Neuroscience at NUI Galway Gains International Excellence Status

Neuroscience at NUI Galway Gains International Excellence Status-image

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Galway Neuroscience Cluster, based within the National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science (NCBES) at NUI Galway, last week gained the status of Centre of Excellence in Neurodegeneration (COEN) after a national and international review process. By gaining COEN status, the Galway Neuroscience Cluster joins a select group of international centres that are entitled to apply for research funding that is awarded through this international initiative.    Leader of the Neuroscience Cluster, NUI Galway’s Dr David Finn, said: “This is a very significant achievement by the Neuroscience Cluster and it represents international recognition and approval of the quantity and quality of our research over the past 5-10 years.  I would like to acknowledge the efforts and support of all members of the Neuroscience Cluster and University which have contributed significantly to this exciting development.”  The overall aim of the COEN initiative is to build collaborative research activity in neurodegeneration research across borders, focusing on critical mass and excellence.  Congratulating those involved NUI Galway President, Dr Jim Browne said:  "NUI Galway’s designation as a Centre of Excellence in Neurodegeneration is a wonderful endorsement of the calibre of research underway at this University.  It underscores the growing international reputation of our University and its researchers.  This designation will enable the Galway Neuroscience Cluster to further develop and to join an elite group of international centres working on advancing new therapies for a range of medical conditions." The news came on the eve of the annual research meeting of the Galway Neuroscience Cluster last Thursday at NUI Galway. This meeting showcased the best of neuroscience research in the University. Attendees included undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as post-doctoral research scientists and academic members of staff from a number of different disciplines and research centers within university. The research presented encompassed a number of different areas within neuroscience. The presentations included the genetic approaches taken to improve the symptoms of Huntington’s disease, the potential use of marine products in neuroscience, the use of new delivery methods for therapies in Parkinson’s disease, the development of relevant models to study chronic pain as well as a keynote lecture given by Professor Ciaran Regan of UCD on the development of potential therapies for autism spectrum disorders. Awards for the best postgraduate oral and poster presentations at the meeting were also presented by Dr John Newell of the Clinical Research Facility in Galway who sponsored the meeting. The poster prize was won by Jason Ridge (Anatomy and Psychiatry, NUI Galway) whose work detailed the changes in size of certain brain regions in patients with schizophrenia. Ben Newland (Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials, NUI Galway) won the oral presentation prize for presenting his work on the development of a new strategy to delivery genes for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Nikita Burke (Physiology and Centre for Pain Research) won the runner-up prize for her work on the effects of early life stress on the perception of pain. The mission of the Neuroscience Cluster is to develop Neuroscience in Galway through research, education and community initiatives. The Cluster is truly multidisciplinary in membership, bringing together researchers from a range of clinical and preclinical disciplines, which enable the investigation of nervous system disease at a number of levels. Cluster Leader Dr David Finn added: “I would like to congratulate the prizewinners and all those who presented and contributed to a fascinating meeting and I look forward to the continued growth and success of neuroscience at NUI Galway in 2013 and beyond.” ENDS

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Galway Has Potential to become Europe’s ‘Silicon Valley’ says Science Person of the Year

Galway Has Potential to become Europe’s ‘Silicon Valley’ says Science Person of the Year-image

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

A well-known local science advocate believes that Galway should emulate its international status as an arts city by striving to become the European equivalent of California’s Silicon Valley. Brendan Smith, Community Education and Outreach Officer for the Digital Enterprise Research Institute at NUI Galway, was presented with the Science Person of the Year Award at the recent Galway Science and Technology Festival. He was given the award for delivering a range of pioneering science and technology learning initiatives to schools, colleges and to communities. Brendan Smith believes passionately that the city possesses many of the key ingredients needed to transform the region into a leading global hub for smart technologies’ innovation and development. According to Brendan Smith: “Silicon Valley is home to many of the world’s largest information technology corporations as well as thousands of small start-ups. These organisations have established a symbiotic relationship with third-level colleges in the vicinity that provide the stream of young enthusiastic inventors, innovators, entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists needed to sustain their existence and success. Brendan says Galway bears an uncanny resemblance to San Francisco possessing many of its main traits in abundance. Located on the west coast of the United States, the area is famed for its natural beauty that has engendered a quality of life ethos amongst the inhabitants. The city of San Francisco has also long being characterized by political, environmental and social liberalism; possessing a strong progressive artistic, music, cultural and community solidarity ethos with a youthful, student, cosmopolitan and outward-looking population. Many of the leading corporations in the biomedical and information technology sectors such as Avaya, Boston Scientific, Cisco, Electronic Arts, Hewlett-Packard, Medtronic and SAP, are already based in Galway with established links to research institutes located in GMIT and NUI Galway such as DERI, Ryan Institute and REMEDI which are providing the scientific expertise to sustain their presence in Galway and underpin their status as leaders in cutting edge product development. There is also the presence locally of indigenous high-tech manufacturing and services industries comprising Irish-owned companies such as Creganna and Storm Technologies. Galway can rightly claim to be the country’s first and premier ‘Digital City’, building on an unbroken tradition of computing innovation that dates back to 1971 when Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), then the world’s largest minicomputer company, opened its first European manufacturing facility in Mervue. This proud technology heritage is exemplified by the fact that the ‘Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland’, which pays tribute amongst other things to the oftentimes hidden role of Ireland, women and youth in communications development, is based in the city at DERI in NUI Galway. “What is also an abiding feature of Galway is the deep sense of ‘community solidarity’ as well as the high level of volunteerism that exists amongst many of the prime ‘movers and shakers’ in the industrial, political, educational and local government sectors. These individuals have over the years collaborated under the auspices of the Galway Education Centre, Junior Achievement and the Galway Science and Technology Festival, to deliver important learning initiatives in schools and colleges across the Western region.” “In a modern industrial urban version of ‘Meitheal’ that was once the hallmark of traditional Irish rural community support, these visionaries have promoted and harnessed an army of young professional mentors from industry and third level colleges who give their time and energies to teach in primary and post-primary classrooms delivering science courses whilst acting as positive ‘role models’ for our young generation.” Such courses will equip our children with a range of skills, from using mathematics to fostering critical thinking, necessary for transforming Ireland from being a nation of ‘digital users’ into a nation of ‘digital creators’ that would export worldwide a series of beneficial Irish-made smart tech products and services. These formal learning programmes are now being complimented by the activities of electronic and computer coding volunteer clubs such as 091 Labs and Coderdojo which are often established by young people themselves to provide informal after-school digital maker’s environments where participants are encouraged to be creative and to experiment in new processes and ideas, writing software for instance for online games or to control the movements of robots. The success of these initiatives is best shown by the dramatic uptake by schools in these mentoring courses as well as by the tens of thousands that attend the science shows and exhibitions during the annual two week Galway Science and Technology Festival. -ends-

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NUI Galway Announces Date for Alumni Awards 2013

NUI Galway Announces Date for Alumni Awards 2013-image

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

NUI Galway has announced that the 2013 Alumni Awards will be presented at the annual Alumni Awards Gala Banquet on Saturday, 9 March, 2013. The Gala Banquet will again be held in the Bailey Allen Wing located in Áras na Mac Léinn on campus. The Alumni Awards recognise individual excellence and achievements among the University’s more than 70,000 graduates worldwide. The Awards programme boasts an impressive roll call of 74 outstanding graduates who have gone on to honour their alma mater, including, for example, Michael D. Higgins, Ciarán FitzGerald, Sean O’Rourke, Professor Frank Gannon, Dr Luke Clancy and Gráinne Seoige. Speaking on the announcement of the Awards, President of NUI Galway, Dr Jim Browne said: "Our Alumni Awards programme recognises the many Galway alumni who are leaders in their professions and excel in their pursuits at national and international levels. These awards celebrate the life-long value of an NUI Galway education and recognise individual achievements among the University's more than 70,000 graduates worldwide and we look forward to announcing the award winners early in the New Year.” For ticket and booking information contact the Alumni Office on 091 493750 or email alumni@nuigalway.ie. Online bookings at www.nuigalway.ie/alumni-friends   ENDS

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American Student Awarded Prestigious Scholarship to Study at NUI Galway

American Student Awarded Prestigious Scholarship to Study at NUI Galway-image

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Robin Tipps, a Sociology-Criminology student from the University of Oklahoma, has been awarded a George J. Mitchell Scholarship to study Public Law at NUI Galway next September. The George J. Mitchell Scholarship, awarded by the US-Ireland Alliance, funds one year of graduate study in Ireland and Northern Ireland to students who satisfy requirements for an Irish master's degree. The George J. Mitchell Scholarship honours the former U.S. senator's contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process and was established in 1999. This year 12 scholars representing a cross-section of American students have been awarded the scholarship on the basis of academic distinction, leadership and service. Among their achievements, they count breaking the cryptic code of Rhode Island founder Roger Williams, tutoring underserved children and improving the performance of biofuels. Robin, a member of the Quapaw Tribe, was raised in Ardmore, Oklahoma and will graduate from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in sociology-criminology in 2013. He has been the Senior Vice-Chair of Investigations for his University’s Integrity Council and hopes to become a tribal attorney and the chairman of his tribe. His many service activities include work at the same-day surgery clinic at Norman Regional Hospital and as Collections Assistant at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History. The son of a Quapaw mother and a Caucasian father, Robin has thought a great deal about Native American identity. He grew up 300 miles from tribal headquarters, and the annual ritual of Pow Wow took on great meaning for him, as it was the time when he could connect most easily with his Native American heritage. Marie McGonagle, Director of the LLM in Public law at NUI Galway, express her delight that Robin had chosen the Public Law programme, the second winner of a prestigious Mitchell scholarship to do so in three years. “Robin will be a very welcome addition to the class and I hope he will find the many opportunities presented to students on the programme to attend conferences and engage with public bodies beneficial to his future career.” -ENDS-

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New Adjunct Professorship Appointed to NUI Galway’s College of Engineering and Informatics

New Adjunct Professorship Appointed to NUI Galway’s College of Engineering and Informatics-image

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Dr Patrick O’Brien, Group Director of Strategic Business and Marketing for Wood Group Kenny and a member of the Executive Management Team of MCS Kenny, has been appointed as Adjunct Professor in the College of Engineering and Informatics, NUI Galway. Dr O'Brien, a chartered engineer with close to 30 years industry experience, was awarded a Bachelor of Engineering degree, Master of Engineering Science and PhD by NUI Galway. He is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers of Ireland and a Fellow of the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology. Dr O'Brien plays an active role in a number of industry bodies and he is a board member of Subsea UK. Throughout his career, Dr O’Brien has gained extensive experience primarily in the design of compliant pipeline systems that connect from the seafloor to an offshore oil and gas floating platform. One of his major achievements is the development of the engineering algorithms for the world leading Flexcom riser analysis software. He is the author of many technical papers and he has chaired numerous industry conferences on riser technology. His specialties include: flexible pipe technology, riser mechanics, riser design, nonlinear structural analysis, subsea industry knowledge, strategic and creative thinking, and business networking. NUI Galway’s College of Engineering and Informatics has had ongoing research links with MCS Kenny since it was first founded as a campus spin-off in the 1980s. Currently Dr O’Brien is working with NUI Galway’s Dr Annette Harte and Adrian Connaire, PhD researcher, on a project which aims to greatly increase the efficiency of the current approaches to modeling the mechanical response of highly compliant marine risers. This new appointment will mark the beginning of a new phase in the relationship between the University, MCS Kenny and the Wood Group Kenny in the field of research and development in the offshore arena. Commenting on his appointment, Dr O'Brien said: “There has been a long tradition of collaboration between the University and MCS Kenny, and this appointment greatly strengthens that link. The company is currently working on two joint research projects with the engineering school, and we will look to build on that going forward. I am honoured to accept this position, particularly as NUI Galway is my alma mater, and I look forward to contributing ongoing lectures which bring my company's extensive experience of the offshore oil and gas industry to the engineering school's students, a timely input given recent announcements of the oil and gas potential offshore Ireland.” -ENDS-

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Minister Sherlock Announces €2.1 Million to Detect Ash Clouds and Improve Ash Dispersion and Density predictions

Minister Sherlock Announces €2.1 Million to Detect Ash Clouds and Improve Ash Dispersion and Density predictions-image

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Sean Sherlock, Minister of State for Research and Innovation today (Wednesday) announced NUI Galway has secured funding from the European Space Agency (ESA) for a new ash cloud research project.  ESA has invested €2.1 million in an ash cloud detection and forecasting system led by the Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) and involving NUI Galway and the Irish Aviation Authority Irish Aviation Authority’s Volcanic Ash Detection and Forecasting Initiative. The funding was secured with the aid of Enterprise Ireland, which is the co-ordinating body for ESA in Ireland. The project, which uses satellites and forecast models to detect ash clouds and forecast their movements, came about following the 2010 Icelandic volcano eruption, which resulted in more than 100,000 flights being cancelled, affecting 10 million passenger journeys during the first week of the eruption alone.  Announcing the investment, Minister Sherlock said; “The Action Plan for Jobs 2012 puts innovation and technology at the heart of enterprise and jobs policies and working with the European Space Agency is an integral part of driving innovation and research in Ireland.” “NUI Galway’s commitment to developing new environmental monitoring techniques is impressive. This is a significant win for NUI Galway and clearly indicates that Irish Research Institutes have the capability and expertise to significantly contribute to these pan European projects.” The Minister added 'Ireland's membership of the European Space Agency is having a direct and positive impact for the research and SME community. There are over 40 Irish companies that are active in ESA programmes. These companies, through their involvement with ESA Earth observation programmes, are also directly impacting on global threats such as climate change, ozone depletion, maritime surveillance, flooding and forest fires'. In addition to ash detection via satellite platforms, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), in collaboration with NUI Galway, is deploying an ash cloud detection network composed of four ground-based LIDARS (dust or haze RADARs) located strategically at north, south, east and west perimeters in Ireland. ESA have invested in NUI Galway’s School of Physics and Centre for Climate & Air Pollution studies to use the LIDAR data for ash detection. In total, ESA have invested €2.1 million in the Volcanic Ash Strategic-initiative Team (VAST). VAST is a consortium led by NILU and comprises teams from Finland, Austria and Ireland with NUI Galway being awarded €500,000 to further develop and evaluate their ash forecast model, to develop real-time ash detection software and techniques for the LIDAR network, and to conduct the validation of the detection and forecasting aspects of the project.  Professor Colin O’Dowd, the Director of the Centre for Climate & Air Pollution Studies, based in the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, said: “The VAST detection and forecasting system is especially designed to facilitate the aviation industry and represents a major technological step forward in combing space-borne and ground-based remote-sensing platforms with sophisticated ash forecasting models and will put Europe in poll position in terms of ash cloud detection and forecasting.” He went on to say “ESA’s investment in NUI Galway’s research and research support staff for the IAA’s LIDAR network is a reflection of how important ESA views the Irish contribution to ash cloud detection and prediction. The initiative will provide more accurate information to the aviation industry which is expected to result in reduced disruption of air travel as ‘fly’ or ‘no-fly’ decisions will be based on more accurate predictions of ash plume location and density.” Dr Barry Fennell of Enterprise Ireland and National Delegate to ESA’s Earth Observation Programme Board said “Ireland’s unique geographical position on the western fringes of Europe makes it an ideal and much sought after international partner when developing early detection environmental warning systems whether focused on the atmosphere, on land or on the marine environment.  Many more business opportunities for Irish Industry will become available over the coming years through increased availability and access to data collected in-situ and from Earth Observation satellites.”  “Ireland’s recent renewal of its membership to the ESA Earth Observation programme with a subscription of €5 million will secure the position of our SME’s, Academic and Public Sector institutes at the heart of the latest technological developments in this rapid advancing area of service development.” ENDS

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NUI Galway Launch New Postgraduate Programme in Rural Sustainability

NUI Galway Launch New Postgraduate Programme in Rural Sustainability-image

Thursday, 20 December 2012

NUI Galway has officially launched a new Masters Programme in Rural Sustainability. The full-time, one year postgraduate programme is being co-ordinated by the Discipline of Geography within the School of Geography and Archaeology, and it already has a full complement of students in place for the first year of its operation. The MA in Rural Sustainability has been devised in response to increasing attention nationally and internationally on the role and function of rural economies and societies. NUI Galway holds a distinguished tradition of rural research and teaching. As a European university that is itself situated in a rural and peripheral location, it seeks to continue its leadership role in rural affairs through providing a postgraduate career path in rural studies. The programme was officially launched by Professor Gerry Boyle, Director of Teagasc. This association with Teagasc, particularly with its own strong leadership in rural research, is an important component of the programme as it unites expertise in rural theory, research and practice, ultimately benefiting the student experience and future employability.     Speaking at the launch, Professor Boyle said: “I congratulate NUI Galway’s Discipline of Geography on this timely and appropriate Postgraduate programme. The programme is a clear response in a positive and proactive way by Geographers in NUI Galway to calls emanating regionally, nationally and internationally, which place rural issues high on current political agendas.  This MA also allows for greater collaboration between NUI Galway and Teagasc and I am also delighted to announce, as part of this MA programme, the Teagasc sponsorship of the Dr Patrick Commins Rural Research Award.” The event also included the launch of the Dr Patrick Commins Rural Research Award for the best overall MA student performance. Sponsored by Teagasc, this award is valued at €3,000 per annum. The late Dr Commins was a leading academic and researcher in rural issues and had a long and distinguished career with Teagasc. His reputation as an expert on rural affairs extended well beyond Ireland, and his knowledge and experience was regarded as key to informing EU and wider international academic and policy debates. -ENDS-

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Global Mathematical Phenomenon at NUI Galway

Global Mathematical Phenomenon at NUI Galway-image

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Professor Donal O’Regan of NUI Galway, who was honoured last year by being elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy, has just written his 1,000th peer-reviewed mathematical article. He is now one of the most prolific authors in the history of Mathematics in the world. “The quality of his research is as impressive as the quantity”, says his colleague at NUI Galway, Professor Graham Ellis. “His publications appear in some of the world’s top ranking mathematics journals.” Professor O’Regan has been publishing an average of one mathematics paper per week and one mathematics book a year since he joined NUI Galway in 1990. “I’m not surprised Donal has managed to reach the millennium”, says Dr Ray Ryan, Head of the School of Mathematics. "He might very well beat the record of Paul Erdös (1913-96) who wrote around 1,525 articles over a 60-year career. O’Regan is still a relative freshman with his 22 years of publishing.” “Donal is truly amazing”, says colleague and fellow mathematician Professor Michel Destrade. “His sheer output is unbelievable by any standard. He has also written twenty books. And he does it all on a 25 year old computer!” Over the 2002-2006 period, O’Regan authored an average of 56 articles per year according to MathSciNet, the most extensive database of mathematical works worldwide. To put this number in perspective, during that same period the whole Island of Ireland produced an average of 142 mathematical articles per year, according to the Forfás bibliometric report (Research Strengths in Ireland), putting his contribution at nearly 40% of the entire Irish output. “We are very privileged to have such a world-class academic on campus”, says Dr Ryan. “He is a one-man powerhouse.” -ends-

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November 2012

NUI Galway Biomaterials Spin-Out Set to Double in Size within a Year

NUI Galway Biomaterials Spin-Out Set to Double in Size within a Year-image

Friday, 2 November 2012

A start-up medical device company that has been spun out from an NUI Galway research laboratory has begun an expansion that should see it double in size by the end of the year. Vornia Limited was established by Professor Abhay Pandit and Drs Dimitrios Zeugolis and Wenxin Wang as a spin out from the Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials (NFB) – an NUI Galway based research cluster. Vornia’s goal is to bring superior and consistently high-quality biodegradable biomaterial products to the market. As a medical device company, Vornia also uses its own superior grade materials to develop and scale up products in niche clinical targets including tendon regeneration, soft tissue repair and spinal cord repair.    Vornia’s Managing Director, Dr Colm O’Dowd, has initiated a robust R&D programme and has been ramping for the past eight months. “In a market in which between 70 and 80% of start-up companies fail, Vornia has secured funding for the next four years and we are looking forward to a bright future in biomaterials development for the medical technology markets.” Established with private, EU FP7, and Enterprise Ireland funding, Vornia Ltd has recently secured grants in partnership with both private companies and the NFB-based at NUI Galway to work on semi-organic devices for the treatment ischemic heart conditions, spinal cord repair and for stent development amongst others. It is involved, for example, in a €1.2 million EU project which aims to reduce the re-narrowing of arteries and the need for further interventions, through the development of novel cardiovascular stent materials. Dr Colm O’Dowd added: “We have just come through an intense ramping-up phase, with six researchers from as far afield as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and as close to home as GMIT. By the end of the year, we hope to have recruited a further six scientists and biomedical engineers. We need people to work on process design and development of a diverse range of medical device products using biomaterials developed by NFB.” The Vornia R&D laboratory has expanded to occupy a space in the BioInnovation Centre on the NUI Galway campus where it benefits from business support and training from the team there and is also supported by the Innovation in Business Centre based at GMIT supported by funding from Enterprise Ireland. Vornia Ltd operates under an international standard for medical device manufacturers (ISO 13485) and will soon be recognised by the certification body for their quality management systems. They are also seeking recognition as a high potential start-up (HPSU) status from Enterprise Ireland which provides funding and support for start-up businesses with the potential to develop an innovative product or service for sale in international markets and the potential to create 10 jobs and €1 million in sales within 3-4 years of starting up. -ends-

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NUI Galway Celebrates Geography

NUI Galway Celebrates Geography -image

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

NUI Galway is to be part of Ireland’s first Geography Awareness Week, which takes place from 11-17 November. The week-long celebration of geography is a part global event organised to inform students and the wider public about the opportunities and diversity of topics available when studying geography. Throughout Geography Awareness Week, some 600 first-year undergraduate Bachelor of Arts students at NUI Galway will take to the streets, waterways and beaches of Galway participating in fieldtrips led by academics from the University’s School of Geography and Archaeology. Students from post-primary schools around Galway will visit the University during the week for tours of the laboratories and hear about the research taking place on campus. On Wednesday, 14 November, a Table Quiz will be held in Kelly’s Bar in Galway City at 7.30pm with all proceeds from the event going to COPE. Dr Frances Fahy, Lecturer in Geography at NUI Galway and President of the Geographical Society of Ireland, said: “It is a common misconception to narrowly associate geography simply with knowledge about capital cities of the world and facts regarding counties, wine regions and lakes. Geography is about so much more. It helps us understand how the world works with geographers exploring different systems such as human, physical, biological systems, through space and time. Geography is something employers across all sectors value, because of the wide-ranging research, analytical, practical and computer skills that geography students offer, as well as their extensive knowledge about human and physical processes. Geography Awareness Week is organised by Geographical Society of Ireland (GSI), in conjunction with the Association of Geography Teachers in Ireland (AGTI). 50 years of Geography at NUI Galway 2012 also marks the 50th anniversary of Geography at NUI Galway. Since 1962 Geography at NUI Galway has built a strong reputation for research and teaching excellence. Marking this milestone, the School of Geography and Archaeology will hold a number of events throughout the academic year 2012-13. These events will celebrate the work and scholarship of Geography’s students and staff and provide an opportunity for the public to engage with some of the key debates and research in the discipline. The first such event is a symposium during Geography Awareness Week, showcasing the research of the School of Geography and Archaeology’s Planning and Sustainability Cluster. This cluster unites research interests that relate to the analysis of social and environmental problems arising within the context of an increasingly globalised world. The symposium will include overviews of current research which spans topical issues including planning for sustainable food futures, imagining new urban design, marine spatial policy and planning and exploring the potential of the arts and creativity sector to rural and Gaeltacht communities. A panel of geographers and planners from around Ireland will also discuss potential impacts of recent amendments to the local and regional planning regulations in Ireland. The symposium takes place on Friday, 16 November in the Moore Institute Seminar Room, NUI Galway. For further information on NUI Galway’s Discipline of Geography’s upcoming events visit http://www.nuigalway.ie/geography/news.html. -ENDS-

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