Social Empathy, an interactive, social and emotional learning programme to teach empathy skills and foster positive peer relations among secondary students. The programme is designed to form part of the Junior Cycle Wellbeing Programme and targets students’ learning and skill building around four key principles: Understanding Empathy, Practicing Empathy, Overcoming Barriers to Empathy, and Putting Empathy into Action.   Professor Dolan continued: “The Activating Social Empathy programme was piloted in seven schools from September 2017 to June 2018. Overall, feedback on the programme was positive, with students and teachers typically reporting that the programme had a positive impact on students' empathy and personal development. Due to this initial positive feedback, we are now preparing to begin the next evaluation phase.” Following a two-year feasibility testing phase, the programme is being launched as part of an evaluation study using a randomised-control design, in 25 schools nationwide involving over 2000 students. The evaluation will assess the impact of the programme on students’ empathic attitudes, social values, and interpersonal behaviours. The evaluation is being carried out by the UNESCO Child & Family Research Centre (Prof. Pat Dolan & Dr Charlotte Silke) and the School of Education (Dr Niamh Flynn & Emer Davitt) at NUI Galway. The full, evaluated programme will be available as a free resource to schools in Ireland from September 2020.           The launch, which was also attended by youth advocates for empathy education, provided an opportunity to showcase the Youth as Researchers Video Resource Library for Schools and Community Groups, developed in collaboration with Foróige, narrated by Cillian Murphy. The event is part of a broad focus of the UNESCO Chair in extending the broader ethical education of youth in national and international settings in collaboration with UNESCO.        Commenting on the event, actor and Centre Patron Cillian Murphy said: “You can’t really be an actor without employing empathy as a very important tool in your arsenal. In supporting this education programme which we are launching today, my hope is that it will help young people see that everyone has a different story and everyone’s story is valuable.” -Ends-