Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Author: Alison Herbert, Irish Centre for Social Gerontology Opinion: our views on who constitutes a healthy role model tends to evolve as people and society change Role models are those we believe to be somewhat similar to ourselves in terms of attitudes, behaviours, goals, or status, but who crucially already have the skills or attributes that we admire or strive after. We are motivated to mirror these individuals through observation, learning and emulation, helping us to better understand ourselves and our environments. But do we need role models - and are they good for us? Only as far as we allow them to impact our own lives. If we deem them to be stratospherically out of our reach, they become more like invisible friends who we check in with every now and then for an inspirational chat. However, if we believe ourselves to be a mere weekend acting/singing/dancing/cooking/business course away from being just like them, then we could be setting ourselves up for continuous disappointment and failure, as can be witnessed weekly in the proliferation of reality competition TV shows. Clearly not everyone is destined to become the new kid on the block, so what happens when you feel you can no longer become your role model? And what service is the unattainable celebrity role model providing? One photographic exhibition of "successful businesswomen" in the cosmetics industry portrayed Helena Rubinstein, Estee Lauder and Elizabeth Arden as being ambivalent role models, with their success having been achieved from an arguably flawed limitation of feminine beauty. But what is the job spec for a healthy role model? Views are temporal and tend to evolve as we do, and as society does. A young girl may equally view her schoolteacher or mother as the most important role model in her micro world. Teenage girls tend to imitate role models a little older than themselves, who could be family members, but are just as likely to be celebrities who remain "pseudo-nubile" (think Ariana Grande). Like food choices, some role models are healthier than others. Beauty has always been equated with youth, and in western societies which are currently experiencing an explosion in obesity, youth and thinness remain the "ideal", regrettably leading to countless cases of poor self-esteem amongst females. In her twenties, a young woman’s cognitive and social net may be cast wider, trawling in bigger fish, possibly a sporting hero such as Katie Taylor or young female political activist like Malala Yousafzai. A decade or so on from that, and juggling work commitments and childcare, our woman may cite those "inspirational" women who seem to have it all, do it all, say it all, and look good too (hello Amal Alamuddin-Clooney) as role models. Leaping forward to middle age (a nebulous "anywhere" from 45 to 65 years) and we may hear mid-life women, who currently form almost a quarter of Ireland’s population, take a deep exhalation of breath as they seize the first opportunity to review their lives to date and assess what they really want before they hit the ever-ascending retirement age. So who might be the role models be for these older women? Do women at mid-life turn off the computer, the telly, the boss, the partner, the children, and leg it to the nearest spiritual retreat in the hope of divine inspiration? Or do they take a closer look at their own environments to see what’s going on, who’s making it happen and ask if there is anything to be learned here? When it’s a case of "nothing to see here, move on", today’s mid-life woman may well seek her role models outside of her own social environment (for instance, from celebrity stars of the big and small screens. The visibility of youthful older people in celebrity culture and the profligate notion that old age can be held at bay indefinitely by technologies and the right attitude has resulted in new and alarming "realities". Botox, steroids, and cosmetic surgery appear to point the way to a brave new world where mature adulthood is seen primarily in chronological, biological and medical terms. A healthy role model for the Connemara mid-life woman is as likely to be found in the back field as the West Wing It’s not hard to understand how any of us would be inspired by queen bees like Michelle Obama or Oprah Winfrey as examples of lightning rods for societal change. But for many women at the pivotal mid-lifecourse stage, it’s often the "drones", the ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things, who flame our creative thought and become our role models. A recent study of mid-life rural women in Ireland reports positive role models to be mostly mothers, grandmothers, older employers and fellow community members. The role model status was attained as a result of diverse, but somewhat prosaic activities: feeding, clothing, and educating children; turning jaded communities into vibrant villages and carrying out heavy manual work every day, despite diminishing health. These role models were admired for their resilience and ability to carry out tasks that enhanced the lives of others rather than for how they looked. Rural mid-life women often display great resilience in the face of cumulative disadvantage resulting from the maldistribution of socio-economic resources. When you are living with limited employment and training opportunities, pared-back gendered-health support services and coping with skeleton public transport, diminishing social amenities and temperamental technological connectivity, a healthy role model for the Connemara mid-life woman is as likely to be found in the back field as the West Wing. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Vist here

Friday, 9 February 2018

Author: Siddhi Joshi, School of Geography and Archaeology Report: all you ever wanted to know about the unique seabed habitats known as maёrl beaches  "The Coral Strand too is silvery, glimmery, moon-pale, and it crunches underfoot pleasantly; pick up a handful of its beach and you see it is composed of tiny twiglike bits of something like unglazed pottery, white, cream-coloured, pale green or faintly violet-flushed. This is not strictly coral, but fragments broken off a coraline alga." by Tim Robinson from Connemara - The Last Pool of Darkness Maёrl debris beaches are some of the most unique, rarest and least understood environments in the world. Known incorrectly as "Coral Strand", these rare biogenic gravel beaches are made of branched free-living coralline algal gravels known as maërl. French naturalist Madame Lemoine first coined the Breton term maërl in 1910. Maërl has been studied in the west of Ireland for more than a century, when Arthur Disbrowe Cotton took part in the Clare Island survey. Unlike coral, maërl or "rhodolith" is a plant rather than an animal and is restricted to the depth of light penetratio when alive. Sub-tidally, living maërl forms a range of complex 3-D biogenic microhabitats for a range of invertebrates including brittle stars, bivalves, sea cucumbers and an important nursery areas for juvenile species of fish. These unique seabed habitats are found in many regions including Scotland, Cornwall, France, Spain, Malta, Norway, the Arctic, Mexico and notably off the Brazilian coast (a 22,000 square km area the size of El Salvador) and are protected under the EU Habitats Directive as Special Areas of Conservation(SACs). This rare and diverse seabed habitat is of great conservation significance and one of the oldest marine plants in Europe. Historically when fishermen in Brittany would land maërl, they would be able to use it on their soil as fertiliser, ensuring a fertile harvest and making maërl a prized commodity. Commercial extraction no longer occurs in Brittany, where it is banned, but there is a cultural festival, Fête du Maërl, which happens every four years. I became fascinated by maërl by going to the beach and seeing how it was carried, mobilised and transported by almost every wave. In 2014 during my PhD research on maërl sediment dynamics, I found myself meeting many professors and knowledgeable experts studying maërl. Realising the need to document their extensive knowledge, I decided to a short documentary together about maërl. Little did I know that this would turn out to be a hour-long scientific documentary entirely about maërl! This documentary explored a diverse range of multidisciplinary research areas related to maërl, including marine botany, zoology, ecology, conservation management to geology, hydrographic surveying and geophysics. Featuring nine interviews with experts on maërl and the seabed, it explores the threat of anthropogenic activity on maërl, including extraction and dredging, salmon farming and trawling beds. It also contains numerous solutions suggested by leading experts, some of whom have studied maërl for twenty to forty years. Marine science documentaries can inspire, educate and transform the science and serve to be informative tools in science communication. We hope this documentary will be one step towards educating the next generation of scientists, policy makers, for stakeholder management and the threats faced by exploitation of this vulnerable benthic habitat.  Our scientific understanding of the behaviour of maёrl beaches and beds is very limited, especially when it comes to the results climate change (such as increased storminess and ocean acidification). Furthermore, the current suite of morphodynamic models used to predict shoreline change have been developed and tested on beaches composed dominantly of lithogenic surface sediments. These have very different mineral compositions, particle shapes and porosity characteristics to calcareous maёrl deposits. It is not known how these differences are manifested in the hydraulic properties of the sediment and, subsequently, how they impact the dynamics of maёrl debris beaches and offshore maёrl deposits. New research with Eugene Farrell of NUI Galway's School of Geography is underway to develop, test and validate the first ever process-response morphodynamic model for maёrl beaches and beds and quantify the impacts of storminess on these beaches. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Vist here

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Author: Professor Paolo Bartoloni, School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures Opinion: despite a well documented colourful and controversial past, just why are many Italians happy to continue to support and indulge Silvio Berlusconi?  An examination of the return of Silvio Berlusconi to a central role and potential success at next month’s election in Italy, despite his colourful past, could start by stating that political longevity in Italy is a norm rather than an oddity. Despite accusations of collusion, corruption and nepotism, Italian political leaders over the last century have endured with remarkable obstinacy so why would Berlusconi be any different?  For a start because he entered the political scene proclaiming his difference and presenting himself as the anti-politician par excellence. He was the man against the establishment, the new face of a new wave of politics that would defy politics from within by, for instance, signing contracts with the electorate(literally signed on TV, in front of millions of Italians), similar to the one you would sign with a bank for a personal loan.  Since 1994, the year he entered politics and had his first stint as Italian prime minister, Berlusconi has flaunted his otherness vis-à-vis institutionalised politics and politicians. Yet Berlusconi has been prime minister three times and absolute leader of his political party since the word go - doesn’t that make him a politician? Well, not really. Strangely enough, countless Italians still think of him as a successful businessman rather than a beleaguered politician who, not unlike many other politicians before him, has been accused of tax fraud, placed at the centre of claims of collusion with criminal organisations, and involved in sex scandals over underage prostitution. In the case of Berlusconi, what counts is not so much "political longevity" but simply and more passionately "longevity", which he has decided to pair, by his own choice, money and influence, with politics. Like his passion for soccer (until recently Berlusconi was the owner of AC Milan), politics has propped up his longevity, ensuring him visibility, prime time TV appearances, biographies, books and articles such as this one.  What Berlusconi has always wanted and still desires is more time. More time to impress, more time to seduce, not only women, but also the average Italian with his smile and his love for singing and jokes. Is it an accident that Berlusconi started his business career as an entertainer on cruise ships? Is it surprising that when he was attacked by a protester who hit him with a miniature of the Milan Cathedral, photos showed Berlusconi with a candid expression of shock and disbelief that one would associate with the random harassment of cinema stars than that of politicians in disarray? He has been spectacularly successful in his fight against time because he has managed to persuade us to suspend our disbelief. He has moulded himself on the characters of fiction and fantasy for which his TV and publishing industry is so celebrated and famous. It doesn’t matter how impossibly complicated the situations he finds himself in are, the number of attackers who surround him with their daggers drawn, the ferocious beasts and the blood thirsty revenants that are about to bite him. In the next scene, Berlusconi will reappear intact, smiling and in control of the situation. Of course, very little is said about what happened in the meantime to attackers, beasts and zombies. They are irrelevant in their own right and soon forgotten. The temporality that Berlusconi lives in is self-constructed and self-perpetuating. It is nurtured by fantasy and reliant on our willingness to suspend judgment.  So why have Italians accepted him as a fictional character in a story they appear to be unwilling to let go? Is it enough to state that Berlusconi is rich, powerful and influential, characteristics that tend to attract people and turn the owner into quasi-idols and icons of fame and glamour?  He has been spectacularly successful in his fight against time because he has managed to persuade us to suspend our disbelief Intriguingly enough, a simple identity or image does not come to mind when one utters the name Berlusconi. Instead, the name Berlusconi conjures up several identities and images. It is almost a category of life and experience. Similar to Flaubert’s Bouvarism, from the character Madame Bovary in the eponymous novel, we now have Berlusconism, the age of Berlusconi, Berlusconi’s Italy. Berlusconi is gradually turning into a concept and idea that constructs stories and creates templates for states of mind. Not unlike Kafka’s castle, the eerie essence of which doesn’t reside so much in its physical presence as in its imagined and feared existence, Berlusconi’s identity and persona are not so much based on matter as on a projected collective imagination which sees things as on a screen, and cannot bring itself to separate day-to-day life from fiction. Calling the result of the next Italian political election on March 4th and whether Berlusconi will come out on top and at the expense of who and which party verges on the impossible. What we are left with is an intriguing spectacle - and the question of whether or not people will continue to suspend their disbelief. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Author: Professor Daniel Carey, Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Opinion: the US president's responses to mass shooting incidents tell us much about America's gun control issues, but will anything change as a result? Writing about Donald Trump just before his inauguration in January 2017, I asked how he might respond to mass shootings during his presidency. We have seen three major shooting incidents during his presidency so far: Las Vegas, where 58 people were slaughtered at an open-air concert; Sutherland Springs, Texas, where 26 church-goers lost their lives on a Sunday morning and, most recently, Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and staff died in an attack on Valentine’s Day. Trump's responses to each of these incidents tell us something about him and something about the country and its great gun rights versus gun control impasse. The next question is whether anything will change as a result. After the Las Vegas massacre – a record death toll for such shootings, not to mention more than 500 injured people – the US president played for time, a standard tack of politicians on the right. It is also a standard ploy of the National Rifle Association (NRA) when such events place unfettered access to guns under the spotlight. Trump promised "we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by", only to drop the issue. He also remarked that it was a "miracle" how quickly the police arrived – the premise being, presumably, that it could have been worse. The tactic of distracting from the main issue became even more apparent in responding to the Texas episode which Trump characterised as a ‘mental health problem’, calling the shooter, Deven Patrick Kelly, a "very deranged individual". Such a person, standing outside the norm, ostensibly has no implications for the gun-owning community. Under the pressure of organised and vocal student-led protests following the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, Trump has conceded some ground, claiming that he will use an executive order to make the "bump stock" device, that was used in Las Vegas to turn the killer’s weapon into a machine-gun, illegal. He also claimed he would raise the age at which one could buy assault rifles, the weapon used by 19 year-old Florida shooter Nikolas Cruz, from 18 to 21 years – not that this would have helped in the case of 64 year old Las Vegas perpetrator, Stephen Paddock. But Trump has also redeployed the suggestion of arming teachers as a solution and turning schools into police precincts, all in the name of protecting the "liberty" to own guns. Bizarrely, he condemned so-called "active shooter drills" as "very negative" and "crazy" at the same time. The same impulse to divert the discussion was equally in evidence, from accusations that video games and movie violence constitute a cause to slamming the performance of law enforcement at the scene, which he called "frankly disgusting". The armed school resource officer, Scot Peterson, who waited outside and failed to engage the shooter, "choked" and "didn’t have the courage" to take action.(Peterson has resigned but his lawyer denied the accusations and said he followed protocol). In a further contribution taking matters to a new level of absurdity, Trump has declared that he believed that he himself "would have run in there, even if I didn’t have a weapon". Where does this leave us? For starters, with a president who remains beholden to the NRA, which provided vast sums to support his campaign ($11m to him and $20m to attacking Hillary Clinton). Certainly, the speech by NRA head Wayne LaPierre to the Conservative Political Action Conference in the aftermath of the Florida shooting demonstrated a renewed commitment to polarising the issue. He condemed the "elites" who supposedly care nothing for school safety and "shamefully" politicise "tragedy" for their own ends. LaPierre struck fear in the audience by raising the prospect of gun seizures, branding opponents as enemies of the Second Amendment, haters of "individual freedom" and "socialist" conspirators. As if this dark vision was not enough, he closed by uttering a chilling message to "harden our schools" (a phrase also used by Trump). Apparently, the notion of a childhood spent in an unarmed school is mere utopianism. In theory, we should now be able to dispose of the "good guy with a gun" argument, since the armed on-site employee in Florida did nothing to prevent the deaths. Then again, maybe he just wasn’t "good enough". In fact, this is mere fantasy, refuted by the evidence of mass shootings on army and navy bases, where well-trained, heavily armed personnel could not stop the homicides. Nor is there any merit in Trump’s preposterous idea that cowardly shooters would somehow be discouraged from attacking schools since they would encounter heavily armed individuals. As Anthony Swofford pointed out in a New York Times opinion piece, "assailants in such cases aren’t typically worried about losing their lives in the process. Usually, losing their lives is part of the plan." Are we to believe that a disappointed would-be attacker, deterred from entering a school by a heavy armed presence, would think better of it all and remain at home? Or would they perhaps find some less patrolled-installation such as a mall or a cinema or park or any other gathering to unleash their violence? The gun advocates appear willing to militarise the society to a staggering extent in the name of liberty, compromising the most basic freedoms to buttress this one inviolable privilege. It remains to be seen whether students and parents will succeed in maintaining pressure on politicians to act in defence of child safety. Perhaps, like the #metoo movement, this event will galvanise public sentiment and transform opinion. Maybe it will represent a turning point where reason prevails. While 17 year old Cameron Kasky's public rebuke to Florida senator Marco Rubio gives one hope, there is a long and hostile road ahead. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Friday, 16 February 2018

Author: Deirdre Walsh, School of Medicine Report: a new programme exploring ways to improve how diabetes services are delivered to young adults is doing so with the help of young adults themselves Dealing with Type 1 diabetes (T1D) requires an intensive self-management routine. This is especially challenging in times of transition, especially for young adults, when diabetes is one of many demands on time, effort and headspace.  Since 2014, the multi-disciplinary D1 Now team at the School of Medicine, NUI Galway have been working to develop a new intervention to reimagine diabetes care for young adults. The team are exploring ways to improve how diabetes services are delivered to young adults with Type 1 diabetes with the help of young adults themselves. Unfortunately, existing evidence shows a lack of high-quality, well-designed actions aimed at improving health outcomes for young adults with Type 1 diabetes. To address this issue, D1 Now aims to develop an intervention which includes young adults and other key stakeholders at all stages of the development process. The team made a commitment to ensuring that young adults are at the centre of discussion around their care and shaping the way forward. This type of research activity is sometimes referred to as Public and Patient Involvement (PPI). It is crucial for healthcare initiatives to recognise the expert knowledge of people living with the condition and to incorporate it into research. PPI is officially defined by INVOLVE (a leader in UK PPI research) as "research being carried out ‘with’ or ‘by’ members of the public rather than ‘to’, ‘about’ or ‘for’ them." With the formation of the D1 Now Young Adult Panel (YAP) the team made a commitment to PPI and ensuring that young adults are at the centre of discussion around their care and shaping the way forward. As a direct result of this, a meaningful dialogue has opened up between healthcare providers and young adults within the research team. Their involvement has led to a better understanding of what needs to be achieved in order to improve health service delivery in terms of responding to the specific needs of young adults as he panel have been active members in co-designing the action. Currently, three areas have been identified as important for self-management: (a) the young adult’s introduction to the adult diabetes services, (b) attendance at clinic appointments and informal contact between appointments and (c) building relationships between young adults and service providers.  Some factors were identified to help improve these areas. A key worker was required to introduce the young adult to the diabetes service, act as an advocate and conduct a needs and priorities assessment. An online Young Adult Service Portal would facilitate stronger connections between staff and young adults, while an agenda setting tool would allow collaborative decision making and goal setting to optimise diabetes management. These components will make up our D1 Now intervention and how these take shape will be based on feedback over the coming months from young adults, researchers and healthcare professionals. The young adults are instrumental within this feedback process. Research materials such as participant information sheets have been developed to ensure any material used by the D1 Now team is created with young adults and not just "for" young adults. The YAP have also reviewed research findings to create plain language statements so that the team’s work is framed in the most appropriate way for young adults and anyone who may wish to engage with the research. The panel have also helped develop the study website to enhance engagement between young adults and their diabetes healthcare providers.  Through engaging with the YAP, the D1 Now team wanted to push the boundaries of the regular engagement with patients and have tried to adapt existing formats to problem solve problems. An example of this is the Strength in Numbers Conference held in NUIG which sought to bring together expert knowledge from the diabetes community and exchange knowledge and experiences among stakeholders to inform and guide the development of the D1 Now intervention.  Moving forward, we want to extend our young adult panel to the east coast. If young adults between 18 and 25 years old with T1D are interested in having a say and changing care for their peers, please get in touch. An information evening for young adults will be held at the Psychological Society of Irelandoffice in Dublin on February 27.  This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Author: Andras Kolto, Health Promotion Research Centre Report: there has been a reduction in smoking, drinking and bullying since 1998 and an increase in fruit consumption, bonds with parents and feeling low  The Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) is an international study conducted in more than 40 countries which examines young people’s health. In each country, a statistically representative number of schoolchildren are invited to fill in a questionnaire, with questions covering various aspects of their health. These include health-promoting behaviours (e.g. consumption of fruit and vegetables, toothbrushing wtc), risk behaviours (frequency of smoking and drinking), and physical and mental health outcomes (how satisfied the adolescents feel about their lives). Other questions tap into the social and environmental dimension of children’s lives, such as how much support they get from their families, how many friends they have, how safe they think their local area is, and how much they feel pressured by school work Based at the Health Promotion Research Centre of National University of Ireland Galway, the Irish branch of HBSC has been studying and analysing child health since 1994. Let's take a look at how young people’s health in Ireland changed between 1998 and 2014. Decrease in smoking and drinking The best news is that we have seen a steady decrease in some health-compromising behaviours. While 23 percent of adolescents reported being a smoker in 1998, it was just 8 percent in 2014. The earlier someone smokes their first cigarette, the more difficult it is for them to quit. Therefore, it is great to see that there has been a stunning 25 percent decrease in the proportion of children who had their cigarette at the age of 13 or younger. A similar positive trend is found in alcohol use. In 1998, a third of children reported having ever been drunk, but this was down to just a fifth in 2014. As with smoking, there was a 20 percent decrease in the number of kids who had the first alcoholic drink at the age of 13 or younger. Among the 42 countries participating in the 2014 study, Ireland was in the bottom third for both tobacco and alcohol use. Less bullying We were also glad to see that fewer children (13 percent) reported bullying others in the last couple of months in 2014 than in 1998 (25 percent). Bullying among young people from Ireland is also below the international average. Fruit consumption and toothbrushing on the rise There has been an increase in eating fruit more than once a day: in 1998, the rate was 18 percent, which went up to 23 percent in 2014. This is the fifth highest rate in international comparisons. A 10 percent increase was observed in the number of adolescents who brush their teeth more than once a day, which was reported by 69 percent in 2014, although this is just the eleventh place in international rankings. Seatbelt use In 1998, just 35 percent of young people said they always wear a seatbelt when they sit in a car. By 2014, this number was 80 percent. However, it is crucial that every kid should fasten their seatbelts even for the shortest drive. Feeling low We saw a small but significant increase in the number of young people who said that they frequently felt low in the last six months, from 23 percent in 1998 to 28 percent in 2014. Children in Ireland are more likely to feel low than the international average. Stable bonds with parents Very good news is that more and more young people report having a good relationship with their parents. In 1998, 73 percent of the kids told they find it easy to talk to their mother about things that bother them, but this rate was 82 percent by 2014. An even larger increase was found in communication with fathers (from 47 percent to 69 percent in the same period) and these numbers are above the international average. Schools are becoming better places, but children feel more pressured by school work Between 1998 and 2014, a small but significant increase was found in the number of young people who told they like school (from 68 percent to 72 percent). However, there was a rise from 33 percent to 43 percent in the number feeling pressured by school-related tasks. Unfortunately, children in Ireland are ranked high on this indicator in international comparison. A positive balance of two decades – but new issues emerge These findings show that many aspects of adolescent lives have improved during the last two decades. However, more kids felt low and pressured by school work in 2014 than in 1998. We must keep in mind that some risks will always be there for adolescents. In the forthcoming HBSC survey, which will be carried out in spring-summer 2018, we plan to ask young people many new questions - for instance, have they have tried e-cigarettes, where do they access alcohol, do they use sunbeds or are they feeling romantically attracted to someone? New risks may also emerge – we have no idea how the rapidly increasing use of social media will affect children over time. A whole package of questions will be dedicated to electronic media communication. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Author: Dr Nick Tosh, Philosophy Opinion: Artificial intelligence has come a long way since World War Two, but general purpose machine intelligence remains a distant prospect Multiplying large numbers is difficult. It takes time, you have to concentrate, and if you can do it in your head people will think you are a genius. Electronic computers were invented in World War Two to automate this sort of heavy-duty thinking and they were spectacularly successful: the US Army’s ENIACcould calculate artillery trajectories thousands of times faster than a human mathematician, while Britain’s Colossus played a crucial role in breaking German codes.  Not surprisingly, early computer scientists were optimistic about the broader potential of their machines. "The brain will carry out mathematical research", Maurice Wilkes told a Daily Mail journalist in 1947. "It may make sensational discoveries in engineering, astronomy, and atomic physics. It may even solve economic and philosophic problems too complicated for the human mind. There are millions of vital questions we wish to put to it."  Wilkes was referring to Cambridge University’s EDSAC, a device vastly outclassed in raw computing power by modern dishwashers. By 1952, it was able to play Tic-Tac-Toe, but the sensational scientific discoveries were not forthcoming. And the "philosophic" problems? Well, suffice to say that computers still cannot converse at the level of a four-year-old. "The main lesson of 35 years of AI research", wrote psychologist Steven Pinker in 1994, "is that the hard problems are easy and the easy problems are hard." Arithmetic is hard for humans but easy for computers - so easy that we are no longer impressed by mere calculators. Freewheeling conversation lies at the other extreme: trivial for us, but exceptionally difficult for computers.  Building a machine that can master this trick is often seen as the holy grail of AI research. It is a fair bet that if it were accomplished, artificial scientists and philosophers – and Wilkes’s "sensational discoveries" – would not be far behind. Justification: if human-level general intelligence can be simulated at all, it can likely be simulated at scale – millions of interacting agents – and at speed.  Few believe this goal is near. Thus, the traditional subfields of AI focus on more specific "easy for us, hard for computers" tasks. Some involve natural language – for example, detecting the grammatical structure of a sentence, or conversing about a narrowly defined topic. Others have to do with learning from experience – for example, learning to recognise cats by looking at pictures of cats. One reason why it is difficult to program computers to do these things is that it is difficult to describe how we do them. When we do a multiplication problem, we consciously follow rules. It is a simple matter to articulate those rules and pass them to a computer. When we understand an English sentence, or learn to spot cats, we do not consciously follow rules.  So how should the AI researcher who wishes to automate these abilities proceed? She might guess that we unconsciously follow rules. The idea here is not that the relevant brain processes obey the laws of chemistry and physics - that goes without saying. Rather, the idea is that at some high (but nevertheless unconscious) functional level, far removed from the messy details of neuron physiology, the brain manipulates symbols that correspond (somehow) to ordinary concepts, and that it does so according to rules that are not drastically unlike the kind we follow consciously when we do arithmetic or solve a logic problem. It became clear that tasks such as translation, speech recognition and normal conversation require an enormous amount of general knowledge If this guess is right, the AI researcher’s best bet is probably to attempt to reverse-engineer the brain’s high-level symbolic computations. She might turn to cognitive scientists and psychologists for help. She won’t bother neuroscientists, because she doesn’t need to know how the brain’s symbol-juggling routines are implemented at the physiological level. The approach just described – "symbolic" or "Good Old Fashioned" AI – was dominant until the mid 1980s. It had some significant successes. Chess programs began to defeat club-level human players in the late 1960s. Around the same time, Terry Winograd’s SHRDLU demonstrated a limited ability to converse about a simple virtual world of blocks and pyramids. Chess programs continued to improve (they now outclass even the strongest human players), but progress on the linguistic front soon ran out of steam. It became clear that tasks such as translation, speech recognition and normal conversation require an enormous amount of general knowledge. In practice and perhaps also in principle, human programmers cannot codify this knowledge as lists of high-level rules. Symbolic AI had even less success with visual processing and object-identification tasks; the basic obstacle seemed to be the same. Ideally, an AI system that needed a lot of general knowledge would acquire it the way humans do – by learning from experience in an open-ended and flexible way. No one knew how to make a symbolic AI program do that. However from the earliest days of AI, some researchers had favoured a radically different approach. Rather than trying to emulate human conceptual abilities directly, they took their cue from the physiology of the brain. They built systems in which many simple units ("neurons") were interconnected to form complex – and highly adaptable – networks. Early neural networks couldn’t do very much, but they acquired their limited abilities through experience.  For example, if a researcher wished to build a neural network to calculate the AND function, she could begin with a generic do-nothing network, and present it with a few dozen examples of correctly evaluated ANDs. By using a general-purpose training algorithm to update the connection weights in response to each example, she would quickly teach the network to calculate the desired function. The hope was that larger neural networks would eventually be able to perform much more impressive tricks: translate a Russian sentence into English; reliably take dictation; judge whether a photograph depicts a cat. In the internet age, no research project will stall for lack of cat pictures But training large neural networks is not easy. It is computationally expensive, and you need a lot of data - tens or hundreds of thousands of training examples. These were prohibitive drawbacks in the 1960s and 1970s.  Since then, computers have become vastly more powerful, and data more plentiful. In the internet age, no research project will stall for lack of cat pictures. Multi-layer neural networks now drive state-of-the-art systems in image classification, speech recognition, machine translation and many other fields. Deep learning is the hottest thing in tech.  Still, it is important not to overstate what has been achieved. Artificial general intelligence is not just a few years away. Chatbots are still very unconvincing. And if we are ever to build a system that can reason about cats as well as recognise them, we will almost certainly have to integrate some of the methods of Good Old Fashioned, symbolic AI. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Author: Professor Daniel Carey, Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Opinion: mass shootings in the United States have sadly become all too common in recent times yet measures to address this malaise are rarely enacted. Just how did we get to this point? We have been here many times before: America convulsed by a mass shooting in which innocents (young and old, men, women and children) have lost their lives as a lone gunman tears a murderous path through an ordinary day. In Sutherland Springs, Texas in November 2017, it was at a Sunday church service. In Las Vegas in October 2017, in an attack that set a new record for death toll, the location was an open-air concert. We have seen bloodbaths at schools (in Sandy Hook and Columbine), at universities (Virginia Tech), at nightclubs (Orlando), at fast food restaurants (San Diego), at community centres (Kansas City), in movie theatres (Aurora, Colorado), public meetings (Tucson, Arizona), and too many other locations to keep track of. Each time the grief, lamentations, and dismay recede and the United States resumes its pace of life. Then, another event shocks us into public discussion, editorials, vigils, outcries, argument and despair. Gun control has become one of the great intractables, where no matter how much discussion takes place, no progress occurs. I grew up in the US and all my family live there. Like so many others, I keep asking myself how did we get to this point? One factor obviously remains the National Rifle Association, a highly effective manufacturers’ interest group that masquerades as a grassroots organisation. In autumn 2016, the NRA launched its own streaming service, NRATV, with a strap line "The Truth is Under Fire", identifying itself with conservative causes, Trumpian rhetoric and (white) populism. In short, they position gun ownership as a political identity, sanctified by the second amendment to the constitution. The episode in Las Vegas represented a temporary setback to the NRA’s message, given the scale of the slaughter and the killer’s use of a bump stock to accelerate the firing of rounds to machinegun rate. But any pressure on the organisation has been relieved by the episode in Texas. Here, a gun-owning neighbour, Stephen Willeford, heard the shots in the church and returned fire with his own rifle. He then flagged down a passing pickup truck to give chase, the classic "good guy with a gun" taking on a "bad guy with a gun". NRATV duly interviewed him in a 50 minute broadcast, under the banner of NRA member and hero. "Personal protection" constitutes the major rationale cited by proponents of owning handguns. But the argument falls apart in the face of the evidence. The story of Willeford’s response is compelling in its own way, but the telling of it misses the point. Entrusting law enforcement to random, armed citizens is hardly a solution, and the fact remains that 26 people were killed in that Texas church, including a pregnant woman. Instead, it speaks of a desire to change the subject. Attention has now shifted to the failure of the Air Force to forward information on Deven Patrick Kelley’s 2012 conviction for assault on his wife and young son to national databases. This would theoretically have prevented him from purchasing the weapon used in the attack (a Ruger AR-556 rifle; he also had two handguns in his car). The other classic move is to change the discussion to matters of mental health, as President Trump promptly did, calling Kelly a "deranged individual". The same shift of attention happened in Virginia Tech in 2007 with the shooter, Seung-Hui Cho. In the case of the Las Vegas massacre, the search was for Stephen Paddock’s "motive" in the absence of obvious signs of mental illness. But even if such an illness could be established, surely the problem is that ill people have access to weapons enabling them to destroy lives on a massive scale (one of President Trump’s first acts in office was to rescind regulations that made it more difficult for mentally ill people to buy guns). The simple fact is that the overwhelming number of mass shootings, regardless of the psychiatric history of the perpetrators, have been performed with weapons obtained legally. Something else is going on. We have perpetuated our own system of terror, placing citizens at risk of random attack. The president underscores the national hypocrisy by demanding extreme vetting for immigrants, in the wake of the Halloween attack in New York City, while pandering to the NRA agenda by upholding unfettered access to guns (they backed his presidential campaign heavily). What this tells us is that societies have acceptable levels of violence, and that, ultimately, no amount of carnage is enough to galvanize political action in the US. Why is this so? Part of the problem lies, I suspect, in the size of the country. As an entity, the US is too large for these episodes to have sufficient impact to demand national action. They can be absorbed emotionally because they belong, ultimately, to a locality. The contrast in the UK after the Dunblane massacre is instructive: action had to be taken after the fatal shooting of 16 school children and a teacher in 1996. I was living in the UK at the time, and Dunblane felt immediate, close and urgent to address. Entrusting law enforcement to random, armed citizens is hardly a solution. Instead, it speaks of a desire to change the subject. In a geographically dispersed America, the scene is always distant – Sutherland Springs is too far away. So is Blacksburg, site of Virginia Tech. So is Charleston in South Carolina, site of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, where Dylann Roof took the lives of nine people. So is Newtown, Connecticut, site of Sandy Hook Elementary School. So is Denver, Colorado, site of Columbine High School. And on it goes. For many Americans, gun ownership represents a "freedom". Any threat to what they understand as a right leads them to resist efforts to legislate in order to make background checks more stringent, to restrict sales at gun shows and between private individuals and to limit the availability of the most destructive weapons. But this ostensible freedom only exists by abridging other liberties. What freedom do people experience when warnings of "live shooters" routinely shut down public spaces, schools, campuses, and other venues? Should it really be necessary to install metal detectors in schools? Does it make the country more or less free when you need to arm people in churches, movie houses, and classrooms as a prophylactic measure against the possible appearance of a random shooter? America has simply chosen as a nation to rank the right to bear arms above any other right. Meanwhile the "good guy" argument thrives as a fantasy in which the virtuous will protect the public against those intent on doing harm. This is achieved by furnishing teachers, guards, and others with sidearms to ensure our safety at every turn. The massive escalation of weaponry that such a system would require is too obscene to contemplate, but it fails even the first test of experience. If such an approach works, how did Major Nidal Hasan succeed in killing 13 people at the US army base in Fort Hood, Texas in 2009? Or Aaron Alexis murder 12 at the Washington Navy Yard in 2013, in the midst of a concentration of trained and armed personnel? "Personal protection" constitutes the major rationale cited by proponents of owning handguns. But the argument falls apart in the face of the evidence. An article in the Annals of Internal Medicine published in 2014, examining a range of prior investigations, concluded: "all studies found significantly higher odds of homicide victimization among participants who had access to a firearm than among those who did not". The truth of the matter is that more guns result in more shootings and more deaths. Those who imagine defending themselves with a firearm might want to take note of some stark figures. The FBI reported a total of 499 "justifiable homicides" by private citizens in the US in 2014 and 2015, mainly performed with firearms. Over the same period, about 25,000 people died in gun homicides, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (leaving out suicide, a popular use for personal weapons). But we remain trapped in a circular logic in which the proliferation of guns fuels the fear of attack and the purchase of yet more weapons. Statistics on gun ownership indicate the high percentage of white males among those who keep weapons.[7] NRATV cultivates this audience, as does the widely circulated Guns & Ammo magazine, judging from the photography and video on its website. Hunting enthusiasts, ex-military and law enforcement no doubt form a significant part of its wide readership, but one comes away with a strong sense that a major source of its appeal stems from supporting threatened masculinity. A current article by Richard Nance in Guns & Ammo on "Off Body Carry" does helpfully note that "for women, carrying a concealed handgun in their purse is a natural choice. After all, women typically carry purses anyway, and it’s a lot easier to add a gun to the mix than redesign a wardrobe to accommodate carrying a handgun in a belt-mounted holster." (He goes on to offer sensible tips on accessing the weapon quickly, advising women to zip their weapon in a dedicated pocket and to keep the pocket free from an "eyebrow brush or an ink pen" lest such items work their way into the triggerguard, a "recipe for disaster".) Of course, the great obstacle to progress on gun control has been the Second Amendment with its guarantee of the right of the individual to bear arms, leading one recent commentator to call for its repeal. The amendment’s wording is at best ambiguous: "a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Do we take the final declarative phrase as definitive, or accept that it is radically modified by the preceding clauses? If the intention was not to modify it, then why include them? Americans sacralise the Constitution and the wishes of the Framers, as they understand them, even as the lethal power of weapons has long since overtaken the orginators’ intentions. My own view is that literalists should accept the force of the opening clause and require gun owners to enlist in the military if they wish to bear arms, not that this would have spared us from Deven Kelly or Maj. Hasan. In a geographically dispersed America, the scene is always distant – Sutherland Springs is too far away. So is Blacksburg, site of Virginia Tech. So is Charleston in South Carolina The American fixation with guns has entered the territory of the grotesque and self-parodic, promoting the likes of Dana Loesch to prominence as a ferocious spokesperson for the NRA. Anyone who needs a reminder of what it all comes down to should spare a moment to visit the site of Aftermath, which specialises in "Trauma Cleaning & Biohazard Removal". Their thoughtful review of relevant statistics prefaces an invitation to hire them to provide a professional service to sort out the mess. They remark: "In the unfortunate and tragic event that someone is accidentally shot and injured or killed, there will likely be a substantial amount of blood loss that needs to be cleaned up. This cleanup is the responsibility of the property owner, and it comes with risks." Indeed, like the American romance with the gun itself. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform. Visit here

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

NUI Galway has announced the winners of the 2018 Alumni Awards to be presented at the 18th annual Alumni Awards Gala Banquet on Saturday, 19 May, 2018 in the Bailey Allen Hall located in Áras na Mac Léinn on campus. The event will be presented by RTÉ/TG4 presenter and producer, Gráinne McElwain. The Alumni Awards recognise individual excellence and achievements among the University’s more than 90,000 graduates worldwide. The Awards programme boasts an impressive roll call of over 100 outstanding graduates who have gone on to honour their alma mater, including, for example, President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins; Olympian, Olive Loughnane; Rugby great, Ciarán FitzGerald; RTÉ broadcaster, Sean O’Rourke; former Attorney General, Máire Whelan; former Creganna CEO, Helen Ryan, Tony Award-winning actress, Marie Mullen and writer, Mike McCormack. The winners of the seven alumni awards to be presented at Gala 2018: Award for Arts, Literature and Celtic Studies - sponsored by Galway University Foundation- Lisa Coen, Co-founder Tramp Press Alumni Award for Business and Commerce – sponsored by Bank of Ireland- Aedhmar Hynes, CEO, Text100 Alumni Award for Law, Public Policy and Government – sponsored by Ronan Daly Jermyn- Pat Rabbitte, former Leader of the Irish Labour Party and politician Alumni Award for Engineering, Science and Technology – sponsored by AIB- Bernard McGuinness, Vice President, Flavor Supply, The Coca-Cola Company Alumni Award for Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences – sponsored by Medtronic- Professor Declan Sugrue, Cardiologist, Mater Hospital Alumni Award for Contribution to Sport – sponsored by Bank of Ireland- Joe Connolly, Galway Hurler Gradam Alumni don Ghaeilge – urraithe ag OÉ Gaillimh- Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh, award-winning poet Speaking on the announcement of the Award recipients, President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said: “For over 170 years our University has educated graduates of the highest calibre who have gone on to have significant impact in their field of endeavour in Ireland and internationally. “NUI Galway’s Alumni Awards programme recognises the many Galway alumni who are distinguished leaders, making a difference in the world and for the world.These awards enable the University community to celebrate the life-long value of an NUI Galway education and recognise individual achievements among the University’s more than 90,000 graduates worldwide. I congratulate each of the Award winners and look forward to welcoming them back to their alma mater for the Gala Banquet in March.” For ticket and booking information contact the Alumni Office on 091 492721 or email alumni@nuigalway.ie. Online bookings at www.guf.ie -Ends-

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Tá buaiteoirí Ghradaim Alumni 2018 fógartha ag OÉ Gaillimh. Bronnfar na gradaim ag an 18ú Mórfhéasta Alumni a bheidh á reáchtáil Dé Sathairn, an 19ú Bealtaine 2018 i Halla Bailey Allen, in aice le hÁras na Mac Léinn. Is í an láithreoir agus an léiritheoir le RTÉ/TG4, Gráinne McElwain, a chuirfidh an ócáid i láthair. Tugann na Gradaim Alumni aitheantas d’fheabhas agus d’éachtaí an 90,000 céimí de chuid na hOllscoile atá scaipthe ar fud an domhain. Tá gradaim Alumni bronnta ar bhreis is 100 céimí den scoth a bhfuil a n-alma mater fíorbhródúil astu, ina measc, Uachtarán na hÉireann, Micheál D. Ó hUigínn; an lúthchleasaí Oilimpeach Olive Loughnane; an laoch rugbaí Ciarán FitzGerald; an craoltóir de chuid RTÉ Sean O’Rourke; an t-iarArd-Aighne, Máire Whelan; iar-Phríomhfheidhmeannach Creganna, Helen Ryan; an t-aisteoir a bhfuil Gradam Tony buaite aici, Marie Mullen; agus an scríbhneoir Mike McCormack. Seo a leanas buaiteoirí na seacht ngradam alumni atá le bronnadh ag Mórfhéasta 2018: Gradam do na Dána, an Litríocht agus an Léann Ceilteach – urraithe ag Fondúireacht na hOllscoile- Lisa Coen, Comhbhunaitheoir Tramp Press Gradam Alumni don Ghnó agus an Tráchtáil – urraithe ag Banc na hÉireann- Aedhmar Hynes, Príomhfheidhmeannach, Text100 Gradam Alumni don Dlí, Beartas Poiblí agus an Rialtas – urraithe ag Ronan Daly Jermyn- Pat Rabbitte, iarCheannaire Pháirtí an Lucht Oibre in Éirinn agus polaiteoir  Gradam Alumni don Innealtóireacht, an Eolaíocht agus an Teicneolaíocht – urraithe ag  AIB- Bernard McGuinness, Leas-Uachtarán, Soláthar Blais, The Coca-Cola Company Gradam Alumni don Leigheas, an tAltranas agus na hEolaíochtaí Sláinte – urraithe ag Medtronic- An tOllamh Declan Sugrue, Cairdeolaí, Ospidéal an Mater Gradam Alumni don Rannpháirtíocht sa Spórt – urraithe ag Banc na hÉireann- Joe Connolly, Iománaí de chuid na Gaillimhe Gradam Alumni don Ghaeilge – urraithe ag OÉ Gaillimh- Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh, file a bhfuil duaiseanna go leor bainte amach aici Bhí an méid seo a leanas le rá ag Uachtarán OÉ Gaillimh, an tOllamh Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, nuair a fógraíodh buaiteoirí na nGradam: “Le breis is 170 bliain tá oideachas curtha ag an Ollscoil seo ar chéimithe d’ardchaighdeán a raibh tionchar suntasach acu ina réimsí féin in Éirinn agus go hidirnáisiúnta. “Tugann Gradaim Alumni OÉ Gaillimh aitheantas d'alumni de chuid na Gaillimhe ar ceannairí den scoth iad a chuaigh i gcion ar an domhan. Cuireann na gradaim seo ar chumas phobal na hOllscoile ceiliúradh a dhéanamh ar luach fadsaoil an oideachais atá le fáil in OÉ Gaillimh agus tugann siad aitheantas don bhreis is 90,000 céimí de chuid na hOllscoile atá lonnaithe ar fud na cruinne agus a bhfuil éachtaí déanta acu. Déanaim comhghairdeas le gach duine a bhuaigh gradam agus táim ag súil le fáilte ar ais a chur rompu chuig a n-alma mater don Mhórfhéasta i mí an Mhárta.” Chun breis eolais a fháil agus chun áit a chur in áirithe téigh i dteagmháil leis an Oifig Alumni ar 091 492721 nó seol ríomhphost chuig alumni@nuigalway.ie. Áirithintí ar líne ag www.guf.ie -Críoch-

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Signal processing technology to help vehicles see and adapt better to complex environments NUI Galway campus to serve as testbed Researchers from the Lero SFI Research Centre at NUI Galway have signed an autonomous vehicles Research and Development partnership with Valeo, the major automotive supplier headquartered in Paris, France. Funding for the programme comes from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and Valeo. The research will focus on helping autonomous vehicles to better navigate in complex, real world conditions using sensor signal processing technology. A team of up to 30 Lero NUI Galway and Valeo engineers based in Tuam, Ireland, will work on the project. In support of the programme, Lero NUI Galway is hiring ten PhD and two post-doctoral researchers. Valeo, which employs 1,100 people in Tuam, operates the largest Research and Development team in the West of Ireland with over 400 engineers. The project team at Lero, the Irish Software Research Centre, supported by Science Foundation Ireland, will be headed by Dr Martin Glavin and Dr Edward Jones of the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway. Dr Ciarán Hughes, Senior Expert in Computer Vision, leads the Valeo research team. Dr Edward Jones from NUI Galway, said: “In many ways perception of the current state of autonomous vehicle technology is more advanced than reality. While autonomous vehicles are currently operating successfully in several locations, particularly in the US, this is often under road landscape and weather conditions very different to the more complex city and rural environments that would commonly be found in locations such as Ireland or elsewhere in Europe.” As part of the research programme a semi-autonomous car will be equipped to navigate every day hazards on the NUI Galway campus, although the test vehicle will be under human control at all times. Critical use cases will be examined at Valeo’s secured test facility in Tuam. Dr Martin Glavin from NUI Galway, said: “Working with the Valeo Research and Development team, our research aims to develop sensor technology that can see further and adapt to difficult driving conditions such as fog, heavy rain and darkness. It will also be designed to better deal with real life road situations such as cyclists, pedestrians or animals wandering on to the road.” Dr Ciarán Hughes, Senior Expert, Valeo added: “This collaboration brings an 18-year relationship with NUI Galway to a new level, a step that wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Lero. At a broad level, the project will look at how to extract the most information possible from automotive sensors, which is critical for highly complex autonomous driving systems.” Speaking about the partnership, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “It is a tribute to researchers in Ireland that Valeo has chosen to work with Lero, the SFI Research Centre for Software Research, and establish this Research and Development partnership here. SFI Research Centres such as Lero continue to make important scientific advances which support enterprise and industry, develop critical skills, support regional development and enhance Ireland’s international reputation. We look forward to seeing the results of the partnership and the sharing of knowledge and expertise it will facilitate.” Joe Gibbs, Business Development Manager at Lero, the SFI-funded Irish Software Research Centre, added: “This is an exciting project at the cutting edge of advanced autonomous vehicle technology. It is significant that this research is taking place in Ireland.” For more information about the research contact Dr Edward Jones at edward.jones@nuigalway.ie or 091 492720 and Dr Martin Glavin at martin.glavin@nuigalway.ie or 091 492035. -Ends-

Monday, 26 February 2018

In association with NUI Galway School of Medicine, and in anticipation of International Women’s Day, an art exhibition entitled 'Daughter of the Dagda' will run from 6-30 March, with an official launch taking place on Tuesday, 6 March at 3pm in the foyer of the Arts Millennium Building at NUI Galway. The multimedia exhibition of nine women artists explores the manner in which the female and the feminine have been portrayed in Irish mythology and iconography, from pre-Christian Ireland to the present day. The exhibition examines the exclusion of women from positions of power and influence in religious circles and how this has been mirrored by society in general, contributing to the lowly status of the female point of view and of the feminine side of human nature and the persistence of a patriarchal framework in modern society. Professor Andrew Murphy, Established Professor of General Practice at NUI Galway, said: “The School of Medicine has identified gender diversity as a key objective for the next five years. More than half of medical students are now female and this diversity is not reflected in our senior school posts. The School has developed a comprehensive and radical plan to address this which is currently being rolled out. As part of this plan, raising awareness of gender diversity within the school is a key issue. The school is delighted to host for the month of March the ‘Daughter of the Dagda’ art exhibition curated by Hilary Morley and Patricia Timmons.” Professor Murphy added: “The Goddess Brigit (known in pagan times as ‘Daughter of Dagda’) was transformed into a saint after Christianity came to Ireland but Saint Brigit continued to be associated with milk, lambing and sacred cows as well as healing. Each of the participating artists responds to Brigit, with a focus on healing, by looking at how the business of being female has been represented in Ireland past and present.” -Ends-

Monday, 19 February 2018

NUI Galway study on microplastics ingested by deep water fish in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean reports one of the highest frequencies of microplastic in fish worldwide A study carried out by marine scientists at NUI Galway found that 73% out of 233 deep water fish from the Northwest Atlantic Ocean had ingested plastic particles. The research was published today (19 February 2018) in the international peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Marine Science. As part of the study the NUI Galway scientists participated in a transatlantic crossing on-board the Marine Institute’s Celtic Explorer research vessel. During this research cruise they took dead deep sea fish from midwater trawls in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, such as the Spotted Lanternfish, Glacier Lanternfish, White-spotted Lanternfish, Rakery Beaconlamp, Stout Sawpalate and Scaly Dragonfish, from a depth of up to 600 metres using large fishing nets. The fish ranged in size from the smallest species, the Glacier Lantern at 3.5 centimetres to the largest species, the Stout Sawpalate at 59 centimetres. Upon return to Galway the fish were then inspected at the University’s Ryan Institute for microplastics in their stomach contents. Microplastics are small plastic fragments that commonly originate from the breakdown of larger plastic items entering our oceans. Other sources may be waste water effluents carrying plastic fibres from clothing and microbeads from personal care products. Due to their low density, most of these microplastics float at the sea surface. Alina Wieczorek, lead author of the study and PhD candidate from the School of Natural Sciences and Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, said: “Deep water fish migrate to the surface at night to feed on plankton (microscope animals) and this is likely when they are exposed to the microplastics. One of the inspected Spotted Lanternfish, which was 4.5 centimetres in size, had 13 microplastics extracted from its stomach contents. The identified microplastics were mostly fibres, commonly blue and black in colour. Some only measured 50 microns in length. In total, 233 fish were examined with 73% of them having microplastics in their stomachs, making it one of the highest reported frequencies of microplastic occurrence in fish worldwide.” Previous studies have shown that microplastics can be ingested by numerous marine animals from zooplankton, to worms and fishes. The ingestion of microplastics by these animals may cause internal physical damage, inflammation of intestines, reduced feeding and other effects. However, what is also of concern is that many of these ingested microplastics have associated additives, such as colourants and flame retardants that are added to plastics during production process, and/or pollutants that are adsorbed onto the microplastics from the sea. There is now evidence that some of these toxins on the microplastics can be transferred to animals that eat them with potential harmful effects. Dr Tom Doyle, a co-author of the study from the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, said: “While there is clearly a concern that the ingestion of microplastics with associated toxins may have harmful effects on these fishes, or even the fishes that feed on them, our study highlights that these seemingly remote fishes located thousands of kilometres from land and 600 metres down in our ocean are not isolated from our pollution. Indeed, it’s worrying to think that our daily activities, such as washing our synthetic clothes in our washing machines, results in billions of microplastics entering our oceans through our waste water stream that may eventually end up in these deep sea fishes.” The fish were sampled from a warm core eddy, which is a circular current in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. Similar to ocean gyres, these currents are now thought to accumulate microplastics and that the sampled fish may have originated from a particularly polluted patch of the Atlantic Ocean. Ms Wieczorek added: “This would explain why we recorded one of the highest abundances of microplastics in fishes so far, and we plan to further investigate the impacts of microplastics on organisms in the open ocean.” The research was carried out within the PLASTOX project, a European collaborative effort to investigate impacts of microplastics in the marine environment under the JPI Oceans framework and supported by the iCRAG (Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geoscience) project, funded by Science Foundation Ireland. To read the study in Frontiers in Marine Science, visit: http://bit.ly/2EEmMHI -Ends-  International Media: BBC News, USA Today, Sky News, La Repubblica (Italian), The Times, the Daily Mail, iNews, and Europa Press (Spanish) National Media: RTÉ News, The Irish Times, the Irish Examiner, TheJournal.ie, the Irish Independent, the Irish Mirror, and Newstalk, The damage microplastics are having on deep sea fish in the northwest Atlantic has been laid bare pic.twitter.com/cHwZSQx9qi — RTÉ News (@rtenews) February 19, 2018 Our trash is harming the deepest fish in the ocean https://t.co/WjlPSV0ivQ via @usatoday — NUI Galway (@nuigalway) February 22, 2018 Microplastics found in deep-water fish https://t.co/WbzpoPhZUj — The Sea-MAT Project (@SeaMATproject) February 22, 2018 Not strictly fish: 73% of deep water fish contain microplastics https://t.co/un700wH1P3 via @RTEBrainstorm pic.twitter.com/xnpkpv1zsG — RTÉ (@rte) February 20, 2018 Fish In The Northwest Atlantic Found To Have High Levels Of #Microplasticshttps://t.co/BYlsSEICyC#Fishing #CleanSeas pic.twitter.com/pamAj4BjcM — The TerraMar Project (@TerraMarProject) February 21, 2018 @nuigalway New paper in @FrontMarineSci on high incidence of ingestion of microplastics by Atlantic fish by @ryaninstitute’s Alina Wieczorek, Tom Doyle & colleagues. https://t.co/eYH7eeMJYe @MaREIcentre @MarineInst pic.twitter.com/msYL3qpx6y — The Ryan Institute (@RyanInstitute) February 19, 2018 High Levels of Microplastics in Atlantic Fish https://t.co/gXvTcCJ7AG pic.twitter.com/uuyq4xFsP0 — ScienceDaily (@ScienceDaily) February 20, 2018 Interview: Alina Wieczorek and Gary Kendellen https://t.co/VICPHVOOOq — NUI Galway (@nuigalway) February 26, 2018

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Students from the College of Engineering and Informatics will host Ireland’s first student-run energy summit, ‘Galway Energy Summit 2018’ on 8 March in the Bailey Allen Hall at NUI Galway. Themed ‘The Future of Energy in Ireland’ and run by the University’s Galway Energy Society, the event is free and open to the public. Founded by Chairperson and NUI Galway final year engineering student Conor Deane, the event aims to take important steps towards energy efficiency in the future. The Summit is particularly timely given Ireland is currently failing to meet EU greenhouse gas emissions targets for 2020. Companies will also have the opportunity to attract some of Ireland’s brightest, innovative young graduates and promote potential internships that may be available. 4pm - 5.30pm - Panel Discussion on ‘The Future of Energy in Ireland’ featuring: Eamon Ryan, TD and Leader of the Green Party. Clare Duffy, Smart Customer Access and Distribution Planning Manager, ESB. Dr David Connolly, Head of Policy at the Irish Wind Energy Association. David Taylor, former Chairman of the Energy Institute in Ireland and current project leader of The Energy Institute’s new ‘Ireland 2050 Knowledge’ website. Moderator, Shane McDonagh from the MaREI research group in UCC and now pursuing a PhD in renewable gas after graduating from NUI Galway with a Masters in Energy Systems. 5.30pm – 7.30pm - The Innovation, Energy and Careers Fair The ‘Innovation, Energy and Careers Fair’ will provide students with the opportunity to speak to potential future employers by bringing together various energy experts, companies, start-ups, students and academics. This event will allow students to understand and become more knowledgeable of the work being done throughout the energy industry in Ireland. Companies such as Accenture and Enerit will promote their work and allow their ideas and methods to inspire others. 7pm Onwards The Summit will close with a networking event in Sult, NUI Galway’s College Bar. The event is a unique networking opportunity for companies, students and those attending to discuss and share thoughts on the Summit’s theme. Dr Rory Monaghan, Lecturer of Energy Systems Engineering in the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway, said: “Our students here at NUI Galway have really taken the lead in recent years in highlighting the importance of transitioning from our environmentally and economically unsustainable energy system to one that will allow future generations to enjoy the benefits of energy use while preserving our planet. Events like the Galway Energy Summit are crucial to spreading the message that a clean and sustainable energy future is not only possible, but necessary too.” Conor Deane, Chairperson of Galway Energy Summit 2018, said: “This summit will connect students with the energy industry through meaningful discussion on Ireland’s future energy strategy. This event is not just for engineers, we welcome all students from across campus, and regardless of your course discipline this is a topic that will affect everybody. It will give students and the public the opportunity to network with some of Ireland’s most innovative companies such as Crowley Carbon, Accenture, Jaguar and Landover and ESB X_Site.” Laura Mulligan, Marketing Director of Galway Energy Summit, said: “As a Biomedical Engineering student at NUI Galway, I’ve benefitted from being at the doorstep of a European capital for medical device innovation. I’ve also been fortunate to be immersed in an environment that drives innovation in sustainability and energy efficiency. Living in a city that held the European Green Leaf title in 2017 and hearing about NUI Galway initiatives like the GEEC has contributed to cultivating my interest in energy. Galway Energy Summit 2018 aims to bring energy industry leaders, policy makers, students from all disciplines and the general public together so that we can move toward a sustainable future. Energy is not just the concern of engineers, combatting climate change and creating sustainability is critical to all people of my generation and beyond.” Galway Energy Summit’s main sponsor is ESB with supporting sponsors from Jaguar and Landrover, Ward and Burke Construction, Crowley Carbon, Bank of Ireland, and NUI Galway’s Blackstone LaunchPad, MaREI and Ryan Institute. Registration is free and places are limited due to demand. To register for the Summit, logon to: www.galwayenergysummit.ie For more information about the event please contact Conor Deane, Chairperson of Galway Energy Summit, NUI Galway at galwayenergysummit@gmail.com. Follow on Twitter @GES_2018. -Ends-

Monday, 26 February 2018

Scientists and science enthusiasts will battle it out this week for a place in the national final of FAMELAB, the largest science communication competition in the world. This is the third year that a regional heat for the international competition will take place at An Taibhdhearc in Galway on Thursday, 1 March at 7pm. The event is free to attend. The participating contestants come from a variety of backgrounds, covering topics ranging from cancer to genetically modified food. Topics presented will include: “The invisible universe”, “Always need a friend”, “Cancer: A journey from diagnosis to prognosis using Genomics”, “Cheers to Meiosis”, “GFP- lighting the way in biological expression”, “Genetically modified food”, “Herd immunity and the increasing importance of vaccination in an era of science denial”, “the ultimate puzzle”, “Ankylosing Spondylitis: More than just a pain in the neck” and “The Power of Effective Practice”. The competing scientists will be given a total of three minutes each to explain their research, or any scientific concept, as clearly and simply as possible, to a public audience and a panel of judges. This will be followed by three minutes of questions from the judges and the audience. Two finalists will be announced on the night and will participate in a communications master class in Dublin this March. The finalists will then compete in the national final of FAMELAB, which will be held in the Science Gallery in Dublin on Thursday, 12 April. The overall national winner will attend the Cheltenham Science Festival, UK in June 2018 and will compete in the FAMELAB International finals. The regional heat in Galway will be hosted by Professor Brian Hughes, Professor of Psychology and author of Rethinking Psychology: Good Science, Bad Science and Pseudoscience and popular blog thesciencebit.net. Entertainment during the interval will be provided by the “Queen of the offbeat”, comedian Áine Gallagher, fresh from her 2017 shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Vodafone Comedy Carnival. The panel of judges include: Anne Casserly, Manager of Galway Science and Technology Festival;  Dr Gavin Collins, Vice Dean for Science Technology Engineering and Maths promotion, NUI Galway; Paula Healy; Manager of Flirt FM 101.3 radio station; and John Loughlin, Vice Chairperson of the Irish Science Teachers' Association and Science teacher at St. Joseph’s College (The Bish) in Galway. To attend the FAMELAB Galway regional final please book your free ticket at www.famelabgalway2018.eventbrite.ie or following on Twitter @FameLab_Galway. For further information about FAMELAB Galway contact Joanne Duffy, NUI Galway at j.duffy21@nuigalway.ie. -Ends-

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Registrations are now open for 4th, 5th and 6th class students and their teachers to enter and participate in the third annual Schools Teaching Awareness of Randomised Trials (START) competition for 2018. The competition is run by the Health Research Board – Trials Methodology Research Network (HRB-TMRN) based at NUI Galway. The purpose of the competition is to help students become aware of the clinical trial process. Interested schools can avail of supports from researchers who will visit the school to help get their projects started. Students are asked to choose a simple, easy to answer question using the proper steps of a clinical trial to answer it scientifically, using the online resources provided. Questions can be very practical or a bit of fun such as; Can using coloured paper for written spelling tests increase students’ scores? Does ten minutes of dancing every morning before classes improve student’s attention? The findings from each trial can be reported in any format such as a podcast, video, website, report format, collage or poster.   A randomised clinical trial is a type of scientific experiment which aims to reduce bias when testing a new treatment. The students and their teachers are encouraged to design, carry out and evaluate their very own simulated clinical trial. START encourages children to learn more about healthcare decisions and how we can improve healthcare and wellbeing, by learning about randomised clinical trials. Commenting on the project, Dr Sandra Galvin, HRB-TMRN Programme Manager at NUI Galway, said: “This is an exciting initiative and the first of its kind to bring awareness of clinical trials to the younger community. Schoolchildren and their teachers are so creative and we’re really looking forward to seeing what innovative ways teachers and pupils go about designing and reporting their trial. The last two years have really set such a high standard, and young students are pushing the boundaries of what we think they can understand, in fact, they are teaching us.” To date, over 15 primary schools nationally have entered their very own simulated clinical trials. The top three shortlisted schools will be invited to Galway on Friday, 18 May where the winner will be announced and presented with the START Trophy 2018. Each project will be assessed on: How well does the project adhere to the structure of a clinical trial? How well presented are the findings of the trial, so that any member of the community could understand the findings? Can other schools learn something new from this project? Commenting on the START finalists and their projects, Professor Declan Devane, Scientific Director of the HRB-TMRN at NUI Galway, said: “We started this competition for two reasons. Firstly, we wanted to raise awareness of the importance of randomised trials with children. Secondly, we wanted to harness the creativity and imagination of children in the design, conduct, analysis and reporting of trials. The high standard and variety of applications we received demonstrate that the START competition has indeed raised the awareness of randomised trials and capitalised on children’s innate ability to explain difficult concepts clearly and in a fun way. We are very proud of all our applications and wish each of the finalist schools the very best on the 18 May in Galway.” To register your trial complete the Trial Registration Form, which can be found at startcompetition.com/ and email it to hrb-tmrn@nuigalway.ie or alternatively Post to: Room 235, 1st Floor, Áras Moyola, School of Nursing and Midwifery, NUI Galway. Follow START on Facebook at facebook.com/hrb.tmrn and Twitter @hrbtmrn. -Ends-

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Papers and registrations are now being accepted for the 14th Annual Conference of the International Society for Design and Development in Education (ISDDE), which will be held from 28–31 May at NUI Galway. The conference theme, Culture and Educational Design, highlights the importance of context in principled and participatory, educational design, and the significant influence of culture, the historic, natural and social environs on learning, teaching and assessment.  Dr Tony Hall and Dr Cornelia Connolly, School of Education said: “The School of Education at NUI Galway are delighted to have been invited to host the 14th Annual Conference of the International Society for Design and Development in Education, the first time the conference will be held in Ireland. ISDDE is one of the preeminent research communities for educational technology and design, and those researching, designing and developing educational resources, learning environments, curricular materials and technologies, particularly in the STEM areas.” Dr Hall added: “The International Society for Design and Development in Education was recently affiliated to the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction. Following last year’s conference at University of California, Berkeley, we look forward to hosting and welcoming Irish and international colleagues in educational design and technology to Galway and the West. This year’s conference theme, ‘Culture and Educational Design’ reflects the importance of the broader social, cultural and physical environs in the participatory and principled design of educational innovations and technologies.” The International Society for Design and Development in Education was formed to help educational designers work effectively as a coherent professional design and development community. The goals of the Society are to improve the design and development process, building a design community and increasing our impact on educational practice. More information available at: https://sites.google.com/view/isdde-2018/home.   -Ends-

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

‘Evidence in General Practice’ The Discipline of General Practice at NUI Galway will host Ireland’s leading academic General Practice Conference from the 8–9 March. The event marks the 21st anniversary of the foundation of the discipline of General Practice at the University. The Conference will boast an exciting line-up of national and international keynote speakers and cutting edge research. Key questions to be addressed include: How can we ensure that Ireland has enough general practitioners? How best can rural general practice be supported? How can the evidence required to underpin general practice, where 90% of all patient encounters occur, be produced? Keynote speaker Professor Val Wass earned an OBE in recognition of her substantial lifelong contribution to UK general practice.  Her 2016 national report “By choice,  not by chance: supporting medical students in future careers towards general practice” critically analysed reasons why the UK has had a severe shortage of medical graduates entering general practice as a career, and offers real solutions to reverse this trend.  Medical schools in the UK now set a target of 50% of medical graduates to enter general practice.  She will reflect on how these solutions may also be relevant to Ireland. Professor Andrew Murphy, Established Professor of General Practice at NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted to host this important general practice meeting in NUI Galway. Everyone agrees General Practice is key to Irish healthcare. What is unclear is how best to support and develop it, especially in vulnerable populations such as rural areas. These questions, and many more, will be addressed by leading international speakers and over a hundred active primary care clinicians and researchers”. Conference speaker Professor Liam Glynn was recently appointed to the Chair of General Practice at the University of Limerick. He has shown national leadership in the promotion of rural general practice and advocacy for rural patients. He will outline a vision for rural general practice and how universities can contribute to making this a reality. Professor Sandra Eldridge, a Professor of Biostatistics at Barts and the London School, is a world renowned expert in the conduct of clinical trials in primary care. She will outline how these trials have developed to date and how they can continue to contribute to the essential evidence required for care in the community. The conference will include almost a hundred additional presentations showcasing the best clinical and educational research performed by Ireland’s leading general practitioners and researchers. The conference is the joint annual scientific meeting of the Association of University Departments of General Practice and the Irish College of General Practitioners, two leading national academic General Practice bodies.  More information available at: http://conference.ie/Conferences/index.asp?Conference=540-Ends- 

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Dheimhnigh OÉ Gaillimh go gcanfaidh an t-amhránaí agus an cumadóir Eleanor McEvoy ag Gradaim Alumni 2018. D'fhógair an Ollscoil freisin gurb í Gráinne McElwain, láithreoir agus léiritheoir le RTÉ/TG4, a chuirfidh Mórfhéasta na bliana seo i láthair áit a mbronnfar Gradaim Alumni 2018. Tá sé 25 bliain i mbliana ón gcéad turas de “A Woman’s Heart”, nuair a chuaigh amhrán Eleanor i gcion ar an bpobal mar chuid den chéad albam Éireannach le meascán d'ealaíontóirí comhaimseartha ban. Nuair nach bhfuil Eleanor ar camchuairt, bíonn ról gníomhach aici i saol cultúrtha na hÉireann. Tá sí ina ball de bhord Cheoláras Náisiúnta na hÉireann, tar éis di saol uathúil a chaitheamh leis an gceol, idir ceol clasaiceach, comórtais ceoil traidisiúnta na hÉireann, ceolfhoirne óige, cóir, mar veidhleadóir le Ceolfhoireann Shiansach Náisiúnta na hÉireann agus ansin a huaillmhian a bheith ina hamhránaí agus ina cumadóir comhaimseartha. Bronnfar Gradaim Alumni 2018 ag an 18ú Mórfhéasta Alumni a bheidh ar siúl Dé Sathairn, an 3 Márta 2018 i Halla Bailey Allen, in aice le hÁras na Mac Léinn ar an gcampas. Tugann na Gradaim Alumni aitheantas d’fheabhas agus d’éachtaí an 90,000 céimí de chuid na hOllscoile atá scaipthe ar fud an domhain. Tá gradaim Alumni bronnta ar bhreis is 100 céimí den scoth a bhfuil a n-alma mater fíorbhródúil astu, ina measc, Uachtarán na hÉireann, Micheál D. Ó hUigínn; an lúthchleasaí Oilimpeach Olive Loughnane; an laoch rugbaí Ciarán FitzGerald; an craoltóir de chuid RTÉ Sean O’Rourke; an t-iarArd-Aighne, Máire Whelan; iar-Phríomhfheidhmeannach Creganna, Helen Ryan; an t-aisteoir a bhfuil Gradam Tony buaite aici, Marie Mullen; agus an scríbhneoir Mike McCormack. Seo a leanas buaiteoirí na seacht ngradam alumni atá le bronnadh ag Mórfhéasta 2018: Gradam do na Dána, an Litríocht agus an Léann Ceilteach – urraithe ag Fondúireacht na hOllscoile- Lisa Coen, Comhbhunaitheoir Tramp Press Gradam Alumni don Ghnó agus an Tráchtáil – urraithe ag Banc na hÉireann- Aedhmar Hynes, Príomhfheidhmeannach, Text100 Gradam Alumni don Dlí, Beartas Poiblí agus an Rialtas – urraithe ag Ronan Daly Jermyn- Pat Rabbitte, iarCheannaire Pháirtí an Lucht Oibre in Éirinn agus polaiteoir Gradam Alumni don Innealtóireacht, an Eolaíocht agus an Teicneolaíocht – urraithe ag  AIB- Bernard McGuinness, Leas-Uachtarán, Soláthar Blais, The Coca-Cola Company Gradam Alumni don Leigheas, an tAltranas agus na hEolaíochtaí Sláinte – urraithe ag Medtronic- An tOllamh Declan Sugrue, Cairdeolaí, Ospidéal an Mater Gradam Alumni don Rannpháirtíocht sa Spórt – urraithe ag Banc na hÉireann- Joe Connolly, Iománaí de chuid na Gaillimhe Gradam Alumni don Ghaeilge – urraithe ag OÉ Gaillimh- Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh, file a bhfuil duaiseanna go leor bainte amach aici              Chun breis eolais a fháil agus chun áit a chur in áirithe téigh i dteagmháil leis an Oifig Alumni ar 091 492721 nó seol ríomhphost chuig alumni@nuigalway.ie. Áirithintí ar líne ag www.guf.ie -Críoch-

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

NUI Galway has confirmed that singer songwriter Eleanor McEvoy will perform at the 2018 Alumni Awards. The University also revealed that RTÉ/TG4 presenter and producer Gráinne McElwain will host this year’s Gala Banquet featuring the 2018 Alumni Awards ceremony. 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the first “A Woman’s Heart” Tour after Eleanor’s composition brought a title, a focus and a hit song to the first Irish album compilation of female contemporary artists. When not touring, Eleanor plays an active role in cultural life in Ireland. She is a member of the board of Ireland's National Concert Hall which completes the unique circle in Eleanor’s musical life through classical music, traditional Irish music competitions, youth orchestras, choirs, violinist in Ireland’s National Symphony Orchestra before submitting to her prime desire to be a contemporary singer songwriter. The 2018 Alumni Awards will be presented at the 18th annual Alumni Awards Gala Banquet on Saturday, 3 March, 2018 in the Bailey Allen Hall located in Áras na Mac Léinn on campus. The Alumni Awards recognise individual excellence and achievements among the University’s more than 90,000 graduates worldwide. The Awards programme boasts an impressive roll call of over 100 outstanding graduates who have gone on to honour their alma mater, including, for example, President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins; Olympian, Olive Loughnane; Rugby great, Ciarán FitzGerald; RTÉ broadcaster, Sean O’Rourke; former Attorney General, Máire Whelan; former Creganna CEO, Helen Ryan, Tony Award-winning actress, Marie Mullen and writer, Mike McCormack. The winners of the seven alumni awards to be presented at Gala 2018: Award for Arts, Literature and Celtic Studies - sponsored by Galway University Foundation- Lisa Coen, Co-founder Tramp Press Alumni Award for Business and Commerce – sponsored by Bank of Ireland- Aedhmar Hynes, CEO, Text100 Alumni Award for Law, Public Policy and Government – sponsored by Ronan Daly Jermyn- Pat Rabbitte, former Leader of the Irish Labour Party and politician Alumni Award for Engineering, Science and Technology – sponsored by AIB- Bernard McGuinness, Vice President, Flavor Supply, The Coca-Cola Company Alumni Award for Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences – sponsored by Medtronic- Professor Declan Sugrue, Cardiologist, Mater Hospital Alumni Award for Contribution to Sport – sponsored by Bank of Ireland- Joe Connolly, Galway Hurler Gradam Alumni don Ghaeilge – urraithe ag OÉ Gaillimh- Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh, award-winning poet For ticket and booking information contact the Alumni Office on 091 492721 or email alumni@nuigalway.ie. Online bookings at www.guf.ie -Ends-

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Looking West - Súil Siar – Vues de l’Ouest is the title of an exhibition of nine artworks from NUI Galway’s art collection to be housed in the Irish Embassy in Paris for a two year period. A preview prior to its departure will take place in the newly refurbished art gallery in the Quadrangle at the University from the 21–24 February, from 12–4pm. This is the first exhibition of a body of work from the collection to travel overseas. The artworks will go on display in the Embassy building, which is located close to the Arc de Triomphe in central Paris. Fionnuala Gallagher, Arts Officer at NUI Galway, said: “It is a special treat to have these artworks on display in such a beautiful, light-filled building, in the heart of Paris. We hope that the paintings settle in well and that they inspire further exchanges between Ireland and France and between artist and viewer.” The Embassy chose the nine artworks from a curated list of 20 pieces (10 by living artists, 10 by deceased artists) with a connection to the West of Ireland. They represent the variety and originality of NUI Galway’s substantial art collection. Looking West offers a unique glimpse into modern and traditional Irish art, from Grace Henry and her contemporary Lily Williams via Gerard Dillon, John O’Leary and Brian Bourke to young artist Moira Comiskey. It captures the changing Irish landscape, weather and soul, with places and portraits in styles ranging from realism to abstraction and media across painting, drawing and printmaking. All are welcome to attend the opening reception with Gearóid Ó Conluain, An Rúnaí of NUI Galway with special guest Honorary Consul Catherine Gagneux on Wednesday, 21 February, at 12 noon. View the entire art collection at www.nuigalway.ie/artcollection -Ends-

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

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, 24 February from 10am–4pm in the Alice Perry Engineering Building at NUI Galway.  The Family Fun Day is part of the Engineers Week 2018 which celebrates engineering across Ireland. The Family Fun Day will provide plenty of science and engineering shows, movie screening, workshops and hands-on activities that will inspire young (and older) people. Families can watch ‘Dream Big: Engineering Our World’ narrated by Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges which 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. Young and older attendees can engage with the ‘Spectacular Science of Water Show’ and see how the water cycle works; learn about the impact water has on our weather and other amazing properties of water. See clouds before your eyes, watch what can be done with the power of water and see water being poured straight into ice. Spectacular magic tricks can be experienced with quirky illusions and stunts in the show ‘It’s all done with mirrors’. Is it trapped doors, mirrors, or camera effects? Whatever you discover, more may be revealed! Families are encouraged to come and build your own wind turbine, check if you are stronger than a superhero, learn where water comes from and where it goes, explore the GEEC: Galway Energy Efficient Car, build robots, engage in a LEGO mindstorm 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. Speaking about the Family Fun Day, Professor Peter Mc Hugh, Dean of College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway, said: “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. Join us for the Family Fun Day and explore Engineering through exciting, fun and quirky demonstrations, meet with practicing engineers and IT specialists to better 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 advanced 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 or Magdalena Hajdukiewicz magdalena.hajdukiewicz@nuigalway.ie -Ends-

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

NUI Galway launch the European SEAFUEL project for sustainable integration of renewable fuels in local transportation across three remote Atlantic regions NUI Galway has officially launched the SEAFUEL project, which aims to use hydrogen as a renewable resource across the Atlantic area to power the local transport fleet of cars and support the shift towards a low-carbon economy. The project will be piloted in the Canary Islands, Madeira in Portugal and the Aran Islands. Led by NUI Galway, the €3.5 million three year SEAFUEL project will use the expertise and infrastructure of a group of transnational partners in renewable energy, namely solar and wind, to demonstrate the viability of hydrogen as a fuel to be used by the local transport authorities. SEAFUEL aims to demonstrate the feasibility to power local transportation networks using fuels produced by renewable energies and seawater, with no net carbon footprint as promoted by the resource-efficient flagship initiative COM(2010)2020, an EU policy document on ‘a strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’ within the Europe 2020 strategy. SEAFUEL will cover technical innovation by way of a demonstration plant, a framework for policy implementation and a sustainability analysis of production, and distribution and usage of hydrogen as an alternative fuel in remote Atlantic regions. Dr Pau Farràs from the School of Chemistry at NUI Galway, said: “SEAFUEL proposes a sustainable way to power local transportation in isolated regions using renewable resources such as sun, wind and seawater, considering the inherent intermittency of such solar and wind energy.” SEAFUEL will focus on enhancing the green growth and blue economy and paving the way for common renewable energy policies to promote clean and sustainable transport systems. Isolated areas such as islands face the specific challenge of the high cost of electricity and fuel and their dependency on mainland infrastructures. SEAFUEL will target these regions where 30% of fuel consumption comes from local transportation. The project aims to drastically reduce greenhouse emissions, particle matter (PM) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2), in line with the Clean Air Programme for Europe 2008/50/EC, and provide a pathway for isolated regions to become energetically independent, leading to future installations in other Atlantic regions. An alternative fuels model for islands will be developed to fulfil the requirements that each of the partner regions propose for their ‘Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS3), aimed at low carbon economy and efficient use of marine resources. The SEAFUEL project is co-financed by the 2014-2020 INTERREG Atlantic Area programme that supports transnational cooperation projects in 36 Atlantic regions in five countries; France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom, contributing to the achievement of economic, social and territorial cohesion. Led by NUI Galway, the SEAFUEL partners include; Comharchumann Fuinnimh Oileáin Árann Teoranta, University of Liverpool, Action Renewables, HyEnergy Consultancy Limited, Logan Energy, the Institute of Technology and Renewable Energies of Tenerife and the Tenerife Energy Agency, The Regional Agency for Energy and Environment of the Autonomous Region of Madeira in Portugal and the European Hydrogen Association in Belgium. For more contact Dr Pau Farràs Costa, SEAFUEL Project Lead, School of Chemistry, NUI Galway at pau.farras@nuigalway.ie or 091 492765. Visit SEAFUEL at: https://www.facebook.com/SEAFUEL.EU/ -Ends-  

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Researchers at NUI Galway identify a new function for the gene centrobin that could help understand developmental disorders that affect multiple organs in the body  A new study carried out by researchers from the Centre for Chromosome Biology at NUI Galway, has uncovered a new function for a gene called centrobin that implicates it in human health, with potential roles in the developing heart, kidney and eye, as well as in cancer. The study was published today (13 February 2018) in the prestigious Journal of Cell Biology. Most cell types in the body carry an antenna-like structure called the primary cilium that detects signals from outside the cell, such as specific molecules or fluid flows. Problems with primary cilia lead to developmental disorders that affect multiple organs in the body, including the kidney, eye, brain and heart. Changes to cells that occur in cancer can also involve primary cilia. In this study the NUI Galway researchers describe a new role in making primary cilia for a gene called centrobin.  The NUI Galway researchers used a cutting-edge technique of genome manipulation, CRISPR, to remove the gene centrobin from human cells, and found that cilium formation was blocked. In collaboration with a group from the University of Ulm, Germany, they found that centrobin loss in zebrafish embryos caused developmental disorders that reflected ciliary problems, such as mis-positioning of the heart or the pancreas.  The study was directed by Professor Ciaran Morrison from the Centre for Chromosome Biology at NUI Galway, who said: “This work is exciting because it suggests that centrobin might play a new role in human health. Much remains to be discovered about how cilia work in the body and our identification of centrobin as a player in this process opens new possibilities for understanding primary cilia.”  The first author of the study was Dr Yetunde Adesanya Ogungbenro, a graduate of Dundalk IT who recently completed her PhD at NUI Galway with postgraduate funding from the Irish Research Council.  Other collaborators involved in the study included Imperial College London, and Mr Pierce Lalor and Professor Peter Dockery from NUI Galway’s Discipline of Anatomy. To read the full study in Journal of Cell Biology, visit: http://jcb.rupress.org/content/early/2018/02/12/jcb.201706095 -Ends-

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

A new online treatment programme, set up by expert psychologists and physiotherapists, aims to help those who are managing multiple chronic health conditions The Centre for Pain Research at NUI Galway, with the support of the Health Research Board, is currently recruiting people with chronic pain and at least one other long-term condition to take part in a research study. The study is open to people all over Ireland and will take place over the coming months. GPs and other health professionals around the country are also being encouraged to refer suitable people to the study. The Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) trial will provide eight online sessions to people in the comfort of their own home. At the moment, such supports are scarce and generally aimed at the self-management of single specific chronic conditions, such as chronic pain alone. Research has shown that having multiple chronic conditions, also known as multimorbidity, is associated with a number of negative outcomes, such as a decline in physical and mental functioning, a decreased quality of life and a greater risk of mortality. The ACT trial is based on emerging clinical science that demonstrates the usefulness of managing health conditions through mindfulness and psychological wellbeing. The free online sessions in the ACT programme will focus on values and goals that are individual to each person in the trial. Participants will be provided with instructions on a range of activity-pacing techniques to encourage more consistent levels of activity from day-to-day. In addition, mindfulness techniques and cognitive behavioural therapy will help identify both negative thinking patterns and the development of effective challenges. Dr Brian Slattery, coordinator of the study at the Centre for Pain Research at NUI Galway, says: “We know that psychological therapies provided to people with chronic conditions are beneficial, but can be hard to access. In this trial, we will offer this online programme to people all over the country, with any combination of conditions, to try alongside any existing treatments they are already using.” People who take part in the ACT trial will not need to attend any clinic or the University at any stage. All materials are tailored for those wishing to learn effective ways of managing their health conditions. Participants can access physiotherapy and all medical services as usual while involved in the trial. Study supervisor, Dr Brian McGuire from the Centre for Pain Research at NUI Galway, said: “This is a promising new online pain management programme and we are hopeful it will be of benefit to people with multimorbidity.” For further information and suitable patient referrals, please email painresearch@nuigalway.ie and visit: www.nuigalway.ie/centre-for-pain-research/ -Ends- 

Monday, 12 February 2018

Dr Dearbháile Morris from the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at NUI Galway has received the largest single award of funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for her research examining the role the environment plays in the transmission of antimicrobial resistance. The EPA awarded a total of €11.2 million to fund new environmental research projects with Dr Morris receiving the largest single award of €650,000 for her four year ‘AREST’ (Antimicrobial Resistance and the Environment – Sources, Persistence, Transmission and Risk Management) project. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of a microorganism (such as bacteria, viruses,   fungi and parasites) to change and stop the drugs used to treat infection (such as antibiotics) from working against it. As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others. Antimicrobial resistance is recognised as one the greatest threats to human health. It is estimated that by 2050, unless action is taken, 10 million deaths per year will be attributable to antimicrobial resistance. There are several different types of antimicrobial resistant organisms such as methicillin resistant, Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and carbapenemase producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE), some of which are resistant to the last resort antibiotics. Such is the concern about the increase in the incidence of CPE that Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD declared it a public health emergency in 2017. The emergence and dissemination of antimicrobial resistance is related to the use of antimicrobial agents. Antimicrobial agents have been used for decades in humans and animals. The ‘One-Health’ concept, a worldwide strategy for expanding interdisciplinary collaborations and communications in all aspects of health care, recognises that the health of humans is connected to the health of animals and the environment. It is only recently that attention has been given to the impact that discharge of antimicrobial resistant organisms and of antimicrobials has on the environment. The environment is a key link between antimicrobial resistance in animals and humans, therefore it is imperative to adopt a holistic ‘One Health’ approach in trying to address the rising threat of antimicrobial resistance. The proposed research will generate national level data on the key sources, hot spots and drivers of antimicrobial resistance in the environment from various sectors (health, agriculture, industrial) and brings together key players in the area of antimicrobial resistance. This will embed the ‘One Health’ concept and build the capacity of Ireland’s research community to support Irelands National Action Plan on antimicrobial resistance. Speaking about her award, Dr Dearbháile Morris, Head of Discipline of Bacteriology at the School of Medicine in NUI Galway, said: “I am very excited to receive this funding award and commend the EPA for recognising the importance of funding research in this area. Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest threats to human health. We are facing the very real possibility of entering an era where there are no useful antibiotics left to treat infection. “We need to understand better what role the environment plays in the transmission and persistence of antimicrobial resistance. This four year research project will generate national level data on the key sources, hot spots and drivers of antimicrobial resistance in the environment from various sectors, and brings together a team of world renowned experts in the areas of human health, animal health, agriculture, the environment, geographical information systems, risk assessment, high throughput sequencing technologies and metagenomics.” Laura Burke, Director General of the EPA, said: “The EPA is pleased to announce these awards under our Research Programme and to continue to support research and innovation in areas of environmental importance. The outputs from these projects will provide the foundation and evidence base for credible environmental decision-making into the future.” The AREST project is being led by NUI Galway, in collaboration with the Danish Technical University, UCD, Teagasc and Maynooth University. -Ends-

Monday, 12 February 2018

Over 2,000 people have been recruited into the world’s largest clinical trial to test the clinical and cost effectiveness of the flu drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu) in primary care The HRB Primary Care Clinical Trials Network Ireland, based at NUI Galway, are working with researchers in Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, on the ALIC4E trial, which investigates whether the flu drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu) is cost effective and beneficial to patients consulting their GP’s with flu symptoms. In particular, the study aims to understand if older people, infants, people with other health conditions, those treated early, or those with particularly severe flu can benefit from the treatment. Over 2,000 people have been recruited into the world’s largest clinical trial to test the clinical and cost effectiveness of the flu drug oseltamivir in primary care. The trial aims to address the widespread uncertainty over whether people with flu symptoms should be treated with antiviral drugs in the community. To date, 45 patients from Ireland have participated in this trial, recruited from five practices within the HRB Primary Care Clinical Trials Network Ireland. ALIC4E is the first publicly-funded randomised controlled trial of its kind to assess antiviral treatment for influenza in primary care and it aims to recruit a total of 4,500 participants across 16 countries, including Ireland. The antiviral oseltamivir is a member of a class of drugs called neuraminidase inhibitors. These drugs are stockpiled and recommended by public health agencies worldwide for treating and preventing severe outbreaks of seasonal and pandemic influenza, yet some experts suggest the evidence supporting their use is lacking. The drug was widely used during the ‘swine flu’ pandemic, for example, but no trial was carried out on its clinical and cost effectiveness. HRB Primary Care Clinical Trials Network Ireland Director, Professor Andrew Murphy at NUI Galway, said: “It is important that primary care patients and GPs in Ireland have the opportunity to contribute data to important international trials. We are delighted to see our Network practices recruiting patients into this clinical trial.” GP’s and practice nurses in five practices in Ireland are currently recruiting patients at Turloughmore Medical Centre and Main Street Clinic Loughrea in County Galway, and Belgrave Clinic, Tallaght Cross and Crumlin Medical Clinic, in Dublin. Network collaborator, Professor Tom Fahey of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, said: “We don’t know for sure which people with symptoms of the flu should be prescribed antiviral drugs, and nor do we know the cost-effectiveness of antivirals in terms of helping people return to normal activity levels. The ALIC4E trial aims to answer these important questions.” ALIC4E is an initiative of the Platform for European Preparedness Against (Re-)emerging Epidemics (PREPARE) consortium. Funded by the European Commission’s FP7 Programme, PREPARE was setup to support research organisations to respond rapidly to pandemics with clinical studies that can provide real-time evidence to inform the public health response. For more information about the trial, contact Edel Murphy, Developmental Officer, HRB Primary Care Clinical Trials Network, NUI Galway at edel.murphy@nuigalway.ie or 091 495308. -Ends- 

Monday, 12 February 2018

NUI Galway’s Moore Institute will host a symposium presented by the Women’s History Association of Ireland on Friday 16 February. One of Ireland’s leading historians, Professor Mary O’Dowd from Queen’s University Belfast, will address the association on the progress and pathways for future research on Irish women’s history from 1500-1800. Professor O’Dowd’s address will provide the culmination of a day of discussion by researchers from NUI Galway, TCD, UL and QUB. Speakers will explore the experience of aristocratic Irish women in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Lady Ranelagh and Lady Tyrconnell), letter writing and correspondence networks in and outside Ireland, and the legal standing of women in that period. Conference organiser, Dr Bronagh McShane, post-doctoral fellow in the Humanities from the Moore Institute at NUI Galway, said: “Just over 25 years on from the publication of Professor O’Dowd’s ‘Agenda for Women’s History in Ireland’, written with Margaret MacCurtain and Maria Luddy, this one-day seminar will bring together leading and emerging scholars currently engaged in research on the history of early modern Irish women in order to assess progress made and to identify new paths yet to be forged.” Director of the Moore Institute Professor Daniel Carey at NUI Galway, said: “Women’s history is one of the most vibrant and significant areas of research into Irish history in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. New breakthroughs in understanding how women communicated, how they represented themselves socially and publically, and how they managed their legal affairs are emerging all the time. This event will provide a valuable update and way forward for research.” The symposium will take place in Seminar Room G010, Hardiman Research Building at NUI Galway from 9am to 5pm on Friday, 16 February. The event is free and open to the public and advance registration is required at: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/new-directions-in-early-modern-irish-womens-history-tickets-41707319716 For further event information contact Dr Bronagh McShane at bronagh.mcshane@nuigalway.ie or 091 493903. For more details about the Moore Institute, visit: www.mooreinstitute.ie/ -Ends- 

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Six companies will gain €95,000 in seed funding along with intensive training for the next six months on this mentor centric, expert lead, practical, Medtech Accelerator, the first of its kind in Ireland. Investment opportunities range from cutting edge spinal injury technologies to disruptive wound care products, new wave manufacturing techniques to cell therapies to revolutionise oncology treatments, and environmental and clinical diagnostics to preventative patient devices for chronic disease.  Innovative new solutions to medical challenges will be developed by six new companies announced today (8 February 2018) as participants in the BioExel Accelerator Medtech programme. The NUI Galway initiative, supported by Enterprise Ireland, will support the companies who were shortlisted from over 50 applicants. BioExel Medtech Accelerator is the first of its kind in Ireland to focus solely on the medical technology sector. The six companies, which are all in the scale-up phase, will be based at NUI Galway for a period of six months, to build and commercially validate their technologies by working with existing entrepreneurial networks, mentors and management team. BioExel is delighted to announce the first cohort of companies: Bioprobe Diagnostics Ltd – Ciaran Geoghegan Bluedrop Medical Ltd – Chris Murphy GiantLeap Biotechnology Ltd – Martin Codyre Hidramed Solutions Ltd – Suzanne Moloney Grey Matter Technologies Ltd – Rory Dunne Q-Pathway Ltd – Niamh Frehill The successful participants met their first challenge of many, in a three-day clinic on campus with global experts, mentors, and entrepreneur in residence as their market strategy is validated and substantiated. The first month’s clinic has seen many experts on site including: BioVisability, Kate Gunning; HMC Marketing Consultancy, Helen McCormack; Bob Rosenberg, Entrepreneur in Residence; Viadymanics; Ormond Coaching; BioTechspert; Cresco Innovation and many more to work with the BioExel companies and share true market knowledge and experience. BioExel is managed by Dr Sandra Ganly the accelerator Director, also co-founder of BioInnovate and Senior Research Fellow with vast experience in the Medtech environment. Another member of the management team is Fiona Neary, Commercial Director and co-founder of BioExel, as well as Manager of the Business Innovation Centre at NUI Galway, with many years’ experience working with the start-up community. Fiona Neary, Commercial Director and co-founder of BioExel at NUI Galway, said: “For these companies being immersed in a Medtech hub, the environment that BioExel is aligned to is critical, as the innovation and transformation in this ecosystem is recognised globally. From over 50 applications the vast array of discovery and technology in the medtech sector is growing at a rapid rate with some amazing opportunities. BioExel is key to this transformation as we deliver the next generation of investor ready, first class medical technologies to the marketplace.” The Western region already has a strong Medtech ecosystem and this is actively supported by the expertise and infrastructure at NUI Galway. The University is home to Ireland’s only centre for stem cell manufacturing, extensive translational and clinical facilities, biomedical sciences research laboratories, and the CÚRAM Centre for Research in Medical Devices. This is further strengthened by NUI Galway’s expertise in funding grants, knowledge transfer, and programmes such as BioInnovate and BioExel. BioExel is a partnership programme funded by Enterprise Ireland, Galway Foundation Office, Bank of Ireland seed and early stage equity fund, Western Development Commission and hosted by NUI Galway. The Medtech Accelerator programme is part of Enterprise Ireland’s overall strategy to increase the number and quality of start-ups that have the potential to employ more than ten people and achieve €1 million in export sales within three years. BioExel has the potential to support up to 14 Small to Medium Enterprises (SME’s) based in the western region from 2017 to 2019. Bank of Ireland Seed and early stage equity fund have committed €300,000 to this programme. A call for further participants will be made this summer 2018. For more information about the programme, visit: www.bioexcel.ie -Ends- 

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

A research study led by scientists from the Lambe Institute for Translational Research at NUI Galway, has identified a novel approach that could potentially be used to treat breast cancer when it has spread to other organs, using tiny vesicles released by adult stem cells. The study was published in the internationally renowned cancer journal, Oncogene, and involved a multidisciplinary partnership between colleagues at NUI Galway, and collaborators in UCD. There have been great advances in detection and treatment of breast cancer, but patients in whom the disease has spread to other organs (metastasised) still have a poor outcome. New treatments for advanced disease are urgently required. A type of stem cell, called an adult Mesenchymal Stem Cell (MSC) has a remarkable ‘tumour-homing’ ability, being able to home specifically to the site of tumours and metastases, and raising their potential as delivery vehicles to bring drugs directly to cancer sites, particularly metastatic sites. In this study, Dr Róisín Dwyer’s research group, based in the Lambe Institute for Translational Research at NUI Galway, isolated vesicles secreted by MSCs. All cells release tiny vesicles containing genetic information, that can then be taken up by other cells, communicating messages between cells. The researchers then engineered these vesicles to contain a tumour suppressing message, and these were shown to reduce breast cancer growth in models of the disease. This exciting data suggests that MSC-secreted vesicles may home to sites of disease and could represent a novel, safe and effective way to treat breast cancer when it has spread to other organs. Lead author of the study, Dr Róisín Dwyer from NUI Galway, said: “When cancer has spread it is difficult to deliver therapy to many sites of disease while protecting healthy tissue. However, adult Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) have the natural ability to home to the sites of tumours. We engineered MSCs to express high levels of a tumour supressing microRNA (a short RNA sequence), and we used the MSCs as vehicles to deliver it to the tumour site. The MSCs were found to release the microRNA in tiny vesicles. We then isolated the vesicles to determine if they could be used to treat the cancer, without the cells. This could also reduce potential side effects.” The research study was primarily funded by the Irish Cancer Society BREAST-PREDICT collaborative cancer research centre. To read the full study in Oncogene, visit: http://rdcu.be/Fu56. -Ends-

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

NUI Galway, in association with the Kingfisher Club and Aerogen, will host its fifth annual charity 8k Run/Walk on Saturday, 10 March at 10am. This is the first time the 8k will be held in spring and it will appeal to lots of people who want to get fit and healthy for 2018. The popular event consists of a traffic-free, mixed terrain route around the University’s campus and along the banks of the river Corrib. The event is open to everyone, with runners and walkers of all fitness levels catered for. Entry to the event is €25, with all proceeds going to Jigsaw Galway, the official charity partner. A special early bird rate of €20 is available before Saturday, 24 February, with further discounts for group entries. Jigsaw Galway is a free and confidential support service that promotes the mental health and well-being of young people, aged 15-25, living in Galway city and county. Jigsaw also provides advice and guidance to parents, family members, friends and other professionals who are worried about a young person. NUI Galway Vice-President for the Student Experience, Dr Pat Morgan, said: “We have been building on the success of our 8k event on campus year on year. Over 700 people now take part, and we look forward to welcoming staff, students, alumni, friends and neighbours to the University campus to enjoy the outdoors and improve their health and wellbeing. It is the flattest and friendliest 8k course in the country, so book your place today!” To help participants prepare for the event, Aerogen will host a Sign-Up Day for anyone interested on Friday, 9 March from 12pm-2pm in the Insight Building at the front of the IDA Business Park, Dangan. Representatives from Kingfisher Club and Jigsaw will also be present to assist with sign-ups and answer any questions. The Kingfisher Club and the NUI Galway Sports Unit are also organising meet-and-train sessions on Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday at 1pm and Wednesday at 6pm departing from the Sports Centre on the NUI Galway campus. The sessions are free-of-charge and open to all. To register for the NUI Galway 8K please log on to the Run Ireland Website https://www.runireland.com/events/165325 Updates are also available on the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/NUIGalway.8kRun All queries on the event can be sent to nuigalway8k@kingfisherclub.com -Ends-

Monday, 5 February 2018

The Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway will host a public lecture by Tomi Reichental, a survivor of the Bergen- Belsen concentration camp. Tomi will talk about his experience of the Holocaust at NUI Galway on Thursday, 8 February at 8pm.   Tomi Reichental was born in 1935 in Piestany Slovakia. In 1944 at age nine, he was captured by the Gestapo in Bratislava and deported to Bergen Belsen concentration camp with his mother, grandmother, brother, aunt and cousin. When he was liberated in April 1945, he discovered that 35 members of his extended family had been murdered. His grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins all died in the Holocaust. Recounting the sights and smells at the concentration camp Tomi said: “Typhoid and diphtheria were the biggest killers, but people were dying of starvation and cold in their hundreds. First the bodies were removed and burned, but later they were just piling up in front of our barracks, and were piles of decomposing bodies. The soldiers who liberated Belsen in April 1945 said they could smell the stench for two miles before they reached the camp. In the camp I could not play like a normal child, we didn’t laugh and we didn’t cry. If you stepped out of line, you could be beaten up even beaten to death. I saw it all with my own eyes.” Professor Ray Murphy from the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway said: “Tomi is one of the last surviving witnesses to the Holocaust. As such, he feels compelled to speak out so that the victims are not forgotten and we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. For most of his life Tomi did not speak of the atrocities he bore witness to, but in recent years he has become an advocate for tolerance and compassion. His story is a story of the past. It is also a story for our times. The Holocaust reminds us of the dangers of racism and intolerance, providing lessons from the past that are relevant today. One of the lessons we must learn is to respect difference and reject all forms of racism and discrimination.” Tomi Reichental has lived in Dublin since 1959. In 2004, for the first time in 60 years, he broke his silence and began to speak about his experiences during the Holocaust. Thousands of students in schools all over Ireland have heard his story, and an RTÉ documentary film called I Was a Boy in Belsen was based on Tomi’s life. The film was directed by the Emmy award winning producer Gerry Gregg and retraces the events that swept away the Jewish presence in Central Europe from the point of view of a boy who couldn’t understand why. To mark his 80th birthday on the 26 June 2015, the Board of Trustees of HETI (Holocaust Education Trust of Ireland) established a scholarship in Reichental’s name. It will be awarded annually in perpetuity to a deserving candidate to enable his or her participation in one of the Holocaust education programs. The scholarship is in recognition of Reichental’s immense contribution that he has made to Holocaust awareness and education over the years. The talk at NUI Galway will be followed by a Q&A session. Admission is free but early arrival is advised.  The lecture will take place in the Ryan Institute Lecture Theatre (MRA 201), Ryan Institute Annexe, NUI Galway (off University Road) on Thursday 8th February 2018 at 8pm. -Ends-

Monday, 5 February 2018

This February, NUI Galway and GMIT are working together to encourage their students to take part in the national student survey at www.studentsurvey.ie. This year, for the first time, the survey includes postgraduate research students, which means that students in the West of Ireland will have an even bigger say when it comes to shaping their experience of higher education. Last year over 30% of eligible students in GMIT and NUI Galway completed the survey. The results showed that Galway students enjoy more effective teaching, better opportunities for collaborative learning, and better quality interactions with staff compared to the national average. On the back of student feedback in last year’s survey, both institutions are focusing on the need to enhance their students’ experience of reflective and integrative learning, which means giving students more opportunities to combine ideas from different subjects and diverse viewpoints as part of their studies. Dr Pat Morgan, VP for the Student Experience at NUI Galway, has championed the inclusion of research students in the national survey and said: “I welcome the development of the survey to include our postgraduate research students as we will now have really worthwhile information on the totality of the student experience from first year undergraduates, through to taught postgraduates and our research students.” This is the fifth year of the Irish Survey for Student Engagement, and the results have already had positive impacts in NUI Galway and GMIT. In direct response to feedback in previous surveys, NUI Galway has invested in a new Academic Skills Hub, and they have enhanced the Orientation programme to help students adjust to university life. Feedback from GMIT students has led to the creation of a Maths Centre and an Academic Writing Centre on campus to support students on their academic journey. Dr Michael Hannon, VP for Academic Affairs & GMIT Registrar, said: “The Irish Survey for Student Engagement, introduced as part of the National Strategy for higher education to 2030, is a welcome development as it provides a uniform methodology to measure student satisfaction with teaching and learning. As a student-centred organisation where the emphasis is on research-informed teaching and learning, GMIT welcomes the opportunity to listen to and respond to the student voice.” The survey is open to all First Year and Final Year Undergraduate students, and students on Taught and Research Postgraduate programmes. It runs from 5-25 February, 2018. -Ends-

Friday, 2 February 2018

NUI Galway SHEER project to highlight how water quality and access to blue/green spaces can improve our health, wellbeing and socio-economic status in Ireland Researchers from NUI Galway have launched the ‘SHEER’ (Socio-economic, Health, Environmental Research) project, an Irish case study designed to integrate three broad strands of environmental, health and socio-economic data to investigate the complex and all important  links between our environment, our health and wellbeing and our socio-economic status in Ireland. Led by the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway, and partnering with the Insight Centre for Data Analytics and the HSE, the €175,000 SHEER project will emphasise how important, and powerful data from different domains is, to decision making, policy development and the very quality of our lives. The pioneering project will deliver a case study and a clear road map for the future direction of our environment, our health and our wellbeing in Ireland. The SHEER project is responding to the European Economic Area (EEA) call for Ireland to be a case study in their 2019 Environment, Health and Wellbeing report. The primary aim of this Environmental Protection Agency funded Irish case study is to complement the EEA’s broad assessment of a healthy environment and to explore possible impact in greater national, regional and local depth through data analytics, visualisation and mapping the key socio-economic, environmental and health forces and patterns at work in relation to water quality and access to blue/green spaces in Ireland. Building upon ongoing work examining blue/green spaces from the Near Health project at NUI Galway, SHEER will improve people’s understanding of the impacts environments such as ‘water quality’ and ‘blue/green spaces’ can have on health and wellbeing. It will also develop and foster a network of diverse stakeholders such as public health, social science, environmental researchers from across Ireland involved in such pioneering multi-disciplinary work, and create a legacy that will advance this field across Ireland. Dr Christine Domegan, Head of Marketing Discipline and Social Innovation cluster leader at the Whitaker Institute in NUI Galway, and leader of the SHEER project, said: “Over the last ten years we’ve contributed to a growing body of evidence that shows human health and a healthy environment are inextricably linked (WHO EURO EH, 2017; EEA, 2014, EPA Strategic Plan, 2016–2020 and Healthy Ireland, 2013-2025). However, without a multi-causal and coordinated approach to data, it is difficult to develop these findings further and use them to inform policies. SHEER will help us to link different datasets together, emphasising how important it is to connect national data to regional and local issues.” This goal is achieved through a work programme gathering extensive information from diverse databases and stakeholders to provide insights and a baseline of evidence synthesis from three largely disparate domains, environmental, health and social sciences. SHEER is designed to deliver national and European benefits to science, policy and civil society while significantly helping to achieve the Environmental Protection Agency’s Strategic Plan for 2016–2020, ‘Our Environment, Our Wellbeing’ and progress the Government’s Framework for improved health and wellbeing 2013-2025 initiative, ‘Healthy Ireland’. For more information about the SHEER project, visit: visit www.nuigalway.ie/sheer or contact Dr Christine Domegan, Whitaker Institute, NUI Galway at christine.domegan@nuialway.ie or 091 492730. -Ends-  

Thursday, 1 February 2018

The UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway today (1 February 2018) hosted a Youth Empathy Day. The youth-led day brought together 200 Transition Year students from six secondary schools in Galway, Dublin and Tipperary, all of whom are taking part in a new pilot education programme called Activating Social Empathy, which supports adolescents to learn empathy in schools. Actor and Patron of the Centre, Cillian Murphy spoke to the students about the importance of empathy in his work as an actor. Students attending the Youth Empathy Day travelled from CBC Monkstown in Dublin; Comeragh College, County Tipperary; Grange Community College, Donaghmede, County Dublin; Dominican College Galway; Stratford College, Rathfarnham, Dublin and Galway Community College. Research shows that empathy is linked to a range of positive effects in young people from reduced prejudice and aggression to better academic performance. Empathy education in schools aims to help reduce bullying, discrimination, racial profiling and violence, and increase young peoples’ sense of belonging in school. At the highest international level empathy education has been identified by the UN Youth Office, UNESCO and UNICEF as key to preventing youth radicalization leading to extremist violence, an issue which has not been considered enough in Ireland. Activating Social Empathy was developed by the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre in collaboration with Foróige, and it is being piloted in Ireland as the lead version of the programme which forms part of an international project strongly backed by UNESCO that will see the programme rolled out the US, Canada, Nigeria, Myanmar, France, Cameroon and Tunisia. Today’s youth-led event is about youth participation and listening to the youth voice on empathy in their own lives. Cillian Murphy, the Patron of the Centre, took part in a Q&A on empathy in his work as an actor and how having a capacity to empathise with the characters you play is vital. A series of workshops on literature, drama, music, yoga, mindfulness and social media will explore how these areas can be used to teach and promote empathy. Two of the Centre’s Youth Researchers will host a peer-led session on their own experience of developing empathy. The day will close with a group brainstorm on developing an Empathy Charter that can be carried into schools, setting out how empathy can be fostered within school communities. Speaking about the event, Cillian Murphy, Actor and Patron of the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway, said: “You can’t really be an actor without employing empathy as a very important tool in your arsenal. If I can help young people to see that everyone has a different story and everyone’s story is valuable, hopefully that will help them in the future. It’s helping kids help themselves. It seems to me that if we’re going to help or encourage young people to behave in a certain way, then they should be at the forefront of it, and they should be telling us how they feel and telling us what they need, which is what this day is about.” Professor Pat Dolan, Director of the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at NUI Galway, said: “We are on the cusp of the development of empathy as a core part of education systems which will benefit not just youth but civic society as a whole. Empathy education is now being recognised as vital to education, something that is part of youth wellbeing development, but goes far beyond this by changing behaviours and promoting action, with radical implications for social connection and social solidarity.” For more information about the UNESCO Family Child and Research Centre, visit: http://www.childandfamilyresearch.ie/cfrc/home/ or on Twitter at @UNESCO_CFRC and #youthempathyday. -Ends-

Thursday, 1 February 2018

NUI Galway Research Centre publishes Guide on EU Consumer and Human Rights for people in mortgage distress Irish courts are not fully applying EU consumer and human right laws that could prevent unfair evictions The Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway has published a new, user-friendly guide that could help thousands of Irish families in mortgage distress, and facing unfair evictions to understand and advocate for their rights, using vital EU consumer and human rights law. ‘Your EU Consumer and Human Rights: A Guide for People in Mortgage Distress in Ireland’, published jointly with Open Society Foundations’ Abusive Lending Practices Project, is also essential reading for people improperly denied tracker mortgages, or those who have been given incorrect interest calculations. A decade after the crash, and with one in 10 mortgages in arrears, Ireland continues to have the highest level of mortgage defaults in the world. Central Bank of Ireland statistics at September 2017 show that over 72,000 mortgages are in arrears. A massive 44% (over 31,000) of these are in arrears for over two years, putting them at far greater risk of mortgage repossession. The laws outlined in the publication oblige Irish courts to assess the fairness of mortgage terms under the EU Unfair Contract Terms Directive. They should also assess the human rights impact of an eviction on all occupants in the home, including children, older people and people with disabilities, under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. These EU requirements are not new. However, to date, they are not being fully applied in Irish courts, according to the Irish and international legal experts behind the guide. Dr Padraic Kenna, Director of the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway, and one of the authors of the guide, says: “Our guide sets out simply and clearly how existing EU law should be routinely applied to determine, firstly, whether a mortgage contract term is fair and, secondly, whether a possession or eviction notice is a proportional response to any breach of a mortgage term. By applying these EU laws, Irish courts and lawyers can really assist their clients and vulnerable defendants.” The authors have stressed that the guide is for information purposes only. It does not provide legal advice, and is not a substitute for consulting a lawyer. They suggest, within the guide, that people share it with their solicitors. They also acknowledge, however, that a high number of people facing possession are unrepresented, due to the shortage of free and low cost legal services. In tandem with the publication of the guide, a group of facilitators are being trained by Community Action Network (CAN), an NGO with extensive housing rights expertise.  The facilitators will be available to help promote the guide to people in mortgage distress and to service agencies who may be working with them. They will help people understand the information in the guide, but will not provide legal advice or representation. The guide also contains practical advice on how to find a solicitor, an outline to the Abhaile Scheme and Personal Insolvency Arrangements, and other vital resources for people in mortgage distress. Finally, it contains sample template pleadings, for information purposes only. The guide has been created as part of the Open Society Foundations’ Abusive Lending Practices Project, in conjunction with the Centre for Housing Law, Rights and Policy at NUI Galway, and a group of Irish lawyers and advocates.  According to Marguerite Angelari, Senior Legal Officer with Open Society Justice Initiative and the lead author of the guide: “The Open Society Foundations launched the Abusive Lending Practices Project in 2015 out of concern for the substantial number of people in Europe suffering under debt burdens that threaten their ability to satisfy their basic needs. The widespread practice of repossessing people’s homes without consideration of any wrongdoing on the part of the lender and the impact of the loss of the home on the household as required by EU law is a violation of their human rights.” While Ireland is the first EU country where the guide is being launched, its contents are relevant, and will be available, to distressed borrowers throughout Europe The Open Society Foundations’ mission is to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people. The guide is available to download from 7am on Thursday, 1 February, from: https://www.nuigalway.ie/chlrp/news/. -Ends-


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