NUI Galway scoops Hewlett Packard Mobile Technology award

NUI Galway scoops Hewlett Packard Mobile Technology award-image

Monday, 27 September 2004

NUI Galway has been named as one of only seven European universities to be funded by the Hewlett Packard (HP) sponsored Mobile Technology for Teaching Grants Scheme. The award, worth $100,000, consists of 40 state-of-the-art wireless enabled laptops, tablet PC devices, and mobile computing network infrastructure. All second year B.Sc. (IT) students will have use of a laptop, and will have full access – using the on-campus mobile network - to internet-based software, virtual classrooms and collaborative working environments. The project, managed by the Department of Information Technology, was selected based on its innovation potential and its scope to enhance the learning of students on the accredited B.Sc. degree programme in Information Technology. This technology award will facilitate an enhancement of the project-based learning approach, widely used in the B.Sc. (IT), by enabling the class to work together as a team to design and build an industry-standard internet auction site. The project will also make use of the skills learned by students on both the business and language streams, and will be translated into European languages. Dr. Jim Duggan, Project Leader, and Lecturer at the IT department, says that the great benefit of this project is that B.Sc. (IT) students will gain a unique insight into the real-world complexities of internet software development. "They will appreciate the scale of these projects, get a chance to apply their technical, business and language skills, and experience the challenges and excitement of working as part of a large team,." The project will run for the entire academic year, and the laptop resources will be made available to future second year classes of the B.Sc. (IT). Ends

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Global Oil reserves will be depleted by 2030

Global Oil reserves will be depleted by 2030-image

Friday, 24 September 2004

Global oil reserves will be fully depleted by the year 2030 and the introduction of alternative fuels must be a priority for governments across the globe, according to Professor John Simmie who was speaking at the official opening of the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) at NUI Galway today (September 24th 2004). The Environmental Change Institute was officially opened by Jim Higgins MEP and has been established as a result of successful bids by NUI Galway to obtain funding (€10.62m) under Cycles II and III of the Irish Government's Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI). The research into biodiesel is a unique study by an Irish university into the uses and functionality of biodiesel which is the only alternative fuel that can be used directly in any existing, unmodified diesel engine. Biodiesel is a renewable fuel derived from vegetable oils and animal fats. It has a positive impact on global warming and can limit dependence on foreign-derived fuel supplies. Professor John Simmie of the Department of Chemistry and ECI at NUI Galway said, "With global oil reserves severely threatened, we must seek alternative methods of fuel production. The situation is extremely serious. Oil production has peaked in 52 out of 99 oil producing countries and it is estimated that oil will be depleted by 2030. Research into alternative methods of fuel is vital if we are to maintain energy levels going forward." Professor John Simmie also stated that the Irish Government must take immediate measures to curb the amount of carbon dioxide being discharged by Irish consumers and suggested that biodiesel represents a realistic alternative, producing approximately 80% less carbon dioxide emissions and almost 100% less sulphur dioxide. Based on tests, biodiesel also provides a 90% reduction in cancer risks. Biodiesel also replaces the smelly exhaust odour of petroleum diesel with the pleasant aroma of freshly-cooked popcorn or chips. While the research is at the initial stages, the Environmental Change Institute estimates that biodiesel could be a reality in Irish vehicles quite soon. Speaking at the official opening of the ECI, Professor Emer Colleran, Director of ECI added, "We are very excited about the wealth of research projects being undertaken at the Environmental Change Institute. We are working hard to make a significant and positive contribution to tackle global environmental issues and to the very challenging field of Environmental Change Research. The development of the ECI has been made possible through PRTLI funding which enables us to adopt an interdisciplinary approach to this research, where we can bring together a pool of experienced researchers and post-graduate students in a state of the art facility. NUI Galway is renowned for the quality of its work internationally and we look forward to the development of the ECI and the positive impact that the findings of the Institute's research will have on making significant environmental change across the globe." Professor John Simmie also called on the Irish Government to impose measures to curtail the purchase of SUVs and to reduce the size of car engines. "The rising level of affluence in Irish society is having detrimental affects on our environment especially with the introduction of larger engines and the growing attraction of sports utility vehicles (SUVs). The Irish government must curtail the purchase of SUVs which guzzle fuel and as a result are emitting twice as much carbon dioxide as ordinary cars." Other areas of research being undertaken at the ECI include a study by Dr Vincent O'Flaherty and student Niamh Breathnach into levels of contamination in Irish drinking water, which will result in recommendations to the Environmental Protection Agency on how best to reduce the levels of contaminated drinking water. Research is also being undertaken into Marine Environmental Modelling by Dr Michael Hartnett, which is a study into the transport of pollutants discharged into the coastal waters and seas surrounding Ireland. Professor Emer Colleran, is also undertaking a study into reducing the effects of landfill gas emissions and the resulting effect on global warming. Ends

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Screening for harmful algae and their toxins to improve shellfish quality

Screening for harmful algae and their toxins to improve shellfish quality-image

Monday, 20 September 2004

Phytoplankton research at the National Diagnostics Centre, NUI Galway New molecular tests to identify the presence of dangerous phytoplankton in Irish waters are being carried out by scientists at NUI Galway. Phytoplankton are microscopic organisms and a major plant life in the sea. A small proportion of these, known as harmful algal blooms, produce substances that are toxic to humans and can cause fish kills. This new research, being conducted by the National Diagnostics Centre in collaboration with the Martin Ryan Institute at the University, and funded by the Higher Education Authority is aimed at developing more automated tests than are currently in existence, to identify the presence of these harmful species and their toxins. The NUI Galway project is two-pronged and involves a range of experts at the National Diagnostics Centre and the Martin Ryan Institute. The first part of the project is exploiting a molecular technology, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in combination with DNA probes, short specific sequences of DNA, to identify HAB species. These tests will enable rapid detection of toxic species thereby providing an early warning system for their presence in shellfish production areas. The other part of the research programme at the NDC involves the production of antibodies specific for the algal toxins. The detection systems involving antibodies are not labour-intensive and relatively unskilled personnel can produce reliable and reproducible results. The two major stakeholders with an interest in such a research project are the consumer and the fish-farmer. The consumer requires good quality shellfish for consumption and the fish-farmer depends on this industry for a sustainable livelihood. When toxic phytoplankton are found in water, a decision has to be taken on the possible closure of various waters or bays in the vicinity, while follow-up examinations are carried out to ascertain if toxins are present. "Exports of Irish shellfish are currently worth €50 million annually to the Irish economy," says Dr Majella Maher, who is leading the molecular technology section of the three-year project, due to be completed next year. Dr Maher explains that one of the drawbacks of the existing visual method of identification is that it can be difficult to identify precisely some of the toxic phytoplankton species present in samples. "However, with specific molecular tests, we could identify all toxic species," she says. "As the procedure involves fully-automated instrumentation, results become available within a single working-day." Dr Marian Kane, Manager of the National Diagnostics Centre and one of the leaders of this project, says: "A variety of analytical methods is required for the detection and determination of algal toxins in shellfish to satisfy the requirements of both the commercial producers and the regulatory agencies". "Antibodies are versatile tools – they are cheap to produce on a large scale and can be used for fully-automated test systems, such as biomolecular interaction analysis (BIA) assays, or packaged into rapid detection systems that can be used at the point where they are needed, rather than sending samples to laboratories for toxin detection," says Dr Kane. This research is being carried out in collaboration with the Martin Ryan Institute, NUI Galway, and the National Marine Institute, now also based in Galway. Ends

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Israeli academic to provide insights into multi-ethnic education

Israeli academic to provide insights into multi-ethnic education-image

Monday, 13 September 2004

The Arab-Israeli conflict is rarely absent from world news and the deep-seated problems associated with it often seem intractable. Educating young people on both sides to understand and respect each other's past is a positive contribution towards creating a long-term peaceful society in that troubled region. One such man who has done valuable work in this area is Dr Simon Lichman who will be in Galway this week, to give a talk entitled Using Culture and Folklore in Education to Build Bridges Between Arab and Jewish Children In Israel, in Room D 202, Education Technology Building, NUI Galway on Friday, 17 September at 12.00 noon. The talk is hosted by the University's Department of Education. Dr Simon Lichman, a graduate of Hebrew University and the University of Pennsylvania, has specialized in drama, folklore and the use of culture and traditions to better understand our past as a means to positively shape our future. He is the initiator and Director of the Traditional Creativity in the Schools Project. The Project works with Islamic Palestinian and Jewish Israeli children in twinned classes and schools and focuses on both the commonalities and the differences in their shared Semitic cultural backgrounds. It creates relationships, sometimes friendships and provides a basis amongst ordinary people for a peaceful co-existence. "There are clearly some parallels between the troubles in Northern Ireland and the situation in Israel/Palestine so as well as being of interest in its own right, the lecture will be of particular interest to an Irish audience for this reason," says Professor Keith Sullivan, Department of Education, NUI Galway. "Dr Lichman is an excellent speaker who provides an insight into how he and his colleagues in the Traditional Creativity in the Schools project have dealt with a difficult problem in a way that is both respectful towards and enabling for both cultures involved. The solutions provided will also provide useful insights for those who have an interest in multiethnic educational initiatives for an increasingly ethnically-mixed Ireland." The lecture should be of interest to teachers, from the primary, second and third level sectors, to University academics and to anyone interested in human rights issues in education. Ends

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NUI Galway to host Major Conference on Human Rights and Disability Discriminatio

NUI Galway to host Major Conference on Human Rights and Disability Discriminatio-image

Thursday, 9 September 2004

The Disability Law & Policy Research Unit (based in the Law Faculty, NUI Galway) and the Equality Authority, are to co-host a major conference entitled Human Rights and Disability Discrimination: Exploring the Value Added by the ECHR and other sources of European Law, on Saturday 25th September from 9.00am-5.30pm in the Fottrell Theatre, Arts Millennium Building, NUI Galway. The conference is one of the first events to deal with the immediate implications of incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into Irish law for a particular category of persons and comes on the eve of publication of the long-awaited Disabilities Bill. It will be of interest to persons involved in disability discrimination litigation whether as litigants or lawyers as well as to those involved in public policy, service delivery and research. Speakers include: Niall Crowley and Eilis Barry of the Equality Authority; Professor Gerard Quinn, Donncha O'Connell, Shivaun Quinlivan, Mary Keys and Dr. Laurent Pech of the Law Faculty, NUI Galway; and Des Hogan of the Irish Human Rights Commission. The conference will also be addressed by two experts from the United Kingdom: Anna Lawson of the University of Leeds and David Ruebain, a solicitor specialising in disability discrimination litigation with a particular interest in the education rights of young persons with disabilities. The conference will be addressed by Alderman Catherine Connolly, Mayor of Galway at 5.00pm. There is no registration fee for participants who are, however, advised that advance registration is requested by the organisers. Ends

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Leading Cancer Research Scientist to speak at NUI Galway

Leading Cancer Research Scientist to speak at NUI Galway-image

Monday, 6 September 2004

A renowned expert in cancer research will give the inaugural Annual Cancer Research Lecture in NUI Galway later this month. Professor Thanos Halazonetis's talk, "DNA Damage Checkpoints and Cancer" will take place at 1.00pm on Friday, 17 September 2004 in the McMunn Theatre. The lecture is being hosted by the University's Department of Biochemistry and supported by the Bank of Ireland, University Branch. Professor Thanos Halazonetis graduated from the Dental School in Athens and did a PhD degree in Genetics at Harvard University. He currently holds a research position at the Wistar Institute and a Professorship in the Department of Pathology at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Halazonetis is researching how normal cells respond when the genetic material is damaged and how defects in these responses result in cancer. A particular focus is the DNA Damage Checkpoint Pathway, which co-ordinates a range of cellular responses to DNA damage, ensuring efficient repair and therefore suppression of tumour formation. In particular, Professor Halazonetis has been studying various DNA damage response markers in a spectrum of lung lesions ranging from hyperplasia to invasive carcinoma. His findings indicate that even in its earliest stages, cancer is associated with activation of the DNA Damage Checkpoint Pathway. Professor Halazonetis is coming to NUI Galway because of similar research to his being carried out by Professor Noel Lowndes and his team in the University's Genome Stability Laboratory. "We are privileged that Professor Halazonetis is coming to share his knowledge with us," said Professor Lowndes, whose research team is currently working on related genes in model systems more amenable to genetic studies. "We believe that the involvement of the DNA damage checkpoint Pathway in cancer requires that we understand this pathway at the molecular level. In fact, great strides have been made in recent years in research in this area and, with the recent establishment of the Genome Stability Cluster, NUI Galway is now contributing to the exciting progress being made. This understanding will lead to advances in the treatment of one of the most serious diseases of our time". Ends

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October 2004

NUI Galway confers honorary degrees on four outstanding individuals

NUI Galway confers honorary degrees on four outstanding individuals-image

Tuesday, 19 October 2004

NUI Galway has conferred honorary MA degrees on four individuals in recognition of their special contribution to their specific areas of activity. They are: Jim Lyons, former CEO of Co. Clare Vocational Education Committee for his immense achievements in many aspects of education in Co Clare, particularly in the area of Adult Education. During the 1980s, in partnership with NUI Galway he set up the first literacy tutor-training course in the region, and established a pioneering adult literacy programme within Clare VEC, which served as a model for other regions. He has also published two successful books on education, School in Action and School 2000. Sr Enda Ryan, for her immense achievements in many aspects of education in Malaysia, where she founded Assunta Secondary School which started with 84 students in 1958 and today has more than 2000 pupils. Since going to Malaysia, Sister Enda s contributions towards building that new nation have not gone unrecognised, as she has received numerous awards and honours recognising her achievements. Seán and Máire Stafford, for their outstanding contributions over many years to the activities of An Taibhdhearch Irish language theatre in Galway. Both have had long and distinguished acting and directing careers with the theatre. Hugo O'Neill, O'Neill of Clanaboy, descendant of the O'Neill Chiefs of Ulster, was honoured for his contribution to Ireland-Portugal relations. His forebears went to Portugal in the 1740s but retained strong links with Ireland. Ends

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University Head urges Government to continue investment in third-level education

University Head urges Government to continue investment in third-level education-image

Monday, 18 October 2004

"The Government must continue to invest in the basic capital infrastructure of our Universities and in pioneering research programmes like the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) in order to reach the goals established under the European Union's Lisbon Strategy," according to Dr Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh, President of NUI Galway. Dr Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh was addressing graduates at the University's autumn conferral ceremonies which continue throughout the week when more than 3,000 students will be conferred with primary and higher degrees. Dr Ó Muircheartaigh stated that, "Investment in Irish universities is not an "option" – it is a necessity, a necessity which is supported by the findings of the recent OECD Report on third level education in Ireland." Welcoming the report which points the way forward for the sector and the country at a time when higher education is at a crossroads, Dr Ó Muircheartaigh said that the Report requires "a comprehensive response from Government and should be acted on in a holistic and not a piecemeal way if it is to have a major impact on the country's development." Dr. Ó Muircheartaigh went on to say that in the context of the report, "We see NUI Galway as a university committed to providing a world-class education for its students, to significantly enhancing its research profile, to modernising its structures and engaging with its communities in support of economic, cultural and social development." He said that together with the other universities in Ireland, NUI Galway is more than ready to play its part in providing leadership for change. "To enable us to do this, however," he said, "it is essential that government adopt a funding policy for Higher Education which will support ambitious and progressive strategic plans, such as that of NUI Galway," Ends

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Marine plankton, bubbles and sea-spray could regulate climate

Marine plankton, bubbles and sea-spray could regulate climate-image

Monday, 11 October 2004

An EU-funded research team lead by Professor Colin O'Dowd from the National University of Ireland, Galway and Dr. Maria Cristina Facchini from the Italian National Research Council's Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate has discovered a new and dominant source of aerosol particles over the ocean which can contribute, through the formation of haze and cloud layers, to the Earth's heat shield. This in turn can partially reduce global warming driven by the increase in greenhouse gases. These aerosol particles are mainly comprised of organic matter, produced by plankton, and concentrated at the ocean surface due to its surface-active properties. Through the formation and bursting of bubbles in oceanic whitecaps, this organic matter is ejected into the atmosphere in the form of sea-spray aerosol particles. The bubble bursting process produces sea-spray which is generally thought to comprise sea-salt (i.e. inorganic matter). However, this new research has demonstrated that during periods of plankton blooms, sea-spray comprises organic matter rather than inorganic sea-salt and that the addition of this organic matter can increase the availability of aerosol particles and cloud nuclei – both of which contribute to increasing the cooling effect of the Earth's heat shield. Previous research had linked algae and plankton to climate change through sulphur and iodine vapours forming aerosols. This new research which has been published in the most recent edition of Nature magazine, has shown that organic matter could in fact be the most important contributor to marine aerosols. However, this source of marine aerosol is currently lacking in state-of-the-art climate modelling studies. This breakthrough, linking the marine biosphere to climate change, is expected to have an important impact on the future prediction of the Earth's response to greenhouse-gas induced global warming. The research team is composed of scientists from the Environmental Change Institute of the National University of Ireland, Galway; the Italian National Research Council's Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate; and the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, also in Italy. This work was funded by EC FP5 projects QUEST and PHOENICS. Ends

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Minister for Education, Mary Hanafin TD opens €35 million biomedical research fa

Minister for Education, Mary Hanafin TD opens €35 million biomedical research fa-image

Monday, 4 October 2004

"Research – central to our economic progress"- Hanafin The Minister for Education, Mary Hanafin, TD, today (October 4th 2004) opened a new €35 million biomedical research centre at NUI Galway which has the potential to revolutionise patient treatment, eliminate the need for organ transplant and improve the health and quality of life for millions of people worldwide. The National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science (NCBES) brings together a team of over 150 researchers who will also focus on developing treatments for diseases which are currently incurable. Speaking at the opening of the NCBES, Minister for Education, Mary Hanafin, TD said, "It is an honour for me to be present for the opening of this facility which firmly places NUI Galway and Ireland at the frontier of international biomedical research. We look forward to the impact that this research will have on future generations around the globe. Ireland must remain internationally competitive and the development of world-class research across a range of disciplines in Irish universities is vital for us to fulfil this ambition. Scientific education and research is central to our economic progress". Commenting on the research ongoing at the new facility, Professor Terry Smith, Director of the NCBES said, "We are very excited about the development of this new facility and the extent of the research being undertaken here. The facility brings together a broad team of researchers from the disciplines of science, engineering and medicine, who will work together to develop new techniques which will revolutionise current processes. The NCBES is unique in Ireland and will work closely in collaboration with local industry involved in the biomedical field and with University College Hospital, Galway (UCHG). Through its interdisciplinary approach, the NCBES has established an international reputation for its research and is working with other similar institutes in Europe and the US to ensure that rapid advances are made in this exciting area of biomedical research." One of the specific areas of research currently ongoing is the development of materials that will minimise rejection of stents in the human body. Stents are implanted in the body for a variety of heart and other operations. The research involves the development of SMART materials, so called because they adapt to their environment in the human body by reacting to the body's temperature. The development of SMART materials is unique to an Irish university and involves the use of sophisticated modelling techniques. The material is inserted into the body as a fluid which then becomes a gel. A coating of the smart material on the stent also facilitates effective drug-release control. The main advantage of the use of these biomaterials is that they are biodegradable and can also be removed if necessary. Other research projects ongoing at the centre include tissue engineering which is a new field of biomedicine that unites science, engineering and medicine, to restore or replace tissues and organs that have been damaged by disease or injury. Ends

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