Swiss Funding for Research into Back Pain at NUI Galway

Monday, 12 October 2009

Significant new funding from the AO Foundation in Switzerland will allow scientists at NUI Galway to pursue an innovative research strategy to help combat back pain. The strategy is based on mapping highly specific cell surface markers called glycans, to allow better differentiation between diseased and healthy tissue in the spine. By mapping these patterns, it is hoped that medical professionals will be able to distinguish different cell types with a high degree of specificity and target treatment accordingly. The AO Foundation promotes and supports research and development into the regeneration of intervertebral disc damage (IDD) which is the primary cause of lower back pain. Back pain is a predominant cause of disability and is particularly prevalent among 30-50 year olds, though it is more severe among older patients. It has emerged as the most expensive healthcare problem in the US, with reported annual costs of up to $100 billion. Professor Abhay Pandit is Director of the Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials (NFB) at NUI Galway and has been developing biomaterial based therapeutic delivery systems for treatment of IDD for several years. He explains the challenge at hand: "You could think of the discs in the spine as being made up of an outer doughnut shaped ring of hard tissue. In the centre of each disc is a soft jelly-like material called the nucleus pulposus, or at least in healthy discs it is soft. With age and disease, the centre can harden, leaving it almost impossible to differentiate the nucleus pulposus tissue from the outer shell tissue of the disc. This makes degenerated nucleus pulposus tissue difficult to identify and therefore treatment is severely limited". Professor Lokesh Joshi leads the Glycosciences and Glycotechnology Research Group (GGRG) at NUI Galway which focuses on cutting-edge research surrounding complex sugars or glycans. While many studies around the world have investigated changes at a genetic level in the nucleus pulposus tissue, few distinguishing features have emerged. Now researchers from the GGRG and the NFB at NUI Galway will go beyond genetics, to track the glycans in cells of the nucleus pulposus which may provide indicators for healthy or degenerated tissues. Professors Joshi concludes: "This research programme further supports the strategy of innovation and convergence in Irish research and reinforces the financial commitment of the AO Foundation to research carried out at NUI Galway". NFB is a strategic research cluster funded by Science Foundation Ireland. -ends-

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NUI Galway Offers Personal Finance Workshop

Monday, 12 October 2009

Managing personal finances will be the topic of a day-long workshop at NUI Galway on Saturday, 17 October. The workshop is entitled 'Your Money, Lets Sort It' and will provide an insight for participants into gaining control of their personal finances. The workshop is being organised by the University's Adult & Continuing Education Office as part of its Short Course Series. The popular series covers a broad range of topics from Creative Writing to Environmental Science, but this is the first time personal finance has been addressed. According to Nuala McGuinn of NUI Galway's Adult & Continuing Education Office: "Personal finance, especially in these difficult economic times, is a subject that warrants study. The course will cover several areas including, money and wealth, the psychology of money, protecting your income for your dependents and a practical guide to savings and investments". Speaking about the importance of managing finances, Gary Mahood, Financial Advisor and course tutor said: "It is more important than ever that people take control of and understand their personal finances. We have seen a harsh budget for 2009 and have the expectation of more to come. Combine this with falling house prices and stock markets means people need to be savvier about managing their money". For further information on the course, which costs €55 and runs from 9.30am–5pm, contact the Adult & Continuing Education Office on 091 495845 or visit -ends-

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NUI Galway Leaps 125 Places in World University Rankings

Thursday, 8 October 2009

(Leagan Gaeilge) NUI Galway has jumped a significant 125 places, the highest leap among all Irish universities, in the newly published Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings. The ranking now places NUI Galway among the top 250 universities in the world, listed at 243 among 621 institutions. This is the second year in a row that NUI Galway has risen in the rankings, having moved up 116 places in 2008. Dr James J. Browne, President of NUI Galway said of the achievement: "This is excellent news for NUI Galway and a fitting acknowledgement of the exceptional developments in teaching and research that have taken place at this University in recent years. Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings is one of the best regarded evaluations of higher education in the world and it is great to see NUI Galway making its mark on that ranking. This increase to 243rd in the world, is the second consecutive jump for NUI Galway, and represents an increase of almost 250 places in the last two years,. This result, together with the recent award of the 2009 Sunday Times University of the Year, confirms NUI Galway's position as one of Ireland's leading universities, and a growing force on the international stage". President Browne added: "Indeed, the performance of the Irish universities in general in this year's Ranking highlights the excellent research taking place in all of our institutions and underlines the need for continued investment in research if Ireland is to maintain and enhance its position within higher education globally". NUI Galway is also now in the top 300 ranking of universities for Arts and Humanities (272) as well as Life Sciences and Biomedicine (250) in the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings' discipline categories. The Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings have been running since 2004 and are amongst the highest profile global evaluations of comparative university quality. The QS World University Rankings were conceived to present a multi-faceted view of the relative strengths of the world s leading universities. The calculations leading to the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings are based on data gathered in the following categories: Academic Peer Review, Employer Review, International Faculty Ratio, International Student Ratio, Student Faculty Ratio, and Citations per Faculty (citation data supplied by Scopus). Weightings are decided upon by Times Higher Education based on its opinion of the importance of the measured criteria balanced against the effectiveness of the indicator to evaluate the intended measure. Léim 125 Áit Tógtha ag OÉ Gaillimh i Rangú Ollscoileanna an Domhain (View in English) Tá OÉ Gaillimh tar éis léim 125 áit a thabhairt, an léim is mó a rinne aon ollscoil in Éirinn, i Ranguithe Ollscoileanna an Domhain an Times Higher Education-QS. Tá OÉ Gaillimh i measc an 250 ollscoil is fearr ar domhan anois, agus an 243ú háit as 621 institiúid bainte amach aici. Seo an dara bliain as a chéile ar ardaigh rangú OÉ Gaillimh; léim sí 116 áit in 2008. Bhí an méid seo le rá ag an Dr James Browne, Uachtarán, OÉ Gaillimh faoin éacht seo: "Is an-scéal é seo do OÉ Gaillimh agus is aitheantas cuí é ar an bhforbairt eisceachtúil atá déanta ar an teagasc agus ar an taighde san Ollscoil seo le blianta beaga anuas. Tá measúnú Ranguithe Ollscoileanna an Domhain an Times Higher Education-QS ar cheann de na measúnuithe ar chúrsaí airdoideachais is measúla ar domhan agus is iontach an rud é go bhfuil OÉ Gaillimh i lár an aonaigh ann. Leis an léim seo atá tugtha ag OÉ Gaillimh chuig an 243ú háit ar domhan, an dara léim as a chéile, tá an ollscoil tar éis léim beagnach 250 áit a thógáil le dhá bhliain anuas. Léiríonn an toradh seo, mar aon leis an ngradam a bronnadh orainn le gairid mar Ollscoil na Bliana 2009 an Sunday Times, go bhfuil OÉ Gaillimh ar cheann de na hOllscoileanna is fearr in Éirinn agus go bhfuil an tionchar atá aici go hidirnáisiúnta ag fás." Dúirt an tUachtarán an méid seo a leanas chomh maith: "Go deimhin, léiríonn a fheabhas a d'éirigh le hOllscoileanna na hÉireann i gcoitinne i Rangú na bliana seo an taighde den scoth atá ar bun inár n-institiúidí ar fad agus léiríonn sé an gá atá le hinfheistiú leanúnach sa taighde má táthar le seasamh na hÉireann laistigh den ardoideachas go domhanda a choinneáil agus a neartú." Tá OÉ Gaillimh i rangú an 300 ollscoil sna Dána agus sna Daonnachtaí (272) agus sna hEolaíochtaí Saoil agus sa Bhithleigheas (250) anois chomh maith i gcatagóirí disciplíní Ranguithe Ollscoileanna an Domhain an Times Higher Education-QS. Tá Ranguithe Ollscoileanna an Domhain an Times Higher Education-QS ar bun ó 2004 agus tá siad ar na measúnuithe domhanda ar chaighdeán ollscoileanna is mó a mbíonn aird ag an bpobal orthu. Bunaíodh Ranguithe Ollscoileanna an Domhain an QS le léargas ilghnéitheach a thabhairt ar láidreachtaí scothollscoileanna an domhain. Bíonn na torthaí as a dtagann Ranguithe Ollscoileanna an Domhain an Times Higher Education-QS bunaithe ar shonraí a bhailítear sna catagóirí seo a leanas: Athbhreithniú Acadúil ó Phiaraí, Athbhreithniú Fostóra, Cóimheas Dáimhe Idirnáisiúnta, Cóimheas Mac Léinn Idirnáisiúnta, Cóimheas Dáimhe Mac Léinn, agus tagairtí de réir Dáimhe (Scopus a chuireann na sonraí tagairtí ar fáil). Socraíonn an Times Higher Education na hualuithe bunaithe ar an tuairim atá aige faoi thábhacht na gcritéar tomhaiste i gcomparáid le héifeachtacht an táscaire leis an tomhas atá i gceist a mheas. -Críoch-

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One of the World's Leading Mathematicians to Visit NUI Galway

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

NUI Galway's de Brún Centre for Computational Algebra is pleased to announce a forthcoming public lecture by leading mathematician Professor Efim Zelmanov, member of the Advisory Board of the Centre. Professor Zelmanov is recognised as one of the greatest algebraists of modern times. In 1994 he was awarded the Fields Medal, commonly known as the 'Nobel Prize' for mathematicians. His public lecture takes place at 3pm, Wednesday, 14 October, in the NCBES Seminar Room, Orbsen Building, NUI Galway. According to Dr Dane Flannery, of the de Brún Centre for Computational Algebra: "Professor Zelmanov is one of the most profoundly gifted mathematicians working in the world today. There is no Nobel Prize in mathematics, and the Fields Medal is recognised as its equivalent. This honour is awarded only to mathematicians under 40 years of age whose discoveries have revolutionised mathematics. We look forward to benefitting from Professor Zelmanov's insights when he visits NUI Galway". Born and educated in the former Soviet Union, Zelmanov received his doctorate from Novosibirsk State University in 1980 at the age of 25. His doctoral dissertation completely changed the branch of mathematics known as Jordan Algebras. In 2001 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, USA, and was at that time the youngest member in the Academy's Mathematics division. Professor Zelmanov holds the Rita Atkinson Endowed Chair in Mathematics at the University of California, San Diego. He was previously a Professor of Mathematics at Yale University. Professor Zelmanov was awarded the Fields Medal for his solution of the Restricted Burnside Problem. This fundamental and longstanding algebraic conjecture was the focus of intense research activity by many leading mathematicians throughout the 20th century. Professor Seán Tobin of the Department of Mathematics, NUI Galway, solved a special case of the problem in 1954. Dr Flannery added: "NUI Galway is fortunate indeed to have Professor Zelmanov visiting us. We hope that everyone who attends his lecture gains an appreciation of the nature of mathematical discovery and creativity". Further information is available from Dr Dane Flannery on 091 493587. -ends-

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Drive to Fill over 1000 Higher Education Places for Students with Disabilities

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Disability Access Route to Education (DARE), aimed at all school leavers with disabilities, is being launched by the seven universities, Athlone IT, DIT, National College of Ireland and the Mater Dei Institute of Education. This supplementary admissions scheme recognises the impact of disability on educational attainment and on progression to higher education. Approximately 300 students accepted places through DARE in 2009. The eleven participating colleges aim to greatly increase this number in 2010 by offering on average 5% of first year places on a reduced points basis. Significant improvements have been made to the DARE scheme through funding provided by the government's Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF). The Disability Access Route to Education is now based on robust criteria, has a more streamlined application process through the CAO and is more student friendly. The purpose of the national launch is to make students, schools and organisations aware of the scheme and ultimately to encourage a greater number of applications. A dedicated website,, has been developed which contains full details of the scheme and will assist students in making their applications. Due to the impact of their disability students may not be able to meet the leaving certificate points for their preferred college course. HEA figures confirm that in the 07/08 academic year, only 1,389 or 4.2% of all new entrants to higher education indicated that they had one or more disabilities. The DARE initiative will play a key role in driving towards the HEA target of doubling the number of students in 3rd level with sensory, physical and multiple disabilities by 2013. Current participation rates are estimated at 15 -17 % for people with sensory disabilities and 14-16 % for people with physical disabilities. These participation rates are well below the current national entry rates of 55%. According to Maureen Dunne, spokesperson for the DARE scheme.. "Students with disabilities experience constant and complex challenges throughout their educational experience which makes it difficult for them to reach their full education potential. As well as health issues many students have low expectations of their ability to progress to higher education". There has been a huge emphasis in higher education in recent years on providing equality of educational opportunity for students with disabilities through dedicated disability support services. These services focus on supporting the student's transition from 2nd to 3rd level as well as the provision of supports based on individualised needs assessments to enable access and full participation by all students with a disability. These supports address the educational, technological and personal needs of the students and are funded by the HEA and the Department of Education and Science through the Fund for Students with a Disability, backed by the European Social Fund (ESF). According to Vivian Rath, science graduate and former UCD Student's union Vice President and Welfare Officer, "With the help of the Disability Support Service once I began university I started to forget about my disability and focused on my many abilities. The support provided allowed me to participate fully in all the college activities such as debating, wheelchair basketball, student societies and the students union". Support for the scheme: "DARE is an excellent support scheme which helps students with disabilities engage in higher education so that they can realise their full potential. Access should be universal but sometimes it's the little things that can get in the way. DARE assists prospective students in overcoming barriers in accessing education and in doing so helps create a more inclusive society which benefits everybody – able and disabled people alike". Caroline Casey, Social Entrepreneur, Founder of Kanchi and the O2 Ability Awards -ends-

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