Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Galway-based, mother-of-two and NUI Galway graduate Ann Brehony has just launched the essential family holiday helper through her first digital mobile app in the App Store. The app Ireland: Are We There Yet?was released through a publishing deal with an American digital travel publisher Sutro Media. Featuring over 130 places to visit in Ireland with kids, this app provides families with an invaluable tool that will keep everyone happy on daytrips or holidays. Covering the country both North and South with new ways of seeing old favourites like the Rock of Cashel and The Giant’s Causeway plus a host of new attractions as diverse as Aunt Sandra’s Candy Factory in Belfast or a Toy Soldier Factory in Cork. On explaining the origin of the idea, author and creator Ann Brehony, said: “As part of my MA in Publishing at NUI Galway, I had to complete a business plan for an innovative new publishing venture. I produced a plan for an online travel guide for families on holiday in Ireland called 'Are We There Yet?' The course tutors were very encouraging about my idea and suggested it was something I should pursue on graduation. They helped me shape a business analysis framework for my thesis and this framework allowed me to investigate cutting-edge digital publishing models from around the world which then led me to explore the mobile app route for my idea, from there it really took off and within nine months of graduating I had secured a publishing deal.” Ms Brehony added: “As a mother of two, I know how important it is to keep kids amused and engaged while on daytrips or holidays, if they’re happy then we’re all happy! It was a real labour of love and the kids and I had such a great time discovering the many gems on offer around the country.”   Publishers Sutro Media say “This app is like the local cousin you never knew you had! It has sussed the best ways to visit Ireland with kids so you don't have to do the legwork. This app is written with genuine insight, humour and charm and is packed with places to go and things to do with kids on holiday in Ireland.” Highlights of the app include: County-by-county listings of family-friendly attractions complete with car games and scavenger hunts to keep the kids amused on the go A full nationwide listing of free outdoor play areas. Filled with wonderful photography, each entry has links to websites and YouTube clips giving background information on all the local colour needed to plan a successful stress-free visit. The app links you into a whole community of other app users who can share their tips and experiences. A treasure-trove of quirky hints on how to find a song for every county, the best local sweets to try and handy pit stops for long journeys. Perfect for keeping the kids amused without breaking the bank during the mid-term break. Constantly updated and available on the go on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.   The app costs €2.39, £1.79, $2.99 and is published by Sutro Media.   -Ends-

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

- 1 in 5 Male Drivers Under 25 Admit to Having Raced Another Driver - The results of a survey presented today, Monday, 10October, at the Road Safety Authority (RSA) Annual Road Safety Lecture revealed that 1 in 5 male drivers aged under 25 reported having raced another driver on a public road at some point in the past. The survey, conducted by Dr Kiran Sarma, Chartered Psychologist and Lecturer in Psychology at NUI Galway, also revealed that young male drivers reported more frequent speeding, reckless driving and use of mobile phones while driving. RSA research presented at the lecture revealed that 5,678 road-users aged between 17 and 24 years old were killed or seriously injured on Irish roads between 1997 and 2009. The lecture, which focused on the driving behaviour of 17 to 24 year old road-users, is the first event in ‘Irish Road Safety Week’ which runs from Monday, 10 October to Sunday, 16 October. At the lecture, Dr Kiran Sarma presented the results of his survey of 1,500 drivers on the relationship between psychology and risky driving behaviour. Dr Sarma’s research found that the frequency of speeding among young male drivers was associated with positive attitudes towards speeding and a higher prevalence of personality traits such as impulsiveness and excitement seeking. Mr Noel Brett, Chief Executive, Road Safety Authority said: “The focus of today’s lecture is young drivers aged 17 to 24 years old who are among the highest risk road-users on our roads. Research tells us that this group of road-users are three times more likely to be killed on the roads than any other road-user. In fact, 5,678 young road-users with their lives ahead of them were killed or seriously injured on Irish roads in the period 1997 to 2009. This is roughly the same as the population ofWestportin Co. Mayo. When you think of it in those terms, we are reminded of how needless this loss of life is.” “But it’s also important to say that not all young drivers are risky or dangerous drivers. Today’s lecture has shown how important it is to support our younger road-users in forming positive attitudes to road safety as early as possible.” Dr Sarma’s research also revealed that risky driving behaviour was linked with pro-speeding attitudes among friends and family, a greater tendency to become angry in response to other drivers’ actions and a belief that the driver could control his or her car, even in challenging driving conditions. Some young male drivers also saw their car as being a core part of who they are – this was related to more extreme driving behaviour. Speaking at the lecture, Dr Sarma said: “This research helps us to understand the psychology of young male drivers and can inform the way we respond to risky and reckless driving. The research would suggest that addressing speeding attitudes is important but that deeper psychological factors are also linked to dangerous driving on our roads.” Professor Andrew Tolmie from theInstituteofEducation,UniversityofLondonalso spoke at the lecture about his recent paper for the Department for Transport (UK) on ‘The development of children’s and young people’s attitudes to driving. Professor Tolmie’s research highlighted that becoming a driver starts in childhood, although this becomes more focused during adolescence. His research also showed that family and peer influence is critical in forming attitudes and behaviours and suggested that the pre-driver period may present the best opportunity for forming positive attitudes to driving. Professor Tolmie said: “Becoming a driver is something that starts in childhood, as soon as children become aware that this is something that adults do, and it becomes a real aspirational focus during adolescence, as teenagers begin to imagine themselves having the freedom that driving brings. Watching how parents behave, talking about driving with friends and the images associated with driving all have an influence on how young drivers first act on the road. Poor influences at this stage lead to poor driving behaving later - if we want to increase young drivers' safety, it is during the teenage years, before they begin to drive, that we need to act.” 1,352 17-24 year olds were killed on Irish roads between 1997 and 2009, representing 28% of all road deaths in that period. Over one third (35%) of these fatalities took place between 12:00am (midnight) and 4:59am. The research also found that 17 to 24 year old car drivers are five times more likely to be killed on Irish roads than any other driver. In fatal collisions where excessive speed was cited as a contributory factor, half of all drivers responsible were males aged 17 to 24 years old. Furthermore, 2 in 5 of all passengers aged 17 to 24 who were killed on the road were in a car being driven by a 17 to 24 year old male driver. ENDS

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

New findings about how the brain functions to suppress pain have been published in the leading journal Pain, by NUI Galway researchers. For the first time, it has been shown that the hippocampus of the brain, which is usually associated with memory, has an active role to play in suppressing pain during times of stress. The work was carried out by researchers in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and the Centre for Pain Research at the National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science, NUI Galway. In times of immense stress or fear, pain transmission and perception can be suppressed potently in humans and other animals. This important survival response can help us cope with, or escape from, potentially life-threatening situations. An increased understanding of the biological mechanisms involved in this so-called fear-induced analgesia is important from a fundamental physiological perspective and may also advance the search for new therapeutic approaches to the treatment of pain.  Dr David Finn, Co-Director of the Centre for Pain Research at NUI Galway, and study leader, says: “The body can suppress pain when under extreme stress, in part through the action of marijuana-like substances produced in the brain. What we have now identified for the first time, is that the brain’s hippocampus is an important site of action of these endocannabinoids during the potent suppression of pain by fear.  This research, which was funded by a grant from Science Foundation Ireland, advances our fundamental understanding of the neurobiology of pain and may facilitate the identification of new therapeutic targets for the treatment of pain and anxiety disorders.” Working with Dr Finn, first author Dr Gemma Ford was able to demonstrate that inhibition of the enzyme that breaks down one of these endogenous marijuana-like substances in the hippocampus, had the effect of enhancing stress-induced pain suppression. Further experimentation revealed that these effects were mediated by the cannabinoid CB1 receptor and were likely to be mediated by stress-induced increases in levels of endocannabinoids in the hippocampus. -ends-

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

NUI Galway will hold a reunion for graduates from the classes of 1986 and 1991 to celebrate the 20th and 25thanniversaries of their graduation on Saturday, 5 November. The reunion will begin at 3pm in the Quadrangle with a reception and photo exhibition of their student days, followed by a bus tour of campus. The celebrations will continue later that evening inGalway’s Hotel Meyrick with a special reunion dinner. Sandra Butler, NUI Galway Alumni Association Chairperson, encourages everyone to attend: “Reunions are special opportunities for graduates and friends to revisit NUI Galway and renew old acquaintances. These events come around just once a decade. So book your place now and get in contact with your classmates and friends and encourage them to come too.” For further information and to book your place, contact Colm O’Dwyer in the Alumni Office on 091 493750 or email alumni@nuigalway.ie   -ENDS-

Friday, 14 October 2011

An Enterprise Ireland event to showcase 120 ‘Big Ideas’ was opened by the Minister for Research and Innovation, Sean Sherlock on Monday, 10 October in the Convention Centre, Dublin. 17 of the 120 inventions developed by publicly-funded researchers emerged from NUI Galway. One of these inventions is at the core of a new company called seevl ltd. This company developed technology to mine the Web to provide detailed information on artists and their music to online listeners, and let them discover music they will love. seevl is already being used in a browser extension of YouTube. Recent figures show a large user base of people listening to music online with the YouTube VEVO channel reaching 60 million unique visitors in July 2011. With Enterprise Ireland’s assistance seevl was established by Alexandre Passant and his fellow music-lovers as a spin-out from the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) at NUI Galway earlier this year. According to Alexandre Passant: “It has been a thrill just getting this company off the ground, and then to have such feedback, and participate in Big Ideas only five months after the public launch of the start-up. Big Ideas was an ideal showcase for us in terms of industry contacts, and we are delighted by the support given to us by Enterprise Ireland and DERI. Galway is a real hotbed of innovation and technology, and we are delighted to be part of this vibrant space.” Opening the event and announcing the winners of the Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Awards, Minister Sherlock said: “It is exciting, highly encouraging and very promising for the future to see such a range of high end technologies emerging from publicly-funded research. I am delighted to see that many of the Big Ideas being presented to the investor community today have the potential to become vibrant new companies.” The Minister added: “Enterprise Ireland and the Higher Education Institutes working together have built 185 spin-out companies from State-funded research to date. Besides creating jobs, it is uplifting to see that many of the “Big Ideas” can help people here in Ireland and across the globe with health and lifestyle issues. The Big Ideas event is the largest annual gathering of inventors and investors in the country. 120 new technologies being developed for the marketplace, will be unveiled and, of these the promoters of 18 ‘investor ready’ technologies will be vying for the attention of 200 potential investors attending the event. The ‘Big Ideas’ Showcase is a key event funded by the Government to help develop publicly-funded research into new companies, technologies and services. Feargal Ó Móráin, Executive Director of Enterprise Ireland said: “the focus of the Big Ideas event is to get some deals done between the inventors and investors during the 150 one-to-one meetings which will take place. Enterprise Ireland, in partnership with the Higher Education Institutes, is providing the right environment for investors to explore options to either licence these new technologies from researchers or use them as the basis to form new companies in the energy, life sciences, medical, engineering and IT sectors”. While the Irish system for transferring technology from Third Level Education Institutes into industry is relatively new, the outputs compare favourably with the latest available data from the US and EU authorities in this area – Ireland is creating four spin-outs per $100m invested by the State compared to two in Europe and one in the US. The Minister presented Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Awards to three companies that showcased their technologies at similar events in the past and have since successfully established a spin-out company.   ENDS

Monday, 10 October 2011

NUI Galway has been presented with a rare edition of an historically significant newspaper to the James Hardiman Library, through the donation from a private collection of the original 1691 edition of the London Gazette which features an account of the Battle of Aughrim.  The donation, from the personal collection of Councillor Norman Morgan, an East Galway collector, contains a copy of the London Gazette, 16-20 July 1691, issue 2680, which includes an account "From the Camp" of the Battle of Aughrim. Speaking at a special presentation ceremony, Councillor Morgan explained: “The London Gazette of the 16th July, 1691 is the most important item in my personal library. It contains a report of the Battle of Aughrim while the battle was in progress. It states of the Irish troops: “some of their Horse are retired in a body to Loghreah, and that most believe St. Ruth was killed.” Loughrea is where I was born and lived all my life, and, St. Ruth is buried in the Old Carmelite Abbey in Loughrea. This newspaper, printed 320 years ago, 25 years after the first newspaper ever printed in Britain or Ireland, adds to its importance. My paper, while the contents are identical to those in the National Library of Ireland (NLI) and Trinity College Library papers, has a different layout, which proves that there were two printings.  My paper has “The Battle of Aughrim” on the top of page 2, whereas “Hague, July 24”, is on the top of page 2 of the NLI and TCD copies and on the internet. The other difference between these two copies is the use of the capital letter, punctuation marks and spelling, which, in my opinion are more correct in the NLI, TCD and internet papers. This proves that my paper is the original, i.e. first printing.” Councillor Morgan added: “I have served the people in Loughrea as their Town Commissioner/Councillor Loughrea for 39 years.  My vote of 2.9 quotas is the highest ever; the Commissioners were established in 1862.  I know that I could never thank the people enough in one lifetime, so, through my research, my publications and gifts from my library to other libraries: NLI, NUI Galway, British Library and many other libraries, I give benefit even to generations yet unborn.  A gift to a public library is a gift to everybody. According to Dr Pádraig Lenihan of the Department of History at NUI Galway, and a highly-regarded scholar of the period who has published extensively on the Battle of Aughrim and Irish military history: “This issue of the London Gazette, written while the smoke still hung over the field, vividly describes what was probably the bloodiest and most decisive battle in Irish history. ‘Aughrim’s Dread Disaster’ was an event of national and international importance but it has a special resonance for County Galway and it is entirely appropriate that the University should build a first-class collection of sources relating to this event and to the Jacobite War in general.” Last year, Councillor Morgan was recognised by the University with an Honorary MA as a renowned historian and book collector, community activist and Loughrea Town Councillor. Councillor Morgan previously donated 13 rare issues of the Galway Independent from the 1820s to the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway and 157 rare editions of the Dublin Evening Mail which dated from 5 February, 1838 to 31 December, 1855 to the Dublin City Library. John Cox, University Librarian at the James Hardiman Library, NUI Galway, said: “It will be a privilege for the Library to hold this edition and I have no doubt that scholars will make good use of it as a very valuable primary document from an important period in Irish history. It is especially gratifying to see this significant document remain in Co. Galway and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Councillor Morgan.” The donation will be held in the James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway, home to a range of theatre, literary, historical and political archives. Collections include the archives of the Druid and Lyric Players Theatres and of Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe; the literary papers of John McGahern and Thomas Kilroy; the Huston Archive and original documents relating to the foundation of the Gaelic Athletic Association and the Northern Ireland 'Troubles'. ENDS

Monday, 10 October 2011

NUI Galway researchers are looking for volunteers currently working from home, or have in the past, to participate in a project to find solutions toGalway’s traffic problems. Social scientists at NUI Galway have, over the past two years, been looking at various ways and means to encourage people to adopt more sustainable modes of travel. One element of this research focuses on the issue of teleworking, or working from home while communicating with the workplace. The teleworking project is part of ConsEnSus, a four-year collaborative project between Trinity College Dublin and NUI Galway that examines four key areas of household consumption: transport, energy, water and food. The transport work package examines how people travel and how current travel patterns that are expensive, time-consuming and environmentally unsound could be changed. In the early 2000’s teleworking had been touted as a step towards reducing, or even eliminating, the daily commute to work. The research project investigates why teleworking has failed to resonate with many employers and employees and how companies and workers can make more informed decisions about this technology-supported way of working. It also looks at what types of policies are needed to ensure that the benefits and drawbacks for individuals, wider society and the environment are adequately recognised. Mike Hynes, an NUI Galway PhD student and member of the ConsEnSus team investigating people’s concerns in relation to telework, said: “Often the focus with working from home is on technical issues and the tasks that need to be accomplished. However, many social aspects that impact on whether people can successfully work from home are overlooked. Issues such as family commitments, neighbour’s expectations and the importance of the social aspects of work are factors that need to be considered by workers and management before a person commits to teleworking.  While teleworking can lead to increased productivity and has the potential to greatly improve people’s work/life balance, it also has considerable drawbacks. Issues such as longer working hours, the blurring of boundaries between work and leisure, unrealistic management expectations and experiences of isolation among some teleworkers are all areas of legitimate concern. Dr Henrike Rau, Lecturer in theSchoolofPolitical Scienceand Sociology at NUI Galway and lead researcher on the transport project, said:  “Galway’s traffic problems can sometimes seem intractable but to leave things as they are is not an option. We need sustainable solutions that will benefitGalwaywell into the future. Looking at practical ways and using tools that are readily available is very important. Mobile devices and information and communication technologies are already an integral part of everyday life for many people inGalway. Working from home could potentially benefit employees, employers and the environment by reducing the need to commute to work.” Those interested in participating in the ConsEnSus project should contact info@consensus.ie. -ENDS-

Monday, 10 October 2011

Secondary school students interested in NUI Galway are invited to an information evening in Dublin on Thursday, 20 October. Parents and guardians are also particularly welcome to the event which runs from 7 to 9pm in the Tara Towers Hotel, Dublin 4. The evening will begin with short talks about NUI Galway and some of the 60 courses it offers. Afterwards, current students and NUI Galway staff will be on hand at information stands to answer any individual questions in relation to courses offered by the University and about practical issues like accommodation, fees and scholarships, and the wide range of support services available to our students. The ever-increasing popularity of NUI Galway is in part due to a whole suite of innovative new programmes, developed in response to the changing needs of the employment market, including an Energy Engineering degree and a Maths and Education degree aimed at training Maths teachers. Visitors to the information evening will also get information on NUI Galway’s newest degree programme, a BA in Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies which is brand new for 2012. “NUI Galway has a great deal to offer. Our own students tell us our lecturers are inspirational and challenge them to achieve their full potential. The student experience in Galway is second to none, and we want to bring a taste of that to Dublin, while also providing all the practical information on accommodation, CAO points, fees, scholarships and courses. With so many courses on offer, this event in Dublin is a perfect opportunity to meet current students and our lecturers to see what degree might be the right fit”, says Caroline Loughnane, Director of Marketing and Communications at NUI Galway. To find out more about the information evening in Dublin, contact NUI Galway's Schools Liaison Office, Siobhán Dorman, Schools Liaison Office on 086 042 1591 or siobhan.dorman@nuigalway.ie. -Ends-

Monday, 10 October 2011

Maths Week Ireland will take place throughout the country from 15 to 22 October. As part of this week, a number of fun maths-filled events will be hosted by theSchool ofMathematics, Statistics and Applied Mathematics at NUI Galway to promote an appreciation and an awareness of maths in society. On Monday, 17 October, Dr Steve Humble, also known as “Dr Maths”, will give workshops to primary and secondary school audiences at NUI Galway. Dr Humble is one of the topUKmaths presenters and has worked for The National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics in the North East of England. He believes that the fundamentals of mathematics can be taught via practical experiments. During the second half of the week, there will be several special maths workshops held at the University to highlight the importance, usefulness, and enjoyment of mathematics. These workshops, delivered by Dr David O’Keeffe, Lecturer with theSchoolofMathematics, Statistics and Applied Mathematics at NUI Galway, will be focused at primary and secondary school students. Topics explored at these sessions will include how Julius Caesar used maths to protect his empire and how blind people do and read maths. Dr David O'Keeffe, chief organiser of Maths Week events at NUI Galway, said: “Often a question asked by many is ‘why do we need maths?’ It is important to remember that maths is in use all around us every day. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find something that does not involve mathematics in some way. Even if we never study maths as a subject, there are many uses of mathematics in all the sciences, business and technological fields. Playing video games that have puzzles to solve, how the Google search engine works for instance all involves doing mathematics. The idea of Maths Week is to illustrate the relevance and beauty of this subject in a fun and interactive way.” Schools throughout Galwayand beyond are encouraged to participate in these special events to make maths accessible to a wider audience and can register on the maths week website www.mathsweek.ie. Schools who register will also be in with a chance to win a Promethean Interactive Whiteboard. For further information on Maths Week at NUI Galway contact David O'Keeffe at david.okeeffe@nuigalway.ie  or 091 492740. -ENDS-

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Irish Centre for Human Rights, together with the Office of the European Parliament inIreland, will host a debate to celebrate the 2011 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The event will take place on Tuesday, 18 October, at 5pm in Áras Uí Chatháil, NUI Galway. Since 1988, in the spirit of Andrei Sakharov, the European Parliament has awarded the annual Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to honour individuals or organisations for their efforts on behalf of human rights, fundamental freedoms and against oppression and injustice. This reflects the conviction of the Parliament that fundamental freedoms includes not only the right to life and physical integrity, but also freedom of expression and of the press, two of the most effective means of fighting oppression and key yardsticks by which to judge whether a society is democratic and open. The winner is awarded the prize, along with an endowment of €50,000, at a formal sitting inStrasbourgto take place on Saturday, 10 December, the day on which the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948. This year there are five nominees, one of which lists five members of the ‘Arab Spring’. At the NUI Galway event, students from the Irish Centre for Human Rights will represent a nominee for the Sakharov Prize and will give a short presentation and argue the case as to why their chosen nominee should be given the award. Following the presentations, the floor will be opened for debate, after which the audience will take part in a vote to choose who they believe should receive the award. Representatives of the European Parliament will convey the results from the NUI Galway debate back to the Parliament’s Human Rights Sub-Committee, where the next stage of deliberations is due to take place on 20 October. Deputy Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights, Dr Vinodh Jaichand, said, “This debate is a real opportunity to participate in the selection of an outstanding advocate of freedom of thought and expression, a person whose courage has made a difference.” -ENDS-

Monday, 10 October 2011

NUI Galway has been successfully awarded €230,000 as part of an inter agency collaboration that will train 4,600 people categorised as digitally excluded.  The project, entitled ‘Click and Connect’ is part of the BenefIT 3 scheme which has awarded €1.88m for 20 training projects run by community and voluntary groups and not for profit organisations across the country.  The ‘Click and Connect’ project will offer the people of Galway an introduction to the use of Information Communications Technology (ICT).  The training will offer hands on practical skills in digital photography and processing, using the internet to communicate with friends and family, online banking and government services. The partners include Age Action, Limerick Community Connect, DCU and NUI Galway.  Pat Byrne, Lecturer with the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway and lead in the Project, said: “This award stems from service learning activities that have been embedded in the University since 2003.  It is a great achievement for us and recognises the work that NUI Galway has been offering pro bono to the community and those traditionally excluded from ICT.  Classes will commence in January 2012 and information will be made available through the Community Knowledge Initiative (CKI) at NUI Galway and local press.” Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte T.D., said: “This important scheme means that 40,000 people will gain from IT training between now and June 2012.   The programme is to support those who have not yet gone on-line.    In particular older people will benefit – as will an estimated 17,000 unemployed people as well as other disadvantaged groups.  By supporting community and voluntary organisations to deliver this training we can ensure excellent value for money.”     The ‘Click and Connect’ project will be key to intergenerational learning and will involve partnerships with the local community. This type of learning is vital to the NUI Galway student experience, and the University, through the CKI, is committed to the development of service and student volunteering.  -ENDS-

Monday, 10 October 2011

On Saturday, 15 October, at the University of Limerick, the search for Ireland’s best female mathematical problem-solvers will start. All girls who currently attend a second level school in Ireland are eligible. In recent months, the lack of mathematical problem-solving skills among Irish second level school students has been in the focus of the media. What is less well-known is that for nearly 25 years, five universities in Ireland have been running successful Mathematical Enrichment Programmes for second level students. Many of those who have participated in these programmes are now lecturers or PhD students of mathematics in Ireland or abroad. A strong motivation for those who actively participate in the Enrichment Programmes is the possibility of competing in Mathematical Olympiads. In order to increase the level of interest in mathematical problem solving among female students, the inaugural European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad (EGMO) will take place in Cambridge, England from 10 April until 16 April, 2012. Ireland will be represented there by a team of up to four second level mathematicians. But all participants of the Mathematical Enrichment Programmes, not only the most successful, will benefit from the training offered between October and December and improve their problem solving skills. The training will be facilitated by a series of online lessons and challenges coordinated by mathematicians from NUI Galway, Mary Immaculate College Limerick, University of Limerick, UCD, UCC, and NUI Maynooth. Mathematical enrichment courses at these centres will follow later in the academic year, and Ireland’s first EGMO team will be selected early in 2012. It is likely that the successful students will have already completed their Junior Certificate. Dr Rachel Quinlan from NUI Galway, who will lead the Irish team to the EGMO, said: “Female students have historically been underrepresented at Mathematical Olympiads internationally. Female mathematical talent seems to be an underused resource, and an initiative aiming at mobilising this talent is a brilliant idea. Often, girls who participate in Mathematical Olympiads do this at the highest level. For example, the German student Lisa Sauermann was the only competitor at this year’s International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) to achieve a perfect score. She now holds the leading position in the IMO Hall of Fame with 4 Gold and one Silver medal, outperforming all other participants of 52 years of IMO.” Young mathematicians of both sexes are invited to participate in the programme of problem solving offered through the Enrichment Programmes at five universities in Ireland. The students in these programmes will be included in the search for Ireland’s team for the 2012 International Mathematical Olympiad which will take place in Argentina in July. Those who are interested in this mathematical problem-solving day need to register online at www.irmo.ie/egmo.html by Tuesday, 11 October. More detailed information about the training and EGMO will be provided during the problem-solving day in Limerick from 11am until 3.30pm. -ENDS-  

Friday, 7 October 2011

Astronomers at four Irish third level institutions have participated in the detection of pulsed gamma-ray emission from the Crab Pulsar at energies far beyond what current theoretical models of pulsars can explain. With energies exceeding 100 billion electron volts the surprising gamma-ray pulses were detected by the international VERITAS collaboration using an array of telescopes at the Whipple Observatory in Arizona.  Their results are published in a paper in the October 7th issue of the prestigious journal Science The Irish scientists have been involved in the search for this pulsed emission for over two decades.  The Irish team members include Dr John Quinn at University College Dublin, Dr Gary Gillanders and Dr Mark Lang at the NUI Galway, Dr Paul Reynolds at Cork Institute of Technology and Dr Pat Moriarty at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. The Crab pulsar is a rapidly spinning neutron star, the collapsed core of a massive star that exploded in a spectacular supernova in the year 1054, leaving behind the brilliant Crab Nebula with the pulsar at its heart.  Spinning at 30 times a second the pulsar emits a rotating beam of radiation like a lighthouse beacon.  Current theoretical models of the pulsar predict that the maximum energy of pulsed gamma-rays should be about 10 billion electron volts so it was very significant to find emission with energies ten times higher.  Further observations to characterise the very high energy gamma-ray emission and new theoretical models will be required to explain the physical mechanism behind it. The Irish involvement in VERITAS is part funded by Science Foundation Ireland. More information on the discovery is available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15203788

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

NUI Galway President, Dr James J. Browne, recently announced the USNI Victory Scholarship Programme at NUI Galway. First launched in Ulster University, the Victory Scholarships Programme has this year been extended to universities in the Republic of Ireland, with NUI Galway being the first University to adopt the programme. The inaugural NUI Galway USNI Victory scholars are Timothy Coyne from St. John Fisher College in New York State and Will Archambault from Davidson College in North Carolina, who will both undertake a Masters in International Management at NUI Galway’s School of Business. The Victory Scholarship Programme assists deserving American students in obtaining a scholarship package to study at Masters level in Ireland. While studying in Ireland these students continue to play or develop sport at all levels; work in the wider community with young people and gain valuable work experience through internships and mentoring with local businesses. Both scholars will also play for NUI Galway in colleges and varsity competitions as well as playing and coaching for the Titans, a Galway City based basketball club, with 400 adult and junior members. According to President Browne, “The USNI Victory Scholarship Programme is a great initiative which facilitates improved access to education at NUI Galway while also deepening linkages through sport with our wider community in Galway. The programme is a natural fit for the University’s Community Knowledge Initiative (CKI) which aims to promote greater civic engagement in academic activities, namely teaching, research and service at all levels of University life. I gratefully acknowledge the support of Galway University Foundation and its donors in the United States for the USNI Victory Scholarship Programme and I thank USNI Sport and Titans Basketball Club for their participation in this initiative.” Under the initiative, NUI Galway students are encouraged to participate in community activities locally, nationally and internationally. The Victory Scholarship programme also reinforces NUI Galway’s relationship with the United States. With over 700 Junior Year Abroad students attending the University annually, NUI Galway is one of the leading Irish destinations for American students. In addition, the University has academic partnerships with several universities and an active alumni community in the United States. Gareth Maguire, Director of USNI Sport, added: “USNI Sport Foundation believes that ‘sport changes life’. We believe that providing a programme that enhances personal development, academic achievement and sporting excellence will pay dividends for the scholars as well as all the young people in Galway they will work with over the course of their year. This year will transform the outlooks of our scholars and bring positive sport and diversionary programmes to young people in the area. We are delighted that NUI Galway is the first university in the Republic of Ireland to offer this exciting initiative and have every belief that it will be a huge success for all concerned.” Padraic Fogarty, Chairman of the Titans Basketball Club, also welcomed the initiative: “We are delighted to have the opportunity to partner with NUI Galway in the expansion of the USNI Victory Scholarship Programme to the Republic of Ireland. We are a progressive club with deeply embedded core values. This initiative aligns well with our values and in particular the promotion of inclusiveness through engagement with a number of communities in Galway City and also our approach of developing strong international links. It’s great to welcome Tim and Will to the club who have quickly established themselves in Galway and are already making a positive contribution to Titans. We thank NUI Galway, Galway University Foundation and Gareth Maguire of USNI for establishing the link with Titans and in particular the US based donors, without whom this fantastic Programme would not be possible.” -ENDS-

Monday, 3 October 2011

A postgraduate researcher at NUI Galway has been awarded a fellowship at a prestigious University in Germany to advance his work in the field of cardiac tissue engineering. Michael Monaghan was awarded the fellowship by the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) and will allow Michael to further his research in Germany until January 2012.   Michael Monaghan, originally a graduate of NUI Galway’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering, will spend three months working with the Franhofer IGB Institute and University Tübingen in Stuttgart, which have a long history of cardiovascular and tissue engineering research.  Describing the opportunity Michael, from Mohill, Co Leitrim, says: “This fellowship will allow me a unique opportunity to test our functional biomaterial in one of the best research labs in Europe. These three months should prove invaluable to my research career and create collaborative links with some of the best scientists in Europe.”Michael is in the final year of his PhD programme under the supervision of Professor Abhay Pandit, Director of the Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials (NFB), an SFI-funded Strategic Research Cluster at NUI Galway. His research on the delivery interfering RNA (RNAi), an emerging field of non-viral gene therapy, is leading to a clearer understanding of RNAi’s therapeutic potential. Specifically, Michael is investigating the modulation of scarring of the myocardium following myocardial infarction (MI) aiming to aid the body to heal itself by silencing detrimental cell processes.  Cardiovascular disease is the most significant cause of morbidity in the developed world and there is currently no technique for regeneration of infarcted myocardium. One of the NFB’s goals is to develop scaffold-based cardiac gene therapy to minimize damage, promote regeneration and modulate the fibrotic response in cardiac tissues following MI. The research conducted by Michael would ultimately be of benefit to patients at risk of heart failure following MI, leading to a decrease in morbidity and improved heart function.  According to Professor Pandit: “NUI Galway has established a critical mass in the area of developing the next-generation biomaterials in Ireland. Each individual researcher is playing an important part in our work and Michael is a perfect example.  His research is advancing the field of tissue engineering and will have possible applications in cardiac and skin regeneration following injury.”   -ends-

Monday, 3 October 2011

Researchers at NUI Galway’s Centre for Pain Research are looking for volunteers to participate in a medical research study.  The aim of the study is to increase understanding of the impact of chronic pain on learning, memory and attention. Healthy volunteers, with no history of chronic pain, are being sought to participate in this study as part of the ‘control’ group. Participants must be over 18, with no pre-existing cognitive impairment, and no history of major psychiatric illness, epilepsy, seizures or diabetes. Participants will be required to complete some questionnaires and simple assessments that measure memory, attention and other functions, such as problem solving. Orla Moriarty from Renmore in Galway, is the PhD student at NUI Galway behind the project: “What we should point out, is that this will be a pain-free experience for our volunteers.  In total we will need to find about 40 suitable candidates to participate. As with so much of science, a ‘control’ group is vital to our research. We really hope we will find the people we need.” The team at the Centre for Pain Research already have people who suffer from chronic pain to participate in the study, through its Pain Clinic.  Chronic pain affects up to 35% of the Irish population and is increasingly recognised as a disease in its own right. Chronic pain is sometimes associated with psychological effects, which may in some cases include forgetfulness, and difficulties in focusing attention, planning tasks and making decisions. As part of ongoing work at the Centre for Pain Research at NUI Galway and funded by the Higher Education Authority under PRTLI4, researchers are attempting to investigate the relationship between pain and cognitive function. Drs David Finn and Brian McGuire are Co-Directors of the Centre for Pain Research at NUI Galway. According to Dr Finn: “Our goal is to compare the cognitive performance of patients with chronic neuropathic pain or radicular pain to that of healthy control volunteers, to gain a better understanding of how pain and cognition are related and to determine what types of cognition are most affected.” The assessment will take place at NUI Galway, lasting one to one and a half hours, with participants offered a small amount of compensation. Those who may be eligible and might like to take part in the study should contact Orla Moriarty on 086 3918862 or 091 495246 or email o.moriarty1@nuigalway.ie -ends-

Monday, 17 October 2011

NUI Galway’s new Engineering Building has been shortlisted for the Engineers Ireland Excellence Awards. The public will decide who will win this prestigious award, with an online vote deciding among the eight finalists. Voting closes on 3 November. According to Engineers Ireland, the new Engineering Building ‘reflects the University’s commitment to engineering, in its innovation, quality and scale’. Situated on the north campus, just under the Quincentenary Bridge, the immense glass, steel and zinc structure officially opened in July 2011, and is now home to 1,100 students and 110 staff. The building supports an emerging generation of engineers, embracing innovation and entrepreneurship, and become engaged in a new wave of technologies. In fact, the building has been designed to be an interactive teaching tool in itself; a ‘living laboratory’ is how it was described by the Irish Times. Viewing panels have been created so that the students can literally peer into the foundations. Sections of the steel embedded in the cement walls for reinforcement can be seen. Also on show is an array of ‘green’ building methods which will help inform students about a raft of modern sustainable technologies. Live data from numerous sensors measures the behaviour of the structure and its energy consumption, and is used as a teaching tool for structural engineering and building performance concepts. Pipes and ducting labelled in corridors and rooms have been left exposed. The entire building was described as a ‘gross anatomy’ lesson of sorts for engineering students. The Engineering Building was designed by award-winning architects RMJM from Scotland in partnership with Mayo-based Taylor Architects. Speaking about the new building, the Dean of the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway, Professor Gerry Lyons, said: “The design of this 14,250m2, engineering teaching facility reflects not only the history of engineering but also a testimony to the role of engineering in Ireland’s future.  We have created an inspirational environment for learning and for nurturing the spirit of enquiry into the science and art of engineering.” The winning project will be judged on the largest number of online votes received by midnight on Thursday, 3 November, with the winner announced at a special awards ceremony in the Four Seasons Hotel, Dublin on Friday, 4 November. To vote for the Engineering Project of the Year 2011 visit http://www.engineersireland.ie/about-us/what-we-do/excellence-awards/   -ends-

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Pre-clinical research has generated some very promising findings about a prototype drug for the treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). The findings, from work carried out by scientists at NUI Galway, are published in this month’s Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. The research introduced a molecule, or prototype drug, to blood samples from patients with the type of blood cancer known as CLL. The findings indicated that the prototype drug kills leukemia cells circulating in the blood, including cells with features often associated with chemotherapy resistance. Additionally, it was found that the molecule also has the potential to target dividing leukemia cells within lymph nodes. With current standard treatment, these cells can act as a reservoir of resistant cells, which can then give rise to relapse.For the last two and half years, NUI Galway’s Professor Corrado Santocanale, along with Professor Michael O’Dwyer and Professor Afshin Samali, among others, have been researching this molecule ‘PHA-767491’ for treating CLL. According to Professor Corrado Santocanale, who works in NUI Galway’s National Centre for Biomedical Engineering (NCBES) and in the Centre for Chromosome Biology (CCB): “Generally, the prognosis for patients diagnosed with CLL, one of the commonest types of blood cancer, is not as positive as we would like. However these laboratory results provide some hope for the future, especially as related trials with patients are already underway”. The molecule is the parent compound of a drug now being tested in a phase one clinical trial led by Professor Michael O’Dwyer at the HRB Clinical Research Facility at NUI Galway. The success of the laboratory research was an important factor in developing the clinical trial. Frank Giles, Professor of Cancer Therapeutics and Director of the HRB Clinical Research Facility at NUI Galway, commented: “Enormous progress in anti-cancer therapy is being made as pre-clinical identification of an optimal target, the development of small molecule that modulate the target, and the conduct of early phase human studies, are becoming a seamless process. The conduct of these early studies is a top priority for our NUI Galway CRF and demonstrates Ireland’s increasing strength in this critical biomedical sector.” Pre-clinical cancer biology research at NUI Galway encompasses multidisciplinary research clusters who are working to understand the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms responsible for the initiation and progression of cancer, and to develop new and better cancer therapies. The University also has a strong translational and clinical research programme with the objective of translating research discoveries into improved patient care.  -ends-

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

NUI Galway has launched the 2011/2012 Arts in Action Programme, which invites students to engage with the creative arts during their studies. Aimed at students across the campus, Arts in Action offers access to a variety of international-standard arts events throughout the academic year. The new programme, a development and promotion by the College of Arts Social Sciences and Celtic Studies, has been radically extended from previous years to allow for concerts, theatre performances and many other artforms to take place on a weekly basis throughout the academic year. The 2011/2012 programme is themed around music and languages and it also showcases some of the gifted performers who have formal links to NUI Galway. Included are performances by the Abbey Theatre, NUI Galway Medical Orchestra, NUI Galway student and TG4 Young Musician of the Year, Pádraic Keane, ConTempo, Martín O’Connor and Frankie Gavin. The Creative Director of Arts in Action, Mary McPartlan, says “NUI Galway’s continuing commitment to the arts, its contribution to the many current initiatives on and off campus, is founded in the strong belief that the relationship between academic studies and the arts is significant. The Arts has a role to play in the development of highly qualified graduates, active citizens and leaders in many fields of endeavour, shaping future lives.” The programme of activity, with the exception of three events at the Town Hall theatre, all take place at lunchtime in Áras na Mac Léinn, NUI Galway. All of the events are free to attend, apart from the events at the Town Hall Theatre which have a fee of €5. The programme will run from September 29 to March 2012. To view a full programme of events visit http://www.nuigalway.ie/arts/artsinaction.html     -ENDS-

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

NUI Galway's Centre of Astronomy will continue its programme of open evenings at its Imbusch Observatory in Dangan. The Observatory provides state-of-the-art observing facilities for NUI Galway's Astrophysics students and the Open evenings are an opportunity for the general public to come in and visit. Weather permitting, the free open evenings will take place on 12 and 26 October, 9 and 23 November and 7 and 21 December at 7pm. An informative hour-long lecture will be followed by a hands-on viewing of the sky by night, weather permitting. The Imbusch Astronomical Observatory was opened in 2004 and is used by students studying Physics and Astronomy at NUI Galway. The observatory is equipped with a modern computer controlled 16" telescope and camera, and a radio telescope with a hydrogen line spectrometer, which is able to map out and measure the velocity of the sun and the Milky Way. There is also a 10" portable telescope - computer controlled – for visual observations of planets, star clusters, nebulae and other bright objects. Bookings are limited to two tickets per person and is strictly by ticket only, on a first come first served basis. All bookings are by email and those interested should send requests to tara.shanahan@nuigalway.ie -ENDS-

Monday, 26 September 2011

A Brazilian student is the first recipient of a new NUI Galway scholarship for students from a non-EU country to study at the University. Heictor Gonzaga, now living in Gort, Co. Galway, has taken up a place in the Bachelor of Engineering degree course. Heictor Gonzaga and his family came to Ireland three years ago where, after a couple of months with the English Language Support system, he entered the Leaving Certificate class in Gort Community School. The scholarship, funded by Galway University Foundation, is for a student from a non-EU country who has completed at least the final two years of their secondary school studies in Ireland, but who are not eligible for fees at EU rates.  Director of the Galway University Foundation, Tom Joyce, says: “Galway University Foundation has developed a special scholarship fund to assist deserving Leaving Certificate students from non-EU backgrounds to attend NUI Galway. We are pleased to support the University’s efforts to broaden access to third-level education.” For the past decade Gort Community School has seen an influx of international students with the majority of students from the Brazilian community. Principal of Gort Community School, Denis Corry, says: “We are delighted to see Heictor getting this award not just for himself and his family, but for the whole Brazilian Community.   From not knowing a word of English three years ago, to getting 510 points in his Leaving Certificate this year, is a remarkable achievement by any standards.   I would also like to commend his teachers and most particularly his Language Support Teacher, Margaret Geraghty, for her wonderful support to all the Brazilian Community over the last ten years. This was very much a team effort.” The value of the scholarship will be the annual non–EU fee for the relevant programme less the Student Levy element of the fee. The Scholarship is payable for each year of the full-time undergraduate degree programme for which the student registers.   -ENDS-

Monday, 26 September 2011

Over ten thousand visitors descended on Salthill last Friday for Ireland’s first participation in European Researchers Night. Billed as ‘Sea2Sky’ by organisers NUI Galway, the celebration of science and research ran in parallel with events across 320 cities in Europe. The Galway event was visited by European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.  This was the first time Ireland participated in European Researchers Night and NUI Galway collaborated with the Marine Institute and Galway Atlantaquaria to deliver a successful event. Hundreds of researchers displayed their work in the fields of Marine, Atmospherics and Astronomy. Commenting at the event, Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn said: “Researchers’ Night is an exciting, pan-European project that aims to engage young people in the magic of research and science, and I am proud that the European Commission is supporting Researchers’ Night in 320 cities all over Europe this year. Research and science hold the answers to many of the major challenges we face in Europe, including climate change, the need for safe, sustainable food and the needs of our ageing population. We need one million new researchers in Europe if we are to rise to these challenges. By bringing science and research alive, I hope that the Sea2Sky Researchers’ Night will help to encourage the young people of Galway to consider careers in research and science.” Visitors to Leisureland chatted to scientists about their research, participated in experiments, and watched demonstrations and simulations. Throughout the event, which was open to schools from 11am, parallel exhibits were run in the Galway Atlantaquaria. Chief organiser, NUI Galway’s Dr Andrew Shearer, says: “Around the world, Ireland’s reputation is growing as a hub of science, discovery and innovation. It was great to see such a great turnout for the first Irish participation in European Researchers Night. There is a genuine thirst for knowledge and interest in science among schools and the general public, which helped in turn to make our event such a success.” Organisers also thanked over 75 volunteers who worked tirelessly throughout the day and night, and in the run up to the event. The Sea2Sky event was funded under the European Union’s Marie Curie Programme and by Discover Science & Engineering. -ENDS-

Monday, 26 September 2011

Three leading researchers hailing from Hungary and the United States have arrived at NUI Galway to begin their three year doctoral studies. The researchers are part of a €3.7 million European Union Marie Curie Initial Training Network funded, Disability Rights Expanding Accessible Markets (DREAM) programme, which is being led by the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at NUI Galway. The PhD students, Magdolna Birtha, Abigail Rekas and Anna Arstein- Kerslake, are members of an international team of 14 researchers who will explore options for European disability law and policy reform in light of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006). The students will also receive paid placement with leading NGOs such as the European Disability Forum in Brussels.  The Centre for Disability Law & Policy at NUI Galway was awarded the grant to direct the Europe-wide network over the next three years. It is understood that this is the single largest EU Framework 7 grant won by a research centre in an Irish Law School. Partners in the network include several leading European universities. Director of the Centre for Disability Law & Policy at NUI Galway, Professor Gerard Quinn, says, “The object of the network is to create the next generation of disability policy entrepreneurs at European level and to generate research that helps the process of implementation of the disability treaty.  We look forward to working with the three new Marie Curie researchers to meet those aims.” For more information contact: Marie Kennedy, Centre for Disability, Law & Policy, NUI Galway, 091 494011, email marie.kennedy@nuigalway.ie   -ENDS-

Monday, 26 September 2011

Celebrating International Year of Chemistry, the School of Chemistry at NUI Galway will acknowledge the contribution of its research graduates in Ireland and beyond at a special reunion celebration. The event will take place at a gala dinner in the Meyrick Hotel on Saturday, 1 October. NUI Galway’s School of Chemistry has recently conferred its 300th PhD graduate and the majority of the research graduates have made major contributions to Ireland’s highly successful chemical, pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical and medical device industries.  A significant portion of the graduates are contributing to the provision of services in the public sector, such as the State Laboratory and the Forensic Laboratory. Many have and continue to contribute to education and research in second and third-level institutions.  Linked to this celebration, the School of Chemistry will host a discussion seminar entitled The PhD in Chemistry in Ireland - What's the Future? This public meeting will include contributions from Science Foundation Ireland, IRCSET, the American Chamber of Commerce, PharmaChem Ireland, representatives from the pharmaceutical industry and heads of Schools of Chemistry from universities throughout Ireland.  The objective of the seminar is to develop policy and strategy so that Chemistry Schools across Ireland can continue to provide highest possibly quality research graduates with appropriate skills to continue to contribute to Enterprise in Ireland.  The seminar will take place on Friday, 30 September, in the John Hynes Boardroom, Quadrangle, NUI Galway at 10.30am. Professor Paul Murphy, Head of School of Chemistry at NUI Galway, says: “The chemical and pharmaceutical industry continues to be one of the strongest performing sectors in Ireland and the economy will continue to benefit from investment in PhD graduates in Chemistry Schools in Ireland.” The event has been organised jointly by the Alumni Office and School of Chemistry at NUI Galway.  Sponsorship of the event has been provided by Pfizer Ireland, Roche Ireland and NUI Galway. For more information, or to book a place at the reunion, contact Colm O’Dwyer in the NUI Galway Alumni Office at 091 493750 or email alumni@nuigalway.ie. -ENDS-

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

NUI Galway’s Alumni Office is inviting all graduates and friends from the classes of 1971 and 1981 to attend a reunion to celebrate the 30th and 40th anniversaries of their graduation on Saturday, 8 October, 2011.   The reunion will begin at 3pm in the Quadrangle with a reception and photo exhibition, followed by a bus tour of campus. The celebrations will continue later that evening in Galway’s Meyrick Hotel (formerly the Great Southern Hotel) with a special reunion dinner.   Sandra Butler, NUI Galway Alumni Association Chairperson, encourages everyone to attend: “Reunions are special opportunities for graduates and friends to revisit NUI Galway and renew old acquaintances. These events come around just once a decade. So book your place now and get in contact with your classmates and friends and encourage them to come too.”   For further information and to book a place, contact Colm O’Dwyer in the Alumni Office on 091 493750 or email alumni@nuigalway.ie.   -ENDS-

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Researchers at NUI Galway have developed a super-sized model of a heart valve which may lead to a new generation of cardiovsacular devices. Every year, mechanical valves are inserted into approximately 125,000 patients with heart valve disease around the world. However, the valves can lead to unnatural blood flows, which can trigger a clotting reaction. Because of this, patients with prosthetic heart valves must take medication daily, which can lead to side effects. The work at NUI Galway is trying to better understand how blood flows through prosthetic valves and in particular through the valve hinges, so that the clotting reaction can be ameliorated. Researchers have developed a working model valve which is six times the size of a normal valve and runs 100 times slower. They use laser light and digital imaging to measure flow accurately and calculate the stresses experienced by blood cells as they move through the valve. The work has been carried out by Dr Nathan Quinlan and Dr Alessandro Bellofiore of the Biofluid Dynamics group at the National Centre for Biomedical Engineering and Science (NCBES), NUI Galway. Dr Quinlan, who teaches courses in Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering, explains: “Medicine has been using artificial heart valves, quite successfully, since the 1950s but there is certainly room for improvement. The challenge is to develop a valve which will avoid the thrombotic or clotting reaction. We’ve scaled up and slowed down the flow through the valve – without altering the underlying mechanics – so that we can measure it at very high resolution. We can see very small and short-lived eddies that are only about 10 times larger than blood cells. This is giving us new insights into what damages blood cells and causes dangerous clots.” The work is an example of the research carried out at the Centre for Biomechanics Research (BMEC) in NUI Galway, which is focused on both fundamental and applied research and where the principles of engineering mechanics and biology are combined to generate discovery and understanding.  Dr Quinlan concluded: “Research like this is crucial in the design and manufacture of new medical devices. The approach we’ve developed could be used not only for heart valves, for any device implanted in large blood vessels. Further down the line, the understanding that comes out of this work can lead to better devices.” Results from the heart valve model feature in this month’s issue of the Annals of Biomedical Engineering. The group has recently received funding from Science Foundation Ireland’s 2011 Research Frontiers Programme for another project which will build on this work.   ENDS

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, will officially open the Irish segment of European Researchers Night. The event takes place on Friday, 23 September, across 800 venues in 320 cities. In Ireland, festivities take place in Galway through a celebration called Sea2Sky, organised by NUI Galway. The purpose of Sea2Sky, is to give the public free access to scientists and their research. Organisers at NUI Galway have planned a one-day celebration of science and research in the fields of Marine, Atmospherics and Astronomy. Events will take place in Leisureland, Galway Atlantaquria and along the Prom in Salthill. While school visits will take place throughout the day, at 3pm Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will officially open the evening event, to coincide with events starting right across Europe. Chief organiser, NUI Galway’s Dr Andrew Shearer, says “As European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, and a Galway-native, it is a very significant occasion that Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn is officially opening this European-wide event. It is an exciting and important time to celebrate Ireland’s reputation and involvement in research.” At Sea2Sky, visitors of all ages will be able to participate in experiments, competitions and quizzes, watch demonstrations and simulations and to exchange ideas with the researchers. Different exhibits will allow the public to learn more about whales and dolphins, take a 3D tour of the universe, tour the Galway Atlantaquaria, check-out scientific demonstrations, and take part in a variety of other hands-on activities. The event will also feature music and entertainment for younger and older visitors. NUI Galway’s President, Dr James J. Browne, will also attend the official opening: “It is an honour to have someone as distinguished in European research circles as Máire Geoghegan-Quinn open our event. There is significant European funding of research projects at NUI Galway, reflecting our growing international research reputation.” The Sea2Sky event is being organised by NUI Galway, in collaboration with the Marine Institute and Galway Atlantaquaria, and is funded under the European Union’s Marie Curie Programme and by Discover Science & Engineering. Sea2Sky is a free family event and will take place in Leisureland and Galway Atlantaquaria, Salthill, from 11am-11pm.  To view the full programme, or for more information, visit www.sea2sky.ie -ENDS-

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton TD today announced a €1.6m investment in neoSurgical Ltd led by Kernel Capital.  The syndicated investment comprises of a €500k investment by the Bank of Ireland MedTech Accelerator Fund, with the remainder of the funds provided by Enterprise Ireland and a number of private investors including experienced promoters from the Irish Med Tech industry.   “neoSurgical is an excellent start-up, we are impressed with their cohesive team, whom previously held senior executive positions in Johnson and Johnson Ireland. neoSurgical has developed a strong patent family, excellent product roadmap and the team has vast global experience in selling medical device products,” said Dawn Guiney, Kernel Capital. neoSurgical working in collaboration with practicing surgeons is committed to developing and delivering innovative products that enable simpler, safer and more efficient laparoscopic abdominal surgery for better patient outcomes.  The company's lead product neoClose* offers a new, superior method of closing laparoscopic wounds that can reduce or prevent herniation complications while giving hospitals the opportunity to realise significant cost savings. Laparoscopic or minimally invasive surgery within the abdomen involves ‘keyhole’ incisions some of which may require closure.  Ineffective closure can lead to an operative complication called a hernia, the complication rate of which is published to be in up to 3.1% and can be significantly higher in obese patients. In the US it has been estimated to cost the healthcare system in excess of $20,000 per patient to repair the hernia. Commenting on the announcement, Dr. James J. Browne, President of National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway) which is an investor in Kernel Capital said: “NUI Galway recognises the importance of translating research into innovative products. I am delighted that the MedTech Accelerator Fund, in which NUI Galway is a partner, is investing in neoSurgical Ltd. I wish neoSurgical every success.” Donal Duffy, Head of Enterprise Ireland Relations, Bank of Ireland said: “Bank of Ireland is very pleased to add neoSurgical Ltd to the list of companies supported through the Bank of Ireland MedTech Accelerator Fund managed by Kernel Capital. This funding will enable the company develop and deliver innovative market leading products and take their place in the global med tech market.” Welcoming the announcement, Seamus Bree, Director for West Region at Enterprise Ireland, said: “We have no hesitation in co-investing in NeoSurgical. This cutting-edge company, although fairly new, is a very innovative and growing player in the prospering medical devices sector. NeoSurgical’s commitment to research and development is impressive and leaves no doubt that this Galway-based company has great potential to internationalise their business.” Barry Russell, CEO, Neosurgical Limited added: “The neoSurgical team is proud to have reached this significant funding milestone and in particular to have secured Kernel Capital as an investor with their great knowledge of our sector and strong validation of our technical and commercial roadmap. This investment will enable us to complete our device development and take our place in the global med tech market.  neoClose* is the first in a portfolio of medical device projects that neoSurgical plan to develop to market in the coming years with the associated positive spin off to the Irish economy in terms of high value jobs and exports.”-ENDS-

Monday, 19 September 2011

A Health Research Board (HRB) funded study carried out by the J. E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway has found that there are significant differences in cancer screening uptake across income groups, and that the main determinant of this difference for breast, colorectal and prostate cancer screening was the possession of private medical insurance.   According to Brendan Walsh, a HRB/ National Cancer Institute Fellow in Health Economics at NUI Galway: “Our research demonstrates both inequality in the uptake of cancer screening in Ireland, and the role that private health insurance plays in contributing to this.   We examined data on 10,364 adults from the SLÁN 2007 study (Survey of Lifestyle, Attitudes and Nutrition in Ireland) and focused our analysis on the uptake of breast, prostate, colorectal and cervical cancer screening in the previous 12 months.  Through a process called decomposition analysis we were able to unpack the variables that contribute to the levels of inequality that we observed.  Decomposition analysis allows you to establish and rate the importance of particular components which contribute to the overall inequality.  The results of this permit a clearer identification of possible policy actions which can then be taken to help reduce the level of inequality.   The research found that there was a clear link between income and better uptake of screening programmes.  Typically for the four cancers mentioned there was a 10 percentage point difference in uptake rates between the highest socioeconomic group and the lowest.  However for three of those cancers, breast, colorectal and prostrate, medical insurance was the largest factor contributing to the inequality.”   According to Professor Ciaran O’Neill of the J. E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics, a co-author on the paper (along with Dr Mary Silles): “When you have a complex healthcare system as in Ireland, with a mix of public and private services, if people feel that they can access other parts of the service faster because they have private insurance, then they seem more likely to avail of screening services.  Our research seems to indicate that just because you have a publicly funded cancer screening programme, it doesn’t mean that you will see equal uptake of screening services or the end of differences in morbidity or mortality associated with cancer.  Because screening is just the start of a process in the detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer, the journey should be viewed as a whole and no one part in isolation. Individuals may be more likely to go for screening if they think insurance will afford them faster access to diagnostic or treatment services. Hence publicly funded screening programmes on their own may not eradicate differential health outcomes across income groups.  This finding has major implications for health policy.   The research also highlighted the importance of marital status in several of the cancers. Greater uptake was evident among those who were married than those who were not in the case of prostate, colorectal and cervical screening, perhaps reflecting the value of pester power.”   According to Enda Connolly, Chief Executive at the Health Research Board; “These are very important findings which have the potential to help address health inequalities, here and abroad. It is a clear illustration of the role for research to inform policy for the betterment of society as a whole.”   The full research paper is available at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hec.1784/full   Ends

Monday, 19 September 2011

NUI Galway will hold their annual Open Days on Friday, 30 September and Saturday, 1 October. The Open Days will provide an opportunity for prospective students to talk to NUI Galway students and staff, explore the campus and its facilities, and find out more about courses of interest. Friday's Open Day, on 30 September, will run from 9am to 3pm and is aimed at school groups, although individuals are also very welcome to attend. Running from 10am to 3pm, Saturday's Open Day on 1 October is for students thinking about university and their parents and families.   The Open Days are expected to attract some 8,000 visitors and are tailored towards Leaving Certificate and mature students who are interested in studying at NUI Galway. Parents, guardians and teachers are also invited on campus to sample life at university.   With over 60 degree programmes on offer at NUI Galway, lecturers and students will be on hand at more than 80 exhibition stands to answer questions on courses, CAO points and possible potential career paths. Many of the newer courses at the University have been designed to be responsive to the changing needs of the employment market and meet the needs of the Smart Economy.   Two talks specifically for parents, ‘Focus on your Career’ and ‘Parents’ Guide to University’ on Saturday, will give an introduction to university life and an overview of the career paths of NUI Galway graduates, as well as looking ahead to the job market of the future.   The Open Days will feature a mix of taster sessions and short lectures to provide a feel for university life. Events will include hands-on science workshops, interactive demonstrations with cameras, media equipment and podcasts and interactive sessions with IT systems and robotics.   Commenting on the importance of the NUI Galway Open Days, Caroline Loughnane, Director of Marketing and Communications, says:"Choosing a university is one of the most important decisions a student will ever make. Parents play a key role in supporting students as they take this important next step. Open Day is the perfect opportunity for parents to ensure they have access to all of the information they need to support sons and daughters through their university career. We are encouraging anyone with an interest in studying at NUI Galway to come along, talk to our lecturers and current students, find out about the courses, check out the facilities and decide for yourself whether NUI Galway feels right for you".   During the Open Days, tours of the campus will allow prospective students to visit the new Engineering Building, the largest of its kind in Ireland; state-of the-art sports complex and gym, home to 45 student sports clubs; and Áras na Mac Léinn, the base for over 100 student societies. Tours of the University library and student accommodation will also be available to visitors on the day.   For further details on NUI Galway Open Days, or to view the full programme, visit http://www.nuigalway.ie/opendays/.   -ENDS-