Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Pupils from Primary Schools in Co. Kerry, Co. Westmeath and Co. Galway were the first, second and joint third place winners of the recent 2018 Schools Teaching Awareness of Randomised Trials (START) Competition, which took place at NUI Galway. The triumphant young scientists were presented with their winning trophies from BT Young Scientist winner 2018, Simon Meehan from Coláiste Choilm, Ballincollig, Co. Cork and BT Young Scientist runner-up winners 2018 Darragh Twomey, Neil O’Leary and Andrew Heffernan from Colaiste Treasa, Kanturk, Co. Cork. The START competition, now in its third year, is run annually by the Health Research Board - Trials Methodology Research Network (HRB-TMRN) based at NUI Galway. The programme is designed to increase young children’s understanding and awareness of randomised clinical trials and educate pupils about why we need randomised trials to improve healthcare nationally and globally. St. Joseph’s National School, Kinvara, Co. Galway won first place for their randomised clinical trial, The effect of fidgeting on concentration. The pupils noticed that some students fidget a lot when listening. They investigated the effect this had on their concentration by comparing concentration scores between the control groups who sat with their arms crossed, and the test group, who had blu-tack to fidget with, whilst listening to their teacher. Somewhat surprisingly, results suggest that fidgeting is good for concentration…as long as it’s silent! Glinsk National School, Castlerea, Co Galway won second place for their randomised clinical trial, Do extra educational maths games improve test results? The pupils investigated whether extra educational maths improve test results. They found that playing a maths game did in fact improve maths scores, in both addition and subtraction, for the most part. Due to the quality of the entries, the judges were unable to pick a stand-alone third place winner and a joint third place was announced. Pupils from St. Michael’s National School, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath won joint third place for their randomised clinical trial, Can ten minutes of daily exercise increase students’ fitness? They evaluated if ten minutes of daily exercise increased the pupils’ fitness and found a slight effect but not enough to be conclusive about this result. Pupils from Meentogues National School, Headford, Killarney, Co Kerry also won joint third place for their randomised clinical trial, How much can teachers influence us? The pupils investigated how much teachers influence pupils and found that having a teacher in the room does indeed influence a pupil’s choice. Professor Devane, Director of the HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network at NUI Galway, said: “The START competition shows that with the support of their teachers, children can not only engage in research, they can also do it to a really high standard. Every day children, like adults, are exposed to health claims. Many people, including health care professionals, lack the knowledge and skills needed to access and assess the reliability of information underpinning these. We believe that the START project helps empower children to think critically about health claims and make better informed choices. The Schools and parents of these children and teachers should be very proud indeed.” Sarah Chapman, Knowledge Broker at Cochrane UK based in Oxford, added: “I was privileged to be one of the judges for the START competition this year, and was so impressed by what these pupils achieved. Not only have they shown that they can choose a research question and then design and run a trial to answer it, they have also presented their work with such clarity and creativity that many ‘real life’ trialists could learn from them.” The Schools Teaching Awareness of Randomised Trials (START) Competition, is an initiative of the NUI Galway-based Health Research Board – Trials Methodology Research Network, to celebrate International Clinical Trials Day, and the anniversary of the first clinical trial which was carried out in 1747 in the British Navy. For more details about the START Competition, visit: https://www.hrb-tmrn.ie/public-engagement/start-competition/ -Ends-

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

NUI Galway today (12 June) conferred degrees on over 290 students. Among that number, over 30 were conferred with doctoral degrees. The largest cohort of students to graduate was 176 future doctors who received their Honours Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, and Bachelor of Obstetrics (MB, BCh, BAO) degree. Among this outstanding group of medical students, Esther Macken from Galway City received 5 out of 14 Final Medical Medals for her outstanding academic performance. Every year, NUI Galway awards the Final Medical Medals to the student who receives the highest mark in each subject area. Speaking at the ceremony, President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “On behalf of NUI Galway, I congratulate each of today’s graduates. We in NUI Galway are determined that this University will play its full part in developing graduates who will make a real difference in the world and for the world, and will shape the future needs of our society.” International students were well represented at the ceremony, with the University welcoming graduates from, among other countries, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and Brazil, who along with students from across Ireland received Diplomas, Degrees, Masters, and PhDs. -Ends- A gCéimeanna Bronnta ar bhreis is 290 Mac Léinn ag Searmanas Bronnta an tSamhraidh in OÉ Gaillimh Inniu (12 Meitheamh) bhronn OÉ Gaillimh céimeanna ar bhreis is 290 mac léinn. Ina measc siúd, bhí 30 duine ar bronnadh céimeanna dochtúireachta orthu. Grúpa de 176 ábhar dochtúra an grúpa ba mhó díobh a bhain Baitsiléir Onóracha sa Leigheas, Baitsiléir Onóracha sa Mháinliacht agus Baitsiléir Onóracha sa Chnáimhseachas (MB, BCh, BAO) amach. Sa ghrúpa de mhic léinn leighis eisceachtúla sin bhí Esther Macken as an Daingean i nGaillimh. Bronnadh 5 Bhonn as 14 Bhonn don Bhliain Deiridh Leighis uirthi as a fheabhas a d’éirigh léi go hacadúil. Gach bliain, bronnann OÉ Gaillimh Boinn don Bhliain Deiridh Leighis ar an mac léinn is airde marcanna i ngach ábhar. Bhí an méid seo a leanas le rá ag Uachtarán OÉ Gaillimh, an tOllamh Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, ag an searmanas: “Thar ceann OÉ Gaillimh, tréaslaím le gach duine agaibh. Táimidne in OÉ Gaillimh diongbháilte de go ndéanfaidh an Ollscoil seo a cion féin le céimithe a oiliúint a fhágfaidh a lorg ar an domhan trí chéile, agus a bheidh ábalta freastal ar riachtanais ár sochaí amach anseo.” Bhí neart mac léinn idirnáisiúnta ag an searmanas, agus chuir an Ollscoil fáilte chroíúil roimh na céimithe sin ón Malaeisia, Singeapór, an Astráil agus an Bhrasaíl, i measc tíortha eile, mar aon le mic léinn as gach cearn den tír seo ar bronnadh Dioplómaí, Céimeanna, Máistreachtaí, agus PhDanna orthu. -Críoch-  

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

NUI Galway will hold an Adult Learners Information Evening on Wednesday, 20 June from 5-7pm in the Orbsen Building. The information evening will allow attendees to find out more about the extensive range of part-time, flexible-learning programmes on offer. Members from the Career Development Centre will also be on hand to offer free, one-to-one career at the event. Nuala McGuinn, Director at the Centre for Adult Learning and Professional Development at NUI Galway, said: “With ever-changing business processes, increasing global competition and new demands being placed on employees in today’s workplace, keeping your skills up-to-date and advancing your qualifications has never been as important as it is today.” NUI Galway offers a wide range of part-time courses from taking a module on a standalone basis to full award options at Certificate, Diploma, Degree and Masters level. Over 40 part-time programmes will be showcased at the event including those in subject areas of Business and Management, Community Education, Adult Training and Education Studies, Early Childhood Studies, Languages, Information Technology, Pre-University Courses, and Science and Technology programmes. Ms McGuinn continued: “Flexibility in learning is key for adults, as they balance the many requirements of work and family life. With this in mind our courses are offered through classroom-based mode, online or through a blend of both, giving maximum flexibility to students to achieve their learning goals.”  Among the new programmes which will be launched on the night is the Higher Diploma in Arts (Politics and Society), due to begin in September 2018. This is a two-year, part-time course which has been specifically designed to meet the needs of second level teachers who wish to teach ‘Politics and Society’ on the Leaving Certificate curriculum. Dr Michelle Millar, Head of NUI Galway’s School of Political Science and Sociology, explains: “We are delighted to offer this new dynamic programme to second level teachers and to be the first university in the country offering a third level qualification in this subject.” The Diploma in Earth and Ocean Sciences is also new for 2018 and will appeal to those with an interest in the natural environment and the outdoors. It may also be professionally beneficial for geography teachers, environmental scientists, engineers and archaeologists. Course Director Dr Sadhbh Baxter said: “The course provides students with a broad introduction to the study of the Earth’s solid geology and its coastal ocean, with exciting hands-on, practical experience of the techniques employed within the fields of geology, oceanography, and Earth observation.” Another of the new programmes to be launched for September 2018 is the one-year, part-time Diploma in Learning and Development which is targeted at those who have managerial and supervisory responsibilities in corporate Learning and Development roles. “The course focuses on skills development around Coaching, Human Resource Management and Online Learning Development in industry today”, highlights Programme Co-ordinator, Paul Gormley, and provides candidates with the skills to design, develop and operationalise strategic plans within their areas of responsibility. Information on Springboard+ courses offering in excess of 80 free places on the Science and Technology and Technology Management programmes for employed and unemployed candidates will be available on the night.  Interest in these programmes has grown steadily over the past number of years as a direct result of industry requiring increasing skills in these areas. Diplomas are also available in a selection of high quality language courses for adult learners.Other related professional development opportunities are offered in Early Childhood Studies, Information Technology, Play Therapy, Community Education, Business and Adult Training and Education Studies.  For further information on this event and to register your interest visit www.nuigalway.ie/learnwithoutlimits or call 091 494066 to speak with a programme coordinator, or visit the Centre’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/nuigalway.adulted. -Ends-

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

CÚRAM the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre in Medical Devices will host Professor David Mooney from Harvard University as part of its Distinguished Seminar Series at NUI Galway on Tuesday, 12 June. Professor Mooney’s seminar is entitled ‘Building Immunity with Biomaterials’. Professor Mooney is the Pinkas Family Professor of Bioengineering in the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and a Core Faculty Member of the Wyss Institute. The basic question that drives Mooney's research is: how do mammalian cells receive information from the materials in their environment. He studies the mechanisms by which chemical or mechanical signals are sensed by cells and alter their development to either promote tissue growth or destruction. Results from these studies are to design and synthesize new biomaterials that regulate the gene expression of interacting cells for a variety of tissue engineering and drug delivery projects. Professor Mooney’s current projects focus on the therapeutic development of blood vessels, regeneration of musculoskeletal tissues, and cancer therapies. Professor Mooney is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Medicine, and the National Academy of Inventors and has won numerous awards, including the Clemson Award from the Society for Biomaterials, MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health, Distinguished Scientist Award from the IADR, Phi Beta Kappa Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, and the Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Award from Harvard College. His inventions have been licensed by numerous companies, leading to commercialised products, and he is active on industrial scientific advisory boards. Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM, said: “We are delighted to be hosting a speaker of David’s caliber. We are continuously building our research, industry and clinical networks at CÚRAM and David’s work aligns perfectly with our aim to translate exciting work in the laboratory to raise quality of life for people living with chronic illness.” The seminar will take place at 4pm on Tuesday, 12June in the Biomedical Sciences Building, North Campus at NUI Galway. -Ends-

Monday, 11 June 2018

NUI Galway collaborative international study develops novel minimally-invasive device that can increase heart function after a heart attack Imagine being able to deliver therapy directly to the heart multiple times from a port under the skin to heal the heart? A new study led by researchers from NUI Galway, Harvard University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology among others, describes a novel implantable tool that could make this a reality. The study was published today (11, June 2018) in the internationally respected journal, Nature Biomedical Engineering. When a patient has a heart attack, additional scarring and remodelling can occur and ultimately lead to heart failure. Multiple therapies are being explored to prevent this disease progression including drugs, proteins and adult stem cells. The problems with delivering these treatments currently are that they don’t stay at their intended site on the beating heart, can cause toxic side effects and often require multiple doses to elicit a clinical effect. A group of investigators that included eight Irish researchers, have recently designed a device called Therepi that can be placed directly on the heart, comprising of a reservoir for drugs or cells that can be refilled multiple times from a port under the skin. This allows localised, refillable, heart targeted therapy delivery. The researchers showed in a pre-clinical model of myocardial infarction (heart attack) that this device can increase heart function over four weeks when stem cells are repeatedly delivered to the reservoir. This system has vast potential for advancing research as a tool to characterise optimal targeted drug dosing. Additionally, the study describes the first step towards translating a device to the clinic that allows multiple non-invasive therapy replenishments over time. The published study was the result of a collaboration between Harvard, MIT and Boston Children’s Hospital in the USA, and NUI Galway, RCSI, TCD and AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland funded materials science centre in Ireland. Professor Ellen Roche, co-first author of the study and Assistant Professor at MIT, and a former researcher at NUI Galway who won international acclaim in 2017 for her work in creating a soft robotic sleeve to help patients with heart failure, said “Our study demonstrates that Therepi can repeatedly deliver drugs, and increase retention of cells at the heart to increase function. For us, this is only the beginning of multiple ongoing studies that will use this system as a platform device for therapy delivery to the diseased heart, and as a research tool to further scientific understanding of the effects of a localised, refillable treatment regimen at various diseased organs. It was a privilege to work with a talented multi-disciplinary, inter-institutional team to make this study possible.” Professor Garry Duffy, AMBER Investigator and Personal Professor in Anatomy at NUI Galway and a senior co-author of the study, added: “I have no doubt that the development of Therepi will impact care for patients with heart disease in the future and its main advantage allows for treatment to be tailored to individual patient need. Therepi is a medical device that allows keyhole surgical placement of a depot or pouch to the outside surface of the heart, and this pouch can be topped-up with drugs or stem cells using a port that sits just below the skin. “Our study shows that this local delivery with top-ups improves heart function after a heart attack in a pre-clinical model. It builds on a strong trans-Atlantic collaboration which has seen multiple researchers train at MIT and Harvard from Irish Institutions. Along with Professor Ellen Roche at MIT we are currently assessing Therepi’s utility in disease conditions where cell therapies can offer potential cures including Type 1 Diabetes. This collaboration builds on the strength of the ecosystem here for translational medicine at NUI Galway, and we hope to see devices like Therepi reach clinical trials over the coming years.” Professor Peter McHugh, Dean of the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway, and co-author of the study, said: “This publication in Nature Biomedical Engineering clearly demonstrates the brilliance of Irish researchers and the world-class standing of Irish research, and the benefits of working with the very best researchers internationally. It is also an excellent example of the application of scientific, clinical and engineering excellence to develop new and innovative treatment methods that will ultimately significantly improve patient outcomes.” Other researchers involved in the study include postdoctoral researchers, Fiona Weafer and Reyhaneh Shirazi from NUI Galway, William Whyte (co-first author) a TCD/AMBER PhD student who spent time at Harvard to work on the study, Hugh O’Neill, RCSI PhD graduate and Bruce Murphy, Associate Professor in Biomechanical Engineering at TCD. To read the full study in Nature Biomedical Engineering, visit: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41551-018-0247-5 Supporting videos of the Therepi device: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MyWsPTkgNM  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Slb_CoWQhYY https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBSZ4c5j5Yk  -Ends-

Monday, 11 June 2018

Professor Theresia Degener, Chairperson of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Committee, will deliver keynote address The world’s largest Disability Law Summer School focusing on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will take place in NUI Galway from 18-22 June. Entitled ‘Moving forward: Intersectionality as a tool of social change’, this is the 10th International Disability Law Summer School hosted by the University’s Centre for Disability Law and Policy. Dr Eilionóir Flynn, Director of NUI Galway’s Centre for Disability Law and Policy said: “Like all of us, disabled people hold many different and intersecting identities. They have also participated in many different movements for social change, including the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the LGBTQI movement, migrant justice, ethnic minority and refugee movements. This year’s summer school will explore how intersectional approaches to disability rights can achieve greater social justice for all.” Professor Theresia Degener, Chairperson of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Committee will deliver a keynote address at the Summer School. Other speakers will include academics, practitioners, activists, members of different UN agencies and policy makers from around the world. Many of the speakers have been directly and actively engaged in drafting and implementing the UN Convention. Over 220 delegates from over 50 countries are registered to attend the Summer School, including persons with disabilities, civil society groups, as well as disability activists, feminist activists, older people’s advocates, children’s rights activists, lawyers, policy makers and policy analysts. The Co-Director of the Summer School, Dr Maria Laura Serra, said: “We live in a globalized world with a globalized human rights crisis. The combined effect of discrimination on the basis of disability on women, migrants, older persons and children has had and continues to have devastating consequences for the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in both the public and private spheres. “The 10th summer school will examine creative advocacy in terms of intersectionality from around the world. It will learn from advocates in academia, members of UN agencies, NGOs, persons with lived experience, policymakers and other stakeholders. It will facilitate participants to think in a more inclusive way, about all the different oppressions that women, older persons and children with disabilities are facing in their daily life.” Registration for the Summer School is still open but very limited number of spaces available. Further information is available at https://bit.ly/2LD6KRu or contact Joanna.Forde@nuigalway.ie or 086 4181673. Participant accessibility (physical or communicational) requests and enquiries are welcomed. -Ends-

Monday, 11 June 2018

NUI Galway’s Marketing and Communications Office has been awarded the ‘Small Communications Team’ award at the recent US based Ragan and PR Daily’s Ace Awards. The award was in the In-house Team Division and it was presented for the success of the media campaign for the visit of the Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall in 2015. The Ragan and PR Daily's Ace Awards Ace Awards honour individuals, in-house teams and agencies in communications and marketing, and celebrates the greatest campaigns, initiatives and one-offs in the global communication, PR, marketing and media industries. The in-house team of Michelle Ní Chróinín, Press and Information Officer, Ruth Hynes, Sheila Gorham, Neasa O’Shea and Zara Sheerin were recognised alongside Microsoft News Center, Cisco Systems, The Narrative Group, Los Angeles/Chicago/New York City, and Juniper Networks at the awards. The PR campaign around the visit of Prince Charles and Lady Camilla was recognised as a successful national and international media campaign organised by the Marketing and Communications Team at NUI Galway. The University hosted a designated media centre, catering for some 120 credentialed journalists, and the visit produced 27,000 column inches of print, 329 minutes of airtime and 23,000 visits to the website. NUI Galway’s Director of Marketing and Communications, Lorna Farren, said: “Our University prides itself on making an impact locally and globally, primarily through our teaching and research but also through our events and outreach activities. The role of the University’s Marketing and Communications team is to share this work with the world and it’s great to see the impact of that work recognised internationally.”   For more information on the Ragan and PR Daily’s Ace Awards visit http://www.ragan.com/Main/AceWinners2017.aspx. -Ends-

Friday, 8 June 2018

European ENERGISE team launches new online interactive dataset, which maps over 1000 sustainable energy initiatives across Europe NUI Galway, lead coordinators of the €3.7 million pan-European Horizon 2020 project, ENERGISE (European Network for Research, Good Practice and Innovation for Sustainable Energy), along with their partner collaborators, have launched an online database of best practice examples of energy initiatives from 30 European countries including Ireland. The database was launched this week in Brussels as part of European Sustainable Energy Week. In ENERGISE, sustainable energy consumption initiatives are defined as activities that deal with reducing energy related carbon dioxide emissions from households. This can either be in reducing the actual energy consumption or substituting fossil fuels with renewable energy sources. In response to the increasingly urgent climate change challenge, the European Commission is promoting several climate and energy targets with the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonise the economy. However, the current pace and scale of change is insufficient to achieve the necessary sustainability transitions in the energy system as there is an increasing realisation that meeting energy targets is highly dependent on several complex aspects of final energy consumption patterns or energy demand. Recognising these concerns, the innovative ENERGISE research initiative aims to achieve a greater scientific understanding of the social and cultural influences on energy consumption. The project develops, tests and assesses options for a bottom-up transformation of energy use in households and communities across Europe. The ENERGISE research team has conducted a systematic classification of over 1,000 existing sustainable energy consumption initiatives from 30 European countries. The open access online database informs users about the content, scale and objectives of sustainable energy consumption initiatives that specifically address final consumption, as well as providing an assessment of how the challenge of addressing excessive energy consumption is understood. Dr Frances Fahy, lead coordinator of the ENERGISE project from NUI Galway, said: “The database and interactive map will be an invaluable resource for energy practitioners, researchers, community groups or anyone seeking good practice examples of energy initiatives from all over Europe.” Examples of sustainable energy consumption initiatives in Ireland and how they approach the challenge of climate change and the need for energy use reduction: Changes in Complex Interactions - Cloughjordan Eco-Village in Tipperary - An eco-village that promotes sustainable ways of living and encourages knowledge exchange across different levels of society. Changes in Everyday Life Situations - Power of One Street - This initiative was about changing energy practices, educating those involved in the study about how to reduce their energy consumption, and setting them a challenge to do just this. Changes in Individuals’ Behaviour - Be Your Own Energy Manager - This is a ‘train the trainer’ programme which began in a housing estate in County Louth. Changes in Technology - Renewable Energy Dublin (CODEMA and Dublin City Council) - The project promotes the uptake of renewable energy in Dublin through free access to and interaction with up-to-date information on renewable technology installations and capacity in County Dublin. The ENERGISE project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme for three years (2016-2019). The consortium includes ten research partners (universities, research institutes, enterprises and NGOs) from Ireland, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Slovenia, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. For more information about ENERGISE or if you if you know of sustainable energy consumption initiatives that are not yet included in the database, visit: http://www.energise-project.eu/ or email info@energise-project.eu -Ends-

Friday, 8 June 2018

An Examination of Lengthy, Contested and Complex Child Protection Cases In the District Court The findings of a two-year research study: An Examination of Lengthy, Contested and Complex Child Protection Cases in the District Court has been published. The report, launched this week by Chief Justice Mr Frank Clarke, was carried out by the Childcare Law Reporting Project (CCLRP) directed by Dr Carol Coulter, Adjunct Professor in the School of Law at NUI Galway. Limited specialist services for victims of child sex abuse, lack of cooperation between the Garda Siochána and Tusla social workers, and problems in the organisation and practice of the courts all contribute to certain child protection cases lasting up to three years, according to the new report which was prepared for the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA).  The Childcare Law Reporting Project undertook research on exceptionally lengthy and complex cases which were already reported on its website to examine why some cases become highly contested, protracted and complex. As well as examining the cases in detail, the CCLRP interviewed 40 key participants in these and other complex cases. Main Findings from the Final Report: Some cases take up to three years to come to conclusion Child sex abuse a major complicating factor in child protection cases Lack of cooperation between Gardaí and social workers Inadequate resources to support courts dealing with complex cases Small minority of child protection cases consume a disproportionate amount of court and Tusla time and resources. The prolonged and complex cases examined share certain features, including allegations of very serious harm to a child or children, involving the likelihood of a criminal investigation; lack of coordination between State agencies concerning the allegations made; the involvement of a substantial number of expert witnesses; the requirement for professional assessments of the children and sometimes also of the parents; difficulties and delays in obtaining such assessments; disputes between experts as to the findings of the assessments and disputes between the Child and Family Agency (Tusla) and other parties on the admissibility of evidence. Of the ten cases examined, the longest ran for 52 days in court over a period of nearly three years. Adjournments were common, for example, there were 22 adjournments in one case. Multiple witnesses were called to give evidence, including expert witnesses from outside the jurisdiction, in one case there were 24 witnesses and in another there were 13 expert witnesses heard. The numbers of lawyers involved was high, with up to 10 lawyers in some cases. Seven of the ten prolonged cases examined, and all except one of those that took over a year, were heard outside Dublin, with six of them heard by ‘moveable’ judges, who are called in by the local judge when he or she does not have time to hear a lengthy case. This can cause a range of logistical problems for hearing the case. Eight cases involved allegations of child sexual abuse and the remaining two involved allegations of physical abuse, including one case alleging non-accidental injury to an infant. Statistics collected by the Childcare Law Reporting Project, and separate research by the Legal Aid Board, suggests that child protection cases involving sex abuse allegations make up only 5-6 per cent of all child protection cases coming before the courts, which in turn form only a minority of all Tusla interventions on behalf of children at risk, so these cases are not at all typical of the bulk of work undertaken by Tusla. Nonetheless, they demonstrate systemic problems with the child protection system as overseen by the courts. This study highlights issues that require attention from various State agencies: The early identification of complicating issues in a case. Careful preparation of cases by the Child and Family Agency for court. The management of cases to ensure that all evidence and witnesses are assembled in advance and timetabled into the proceedings. The early identification and completion of necessary assessments. The need for coordination between different State agencies involved in the welfare and protection of children, including the Garda Síochána. Dr Charles O’Mahony, Head of the School of Law at NUI Galway, said: “The Child Care Law Reporting Project is a critical tool that informs Government policy on this important area of law and practice. The School of Law at NUI Galway is delighted to support this project, which bridges important gaps in our understanding of child care proceedings.” The Child Care Law Reporting Project was set up in November 2012 by Dr Carol Coulter, with the support of Atlantic Philanthropies, the One Foundation and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and with administrative and technical support from Free Legal Advice Centres with a five-year programme of work, which ended in February 2018. As well as Dr Coulter, the project has the assistance of five part-time reporters in attending court cases around the country, including Maria Corbett, who was awarded a Hardiman scholarship by NUI Galway to undertake research on child care proceedings. Along with her duties as supervisor, Dr Coulter delivers occasional lectures to NUI Galway students of law and social science. Dr Coulter said: “I am delighted to have the support of NUI Galway’s School of Law in continuing the work of the Child Care Law Reporting Project. It reflects the School’s commitment to excellence in public law, and I look forward to closer collaboration with the School in the future.” Dr Connie Healy from the School of Law at NUI Galway, said: “We at the School of Law would like to congratulate Dr Coulter on her success with the Child Care Law Reporting Project to-date and look forward to working closely with her in her role as Adjunct Professor during the next phase of the project. Her insight into the Child Care System in Ireland has contributed greatly to both our undergraduate and PhD candidates’ knowledge on this important area of law.” The report by Carol Coulter, Director of the Child Care Law Reporting Project, was commissioned by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and is available at: https://www.childlawproject.ie/ -Ends-

Thursday, 7 June 2018

The Great March of Return, Israel’s Assault on Gaza and the Struggle for Justice in Palestine The Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway will host a timely and important talk by Shawan Jabarin, Director General of the largest and oldest Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq, and will address the recent developments in Gaza, on Friday, 8 June. Mr Jabarin’s talk will discuss the remarkable mass movement that emerged in the form of the Great March of Return, and the response of the Israeli military, including the use of lethal force and explosive bullets against civilians, as well as rules of engagement allowing the use of lethal force. Jabarin will also address the diverse range of ongoing attempts to hold Israel to account for its violations of international law in the Palestinian territories, from potential war crimes investigations by the International Criminal Court, to forthcoming proposed legislation in Ireland to ban trade with illegal settlements in occupied territories.  Professor Ray Murphy from the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway, said: “Shawan Jabarin is amongst the most pre-eminent of Palestinian human rights defenders and most qualified to speak about the ongoing oppression and human rights violations of the Palestinian people.” In 2011 Jabarin was appointed to the Human Rights Watch Middle East Advisory Board, and in 2013 he was elected as a Commissioner for the International Commission of Jurists. In 2016 he was elected Secretary-General of FIDH: International Federation of Human Rights. After studying sociology at Birzeit University in the 1980s, Shawan Jabarin later studied human rights law at the Irish Centre for Human Rights in NUI Galway, where he completed the LL.M programme in 2004-05, supported by a grant from the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Irish Aid programme. In 2010, the Irish Centre for Human Rights presented Mr Jabarin with its first and only distinguished graduate award. Shawan Jabarin has been subject to administrative detention without trial, travel bans and death threats for his work as a human rights defender, and has been supported in campaigns by Amnesty International, Front Line Defenders, Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, and others. He was awarded the Reebok Human Rights Award in 1990 for his defence of freedom of expression and human rights, and has received numerous other human rights awards since, both personally and on behalf of Al-Haq. The talk is free and open to the public and will take place in the Seminar Room at the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway on Friday, 8 June at 5pm. -Ends-

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Study seeks people with chronic pain and at least one other chronic condition to test online treatment for multimorbidity Thursday, 7 June, 2018: A new online treatment programme called ACTION, set up by expert psychologists and physiotherapists at NUI Galway, aims to help those who are managing multiple chronic health conditions. In Ireland, over half a million people suffer from chronic pain on a daily basis. This study is open to people all over Ireland, and the first wave of participants will start the study in June and July. General Practitioners and other health professionals around the country are being encouraged to refer suitable people to the study. The Centre for Pain Research at NUI Galway, with support from the Health Research Board, is currently recruiting people with chronic pain and at least one other chronic health condition to take part in the research. 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. Dr Brian Slattery, coordinator of the study at the Centre for Pain Research in NUI Galway, said: “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 the online programme to people all over the country, with any combination of conditions and chronic pain, to try alongside any existing treatments they are already using.” 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. People who take part in the ACTION trial will not need to attend any clinic or the University at any stage. 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. For further information and to participate in the study, email painresearch@nuigalway.ie, or visit the website http://www.nuigalway.ie/centre-for-pain-research/. GPs or physiotherapists who are interested in referring suitable patients to the trial can also use these contact details. -Ends-

Thursday, 7 June 2018

NUI Galway recently hosted the inaugural meeting of the Cell EXPLORERS Network, an expanding group of scientists and students from ten Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across Ireland who are committed to bringing science out of the lab and into the classroom. Funded by Science Foundation Ireland and coordinated from the School of Natural Sciences at NUI Galway, Cell EXPLORERS is a science outreach and public engagement initiative.   Cell EXPLORERS aims to inform, inspire and involve people in the excitement of science, increase the general public’s engagement with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and advocates for its importance in society.   Professor Ciaran Morrison, Head of NUI Galway’s School of Natural Sciences, said: “The programme is unique, and has involved 850 team members to reach more than 21,000 members of the Irish public since 2012. It is a unique collaborative approach between 10 higher education institutions that has an impact both on the young people reached but also on our students and researchers. Dr Grenon has also started to develop education research to inform the future development of the programme. The overall impact of Cell EXPLORERS has in fact won her a Societal Impact Award from NUI Galway in 2017.”   Delegates from across Ireland attended the meeting to consolidate the recent expansion of the project, from five partner institutions, to a current total of ten HEIs nationally. The Cell EXPLORERS project now covers twelve counties, including nine of those previously identified as having poor exposure to STEM-related activities. The first year of activity for the Network has resulted in the direct engagement of 6,700 young people and their families by over 250 volunteer scientists who continue to give their time, passion and knowledge to inspiring the next generation of scientific explorers.   Dr Muriel Grenon, Founding Director of Cell EXPLORERS, said: “It is so important to engage our young people in STEM from an early age to break the stereotypes around science and scientists. It was great to meet with all the coordinators to discuss the impact that we see in the classroom and plan for the future of our community of practice.”   The research developed by Cell EXPLORERS aims to evaluate the impacts of the programme on all participants. In particular, it focuses on understanding how demonstrator scientists impact on the opinions and attitudes of children to science and scientists, which could strongly affect the dissemination of science education and public engagement activities in Ireland. Some of this research – assessing the impact on young children’s confidence in conducting science – has won postgraduate researcher and NUI Galway Cell EXPLORERS volunteer coordinator Sarah Carroll a poster prize at the third Scientix (the Community of Science Education in Europe) Conference in Brussels last month.   Cathy Foley, Senior Executive at Science Foundation Ireland, said: “This project is a strong example of public engagement at work and the well-developed model could be used in many other settings across a myriad of subject areas. The programme will inform best practice for the involvement of HEIs in public engagement in science: this Network meeting is a first step in achieving that.”   The long-term goal of Cell EXPLORERS is to strengthen its nationwide programme by incorporating best practice from both its team’s experience and research findings to making the Irish public the most scientifically-informed globally.   -Ends-

Thursday, 7 June 2018

NUI Galway continues to perform strongly in the QS World University Rankings, ranked 260 this year out of the 1,233 Universities considered in this year’s QS ranking, maintaining its position among the world’s elite educational institutions. Although its ranking has fallen slightly this year, since 2014 NUI Galway has moved up 24 places, and it was the only Irish institution to increase its ranking year on year in the previous five years. NUI Galway continues to perform strongly in its international scores, reflecting the welcoming nature and vibrant international population of Galway city.  The impact of investment and improvement in education and research in other nations has meanwhile resulted in Ireland’s universities improving research performance, yet other nations have caught up.  Speaking on the announcement of this year’s QS rankings, President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh observed that “We are on a flat curve where small changes make for a potentially large change in our rankings. In that context, we will continue to focus on what makes a difference for our students and for our society, drawing on the strengths of our hinterland to further enhance our international reputation and reach." Noting the QS comments on Irish Universities more generally and that the rest of the world is ‘catching up’, Professor Ó hÓgartaigh commented that this suggests that “investment in education is critically important as Ireland’s consistent source of economic and social development. Our students compete with the best in the world and, for them, so do we.” Globally, Massachusetts Institute of Technology is named the world’s leading university for a record-breaking seventh consecutive year. QS now rank the world’s top 1000 universities, which hail from 85 different countries, and their flagship website, www.TopUniversities.com is due to be visited over 65 million times this year. The full rankings can be found at www.TopUniversities.com from Wednesday, 6 June, 2018. ENDS Gaisce déanta ag OÉ Gaillimh arís i Ranguithe Ollscoile Domhanda QS Tá gaisce déanta ag OÉ Gaillimh arís i Ranguithe Ollscoile Domhanda QS. Rangaíodh ar an 260ú Ollscoil i mbliana í as 1,233 Ollscoil a ndearnadh measúnú orthu i ranguithe QS. Léiríonn sin go bhfuil sí ar cheann de scoth-institiúidí an domhain i gcónaí. Cé go bhfuil an rangú a rinneadh uirthi beagán níos ísle i mbliana, ó 2014 tá OÉ Gaillimh i ndiaidh bogadh suas 24 áit ar an liosta, agus ba í an t-aon institiúid Éireannach í a raibh a rangú ag ardú bliain i ndiaidh bliana le cúig bliana roimhe sin.  Tá OÉ Gaillimh ag déanamh gaisce sna ranguithe idirnáisiúnta i gcónaí, agus is léiriú é sin ar a fháiltiúla atá cathair na Gaillimhe agus ar an bpobal bríomhar idirnáisiúnta atá sa chathair.  Chuir an infheistíocht a rinneadh san oideachas agus sa taighde i dtíortha eile brú ar ollscoileanna na hÉireann cur leis an méid taighde a bhí ar siúl acu, ach tá tíortha eile sna sála againn anois.  Ag labhairt dó nuair a fógraíodh ranguithe QS na bliana seo, bhí an méid seo a leanas le rá ag Uachtarán OÉ Gaillimh, an tOllamh Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh: “Táimid ar chuar comhréidh agus d’fhéadfadh tionchar nach beag a bheith ag athruithe beaga ar an rangú a dhéantar orainn. Ina fhianaise sin, leanfaimid orainn ag díriú ar nithe a mbíonn tionchar acu ar ár gcuid mac léinn agus ar ár sochaí, agus beimid ag tarraingt ar láidreachtaí an cheantair mórthimpeall orainn le cur leis an gcáil idirnáisiúnta atá orainn.” Agus é ag tagairt don mhéid a bhí le rá ag QS faoi Ollscoileanna na hÉireann i gcoitinne agus an chaoi a bhfuil an chuid eile den domhan ‘sna sála’ orainn, dúirt an tOllamh Ó hÓgartaigh go léiríonn sin go bhfuil “infheistíocht san oideachas thar a bheith tábhachtach mar fhoinse sheasmhach forbartha eacnamaíochta agus sóisialta. Bíonn ár gcuid mac léinn in iomaíocht leis na mic léinn is fearr ar domhan agus caithfimidne dul in iomaíocht le scoth na n-ollscoileanna chomh maith, ar mhaithe leis na mic léinn. Tá curiarracht bainte amach ag Massachusetts Institute of Technology ar tugadh séala na hollscoile is fearr ar domhan di don seachtú bliain as a chéile. Déanann QS rangú anois ar an 1000 ollscoil is fearr as 85 tír ar fud an domhain, agus tabharfar níos mó ná 65 milliún cuairt i mbliana ar an láithreán gréasáin den scoth atá acu, www.TopUniversities.com. Beidh na ranguithe ar fad le feiceáil ag www.TopUniversities.com ó Dé Céadaoin, 6 Meitheamh CRÍOCH

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Enactus NUI Galway were recently awarded runners up at the 2018 Enactus Ireland National Competition. This innovative competition sees students from ten Higher Educational Institutes, compete for the champion title. Enactus NUI Galway presented two innovative projects: -          Le Chéile, is an anti-bullying workshop co-designed with a student with autism. The team empowered a person with autism to deliver the autism awareness workshop which educates secondary school students to be more empathetic and compassionate towards their peers. -          HearMe, is a programme that aims to empower individuals with communication impairments. These individuals, along with Speech and Language Therapy students, train those in the service industry to implement practices which break down communication barriers. They also train professional Speech and Language Therapists to set up Hear Me training in their respective counties. Terence O’Rourke, Chairperson of Enactus Ireland, said: “All the student teams involved this year have shown tremendous understanding of how their entrepreneurial skills and talents can be used to bring about real change in their communities.” Founded in November 2011, Enactus Ireland is one of 36 country organisations around the world that operates an Enactus programme, bringing together student, academic and business leaders who are committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to solve community challenges. Guided by academic advisors and business experts, the student leaders of Enactus create and implement community empowerment projects and this experience not only transforms lives, it helps students develop the kind of talent, skills and perspective that are essential to leadership in an ever-more complicated and challenging world. For more information on Enactus, visit http://enactusireland.org/ -Ends-

Friday, 1 June 2018

Impact of mindfulness in health, education and justice systems to be the subject of “Ireland’s Mindful Journey” Event on 14 June The development and impact of policy relating to mindfulness will be explored at a conference in NUI Galway on Thursday, 14 June. The “Ireland’s Mindful Journey” event will explore how mindfulness is steadily making its way into our health, education and justice systems from the ground up, to examine policy in these areas.      Mindful Way @ NUI Galway was established in 2015, and the community has grown to approximately 800 staff, students and members of the local community who participate in shared practice and events across campuses in Galway, Shannon and Letterkenny. Mindful activities relating to teaching, research and the practice of mindfulness are ongoing at the University, where mindful spaces are also being created.   Speaking about the forthcoming event, Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice President for Research at NUI Galway, said: “As mental health is becoming more of a priority issue for governments and policy makers, this conference will share experiences of mindfulness programmes nationally and internationally with a view to developing best practice and informing policy.   “Through research and a range of activities on our campuses, we are exploring how mindfulness contributes to improved wellbeing in our society. While there is often a focus on meditation, mindfulness is about far more than that. Its techniques can change how we relate to ourselves and to those around us by keeping us in the present moment to better respond to the situations we face. While there are many successful initiatives, mindfulness has yet to permeate policy in many areas, and we hope that these examples from the health, justice and education systems can highlight the potential for mindfulness to transform culture in a range of settings.”    Speakers include: Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Education with special responsibility for Higher Education  Kate O’Flaherty, Head of Health and Wellbeing at Healthy Ireland, a Government-led initiative which promotes physical and mental health, and wellbeing Dr Ann Caulfield of Mindfulness Matters, a Mayo-based initiative, which has endeavoured to embed mindfulness into primary level education since 2011 Professor Craig Hassed of Monash University in Australia, whose teaching, research and clinical interests include mindfulness-based stress management Dr Paul D’Alton, Head and Clinical Lead of the Department of Psycho-oncology at St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin and Founder and Co-Director of the MSc in Mindfulness Based Interventions in University College Dublin Mary Lovegrove of Mindful Nation Ireland, a not-for-profit organisation supporting and encouraging mindfulness and compassion initiatives in public life. The conference will be of particular interest to researchers and policy makers working in the area of mindfulness. For more information and to book a place at this one day free event, visit www.nuigalway.ie/mindfulway.   -Ends- 

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

  NUI Galway congratulates TG4 and Gifted Empire Productions following their win at the Irish Film and Television Awards for their live production from the University campus in October 2016. The outstanding production provided by Gifted Empire Productions for TG4XX Beo, TG4's 20th-anniversary celebrations, was acknowledged last week by the Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) at their Gala 2018 Awards in Dublin’s RDS.  Taking home the IFTA for “Best Live Event”,  Gifted Empire’s production was broadcast live from NUI Galway on Halloween night, 31st October 2016 on TG4.  President Michael D Higgins along with TG4’s Director General, Alan Esslemont gave addresses, the show also featured a music, dance and performance extravaganza including appearances from Hothouse Flowers, Duke Special with Ulaid and Prodijig. The production involved constructing a glass pavilion structure in the University’s historic Quadrangle which accommodated 500 guests on the night including President of Ireland, Connacht Rugby team and over 100 live performers.  The location of the event in the heart of the University was symbolic and highlights the relationship between NUI Galway and Gaeltacht communities across Ireland and in its hinterland. NUI Galway is proud to work with TG4 to facilitate broad civic participation in an inclusive Irish language identity since 1996. Graduates and staff of NUI Galway have played significant roles on- and off-screen in the development and identity of TnaG since 1996 and TG4 since 1999.  Academic projects such as NUI Galway’s conference TG4@10 in October 2006 examined the impact of TG4 on the language and media community.  Programmes such as An tArd-Dioplóma sa Chumarsáid Fheidhmeach provided an important talent stream in the initial years of the channel and production programmes such as An Dioplóma i Scileanna Físe (Gaoth Dobhair) was a key contributor to sectoral capacity building for TG4 and the audio-visual sector nationally Speaking on taking home the IFTA, NUI Galway graduate Paul McKay, who was Executive Producer of TG4XX Beo, and is Director of Gifted Empire Productions, said: “We are so proud of the work we delivered on TG4XX Beo and we are delighted that IFTA has recognised it with this (Best Live Event win).  We worked very hard to deliver the most memorable birthday celebration for TG4 on Halloween night and to win the IFTA award for it is the icing on the cake.” The IFTA’s were held in Dublin on Thursday 31st May 2018 and were be broadcast on TG4 on Saturday 2nd June. Take a look at TG4's 20th Anniversary Live Concert from NUI Galway which took place on Halloween night 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=picpFAcOXho

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

The Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at NUI Galway will host its Annual Symposium on Higher Education on Friday, 15 June in Áras Moyola. The conference theme is “Design for Learning” and will focus on the design and use of teaching and learning spaces that facilitate active learning, collaboration, and student engagement.   The Symposium will explore a wide range of aspects of designing for learning: from state-of-the-art learning spaces to inspiring examples of 'hacking' spaces, from classrooms and labs to libraries and learning commons, and from physical to online, hybrid, and open environments. Professor Iain MacLaren, Director of the Centre for Excellence and Teaching at NUI Galway, said: “At this symposium, participants will explore the question of how the design of the spaces in which we teach or study might shape the experience. Are there different ways of designing classrooms, for example, that would enable more active, engaged learning and discussion? If we are using a wide range of technologies to support learning, what kinds of study spaces would be best for students, particularly when working in teams or on projects? We'll be looking at examples from around the world and also considering the important role of virtual and online spaces. Through a combination of presentations, workshops, and discussions – involving international speakers, university staff, and students – we hope to generate practical ideas for the future of university learning and teaching.” The conference will feature keynote speakers:  Dr Alastair Blyth is an architect and research analyst specialising in learning environments and a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Architecture at the University of Westminster. Alastair aims to help people re-imagine the creation of learning environments – educational and physical – that motivate, engage, and inspire students and teachers alike, to enable societies to produce students with the creative, collaborative, and communication skills they need. Alastair is the co-author of several OECD surveys and policy reviews, including ‘Higher Education Spaces and Places’ for learning, innovation and knowledge exchange. Dr Donna Lanclos is an anthropologist working with ethnographic methods and analysis to inform and change policy in higher education, in particular in and around libraries, learning spaces, and active learning pedagogies and practices. Lorna Campbell works for the University of Edinburgh’s Open Educational Resources (OER) Service within the Learning, Teaching, and Web Services Directorate, where her work includes strategies for embedding and supporting open education and OER within the institution. Lorna is a Trustee of Wikimedia UK and of the Association for Learning Technology and a member of the Open Knowledge Open Education Working Group Advisory Board. The Symposium will also contain presentations, workshops, and discussion sessions offered by staff from NUI Galway and other Irish higher education institutions.          The event is free and open to all. For further information or to register visit celt18.eventbrite.ie.   -Ends-

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Summer School led by KPMG Principal and NUI Galway Adjunct Professor Laurence May NUI Galway recently hosted the inaugural KPMG-led Analytics Summer School, the first of its kind in Europe. The Summer School will be a recurring annual programme and available to students who are undertaking either NUI Galway’s Master of Accounting or MSc (International Accounting and Analytics), and focuses on auditing and accounting analytics and cognitive technologies using KPMG software and tools.   The Summer School uses KPMG tools which were developed to harness the power of technology and bring greater vigour, precision and meaningful insights to the increasing age of data. In addition, participants also heard from a number of guest speakers throughout the programme including: Marie Joyce, CFO at National Toll Roads;, Mathieu D'Aquin, Professor of Informatics at Insight Centre for Data Analytics; Joe Smyth, Vice-President of R&D AI Group at Genesys; Mark Gantly, Senior R&D Director Software Defined and Cloud Group at Hewlett Packard Enterprise; and Gearoid Hynes, Head of Product at Orreco.   Laurence May, Principal at KPMG and Adjunct Professor at NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted with the success of the inaugural programme and with the enthusiastic response it has received in the business community and in academia. The key to its success was twofold – the calibre of the KPMG and guest speakers and the practical application of the tools by participants. KPMG is proud to be associated with this innovative programme.”   Dr Geraldine Robbins, Programme Director, NUI Galway said: “It is important that accountants are well positioned to play a leading role in reaping the benefits from growth in data analytics capabilities as the accounting/finance function often has responsibility for analytics in their organisation. Accountants are at a distinct advantage when implementing data analytics not only because they have ready access to data but they also have the training and expertise to make sense of financial data. Data analytics in accounting can help in boosting competitiveness, enhancing financial reporting, managing risks and identifying fraud.”   For more information about the Accounting Masters programmes available email accounting@nuigalway.ie or visit http://www.nuigalway.ie/courses/taught-postgraduate-courses/.   -Ends-  

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Patrick Lonergan, Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at NUI Galway, has been elected as a Member of the Royal Irish Academy for his contribution to Humanities and Social Sciences, during a special admittance ceremony recently in Dublin. Professor Lonergan was one of 28 new Members of the Royal Irish Academy elected for their exceptional contribution to the sciences, humanities and social sciences as well as to public service. New members joining Professor Lonergan include the poet Eavan Boland, public servant, Martin Mansergh, geologist Koen Verbruggen and educationalist Áine Hyland. Professor Peter Kennedy, President of the Royal Irish Academy, said: “We should be proud of these new Members of the Academy for the honour their work brings to this country and the impact of this research on the quality of the higher education provided by our universities.” Professor Patrick Lonergan is one of Ireland’s foremost theatre scholars and Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at NUI Galway. He is academic leader of the digitisation of the archives from the Abbey and Gate Theatres, the world’s largest multi-media digital theatre archive collection, making possible a new era in Irish theatre scholarship, which is digitised at the James Hardiman Library in NUI Galway. Professor Lonergan is the author of several books on Irish theatre including the award-winning Theatre and Globalization (winner of the Theatre Book Prize UK in 2008), The Theatre and Films of Martin McDonagh (2012), and Theatre and Social Media (2015). In 2019 his History of Irish Theatre since 1950 will be published by Bloomsbury. He is a board member of Galway International Arts Festival and Galway Music Residency, and has lectured on Irish theatre at many venues internationally including Princeton, Florence, Florianapolis (Brazil), Wroclaw, and Tokyo. Congratulating Professor Lonergan on this honour, President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “I am delighted to see the work of Professor Lonergan being recognised by the Royal Irish Academy. Admission to the Academy is the highest academic honour in Ireland and it is a testament to the high calibre of Professor Lonergan’s academic work and achievements to date.” The Royal Irish Academy is Ireland’s leading body of experts in the sciences and humanities. The Academy has been honouring Ireland’s leading contributors to the world of learning since its establishment in 1785. Past Members have included Maria Edgeworth, a pioneer of the modern novel and Nobel laureates: WB Yeats; Ernest Walton, Erwin Schrödinger and Seamus Heaney. -Ends-

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins will be the keynote speaker at a symposium on Conradh na Gaeilge and the Revival of Irish which will be held at NUI Galway on Friday, 15 June.   The day-long symposium, ‘125 Bliain ag Fás – An Athbheochan agus Conradh na Gaeilge’, is the University’s main event for Bliain na Gaeilge, which marks the 125th anniversary of the establishment of Conradh na Gaeilge.   The event also celebrates the decision of Conradh na Gaeilge in 2017 to deposit its archives in NUI Galway. An archivist has recently been appointed to catalogue the archive, including some material to be selected for digitisation.   Dr John Walsh, Senior Lecturer in Irish at NUI Galway and symposium organiser, said: “This event includes papers on a range of research topics related to 125 years of the Revival. Researchers and leading public figures will speak about this topic and draw attention to the fantastic research opportunities presented by the Conradh na Gaeilge archives.”   “The Conradh na Gaeilge archive is a very significant resource for teaching and research and is a major addition to the University’s extensive Irish language collections”, said James Hardiman Librarian, John Cox.   Speaking about this symposium, NUI Galway President, Professor Ciarán Ó hOgartaigh said: “The Irish language is uniquely and centrally important to the mission and ethos of NUI Galway, our heritage and our hinterland.  By holding the archive of Conradh na Gaeilge in trust for scholars and the Irish nation our University will act as custodian of an important part of the history of our language.  We’re proud to do so and we look forward to the new perspectives for international scholarship which the archive will offer.  This symposium serves as a major contribution to Bliain na Gaeilge, marking 125 years of Conradh na Gaeilge, and will enable scholars and language policy makers to reflect on language development over the past century while also looking to the future of the Irish language.”   Along with President Higgins, speakers will include: Alan Esslemont, Ard-Stiúrthóir of TG4 Dr Mary Harris of the Department of History, NUI Galway Professor Regina Uí Chollatáin, UCD Cuan Ó Seireadáin, Conradh na Gaeilge Dr Hugh Rowland, Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, NUI Galway Dr John Walsh, Department of Irish, NUI Galway Professor Tadhg Ó hIfearnáin,  Department of Irish, NUI Galway Dr Niall Comer, Uachtarán of Conradh na Gaeilge, said: “We are delighted that our archive is being deposited permanently in NUI Galway. We believe that regular opportunities will become available to use the archival material and we are looking forward to the first such opportunity at the symposium being organised by the University and Conradh na Gaeilge on 15 June.”    The symposium is jointly organised by NUI Galway’s James Hardiman Library and the Department of Irish, and Conradh na Gaeilge. The event is free to attend but registration is required by Friday, 8 June. Details are available at http://www.conference.ie/index/index.asp   -Ends-

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Is é Uachtarán na hÉireann, Micheál D. Ó hUigínn a thabharfaidh an príomhaitheasc ag siompóisiam faoi Chonradh na Gaeilge agus an Athbheochan a reáchtálfar in OÉ Gaillimh Dé hAoine, an 15 Meitheamh. Is é an siompóisiam lae, ‘125 Bliain ag Fás – An Athbheochan agus Conradh na Gaeilge’, príomhócáid na hOllscoile le haghaidh Bhliain na Gaeilge atá ag ceiliúradh 125 bliain ó bunaíodh an Conradh. Ceiliúradh atá san ócáid seo chomh maith ar an gcinneadh a rinne Conradh na Gaeilge in 2017 a chartlann a chur i dtaisce in OÉ Gaillimh. Le déanaí ceapadh cartlannaí chun an chartlann a chatalógú agus le digitiú a dhéanamh ar chuid den ábhar. Dúirt an Dr John Walsh, Léachtóir Sinsearach le Gaeilge agus fear eagair an tsiompóisiam: “Ag an ócáid seo, léifear páipéir ar réimse téamaí taighde a bhfuil baint acu le 125 bliain den Athbheochan. Labhróidh taighdeoirí agus pearsana poiblí iomráiteacha eile faoin téama seo agus tarraingeoidh siad aird ar na deiseanna iontacha taighde a eascraíonn as cartlann an Chonartha.” “Acmhainn ríluachmhar teagaisc agus taighde atá i gcartlann Chonradh na Gaeilge agus cuireann sí go mór leis na bailiúcháin thábhachtacha Ghaeilge atá ag an Ollscoil cheana”, a dúirt Leabharlannaí Shéamais Uí Argadáin, John Cox. Ag labhairt faoin siompóisiam seo, dúirt Uachtarán OÉ Gaillimh, an tOllamh Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh: "Tá an Ghaeilge uathúil agus thar a bheith tábhachtach do mhisean agus d’éiteas OÉ Gaillimh, dár n-oidhreacht agus dár gceantar máguaird.  Trí chartlann Chonradh na Gaeilge a choinneáil faoi iontaobhas anseo do scoláirí agus do phobal na hÉireann, beidh an Ollscoil seo ina caomhnóir ar chuid thábhachtach de stair ár dteanga.  Táimid bródúil é seo a dhéanamh agus táimid ag tnúth leis na peirspictíochtaí nua a chuirfidh an chartlann ar fáil do léann idirnáisiúnta.  Is cuid thábhachtach de Bhliain na Gaeilge é an siompóisiam, bliain atá ag déanamh ceiliúradh ar 125 bliain ó bunaíodh Conradh na Gaeilge, agus cuirfidh sé ar chumas scoláirí agus lucht déanta polasaí teanga a machnamh a dhéanamh ar fhorbairt na teanga le céad bliain anuas agus iad ag breathnú san am céanna ar thodhchaí na Gaeilge. " Beidh na cainteoirí eile seo páirteach sa siompóisiam chomh maith: Alan Esslemont, Ard-Stiúrthóir TG4 An Dr Máire Harris ó Roinn na Staire, OÉ Gaillimh An tOllamh Regina Uí Chollatáin, COBÁC Cuan Ó Seireadáin, Conradh na Gaeilge An Dr Hugh Rowland, Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, OÉ Gaillimh An Dr John Walsh, Roinn na Gaeilge, OÉ Gaillimh An tOllamh Tadhg Ó hIfearnáin, Roinn na Gaeilge, OÉ Gaillimh Dúirt an Dr Niall Comer, Uachtarán Chonradh na Gaeilge: “Tá ríméad orainn i gConradh na Gaeilge go bhfuil ár gcartlann á cur i dtaisce go buan in Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh. Creideann muid go dtiocfaidh deiseanna rialta chun cinn le hábhar na cartlainne a úsáid agus táimid ag súil leis an gcéad deis sin ag an siompóisiam lae a bheidh á reáchtáil ag an Ollscoil agus ag an gConradh ar an 15 Meitheamh.” Tá an siompóisiam lae seo á reáchtáil ag Leabharlann Shéamais Uí Argadáin, ag Roinn na Gaeilge agus ag Conradh na Gaeilge. Níl aon chostas air ach is gá clárú faoin 8 Meitheamh. Tá breis eolais ar fáil ag http://www.conference.ie/Conferences/index.asp?Conference=561  -Críoch-

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Author: Dara Stanley, Botany & Plant Science Department NUI Galway Opinion: as the landscape begins to bloom again after winter, we should remember that springing to life involves a complex web of timings and relationships It’s that time of year again when life appears after a long, cold winter. Blackthorns are coming in to flower around the country providing a sea of white in our hedgerows, while yellow primroses adorn roadsides. It’s a particularly colourful time of year in woodlands, with bluebell, wild garlic, wood avens and lesser celendine all forming carpets on the woodland floor.  Their aim is simple: to complete their lifecycle before the canopy closes and the woodland floor is thrown back into summer darkness. For many of us, these signs of spring signal ever longer days and warmer weather and so it is no wonder they are a common talking point. With the "beast from the east" and other cold snaps this year, it is likely that many plants are taking longer to burst into life than usual and we have already seen the knock on impacts for farmers in terms of delayed growth of grass and other crops. It seems easy to jump to the conclusion that this is climate change raising its angry head. Of course, climate change is a stark reality, but it takes many years of observations of the timing of these spring events to deduce these long term trends. This branch of science – known as phenology – examines the timing of spring events such as bud burst or flowering time and compares data over long timescales. The National Botanic Gardens, Valentia Observatory and a number of other sites around Ireland are part of an international phenological network. Here, the same tree species with the same genetic origin are planted and the timing of spring events monitored. Research carried out by Alison Donnelly and colleagues at Trinity College Dublin found that the long term trend in Ireland is for these trees to begin growing earlier. However, uncharacteristic years like this sometimes buck the trend! The timing of spring events is also important for insects that interact with the plants that are bursting into life. Bumblebee queens that have been hibernating for the winter are currently starting to emerge. This is a particularly crucial time in their lifecycle; they have been overwintering alone underground, and now have to visit flowers to collect nectar and pollen, make a nest and begin to lay eggs. Only then will the queen have workers emerge who can help her with her work. Having a source of flowers producing nectar and pollen at this time of year can be crucial for their survival. If the timing of spring events is "mis-matched" between the plant and its pollinator, it could have implications for both forage for bees and for the reproduction of plants. A study in Japan found that in years when spring came early, flowers of a native plant species (Corydalis ambigua) emerged before their bumblebee pollinators and as a result did not set as much seed. In other parts of the world, it seems that although flowers are flowering earlier due to changes in climate, their bee pollinators are also emerging earlier and so both sides are keeping in rhythm. As well as wildflowers, spring is also an important time for pollination of Irish crops. Globally, three quarters of all crops benefit from pollination by insects and other animals. About 30 percent of the food that we eat comes from crops pollinated by insects, including almost all of our vitamin C as well as other important nutrients. In Ireland, most of our crops that benefit from insect pollination flower in spring time. Again, the timing of spring and the emergence of pollinators is key. Apple orchards around the south-east are just coming into bloom and oilseed rape will soon be visible as large yellow masses of flowers around the country. Oilseed rape is partially pollinated by the wind, but in Ireland, insect pollinators increase yields by about a third, contributing about €4 million to growers annually. Apples are extremely reliant on pollinators and without them, there would be little or no yields at all. So when you’re looking at the emergence of the first flowers in spring, be cognisant of the fact that it is more than just the start of a new season – there is a complex web of timing and relationships with other organisms at play. One of the key ways in which to help bee populations is to ensure they have a sources of nectar and pollen in early spring time when new bumblebee queens emerge for the first time. If you want to do something for pollinators in your garden or on your land, the All Ireland Pollinator Plan has some useful information and guidance.  This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform.  Visit here

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Author: Alison Herbert, Irish Centre for Social Gerontology Opinion: not all older people want to retire or, indeed, keep on working so it's important that policy makers take a nuanced approach to the extended working life Funny old month, Bealtaine. If it’s spring, we should have a spring in our step; if it’s summer, then we should be winding down. The Celtic festival of Bealtaine, a transitional point between the spring qquinox and the Summer Solstice, is traditionally a time to welcome back the light and sun, and trust in a healthy autumnal harvest. A more recent addition to Bealtaine in Ireland is the annual arts festival, which celebrates creativity in later life, offering opportunities to engage with music, drama, art, film and dance, and promotes all that is good about active ageing. Bealtaine lays down a strong marker that old need never be boring. But what does active ageing mean to older people and is this what they really want? The EU certainly believes so with its uncritical adoption of active ageing policies that embrace productivity. But this speaks to defining active ageing only within the narrow parameters of employment and an extended working life beyond the official retirement age. Governments have presented this seismic cultural change to work as a golden opportunity for us to flourish in a perfumed cloud of well-being, whilst building up our pension schemes. All of which is grand if those in their late sixties still love their jobs, are fit and healthy and view employment as a major part of self-identity. This is certainly the case for some and research tells us that those who can most easily afford to retire from the workplace are actually the ones most likely to continue working, or to "un-retire" post-retirement for reasons of self-fulfilment. But sizeable sectors of the population feel financially forced into continuing to work beyond retirement age and view this as a form of punishment not opportunity. For a variety of socio-economic reasons, many near-retirement aged workers may want out. They may want to try their hand at something different, to travel, to re-discover family and friends, or just to take it easy by putting their foot on the brake, not the accelerator. Both of these positions are perfectly valid. For some, their well-being and quality of life is improved by continued employment, but the converse is true for others. Those working in physically heavy, mentally demanding, precarious or meaningless jobs may view work as just another Manic Monday and see retirement as the get-out clause that they have long waited for. Women in particular have been found to be at a disadvantage in older age due to their often fractured work history. Gaps in employment to raise children or to act as carer to dependents, coupled with a leaning towards part-time or casual work all impact upon the ability to build up credits towards a non-contributory state pension or sufficient savings to contribute to a private pension scheme. This can, as a recent study on mid-life rural women in Ireland suggests, create a perception of future poverty and a felt need to continue working. That said, research also shows that many women work for more than pecuniary reasons. They may do so to secure a sense of purpose, forge social connections, gain status and establish an identity other than that of wife or mother. Whilst such women often emphasise the importance of job satisfaction over money, this nonetheless may leave them exposed to fewer resources beyond retirement age. Enjoying the present moment is of particular importance later in life so the attraction of retirement may outstrip that of an income A number of studies have looked at the gendered implications of retirement and the extended working life. While women may welcome the idea of new opportunities in late mid-life, and seize the time to engage in further education, travel, or new skills, research has found that many are simultaneously fearful of financial strain, lack of structured days, and loneliness. The decision to retire or not to is also influenced by the work status of one’s partner (or by not having a partner), the perceived state of health of both at mid-life and in later life and the need perhaps to help out adult children financially. Decisions around work and retirement are also influenced by the value we put on time: socio-emotional selectivity theory suggests that enjoying the present moment is of particular importance later in life when older people become acutely aware of limited time. Thus, the attraction of newfound time in retirement may be so powerful as to outstrip that of an income, secure or otherwise. A good quality of life is related to perceptions of control and autonomy. Studies clearly show that those who choose to extend their working lives or choose to retire tend to enjoy a better sense of well-being than those who feel forced into either decision. Such alerts suggest that governments and policy-makers would be well advised to adopt a more nuanced approach to the planning of the extended working life and pension-building that reflects the real trajectory of those in later life, particularly women. Older people who embrace active ageing, either through work or through an alternative pathway, must be similarly protected by policy actions against social exclusion in later life. To equate active ageing solely with work risks triggering its own Mayday signal.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Report: The discovery of black holes at the centre of the Milky Way will have major implications for future research By Valentina Balbi and Michel Destrade, NUI Galway Researchers at Columbia University recently announced the discovery of 12 Black Holes in the middle of the Milky Way galaxy. Projections estimate that around 10,000 isolated black holes should actually be located in a six light-years wide region. This discovery brings an end to a two-decade-long search for "a black hole density cusp" and will have major implications for black hole hunting and gravitational wave research. Black holes are invisible regions in the universe where the gravitational pull is so strong that nothing can escape from there, not even the light. That makes them particularly difficult to detect with classical telescopes. One trick astrophysicists have come up with is to capture the gravitational waves created when a black hole merges with another black hole. But it is extremely difficult to measure gravitational waves, because they travel billions of light years and reach earth with extremely low intensity. In fact, only five gravitational wave events have been recorded so far. The first confirmed detection took place in 2015, and lead to the awarding of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics. It was due to the merger of two black holes into a black hole "binary". Professor Charles Hailey from Columbia University and his collaborators used an alternative strategy to detect black holes. They searched for the weak but steady X-Ray emissions resulting from a black hole merging with a smaller low-mass star. They concentrated their efforts in the "neighbourhood" of Sagittarius A*, a super-massive black hole located at the centre of our own Milky Way galaxy (our solar system is located at the edge of the Milky Way galaxy, on one of its outermost spiral arms). Until now, no evidence had emerged to prove the theory that there were thousands of isolated black holes at the centre of our galaxy, surrounding super-massive black holes such as Sagittarius A*. The NASA’s archival data from the orbiting Chandra X-Ray Observatory revealed twelve X-Ray signatures of black holes – low mass stars binaries close to Sagittarius A*. From the density of these binaries among all possible black hole formations, the researchers were able to estimate that there must be about several hundred black hole – low mass star binaries, and tens of thousands isolated black holes hidden in the area within three light years of Sagittarius A*. Putting this figure into context, Matt Redman, director of the Centre for Astronomy at NUI Galway commented: "It’s astonishing to imagine all those black holes packed into such a small volume of space. By way of comparison, a similarly sized volume of space centred on the sun would not even encompass the nearest star, Proxima Centauri."  This cluster of black holes is the closest and most accessible cluster now known, located "only" 26,000 light years away from us, in a galaxy which is 100,000 light years wide. The study, which appeared in April in the scientific journal Nature, will have a strong impact on gravitational wave research. Scientists are now able to estimate how many black holes sit at the centre of the galaxy. This discovery will allow them to estimate which gravitational waves events can be attributed to black holes as opposed to other binary objects (white dwarfs, neutron stars) and supernovae explosions. Professor Andy Shearer from the School of Physics at NUI Galway commented that "The  presence  of so many black holes in such a confined volume makes black hole mergers, which produce the gravitational waves, more likely to occur. The centre of our Galaxy is an exciting place whose secrets will be revealed by telescopes such as ESO’s massive European Extremely Large Telescope and ESA's LISA, a space borne gravitational wave detector." Dr Valentina Balbi is a Marie Curie Fellow with the School of Mathematics at NUI Galway. Professor Michel Destrade is the Chair of Applied Mathematics at NUI Galway and a former Irish Research Council awardee. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform.  Visit here

Monday, 14 May 2018

Author: Professor Ray Murphy, Irish Centre for Human Rights School of Law Opinion: now more than ever, we need to make clear that international law provides mechanisms for accountability The almost daily reports of atrocities being committed in Syria have created an impression that what is happening is somehow a normal part of contemporary conflicts. This premise must be rejected. Furthermore, we cannot allow the indiscriminate attacks and violations of international humanitarian and criminal law to continue or go unaddressed.   The recent successes of the Assad regime in defeating opposition forces around Ghouta, their last stronghold near Damascus, marks another milestone in the war similar to that of the fall of eastern Aleppo in 2016. It is now apparent that Assad and Russia intended to deal a final mortal blow to opposition forces irrespective of the consequences for the civilian population.   Since 2011, members of Syria’s armed forces and regime-aligned militias have been accused of committing serious human rights violations and crimes against humanity. This includes war crimes since the beginning of the armed conflict stage in July 2012. Russia and Iran, in addition to providing lethal weapons to the Assad regime, have also been implicated.  The UN Commission of Inquiry in Syria has documented human rights abuses by armed opposition groups albeit "not comparable in scale and organization with those carried out by the State". In 2012, it observed that human rights abuses perpetrated by armed opposition groups "may be prosecutable as war crimes". Apart from being a failure of international diplomacy and the UN, the current situation is an affront to all humanity.     At the heart of the problem with the UN Security Council is the abuse of the veto power of the five permanent member Nothing demonstrates the need for UN Security Council reform more than the inept response to date. At the heart of the problem is the abuse of the veto power of the five permanent members. These are more often than not central players in all the major armed conflicts around the world. They also happen to have primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security under the UN Charter while being the major arms manufactures of the world.  This is 2018, not Stalingrad during the Second World War or Grozny in Chechnya. The latter in particular provides a chilling insight into Russia's tactics and ultimate aim. Then, Russia also tried denial and counter claim to deflect attention from the widespread and systematic attacks on the civilian population and protected objects such as medical facilities.  What happened in Aleppo in 2016 and more recently Ghouta provides evidence of the broader strategy. The goal has been to crush all opposition groups in a brutal onslaught on rebel held areas. This is also part of a deliberate policy to drive the moderate rebels into the hands of more extreme elements and will ultimately leave no surviving moderates with which the West can align.  There must be accountability for the perpetrators of the war crimes and crimes against humanity taking place in order to deter others. There is evidence that this is what many Syrians want. It raises issues related to the so called peace versus justice debate as some argue that in the short term it would mean that those in power will have a greater incentive to fight on. The International Criminal Court is one option, but to date Russia has prevented the Security Council from referring the situation in Syria to the Court. A message must go out to all those involved in the conflict that what has occurred will not be forgotten and that all parties, not just the government forces, will be held to account.   Any criminal investigation must find its own evidence and build on what others have gathered, often at grave personal risk to local non-government organisations.  Models of other courts include the Ad hoc tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the Special Court for Sierra Leone or the Extraordinary Chambers for Cambodia.  The latter was established decades later to prosecute those most responsible for the crimes of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.  The conflict in Syria will most likely be classified as a non-international armed conflict, albeit with an international dimension. This is because although Russian forces are participating in the conflict, they are there at the request and in support of the recognised government of Syria and this preserves the essential civil war nature of the conflict. The classification has significant implications for the legal framework governing the situation and hence the nature of any investigation and prosecution of alleged perpetrators.   A lot of evidence has already been gathered on the ground in Syria. The UN commissions of enquiry and similar investigation mechanisms may be able to assist in the process. However, any criminal investigation must find its own evidence and build on what others have painstakingly gathered, often at grave personal risk to local non-government organisations.  Unfortunately, there will be no accountability for those states and leaders that have prevented the UN from being effective. Russia and Assad act as if they have nothing to loose from mass killings. Politically and militarily this may be correct, but it constitutes an amoral strategy.  From a legal and ethical perspective, it must not go unchallenged.  Now more than ever, we need to make clear that international law provides mechanisms for accountability. Like those ultimately held to account before the international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, there will be a day of reckoning for those most responsible for the crimes being committed in Syria. Unfortunately, the victims of the Syrian conflict may have to wait some time before this happens.  This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform.  Visit here

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Author: Dr Malie Coyne, School of Psychology Opinion: parents mean the best for their children and would never consciously intend to cause them stress, but do they do so inadvertently? The Stressed documentary followed the trajectory of five adult volunteers who felt overwhelmed by their busy lifestyles and wanted to "be in the moment" more rather "doing" all the time. As therapist to one of the volunteers, I found that using the link between daily living patterns and the three emotional regulation systems (i.e. drive, threat and soothing) from Paul Gilbert’s Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) was a really powerful way of conceptualising and working with stress. For some, the insatiable need to succeed (drive system) may come from a painful place in our childhoods (threat system). This can result in us having real difficulty in nurturing ourselves (soothing system), as we may not have experienced a consistent model of soothing from our primary caregiver (usually a parent) as we were growing up. If a person hasn't been soothed adequately as a child, then it’s very difficult to know how to instinctively self-soothe in adulthood. This can lead to them ignoring stress alerts and not seeking much needed help and social support. Of course, traumatic experiences during a person’s lifetime including adulthood can also have a bearing. For more on the role of self-compassion in a VUCA (i.e. Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world, Dr Nelisha Wickremasingue describes the modern world experience of toxic stress as having origins in not feeling good enough which can trigger a threat reaction related to the fear of rejection or abandonment. To counteract this, three self-compassion practices are recommended including self-kindness (having a warm, soft and soothing inner voice); mindfulness (noticing our thoughts and feelings in the present moment without analysing or denying them) and feelings of common humanity (recognising that imperfection and suffering as shared and inevitable human experiences). This brings me to the early origins of stress and the impact of parents’ early relationship experiences on children’s stress. This was alluded to in my Brainstorm article, which described an initiative by the Galway City Early Years Committee, alongside HSE Health Promotion, Galway Healthy Cities and Galway Parent Network, to share evidence-based messages promoting the child-parent attachment on posters displayed in health facilities in Galway. A parent’s ability to reflect on their child’s needs even under situations of high stress significantly protects the child from the negative impacts of stress This drew the attention of the Stressed documentary makers who were looking at how the stress response develops over the course of a person’s lifetime beginning with the early years. This culminated in them filming us sharing our poster messages dispelling common myths around early parenting and a discussion with a Mother and Toddler and Baby group at the Galway ARD Family Resource Centre, which provided wonderful food for thought on their parenting experiences. On the early origins of stress, one of the posters had the following message on it: "Holding a baby when they cry helps them to grow into a confident and trusting toddler." Myth: You should leave babies alone so that they learn to be independent. Truth: Babies left alone think they have been abandoned so become more clingy and insecure when you are around. Evidence: Early separation from those we depend can be very frightening for a baby and raise cortisol levels in the baby's brain, which shapes their developing nervous system and determines how stress is interpreted and responded to in the future. Babies who are held and soothed when in distress grow into more confident toddlers who are better able to deal with being away from their parents temporarily, rather than becoming clingy. Before delving into this further, it is important to note that most of us parent with the best intentions for our children and would never consciously intend to cause them stress, but do we do so inadvertently? If so, how can we best protect them and grow them into emotionally resilient adults? In our common humanity, it is important to note that we all struggle as parents and that nobody is looking for the "perfect" parent; all a child needs is what Donald Winnicott called a "good enough parent". But sometimes life can get in the way and a resurgence of our childhood wounds can come to the fore when faced with our children’s significant needs, which can feel really overwhelming at times. It is within the sacred crucible of the relationship we form with our children that they learn how to manage stress and to trust in another to support them through it. The quality of the child-parent attachment bond is the foundation for a child’s emotional regulation, which will provide them with a psychological immunity to stress and promote emotional wellbeing and future resilience. Sue Gerhardt talks more about how early stress impacts on the developing brain in her book "Why love matters: How affection shapes a baby’s brain". In it, she speaks about the vulnerability of babies to stress and their dependency on an adult to calm them down and to disperse their cortisol (stress chemical). There is also a need for the parent to acknowledge their baby’s distress and soothe them using the quality of everyday interactions to build a secure connection.  Parents play a crucial role in helping children to regulate their emotions, which requires a lot of self-control and an ability to regulate our own emotions. As our children’s emotional regulators, our aim is to establish pathways and systems in their brains which will enable them to do this for themselves in the future. Without this type of responsive caregiving, children can have later difficulties in forming and maintaining relationships and in managing adversity and stress. So are we stressing our children out? Unfortunately transmitting a certain amount of stress is inevitable Although most parents have good intentions with their children, this is often not enough to develop a secure attachment relationship. Based on 60 years of Attachment Theory, the Circle of Security presents a road map for parents to understand and reframe their children’s needs. This speaks about the power of reflective functioning (the ability of the parent to imagine their own and their child’s mental state) in learning to stand back and choose the most contained responses with children. A groundbreaking study worthy of mention is the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, which assessed the effects of traumatic childhood experiences on the child’s developing brain and their future physical and emotional health. It found that the more traumatic experiences an adult had experienced as a child, the greater their risk for both physical and mental health problems later in life. For more on how childhood trauma affects health over a lifetime, watch the Ted talk by paediatrician Nadine Burke-Harris or this discussion on her recent book The Deepest Well.  However, it is not just a child’s experience of a stressor which leads to an impaired stress response in adulthood, but how this stressor impacts on the parent’s ability to care for their child. Studies have shown that a parent’s ability to reflect on their child’s needs even under situations of high stress significantly protects the child from the negative impacts of stress. Another seminal paper worthy of mention is Selma Fraiberg’s "Ghosts in the Nursery" which linked a parent remembering their childhood pain with less likelihood of re-enacting their past with their children. So are we stressing our children out? Unfortunately transmitting a certain amount of stress is inevitable, but ruptures in our everyday interactions with children can be repaired with awareness of our childhood wounds and the ability to stand back and make more adaptive choices. These rupture and repair moments actually build a child's capacity for trust in the relationship. It is all about the predominant parenting style where "good enough" is enough. Rest assured that hope does exist and it is never too late. With awareness and support, every parent can work on the quality of their emotional connection with their child, which will build a psychological immunity to the negative effects of stress. As for nurturing yourself as a parent, gaining emotional support and filling your cup is vital and a good start is to welcome self-compassion into your life.  This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform.  Visit here

Monday, 28 May 2018

Author: Rebecca Downes, School of Humanities Analysis: no other contemporary writer has captured the comedy and tragedy of existence so intensely and with such humour and clarity as Philip Roth Having written part of a doctoral thesis on the theme of death in Philip Roth's work, I did not know quite how to feel when news of his death broke. Of course, death is nothing if not inevitable, and, at 85 years old, is not the worst that can happen. But it also is the worst that can happen. Roth knew this, and it is, in no small part, what makes his work so powerful. Roth published his first book Goodbye Columbus, a collection of short stories, in 1959. A decade later, he burst into the big time with the controversial Portnoy’s Complaint, a veritable panegyric to autoeroticism. Chronicler of the sex life of America, from the smashing of taboos in the 1960s to the prurient fascination of a nation "with a president’s penis" during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, he has always railed against moralism. He is celebrated and reviled in equal measure for his outrageousness, honesty and humour in sexual matters. But his greatest theme of all is death. I came to Roth late. I had read a couple of his works and frankly I came away feeling queasy. But when I found myself researching death in contemporary fiction, he loomed unavoidably over me. I knew I would have to go back to him, if only to justify why I wasn’t reading him. My intention was to devise a dismissive paragraph or two on why we - particularly those of us who considered ourselves card-carrying, liberal feminists - were well and truly over the sex and death drives battling it out like little boys’ toy soldiers. I hated the thought of it and so turned somewhat reluctantly to his 1995 novel Sabbath’s Theater, which seemed to mark the beginning of an obsession with mortality that prevailed until his retirement in 2012. It was a fortuitous choice. Here (spoiler alert) is the last line of that novel:  "How could he leave? How could he go? Everything he hated was here." He was at once a classic liberal individualist and a penetrating critic of that most American of ideologies This is precisely how I felt about the book. I could not put it down. Everything I hated was there and it was like nothing I had ever read before. If ever a writer could set fire to the page, Roth could. My queasiness returned but this was rollercoaster nausea. I wanted more. I squealed with laughter. I felt the blood race from my heart to my head, a sense of surprise as horror turned to delight, and often I couldn’t tell the difference. It was remorseless, raw, disorienting, and I went away and read his entire canon. Drawing out contradictions was his talent. He relentlessly demonstrated the dangers of holding too tightly onto convictions and ideologies. This is eminently portrayed in his eerily prescient allegory of the current rise of the conservative right in The Plot Against America. He was a tireless champion of eastern European writers during the Cold War. He was at once a classic liberal individualist and a penetrating critic of that most American of ideologies. To my mind, no other contemporary writer has captured the comedy and tragedy of existence so intensely and with such humour and clarity as Roth. The very act of reading him brings home the ability we all share, if only we were brave enough to admit it, to hold contradictory views. His extraordinary lyricism is never schmaltzy because it is powered by the full force of a gargantuan intelligence and a remarkable largesse in portraying human foibles. It opposes the trenchant convictions of public rhetoric with - I don’t think it is too much to say -love. Although he was no Hemingway, Roth was a writer of sinewy sentences. Not for him the fragile translucency of Henry James or the sideways Irish evasion of Joyce. Roth wrote with a candour and confidence that is quintessentially American. He favoured nouns and he was inordinately fond of lists. His novels are replete with rhapsodic catalogues of the solid stuff of the world. Even writing about death, he could capture the sensation of being alive with outstanding intensity The night after his death I was out walking in Boora bog in Co Offaly and I could not get a sequence from American Pastoral out of my head, a sentence, almost two-pages long, a signature litany that exemplifies the sheer love of life that makes Roth’s writing such a pleasure: "chicory, cinquefoil, pasture thistle, wild pinks, joe-pye weed, the last vestiges of yellow-flowered wild mustard sturdily spilling over the fields, clover, yarrow, wild sunflowers". As I wandered through the Irish pastoral, I felt lucky for having returned to Roth, grateful for his legacy. Even writing about death - especially perhaps - he could capture the sensation of being alive with outstanding intensity. In his majestic works of the 1990s, one gets the sense that each sentence testifies to a tightening grip on existence. Roth was in his sixties at the time, and death, while still far away, nonetheless came sharply into focus. Confronting mortality inaugurated an exceptional creative outburst late in an already illustrious career. In the post millennial period, Roth produced a series of short books - restrained, masterful in their own way - chronicling the process of loosening that grip. These stark novellas chart a stepping back from the great messy tangle of existence. Their brutal clarity is devastating, as if he was writing himself out of existence —which, now we know, he was. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform.  Visit here

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Author: Michael O'Dwyer, Apoptosis Research Centre Opinion: while cellular immunotherapy is currently costly and logistically difficult, the use of natural killer immune cells offers huge potential Cellular immunotherapy involves makes the cells of the immune system much more effective at seeking out and killing cancer cells. It's one of the most exciting developments in cancer treatment this decade, and is likely to play a major role in the future therapy of blood and other cancers.  One type of cellular immunotherapy gaining major traction is Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR)-T cell immunotherapy, which was recently named Advance of the Year by the American Society Of Cellular Oncology. CAR-T therapy involves taking the cancer patient’s own immune (T) cells and genetically changing them to better recognise and attack cancer cells, before injecting them back into that patient.  This treatment has already resulted in dramatically improved outcomes from different blood cancers. For example, 94 percent of patients went into remission after receiving CAR-T cells in a clinical trial involving multiple myeloma, an incurable disease from which only 50 percent of patients survive five years after their diagnosis. The current estimated cost of a CAR-T cell therapy in the United States is in the region of $500,000 While extremely promising, CAR-T therapy has a number of disadvantages. The logistics of growing a patient’s CAR-T cells in the laboratory is difficult and takes time, something patients with advanced cancer often do not have. Cancer patients may not have enough healthy T cells to start the treatment in the first place. If donor cells are used, it can introduce a graft versus host response that can have serious consequences for the patient, especially as CAR-T cells persist in the body.  Moreover, the costs involved are considerable and likely to be beyond the means of most healthcare systems. The current estimated cost of a CAR-T cell therapy in the United States is in the region of $500,000. When ancillary costs are taken into account, this could rise to $1.5 million per patient, due to the bespoke and challenging nature of the treatment.  Our research is looking into an alternative cellular immunotherapy option using a different type of immune cell, the natural killer (NK) cell. NK cells are named for their natural ability to kill intruders such as virus-infected cells, or cells that display early signs of cancer. Their ability to kill tumour cells makes NK cells an attractive option for cancer immunotherapies. They also overcome many of the cons associated with CAR-T cells, as NK cells do not elicit the graft versus host reaction and only last for a few weeks to months in the body, thus reducing the risk of long-term side-effects.  NK cells can come from the patient themselves or from donors such as volunteers, cord blood units, and NK cell lines that are commercially available. The number of cells collected can be greatly expanded by culture in the laboratory, enabling the administration of multiple doses of NK therapy. For example, 100 doses of NK cell treatment can be produced from a single unit of cord blood greatly increasing the availability while reducing the cost of treatment. We are investigating new approaches to optimise the activity of NK cells for the treatment of cancer. For example, we have shown in the laboratory that we can modify NK cells to make them better cancer killers, and we are working to improve the way NK cells "home" or find their way to the site of the tumour.  How to remove the off switch Another major obstacle in cellular immunotherapy is the existence of "off switches" on all immune cells, including NK cells. These off switches or immune checkpoints are an important control measure to stop the immune system from going out of control, but cancer cells frequently exploit this to inappropriately turn off immune cells, thus evading detection and destruction. We are taking a unique approach to overcome this problem by silencing immune checkpoint receptors on NK cells, effectively removing the "off switch" completely.  Currently, the majority of research efforts in this field, including clinical trials, are focusing on the enormous potential of CAR-T cells, but we believe that there is equal if not greater potential for NK cells. Regardless of the cells being used, cellular immunotherapy is, without doubt, the future of cancer therapy. The results to date from CAR-T therapy in leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma have been truly outstanding. Patients who appeared to be completely resistant to drug treatments, such as childhood leukaemia patient Emily Whitehead, have gone into and remain in remission.  We should be starting to plan a national approach to immune therapies in the same way that the government re-organised cancer services This is a revolution in the treatment of blood cancers and may provide the prospect of a cure in certain patients. The sooner we embrace cellular immunotherapy, the sooner patients in Ireland will benefit from these revolutionary approaches. With the current population size in Ireland, this would warrant one to two specialist centres with the necessary expertise and infrastructure to deliver such complex treatments. This will require investment by our health service. We should be starting to plan a national approach to immune therapies in the same way that the government re-organised cancer services into specialist hospitals through the National Cancer Control Programme. As an early adopter and a leader in the research and development in this field, we will reap major economic benefits. Ireland will be in a prime position to develop innovative solutions that are attractive to industry, and produce graduates that are highly skilled in cellular immune therapy. We already have a strong record in the production of biologic therapies for the treatment of cancer, with many of the top pharma companies engaged in this activity in Ireland.  But we cannot rest on our laurels and need to ensure that pharma views Ireland as the go-to place for cellular immunotherapy in Europe. If the success of cellular immunotherapy in blood-based cancers can be expanded to solid tumours, the number of patients eligible for this treatment would increase dramatically. My hope is that we embrace this approach to save lives and put Ireland on the map as a pioneer in the delivery of cellular immunotherapy for cancer. This article first appeared on the RTÉ Brainstorm platform.  Visit here

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Dr Martin O’Halloran, Director of the Lambe Translational Medical Device laboratory at NUI Galway is the only Irish scientist among fifty in Europe awarded European Research Council top-up funding, through a Proof of Concept Grant, to develop a novel hydrogel to treat chronic pain. The Proof of Concept grants, worth €150,000 each, are part of the EU’s research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020. The top-up funding award will allow Dr O’Halloran to develop the results of his scientific hydrogel concept to file patent applications and attract capital to make the research marketable, and explore the commercial and societal potential of the product. Chronic nerve pain can significantly worsen people’s quality of life. According to international studies, one in five adults in Europe suffers from chronic pain which amounts to 95 million people. The novel gel being developed during this project can be used to treat many different types of peripheral nerve pain. One common type of chronic pain is Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN), a prolonged debilitating condition caused by a trauma to the trigeminal nerve, resulting in sudden attacks of excruciating shooting facial pain. It is infamously called the “suicide disease” due to the high number of suicides associated with it. Dr Martin O’ Halloran will use his Proof of Concept Grant to seek to develop this novel hydrogel, which aims to provide long-lasting and drug-free treatment for this condition and other areas affected by chronic nerve pain. Speaking about the project, Dr Martin O’ Halloran, Techrete Senior Lecturer in Medical Electronics at NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted to receive this funding for our chronic pain project, given the tremendous impact the condition has on patients in Ireland. This project concept was co-developed with Dr Alison Liddy, an engineer-chemist at NUI Galway with a particular expertise in chronic pain. Given that this project marks our fourth European Research Council grant in four years, it is a great testament to the quality and hard work of the researchers in our laboratory.” A recently released independent review of this European Research Council innovation scheme showed that the initiative is “sound in concept and effective in practice”, helping ERC-funded scientists set up new companies, file patent applications and attract capital to make their research marketable. The new grants were awarded to researchers working in 12 countries: Austria (2 grants), Finland (3), Germany (7), Ireland (1), Israel (8), Italy (3), Netherlands (3), Norway (1), Spain (5), Sweden (3), Switzerland (3) and the UK (11). The grant scheme is only open to European Research Council grantees who can apply for funding in one of the three rounds of the call every year. The results of this first round of 2018, in which the European Research Council evaluated 114 applications. The budget of the 2018 competition is €20 million. For more information about the funded projects, visit: https://erc.europa.eu/erc-proof-concept-grant-2018-project-examples and to read the independent review of the ERC innovation scheme, visit: https://erc.europa.eu/news/review_praises_erc_poc_scheme -Ends-

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

NUI Galway will host the Eighth National Social Marketing Conference, ‘Co-Creating Change’, on Thursday, 24 May in the Aula Maxima. The national event will bring leaders and researchers in health and sustainable change in public and voluntary sectors together with world-renowned social marketing experts from Canada, Australia, Europe and Ireland. The conference will explore in greater detail how empowered citizens and communities can co-create and foster sustainable behaviour change. In addition, the conference will feature cutting-edge talks from around the world including insights into improving behavioural change effectiveness through applying a strategic approach to planning. This year the keynote speakers will include: Professor Walter Wymer, Professor of Marketing, University of Lethbridge, Canada;  Professor Sharyn Rundle-Thiele is Director, Social Marketing at Griffith University, Australia and Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Social Marketing; Professor Alan Tapp, Professor of Marketing, University of the West of England-Bristol; Professor Gerard Hastings, Professor at Stirling, England, and Professeur Associé at the École des Hautes Etudes en Santé Publique in Rennes, France; as well as additional health and environmental health presentations. Conversations throughout the day will include: how social marketing use tools in co-creating sustainable behaviour change; how to follow proven social marketing secrets to develop an effective intervention on limited budgets; how to use the success factors of proven social marketing interventions; how to address the major societal challenges of our time; and how to think strategically about innovative social change through co-creating change. Dr Christine Domegan, Head of Marketing Discipline, Senior Lecturer and Social Innovation and Policy Leader, Whitaker Institute, NUI Galway is this year's Conference Chair. Dr Domegan said: “We are excited and grateful to welcome an esteemed group of change experts from around the world who are engaging and seasoned speakers willing to share their insights, tips and tools for co-creating change in an easy and understandable manner.” For further information, schedule and online booking, please visit www.conference.ie. -Ends-