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News & Events
‘Failed Stars’ Host Powerful Auroral Displays
Friday, 31 July 2015
International team led by Irish astronomer says that brown dwarfs behave more like planets than stars Brown dwarfs are the mysterious middle children of celestial objects. These relatively cool, dim bodies are difficult to detect, and have remained hard to classify. They are too massive to be planets, yet possess some planet-like characteristics; they are too small to sustain hydrogen fusion reactions at their cores, a defining characteristic of stars, yet they have star-like attributes. Now, by observing a brown dwarf 20 light-years away using both radio and optical telescopes, a team led by Dr Gregg Hallinan, NUI Galway astronomy PhD graduate and now assistant professor of astronomy at Caltech, has found another feature that makes these so-called failed stars more like supersized planets - they host powerful auroras near their magnetic poles. The findings were co-authored by scientists around the world, including many Irish-trained astronomers and Dr Ray Butler a lecturer in the School of Physics at NUI Galway, and appear in the July 30 issue of the journal Nature. “We're finding that brown dwarfs are not like small stars in terms of their magnetic activity; they're like giant planets with hugely powerful auroras,” says Hallinan. “If you were able to stand on the surface of the brown dwarf we observed - something you could never do because of its extremely hot temperatures and crushing surface gravity - you would sometimes be treated to a fantastic light show courtesy of auroras hundreds of thousands of times more powerful than any detected in our solar system.” In the early 2000s, astronomers began finding that brown dwarfs emit radio waves. At first, everyone assumed that the brown dwarfs were creating the radio waves in basically the same way that stars do - through the action of an extremely hot atmosphere, or corona, heated by magnetic activity near the object’s surface. But brown dwarfs do not generate large flares and charged-particle emissions in the way that our sun and other stars do, so the radio emissions were surprising. While studying for his PhD at NUI Galway, in 2006, Hallinan discovered that brown dwarfs can actually pulse at radio frequencies. “We see a similar pulsing phenomenon from planets in our solar system,” says Hallinan, “and that radio emission is actually due to auroras”. Since then he has wondered if the radio emissions seen on brown dwarfs might be caused by auroras. Auroral displays result when charged particles, carried by the stellar wind for example, manage to enter a planet’s magnetosphere, the region where such charged particles are influenced by the planet’s magnetic field. Once within the magnetosphere, those particles get accelerated along the planet's magnetic field lines to the planet’s poles, where they collide with gas atoms in the atmosphere and produce the bright emissions associated with auroras. Following his hunch, Hallinan and his colleagues recently conducted an extensive observation campaign of a brown dwarf called LSRJ 1835+3259, using the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico, the most powerful radio telescope in the world, as well as giant optical instruments that included Palomar’s Hale Telescope in California and the W. M. Keck Observatory's telescopes in Hawaii. Using the VLA, they detected a bright pulse of radio waves that appeared as the brown dwarf rotated around. The object rotates every 2.84 hours, so the researchers were able to watch nearly three full rotations over the course of a single night. Next, the astronomers used the Hale Telescope to observe that the brown dwarf varied optically on the same period as the radio pulses. Focusing on one of the spectral lines associated with excited hydrogen - the H-alpha emission line - they found that the object's brightness varied periodically. Finally, Hallinan and his colleagues used the Keck telescopes to precisely measure the brightness of the brown dwarf over time—no simple feat given that these objects are intrinsically extremely faint, many thousands of times less luminous than our own sun. Hallinan and his team were able to establish that this hydrogen emission is a signature of auroras near the surface of the brown dwarf. “As the electrons spiral down toward the atmosphere, they produce radio emissions, and then when they hit the atmosphere, they excite hydrogen in a process that occurs at Earth and other planets, albeit tens of thousands of times more intense”, explains Hallinan. “We now know that this kind of auroral behavior is extending all the way from planets up to brown dwarfs.” In the case of brown dwarfs, charged particles cannot be driven into their magnetosphere by a stellar wind, as there is no stellar wind to do so. Hallinan says that some other source, such as an orbiting planet moving through the brown dwarf’s magnetosphere, may be generating a current and producing the auroras. “But until we map the aurora accurately, we won't be able to say where it's coming from”, he says. He notes that brown dwarfs offer a convenient stepping stone to studying exoplanets, planets orbiting stars other than our own sun. “For the coolest brown dwarfs we've discovered, their atmosphere is pretty similar to what we would expect for many exoplanets, and you can actually look at a brown dwarf and study its atmosphere without having a star nearby that's a factor of a million times brighter obscuring your observations,” says Hallinan. The work, ‘Magnetospherically driven optical and radio aurorae at the end of the main sequence’, was supported by funding from the National Science Foundation in the US. In all, five of the authors are connected with NUI Galway. Ray Butler is a lecturer in the School of Physics; Aaron Golden is on extended leave from his lecturer position in the School of Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Statistics; Leon Harding did his PhD under the joint supervision of Drs Butler and Golden; and Stephen Bourke and the lead author Gregg Hallinan both did their PhDs under Dr Golden. NUI Galway’s Ray Butler adds: “The key roles played by so many Irish-trained astronomers, in making the discoveries to produce this Nature publication, demonstrate that we have the skills and ideas to compete with the world’s best in this field. For example, I worked on planning the spectroscopy observations, and developing the methods to analyse them in order to extract the subtle signature of the brown dwarf’s rotation. The selection of this particular brown dwarf followed work by our co-author Leon Harding during his time as my PhD student, when he used GUFI (the Galway Ultra Fast Imager), an instrument that we built ourselves, to observe its optical variability with unprecedented accuracy. Today’s major breakthrough and the successes of Irish astronomers abroad underline the compelling arguments for the government to reintroduce policies to fund this kind of basic research here in Ireland.” -ends-
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Final call for applications for the NUI Galway Taught Masters Scholarships Scheme
Tuesday, 21 July 2015
Applications are currently being accepted for NUI Galway’s Taught Masters Scholarship Scheme. The scholarships are valued at €1,500 per student and are awarded to all students undertaking a full-time Taught Masters Programme who have a first-class honours degree. The closing date for receipt of applications is Friday, 7 August at 5pm. Valerie Leahy, Postgraduate Officer at NUI Galway, said: “At NUI Galway we are committed to supporting students who want to enhance their skills and employment prospects, and these scholarships are designed to reward and encourage the most committed and brightest students to progress to postgraduate study.” NUI Galway offer over 150 taught postgraduate programmes across all disciplines. The University has a global reputation in the fields of Biomedical Science and Engineering; Human Rights, Applied Social Science and Public Policy; Energy, Environment and Marine Research; Data Analytics, Physical and Computational Sciences; and Digital Humanities, and offer specific postgraduate programmes in these areas. Over 10% of NUI Galway postgraduate courses are taught fully online or via blended learning, so especially suit those who are working full or part-time and want to up-skill and enhance their career prospects. The University also continues to lead the way in terms of graduate employment with 92% of postgraduates employed or in further study after graduating, versus the national average of 87%. Information on the Taught Masters Scholarship Scheme is available at www.nuigalway.ie/postgraduate/scholarships. For more information on postgraduate opportunities at NUI Galway visit www.nuigalway.ie/whynuigalwaypostgrad/ , or contact the Postgraduate Recruitment Office at 091 495184 or firstname.lastname@example.org. -Ends-
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NUI Galway Graduates win European Society for Biomaterials European Doctoral Awards
Monday, 20 July 2015
NUI Galway graduates Dr Shane Browne and Dr Michael Monaghan have both been awarded the European Society for Biomaterials-European Doctoral Award for their research in biomaterials. The award is given annually by the European Society for Biomaterials (ESB) and confers added value to the doctoral degrees of the recipients. The award serves to recognise a European or international dimension of the researchers’ work. Both Dr Browne and Dr Monaghan qualified for the award by fulfilling a number of requirements, including studying abroad during their doctoral research, publishing in high-impact scientific journals and presenting at international conferences. The awards also acknowledge Professor Abhay Pandit, supervisor to both researchers during their PhDs and Director of CÚRAM, the Centre for Research in Medical Devices, proving the integration of this group’s research at an international level. “I would like to congratulate Shane and Michael on their success and achievements”, said NUI Galway’s Professor Pandit. “They are the third and fourth researchers from the team to receive this award, which speaks to the high calibre of professionals we have developed in the biomaterials sector.” CÚRAM’s core research competencies include cell manufacture, drug delivery and biomaterials. Dr Browne’s research involved the tempering of inflammation and the formation of new blood vessels using a collagen-based biomaterial system. Dr Monaghan’s research focused on the development of microRNA-mediated gene silencing delivery methods, for application in modulating extracellular matrix remodeling, which can help protect and repair internal organs after injury. Both research projects were funded through Science Foundation Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. Dr Browne is now working as an Irish Research Council postdoctoral researcher in Professor Kevin Healy’s laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, on the development of strategies to deliver pro-angiogenic progenitor cells to ischemic tissue using hyaluronic acid-based hydrogels. Dr Monaghan is currently a Marie Curie Postdoctoral Fellow in Professor Katja Schenke-Layland’s laboratory at the Department of Cell and Tissue Engineering, in the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB. His current research involves studying the formation of cardiomyocytes from fibroblasts using small molecules and exogenous microRNAs. CÚRAM is a national research centre advancing R&D in the medical device sector. Supported by Science Foundation Ireland and industry partners, CÚRAM enhances Ireland’s standing as a major hub for the global medical devices industry. -Ends-
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Final Call for Applications for NUI Galway Sports Scholarship Scheme
Monday, 20 July 2015
NUI Galway has issued a final call for applications to its Elite Athlete Sports Scholarships Scheme for 2015/16. The University has a long tradition of excellence in sport and this has been enhanced by the recent success in Rowing, Hurling, Basketball, Soccer, Rugby and Archery as well as numerous individual achievements. The deadline for application for current and prospective students is Friday, 31 July at 5pm. The scholarship programme is aimed at student-athletes of outstanding calibre who register as students of the University. Kathy Hynes, Acting Head of Sport at NUI Galway, said “The University is proud to support the next generation of sporting stars. We recognise the huge commitment made by our young athletes in balancing their academic studies and their elite training schedules. NUI Galway through the Elite Scholarship programme provides supports to those athletes who have podium dreams and thus the best possible chance of fulfilling their potential in the sporting and academic context.” NUI Galway has had an outstanding record in supporting young athletes in developing their sporting and academic careers with in recent years, scholarship athletes winning senior All-Ireland GAA titles, winning and competing at World Championship level in their chosen sport and dozens of NUI Galway students representing their country and a number who have gone on to professional careers in a number of sports. These scholarship students include: Ryan Dervan, Intermediate All-Ireland Boxing Champion 2014; Lisa Casserly and Jenny Byrne, Republic of Ireland Women’s Soccer Squad; Darren Wallace, Irish National Archery Squad 2015 World Cup and European Grand Prix Qualifier. NUI Galway Gaelic Games students are also represented across the counties senior panels, including Cathal Mannion and John Hansbury. Applicants for Elite sports scholarships must satisfy the academic criteria for entry to NUI Galway and must have applied to the CAO in the usual manner or be a currently enrolled student at NUI Galway. For the scholarships, students who meet the University’s entry requirements will be selected on merit by an independent panel. In addition to the scholarship, students will receive specialist support including Strength and Conditioning, Performance Nutrition, Performance planning and mentoring and Medical and Physiotherapy support. More details on the Sports Scholarship Scheme at http://www.nuigalway.ie/sports/scholarships_info.html. All applications must be submitted online at http://www.sports.nuigalway.ie/scholarshipform.html. -Ends-
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NUI Galway to Confer President of Germany with Honorary Degree during State Visit
Wednesday, 15 July 2015
NUI Galway today conferred an Honorary Degree on President of the Federal Republic of Germany, His Excellency Joachim Gauck at the University. NUI Galway President, Dr Jim Browne, said: “It is a great pleasure to announce the visit of Joachim Gauck, President of the Federal Republic of Germany to NUI Galway, where he will be conferred with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. This is the highest honour the University can bestow. By honouring him in this way we pay tribute to his great achievements in promoting European democracy and human rights. President Gauck honours us with this visit and we look forward to welcoming him and Daniela Schadt, to the campus where they will participate in a Roundtable Symposium on Human Rights and Development at the Irish Centre for Human Rights before the conferral of the honorary degree.” President Gauck joins the ranks of previous honorary alumni which include, among many others, Nelson Mandela, Hilary Clinton, Enya, Anjelica Huston, and Margaret Atwood. The Honorary Conferring and visit to the University included a Roundtable Discussion with key speakers on Development and Human Rights at the Irish Centre of Human Rights at NUI Galway. Among the Participants were representatives of the development sector in Ireland (Concern, Trócaire), members of the German delegation, academics and human rights experts, Irish and German diplomats and policy makers, moderated by Professor Michael O’Flaherty, Director of The Irish Centre of Human Rights at NUI Galway. Speaking on the Round Table Discussion, Professor Michael O'Flaherty, Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway, said: "It is a very important initiative of President Michael D. Higgins and President Joachim Gauck to convene a conversation on Human Rights and Development. Enormously significant decisions will be taken by the international community in September when it adopts the Sustainable Development Goals. It is imperative that Human Rights are strongly presented in these goals and our discussion will contribute to strengthening the policy of European states on this critical issue." About President Gauck In 2012, Joachim Gauck became the 11th President of the Federal Republic of Germany. Since then he has been tireless in propounding public ethics and a civic space that is grounded in a belief in inviolable human dignity – a society that, above all else that values freedom. Joachim Gauck was born in Rostock in 1940. After gaining his Abitur, the higher education entrance qualification, he studied theology. From 1965 to 1990 he was in the service of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mecklenburg, working as a pastor for many years. Joachim Gauck became involved in the opposition in the GDR at an early age. In 1989 he was one of the founders of the New Forum and became its spokesperson in Rostock. He was among the initiators of the church and popular resistance to the communist regime in the GDR and led the weekly prayers for peace which gave rise to the protest demonstrations. In March 1990, Joachim Gauck entered the first freely elected GDR parliament as a member of the Alliance 90 – an amalgamation of several grassroots movements – and was elected chairman of the special committee overseeing the dissolution of the Ministry of State Security. On 3 October 1990, he was appointed Special Commissioner of the Federal Government for the files of the State Security Service relating to individuals by the Federal President on the recommendation of the Federal Government. From 1991 to 2000 he was the Federal Commissioner for the Files of the State Security Service of the former German Democratic Republic. From 2001 to 2004, Joachim Gauck was the German member of the Management Board of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia in Vienna. In 2003, he became the Chairman of the Association “Gegen Vergessen – Für Demokratie” (Against Oblivion – For Democracy). He has been awarded numerous honours and prizes for his work, including the Theodor Heuss Medal, the Geschwister Scholl Prize, the European Human Rights Prize and the Ludwig Börne Prize. He has honorary doctorates from the Universities of Rostock, Jena and Augsburg. At the honorary conferring University President Dr Jim Browne in his remarks referred to President Gauck’s call on all moderate forces around the continent to speak up in the current European debate ahead of this State Visit. “Here we are today in Galway - a University city on the edge of Europe a city of creativity and of welcome, home to artists and academics. Our city and our University have been immeasurably enriched by our place in Europe and the vision which has shaped Ireland’s development over the past 5 decades or so. We cannot let the discourse on Europe’s future be dominated by extremism. We must remember the Monnet vision of the middle of the last century: a vision which helped to bind up the wounds of the most bloodstained continent in modern history and transform Europe into a place of peace, prosperity and democracy governed by common policies and shared structures.” Dr Browne paid tribute to President Gauck by saying his own personal journey served as an example to many Europeans. Throughout your lifetime you have stood as a champion of democracy and human rights and you remain a voice which can shape the conscience of Europe. The conferring ceremony will be streamed live online from 11.30am at http://www.nuigalway.ie/germanstatevisit/ ENDS
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‘Blue Economy’ significant contributor to Ireland’s Economy
Friday, 10 July 2015
The Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine, Simon Coveney TD, will launch the latest report on Ireland’s Ocean Economy at the 2nd Annual Ocean Wealth Conference, taking place in Ringaskiddy, Cork, today as part of Ireland’s national maritime festival ‘SeaFest’. The report, compiled by NUI Galway’s Socio-Economic Marine Research Unit (SEMRU) and Teagasc, estimates that the sector contributed an estimated €1.4bn to GDP last year. Ireland’s ‘Blue Economy’ is performing on average better than the general economy with up to 9% growth over the last five years. With an estimated turnover of €4.5bn, the sector employs approximately 18,500 Full-Time Equivalents and new data from shows that in addition to the direct impacts of Ireland’s ocean economy, a further 13,000 are employed across the wider economy providing an additional €3.3bn in turnover. This is the third report on Ireland’s Ocean Economy from NUI Galway’s SEMRU as part of its ongoing process of collection and analysis of marine socio-economic data in Ireland funded by the Marine Institute. Results from the report show trends in Ireland’s Ocean Economy over the period 2010-2012 and provides an estimate of the direct value in 2014. Minister Coveney, speaking ahead of the conference said, “Over the past few years we’ve seen a dramatic and in some cases radical transformation in Ireland’s attitude towards the marine sector generally, with the marine now being viewed as a significant contributor to our economic recovery. This new data from SEMRU and Teagasc shows that Ireland’s blue economy is performing well in established industries such as seafood, shipping and marine tourism, and is excelling in emerging industries such as high-tech marine products and services, marine biotechnology and maritime commerce.” Summary of Direct Economic Impacts: The ocean economy had a turnover of €4.2 billion in 2012, rising to an estimated €4.5bn in 2014. The ocean economy provided employment for 17,425 individuals Full Time Equivalents, (FTEs) in 2012, with an estimated increase to 18,480 in 2014. Over the period 2010-2012 a 33% increase in turnover is reported, a further increase of 7% is estimated for the period up to 2014. Employment has also steadily risen, with increase of 5-6%. Top three marine sectors in terms of employment (FTEs): Marine Tourism & Leisure: Employment approx. 6,000 FTEs Seafood & Bioresources (Fisheries, Aquaculture, Seafood Processing, Biotech/Seaweed): Employment over 5,600 FTEs Shipping & Maritime Transport (including international shipping services): Employment over 4,100 FTEs Top three marine sectors in terms of Turnover and Gross Value Added (GVA): Shipping & Maritime Transport (including international shipping services): €2.2bn turnover, €0.5bn GVA Seafood: €1bn turnover, €0.4bn GVA Marine Tourism & Leisure:€0.7bn turnover, €0.3bn GVA Established Marine Industries represent 95% of the total turnover and 93% of total employment in Ireland’s ocean economy. Marine retail services, sea fisheries and seafood processing, all experienced a significant increase in activity, with turnover, GVA and employment increasing across the sector in the period. The aquaculture sector also exhibited increases, albeit of a smaller scale, across all three variables. Emerging Marine Industries representing 5% of the turnover and 7% of employment in Ireland’s ocean economy. In comparison to the established industries, the emerging industries are excelling in terms of growth. High tech marine products and services, marine biotechnology and bio-products and marine commerce experienced large increases in turnover, GVA and employment. Marine renewable energy experienced a more moderate increase in turnover but a large increase in GVA. In terms of employment, however, the marine renewables sector experienced a slight decrease with respect to 2010 levels. The previous Ocean Economy Report published in 2013 referred to the lowest point of the economic contraction (2007-2010), while this report represents a period of slow economic recovery (2010-2012), with a moderate increase in activity, particularly in the shipping and maritime transport sector and in sea fisheries, seafood processing and marine manufacturing, construction and engineering. Estimates based on recent economic indicators suggest a further increase in activity across established and emerging marine industries in the 2012-2014 period. Combined with the confident national economic forecasts recently released by the Department of Finance, the trends shown in this third SEMRU report suggest a positive outlook for Ireland’s ocean economy in 2015. SEMRU also produced estimates of Ireland’s Ocean Economy for the year 2014. It is estimated to be worth €1.4bn, 0.8% GDP. With an estimated direct turnover of approx. €4.5bn, Ireland’s ocean economy employs in excess of 18,400 Full-Time Equivalents. Latest figures also suggest that our ‘blue economy’ is performing on average better than the general economy “Results are encouraging”, reports Dr Stephen Hynes of SEMRU at NUI Galway “they reflect the economic recovery that Ireland has experienced in the last few years. With the recognition of the potential impact of ‘Blue Growth’ on employment and output, at both a national and EU level, there has never been a greater need for reliable statistics on marine sector activity. Also, it is only by examining the ocean-dependent economy separately from the national economy that we will be able to understand the magnitude of what might be affected by future changes in the oceans and along our coasts.” Indirect impact of Ireland’s Ocean Economy SEMRU, in conjunction with the Teagasc Rural Economy Development Programme, have also developed the Bio-Economy Input-Output (IO) Model. The Bio-Economy IO model studies the relationship between Ireland’s Marine based and Agriculture sectors and the rest of the economy and can be used to estimate both the direct and indirect effects on output and employment arising from increases or decreases in the output of individual marine sectors. New data arising from the model shows that in addition to the people directly employed in Ireland’s marine industries, a further 13,000 are employed indirectly across the wider economy providing an additional €3.3bn in turnover to the Irish economy. The results of the model suggest that for every €100 in turnover from Ireland’s Ocean Economy, a further €78 is generated indirectly in other sectors of the economy and for every 100 marine jobs created, a further 75 jobs are created in other parts of the economy. Economic impacts of achieving ‘Harnessing our Ocean Wealth’ Targets The ocean economy report series and associated Input-Output model allows SEMRU to observe and monitor progress on meeting the targets set out in the Government’s Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland - Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth (2012). Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth Strategy outlines a number of specific targets which seek to expand the Irish Marine Sector to a total of €6.4bn in 2020 representing an increase of €3.2bn on 2010. It is estimated that the achievement of these targets will also have additional “knock-on” economic impacts with additional growth of €2.7bn anticipated in the wider economy. Based on the results of running this scenario through the Bio-Economy IO model, it is estimated that 29,300 new jobs could be created if the Ocean Wealth targets are achieved with 16,100 of these coming directly from within the Marine sector itself. An additional 13,200 jobs are estimated to be created indirectly through increases in demand for products and services required by the marine sector. Prof Cathal O Donoghue of Teagasc added that with the collection of marine socio-economic data, “We are finally able to assess the direct and indirect impacts of national strategies such as Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth and Food Wise 2025 and their impact on employment and output in both the wider economy and in upstream and downstream industries. The impact of Ireland’s ocean economy is particularly notable in Ireland’s rural economy, as highlighted in the report of the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA)”. Ireland’s Ocean Economy Report Series is funded as part of the Marine Institute’s Beaufort Marine Research Award. The Marine Institute provided funding over a 7-year period to establish marine socio-economic expertise in Ireland and develop a methodology of valuing Ireland’s well established and emerging ocean industries. The full report is available to download online at www.nuigalway.ie/semru/publications.html and www.ouroceanwealth.ie ENDS
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