Open Day at NUI Galway

Sunday, 17 November 2002

Release date: 18 November 2002 Open Day at NUI Galway NUI, Galway's annual Open Day will take place on Tuesday 3December from 9.00 a.m., to 3.00 p.m. The event is an ideal opportunity for both second-level and mature students to get information on the academic programmes provided by the University. Academic staff from the University's fifty-two departments will be available at the exhibition stands to answer queries and provide detailed subject and course information. On their arrival at NUI, Galway students are requested to come to the assembly point in the Quadrangle, where they will be given directions to introductory lectures and exhibition areas. Guided tours of the campus will be provided throughout the day. These will include visits to the Clinical Science Institute (Medical School and Centre for Nursing Studies), the Martin Ryan Institute, the Arts Millennium Building, Áras na Gaeilge and the Student Accommodation and Sports Facilities. There will also be laboratory demonstrations in the Departments of Physics and Chemistry. You will have the opportunity to visit the Information Technology Lab. and An Teanglann, the University Applied Languages Centre. 'Students may attend the Open Day unaccompanied by teachers and it is not necessary to book in advance', says Ms. Mary Coyle, Schools Liaison Officer and Open Day Co-ordinator. An Information Session for Guidance Counsellors will also take place at 12.30 p.m. Further information on the Open Day may be obtained from Mary Coyle, at Tel. 091 512102 Ends Issued by: Máire Mhic Uidhir, Press Officer, NUI Galway. Tel. 091 750418

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NUI Galway academic honoured for his contribution to the Crystal Industry

Sunday, 17 November 2002

Release date: 18 November, 2002 NUI Galway academic honoured for his contribution to the Crystal Industry Professor Michael J. Hynes of the Department of Chemistry in NUI Galway has been awarded the prestigious John Cope Memorial Award for his distinguished contribution to the Crystal Industry in Ireland and Europe. He has had a long association with Galway Irish Crystal. The award was presented recently at the International Crystal Federation (ICF) Technical Exchange Conference hosted by Waterford Crystal in Waterford. Professor Hynes has carried out a number of research projects relating to the lead crystal industry and has been a member of the International Crystal Federation since its inception. He has lectured all over Europe on aspects of health and safety, risk assessment and EU legislation relevant to the crystal industry. A recent project supported by the EU involved studies of the properties of novel glass compositions. Professor Hynes' main field of academic research involves studies of the kinetics and mechanisms of reactions in solution. Recent work has involved studies of the reactions of metal ions, particularly iron and aluminium, with some of the phenolic components present in green tea. The late John Cope after whom the award is named was the Technical Director of the tableware division of Waterford-Wedgwood and a specialist in ceramics or 'keramics' as he preferred to call it. He liked to describe himself as a 'simple potter' but in fact he was a man of great technical knowledge, ingenuity and imagination who also had considerable expertise in legal matters relevant to the Glass and Ceramics Industries. He was a founding member of the ICF, whose interests he represented at the OECD, the European Commission and the European Union. Ends Information from: Máire Mhic Uidhir, Press Officer, NUI Galway. Tel. 091 750418

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Developments in Biotechnology Challenge Notions about the Quality of Human Life

Monday, 11 November 2002

Release Date: 11 November, 2002 Developments in Biotechnology Challenge Notions about the Quality of Human Life and the Capacity for Moral Choice Advancements in the biotechnology industry have raised a number of moral concerns about the affects of biotechnology on society including the affects of patenting products in this industry. "Developments in biotechnology offer the choice of deciding what kind of society we want in the future and what kind of life quality. Whether or not the law adequately deals with public concerns about biotechnology is an open question," said Dr. Oliver Mills, lecturer in Commercial Law at NUI, Galway. The 1998 Directive on the Legal Protection of Biotechnological Inventions is the main piece of legislation governing patents in Europe. The need to understand the exact nature of a patent is central to addressing concerns about the patenting of biotech products, according to Dr. Mills. "A patent does not confer ownership. It gives the patentee the right to prevent third parties from exploiting the invention without his consent. It does not give the patent holder the right to commercially exploit the product. For the most part, exploitation is controlled by national regulatory authorities," said Dr. Mills. There is a common misconception amongst many consumers that a patented product is superior. But, this is not the case, as a company can still put a non-patented product on the market. "Therefore denying a patent on the basis of moral concerns would not necessarily be a way of ensuring safety," said Dr. Mills. Traditionally, patent law was regarded primarily as an instrument of economic policy. However, in the context of modern biotechnology the extent to which patent rights should be influenced by broader moral concerns means that the rationale underlying patent law may need to be re-evaluated. Many of these concerns centre around genetic engineering and its affect on human dignity. "Who determines how the technology is to be used and who will derive the benefits are some of the key issues that remain unanswered," said Dr Mills. The main commercial applications of biotechnology to date have been in the domain of healthcare, agriculture and the environment. The hope in relation to healthcare is that diseases such as cystic fibrosis and sickle-cell anaemia, which are caused by single gene deficiencies, will be eradicated using biotechnology. Looking ahead, it is hoped that benefits to the environment will be reaped with the increased use of physiologically altered crops, which could add nutrients to soil and water in drought areas to accelerate growth. Genetically Modified (GM) foods is a major reason why biotechnology in the agricultural/food sectors is so controversial. Much attention has been focused in recent times on the use of biotechnology to genetically modify foods and the affect this will have on the environment. The hope is that farmers can produce better quality and higher yields of product with less reliance on pesticides thereby reducing environmental impact. Genetically modified soya beans, maize, corn, cotton and canola are currently available in the marketplace. Seeds of these products produce plants that don't need protection from insecticides. Other developments include crops fortified with vitamins and minerals. The potential of 'vaccine crops,' which contain genetic material from pathogens that operate as vaccines when eaten, is currently being explored. Viral-resistant rice and frost-tolerant fruit are currently being developed but are not available on the market yet. The 2001 Directive on the Deliberate Release of Genetically Modified Organisms by the European Commission introduces new concepts into the authorisation process ensuring that GM foods are safe for consumption before they are released into the public domain. EU countries have 18 months to implement this legislation. If the promise of biotechnology is to be realised, wide public debate that should inform our decisions about the role of Law in regulating the development and application of the technology is necessary. However, according to Dr. Mills, the real question is "whether such control should be exercised in any significant way by means of moral considerations in the patent system. Where moral considerations do apply is in elucidating concerns to determine what is and what is not acceptable to society. Developing the moral objections to biotechnology could clarify public concerns and how these should be dealt with". Patent law is not designed to regulate biotechnology and any attempt to do so by denying patents on the basis of morality is misplaced. Ends For more information please contact: Máire Mhic Uidhir Press & Information Officer, NUI, Galway Tel: 091-750418 / 087-2986592 Notes to the editor Dr Oliver Mills holds a Science Degree and a Law Degree from University College Cork. He also has a Master of Laws Degree from Cambridge University and a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh. He has 10 years' experience in the pharmaceutical industry.

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NEW TECHNIQUES REVEAL MORE HIDDEN TREASURES ON HILL OF TARA

Tuesday, 5 November 2002

Release date: 4 November, 2002 NEW TECHNIQUES REVEAL MORE HIDDEN TREASURES ON HILL OF TARA At least 100 new monuments* have been discovered on the Hill of Tara, thanks to the deployment of non-invasive exploratory techniques. Geophyscial survey* allows archaeologists to record the magnetic properties or electrical resistance of the soil, which is permanently altered by human activity, therefore proving that people once inhabited the area. For example, a bonfire or a burial will permanently enhance the magnetism of the soil around it. Similarly, a buried wall will act as a barrier to the movement of electric current passed through the soil and therefore significantly increases its electrical resistance. Mr Conor Newman and Mr Joe Fenwick of the Department of Archaeology at NUI, Galway and the Discovery Programme, which is funded by the Heritage Council, have been researching Tara since 1992. The earliest monuments at Tara date from around 4000 BC. Close to 30 monuments had been recorded prior to the deployment of geophysical survey, which has greatly aided the research process and facilitated the discovery of approximately 100 additional monuments. In three field seasons since 1999, the team at Galway has increased the geophysical survey area on the Hill of Tara by more than 13 hectares, making this by far the most extensive geophysical survey ever undertaken in Ireland. Plans are in place to survey the rest of the state-owned part of Tara in the next few years. A host of new and interesting features have been revealed in the work so far. One of the most spectacular finds is a huge oval enclosure, equivalent to the size of Croke Park (170m North to South), which is believed to date from around 2500 BC. Referred to as a henge (see illustration), it comprises a 4m wide ditch, possibly up to 3m deep, on either side of which are great 2m wide pits. These pits probably held around 300 wooden poles between them. This oval enclosure encircles Ráith na Senad or Rath of the Synods and takes in the whole of the present day churchyard. It also includes a passage tomb known as the mound of the hostages. Like most of the monuments on Tara this is a temple or sacred compound of some sort. A full report on this monument and others found in the course of the survey has just been published in the 6th volume of the Discovery Programme Reports and is available from the Discovery Programme and the Royal Irish Academy. The Discovery Programme has produced a detailed map of all of the monuments on the Hill of Tara using a combination of the geophysical survey finds and topography. The topography map is in digital format, which means it is fully interactive. It can be interrogated and manipulated in order to reveal features that are otherwise barely visible. These techniques have confirmed that many of the monuments built on the Hill of Tara incorporated older monuments into their fabric. This allowed some of the ritual and historical importance associated with the older monument to be included in the new structure. "Every new monument discovered at Tara adds to our understanding of the development of the complex," said Mr Newman. "For the most part, the monument builders of each generation observed, preserved and accommodated all of the older ones in a way that contributed positively and sensitively to the developing authority of Tara as a place apart," he added. Close to half of the State-owned land on the Hill of Tara has been examined using geophysical survey so far and plans are in place to continue with this research and to survey the rest of the hill. However, much concern has arisen lately about the proposed route of the M3 motorway, which if approved, will pass right along the eastern foot of the Hill of Tara, crossing an area intimately connected with the great royal complex. This area also boasts an impressive concentration of archaeological monuments. "It is a reckless dereliction of our role as guardians of our common cultural heritage to drive a motorway through it," said Mr Newman. "If you disassociate a society from its past, it becomes rootless. Tara is a national treasure and a massive tourist attraction for Co. Meath. It should be managed not simply as a hilltop site but rather as a cultural landscape, just has been the case with places like the Boyne Valley," he added. Ends Information from: Máire Mhic Uidhir, Press Officer, NUI Galway. Tel: 091-750418 Notes to the editor Approximately 95 per cent of the archaeological monuments on Tara are believed to have been used for burial or other ceremonial practices. Monuments vary greatly in size from 4m in diameter to over 300m. Geophysical survey allows underground features to be mapped and analysed and by refining research questions ahead of time can be an important preliminary step to excavation. Excavation cutting can be targeted with precision, making them less of 'shot in the dark'.

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Seeking Robinson Crusoe in NUI Galway

Monday, 4 November 2002

Release date: 4 November, 2002 Seeking Robinson Crusoe in NUI Galway Tim Severin, the well known author and film-maker, will give a public lecture disproving the notion that Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe was based on the life of Alexander Selkirk. The lecture entitled 'Seeking Robinson Crusoe', will take place at 7.30pm on Friday, 8 November in Room AM200, Arts Millennium Building, NUI Galway. Admission is free and all are welcome. The lecture is part of the Royal Irish Academy's 29th National Research Symposium in Modern Language Studies which takes place on 8th and 9th of November 2002 in NUI Galway. It is the most important annual conference in modern languages in Ireland with 75 speakers from New Zealand, USA, Holland, France, Germany, UK and Ireland taking part. Other keynote speakers include Joep Leerssen, University of Amsterdam and Luigi Monga, Vanderbilt University, US. The symposium is sponsored by DEPFA BANK plc and NUI Galway. The theme of the conference is Travel Literature and some of the topics addressed will include: Italian Correspondents and the Spanish Civil War; A Spanish perspective on Irish independence and Civil War; and Wolfe Tone's Secret Mission to France in 1796. Two exhibitions supplementing the overall theme of the conference will be mounted and a special series of film screenings will be shown over the two days. A selection of material from the Special Collections of the James Hardiman Library will be on view in the foyer of the library, as well as a display of publications on travel in the foyer of the Arts Millennium Building. Ends Information from: Máire Mhic Uidhir, Press Officer, NUI Galway. Tel. 091 750418

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