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Exciting proof-of-concept for acoustic dispensing of single cell stem cells
Wednesday, 27 August 2014
The Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at NUI Galway and Irish start-up Poly-Pico Technologies Ltd. have successfully executed a new and exciting scientific proof-of-concept involving the use of sound waves to dispense living stem cells. Using the Poly-Pico micro-drop dispensing device, the researchers were able to isolate individual adult stem cells from a bone marrow sample. The ability to isolate individual stem cells in a quick, scalable and cost-efficient manner is attractive to scientists working in the field, as current methods are often time-consuming and costly. Individual cells can then be replicated into exact copies of themselves for experimental purposes, or various drug compounds could be applied to the individual cells to see what effects occur. Further down the line, there is the tantalising prospect of perhaps being able to use such dispensing devices as a form of tissue engineering. Poly-Pico Technologies Ltd. is an Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start-up (HPSU) company, which spun out from the University of Limerick and is now based in Galway. The company has developed a unique, accurate and highly versatile device, which uses sound energy to accurately dispense a wide range of fluid / materials at very low volumes (picolitre to nanolitre). The novel technology uses disposable cartridges to dispense materials such as proteins, antibodies, DNA and other compounds for biological applications as well as providing industrial solutions for the precise dispensing of adhesives, lubricants; and coatings. Now, for the first time, REMEDI scientists have successfully used the same technology to dispense stem cells, thereby demonstrating a capability of the instrument which will open up further applications in life sciences. In the proof-of-concept experiments, living stem cells were dispensed one at a time onto different surfaces using the sound wave technology. The delicate stem cells remained viable and continued to grow after being dispensed. “This gives us some ideas about new uses for the instrument”, says Frank Barry, Scientific Director of REMEDI at NUI Galway. If we can deliver stem cells accurately and rapidly, we can potentially engineer new tissues in the laboratory based on complex arrays of dispensed cells. If we try to look into the future, it is possible to envisage that human tissues could be manufactured using this kind of technology, thus avoiding the need to identify tissue donors for transplants.” Alan Crean, CEO of Poly-Pico Technologies, commented: “We are delighted to see this new technology opportunity emerge at the interface between biology and engineering. We look forward to working with REMEDI and NUI Galway on developing stem cell applications using our acoustic methods. There are other exciting applications of Poly-Pico’s unique technology in, for example, drug screening and DNA amplification. Our objective here is to make our technology available to companies, and researchers, and add value to what they are doing. This is one example of such a success.” This proof-of-concept was carried out under the Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund. The technology was then advanced using an Innovation Voucher, an Enterprise Ireland initiative developed to build links between Ireland’s public knowledge providers (i.e. higher education institutes, public research bodies) and small businesses. ENDS
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GAA seen as ideal model for engaging youth with society
Thursday, 28 August 2014
The GAA was put forward as a shining example for fostering youth engagement at an international UNESCO symposium in Croke Park today. The symposium was organised by three UNESCO Chairs in the field of youth studies from NUI Galway, University of Ulster, and Penn State University, USA. Professor Mark Brennan, UNESCO Chair in Rural Community, Leadership, and Youth Development at Penn State University, believes other countries can learn from the GAA’s model. According to Professor Brennan: “The Gaelic Athletic Association is a true grassroots organisation. It empowers, involves and invigorates not just individual young people but their families and wider communities. We hear a lot about the ‘fabric’ of society. Organisations such as the GAA are examples of a wonderful type of clever stitching which can make this fabric strong and support young people as they develop. Sport has such potential to strengthen society around the world by engaging young peoples around the world and nations can learn from each other about what works best.” Speaking at the symposium, NUI Galway’s Professor Eamon O’Shea, who is also the Tipperary Hurling Manager, spoke of the importance of sport. “How we contextualize a child’s engagement with sport can impact how they learn about success and failure. Sport is mainly about failure - learning to go back on the pitch and say, ‘look, things will get better’. If at the end we can say we stayed the course, took the knocks, were resilient, it doesn’t matter how we end up. The journey is the critical piece in how children develop in sport.” Delegates heard that involvement in sport is key for positive youth development. Apart from obvious physical health gains through fitness, it also has a positive effect on mental health and enables both dealing with stress and coping. Sport enables young people to learn and deal with success and disappointment, which is a useful preparation for later life. Of particular importance, delegates heard, was the mentoring aspect of sport and also the potential for developing emotional intelligence. Other speakers at the event included Professor Pat Dolan, UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement, NUI Galway and Professor Alan Smith, UNESCO Chair in Pluralism, Human Rights and Democracy, University of Ulster. Some of the representatives from sport included Alan Kerins, former GAA Intercounty hurler and footballer, and founder of Alan Kerins Projects, and Hugo MacNeill, Irish rugby star and Managing Director Goldman Sachs. Attendees heard that youth citizenship, sponsored through sport and recreation has the power to bring communities together and create a prosperous and peaceful environment for all. A declaration was put forward, which contained a ‘call for all youth worldwide to receive the attention needed for them to be empowered to take ownership for their lives and development of their societies’. The declaration will be signed on Saturday, at half time during the American football clash between Penn State and University of Central Florida. -ends-
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Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore Opens Symposium on The Role of Women’s Leadership in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Tuesday, 1 July 2014
UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and Former President Mary Robinson is among the keynote speakers at NUI Galway Symposium An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore TD today opens an international symposium on Women's Leadership, Peace and Sustainable Livelihoods in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Region at NUI Galway, organised in partnership with Georgetown Women’s Institute, Washington DC. The symposium will mark the first year of former President Mary Robinson’s role as UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region and will hear from global experts on the conflict. Two decades of conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have resulted in the loss of up to five million lives. Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women and children, have been subjected to sexual and gender based violence. Emerging from the conflict presents massive and complex challenges for the region. In February 2013 a new Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework for the DRC and Region was agreed by the Congo and its neighbouring countries. Former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, was appointed UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region in March 2013, with a wide-ranging mandate to support and encourage signatories to implement the PSC Framework. Speaking about the NUI Galway Symposium, the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said: “Ireland has always supported the most vulnerable populations during conflicts; in particular women and children. This unique event will shine a light on the appalling suffering and turmoil in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and surrounding region. Women and children have borne the brunt of this terrible conflict, and as such, it is fitting that this international gathering will examine the vital role of women as leaders in managing the transition towards a brighter future for the coming generations.” At the end of the first year of the mandate of the UN Special Envoy, the two-day symposium at NUI Galway focuses on women’s leadership and participation in the implementation of the Framework for peace in the DRC region. Speaking at the symposium, UN Special Envoy, Mary Robinson commented: It is much harder in practice rather than in theory to engage women fully in peace making and peace building, yet their role is essential for sustainable peace. We need to be determined, creative and imaginative to ensure the full involvement and empowerment of women in conflict resolution.” The role of women in leading the peace process in the DRC region has emerged as a prominent theme of Mary Robinson’s first year as UN Special Envoy. As symposium organiser, Dr Niamh Reilly of NUI Galway explains: “This unique event in Ireland shines a light on the root causes of the appalling suffering and turmoil in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and surrounding region. Women and children have borne the brunt of this terrible conflict, and as such, it is fitting that this international gathering will examine the vital role of women as leaders in managing the transition towards sustainable peace for the coming generations.” The two-day symposium reflects the growing partnership between NUI Galway and the Mary Robinson Centre in Ballina. Speaking at the event, President of NUI Galway, Dr Jim Browne, said: “This important symposium represents the first major academic showcase of the NUI Galway-Mary Robinson Centre partnership. We are delighted to host this timely review of the tremendous work Mary Robinson has done as UN Special Envoy for the DRC region, and look forward to developing an extensive academic programme with the Centre.” Keynote speakers at the Women’s Leadership symposium include: MARY ROBINSON, UN Special Envoy of the Secretary General to the Great Lakes Region and former President of Ireland MELANNE VERVEER, Director, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and first United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues ROSE MUTOMBO KIESE, President, Cadre Permanent de Concertation de la Femme Congolaise (National Network of Congolese Women’s Organisations) BINETA DIOP, African Union Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security and founder and Chair of the Executive Board of Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS). A new research report, “Women’s Leadership and Participation in the Peace Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes Region: Achievements, Challenges, and Opportunities", will be launched at the symposium. This joint NUI Galway-Georgetown University report, by Niamh Reilly at NUI Galway and Roslyn Warren at Georgetown University, documents Mary Robinson’s work on the ongoing implementation of Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework for the DRC and Region and makes recommendations for the year ahead. -ends-
Irish Higher Education Institutes Partnership Leading a National Education Revolution
Tuesday, 1 July 2014
Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn T.D. acknowledged the role of NUI Galway in revolutionising education in Ireland at the ACE (Accelerating Campus Entrepreneurship) Conference at Farmleigh House in Dublin yesterday. Over the last six years, NUI Galway has worked with seven other Irish Higher Education Institutes as part of the ACE Consortium, to introduce enterprise and entrepreneurship education in non-business courses. “We all know that business students learn valuable financial and management skills. But it is also vital that those studying other disciplines such as engineering, creative industries and healthcare learn essential business skills. By learning to think in an entrepreneurial way, graduates are better prepared for the world of employment or self-employment” explained Michael Campion of NUI Galway’s Discipline of Management. At the ACE Conference the CEEN (Campus Entrepreneurship Enterprise Network) was established. This will provide a network for educators to share resources and support the introduction of enterprise education in non-business disciplines across their campus. In addition to driving the entrepreneurship agenda in third level education, the CEEN will work with primary and secondary educators to integrate entrepreneurship and enterprise education into Irish education. “Irish education must be innovative. It needs to adapt to meet the changing needs of graduates. It is not enough to teach technical skills. Entrepreneurship is a mind-set. It is a suite of skills. It is an ability to assess problems and find solutions. By teaching entrepreneurship, we give our children the toolkit they need to design their own future. This is the era of the ‘Entrepreneurial Graduate’ in Irish Education and NUI Galway is proud to lead this way in this major educational change” concluded Mr Campion. -Ends-
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NUI Galway Students Receive Merit Award at Enterprise Ireland Student Entrepreneur Awards
Tuesday, 1 July 2014
Two final year BSc (Business Information Systems) students at NUI Galway were awarded a Merit Award at the recent Enterprise Ireland Student Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. Lorcan Farrell and Domhnall Walsh, both from Galway City, received the award for their project ‘Ice Eyes’. ‘Ice Eyes’ the is an innovative solar powered cat’s eye road marker that is equipped with the technology to identify the temperature of the road and signal to drivers via a blue LED light when the temperature of that road has fallen below freezing. The aim of the project was to reduce the amount of accidents on Irish roads and all over the world during the cold seasons. Mary Dempsey, College of Engineering and Informatics, NUI Galway said: “This success reflects how our students expand existing technology boundaries and it demonstrates the richness of their innovative capacity. I am very proud of our students and their achievement of a merit award.” This year celebrates the 32nd year of the Enterprise Ireland Student Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. The Awards are part of a major drive aimed at tapping into the potential for students and young people to turn their entrepreneurial ideas into commercial businesses. This is Ireland’s largest and longest established third-level student enterprise competition. The awards are co-sponsored by Invest Northern Ireland, Cruickshank Intellectual Property Attorneys, Intel and Grant Thornton and are open to all third level colleges across the Island of Ireland. The awards were presented by Tom Hayes, Head of Micro Enterprises and Small Business at Enterprise Ireland and Dougie Howlett, from Munster Rugby. Each team received a tablet from Intel and Intellectual Property Consultancy from Cruickshank. -Ends-
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International Experts to Gather to Discuss Chemistry of Sugars
Tuesday, 1 July 2014
Numerous scientists around the world are working to better understand the complex sugars, or glycans, which coat every living cell in our bodies. Glycans are involved in the interactions between cells and physiological processes, such as fertilisation, cancer, and stem-cell differentiation. Some of the leading experts in this field will convene at NUI Galway from August 6-9, 2014. The goal of the 5th Warren Workshop will be to highlight the capabilities and limitations that exist in the detection, identification, and quantification of these carbohydrates. Professor Rob Woods, School of Chemistry, NUI Galway, explains the complexities involved in understanding the chemistry involved in glycosience: “Glycans are very complex and each one is unique. It’s almost like our cells are covered in snowflakes, each having its own unique fluctuating shape. So how do proteins or anitbodies identify and bind to glycans? If we could better understand this, we could use this this knowledge to develop carbohydrate-specific biosensors for use in disease diagnosis and treatment”. The driving force for the Warren Workshop series is the need for detailed structural analysis of glycans in the context of complex biological systems. The workshop will bring together experts from around the globe in the discipline to establish workflows for tackling these huge challenges. Speakers will be coming from Ireland, the US, Switzerland, England, Japan, Australia, Sweden, Taiwan, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, and Israel. Professor Pauline Rudd, National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBERT) notes that NUI Galway, DCU, UCD, TCD and NIBRT all have strong programmes in applied glycoscience, especially in technology development, analytics, molecular modelling, carbohydrate recognition, oligosaccharide synthesis and glycan pathway modelling. In addition, bioinformatics programmes have been pioneered by Irish scientists. This meeting focuses on many of these topics, and particularly on new technologies of direct relevance to Pharmaceutical companies. In light of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry being awarded for Computational Simulations, the 5th Warren Workshop will also include a session on computational glycoscience. Professor Woods’ research group at NUI Galway is supported by Science Foundation Ireland and closely integrates strong computational and experimental skill sets: “Because of the mind-blowing complexities involved, we need the most advanced computational simulations to help us better understand how glycans are interacting and communicating within our bodies”. The team in Professor Wood’s lab is investigating antiviral agents to block viral infections and applying their findings to influenza; chosen because of the potential for a pandemic. The group is also working on the development of diagnostics for cancer markers with a focus on pancreatic cancer, one of the more virulent forms of cancer with a mortality rate of over 90%. Early detection of all cancers, preferably by non-invasive surveillance, is needed for all cancers, but particularly for the most aggressive forms. For further information on the 5th Warren Workshop visit http://glycomics.ccrc.uga.edu/warren-workshop/ -ends-
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Secure Bicycle Compound at NUI Galway
Tuesday, 1 July 2014
The new secure bicycle compound at NUI Galway was officially launched on the 18th June. Coinciding with this year’s National Bike Week the compound is open to staff and students who want to cycle to work and leave their bike in a secure location. A University ID card is all that is required to access the facility. With space for more than 320 bikes there are separate entrances and exits for cyclists use only with a permanent pumping station due for installation in the coming weeks. The high security compound is one of a number of facilities aimed at encouraging staff and students to cycle to campus. Bicycle lockers are currently on trial and additional bike racks are being installed at a variety of locations around the campus.
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University Institute Announces Major Collaboration Project with Leading Global Science Publisher
Wednesday, 2 July 2014
Elsevier Publishers, one of world’s leading scientific publishers, have announced an ambitious collaboration with the Insight Centre for Data Analytics. The centre established by Science Foundation Ireland is a joint initiative between researchers at NUI Galway, Dublin City University, University College Cork, University College Dublin and other partner institutions. The collaboration with Elsevier will focus on developing new scientometric techniques - that is, techniques for measuring the progress and impact of scientific and scholarly work. A team at Insight NUI Galway will work on the development of a novel platform for incorporating various sources of scientometric information, both traditional (e.g. bibliometric) and new (e.g. social media) in order to capture a holistic view of scientific practice and discourse. “While the use of citation data for measuring scientific impact is well established”, explains Professor Siegfriend Handshuh of Insight, “it is far less clear how science propagates its influence through other channels, such as news publications, social media, government policy documents and so on.” Elsevier are at the forefront of the development of several scientometric tools such as PURE, a platform to measure an organisation's research and collaboration strategies and accomplishments. It is envisaged that the collaboration with Insight will lead to the development of novel scientometric services to complement and extend existing products such as PURE. “Elsevier is delighted to be working with the new Insight Centre on this project” said Nick Fowler, Elsevier’s Managing Director of Academic and Government Institutional Markets, who is responsible for PURE and other products. “Working with an academic research partner lets us take on projects with a higher risk and reward than we normally could. That higher risk/reward approach is also enabled by the generous matching grant from the Irish government, otherwise we would not be able to dedicate four Ph.D. researchers for three years to such a project.” “This is a very important collaboration for Insight”, according to Professor Handschuh, “as researchers, we have an interest in improving the way scientific information is communicated, used and measured. Partnering with Elsevier has given us an insight into real problems, real data and challenges we would not have foreseen.” -Ends-
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NFB Researcher awarded Royal Academy of Medicine Ireland Donegan Medal
Wednesday, 2 July 2014
Catalina Vallejo Giraldo, a PhD student at the Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials (NFB) at NUI Galway, has been awarded the Royal Academy of Medicine Ireland (RAMI) Donegan Medal. She received the award for her presentation at the Section of Biomedical Sciences annual meeting held in UCD on Thursday, 19 June. The meeting featured a high calibre scientific programme covering novel biomedical research ongoing in Ireland. The competition is open to students presenting research for the first time at a meeting or conference and the Donegan Medal is awarded to the best oral presenter. This year, 16 entrants entered the competition. Catalina won the competition for her research on improving the design of implanted microelectrodes used for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders. At present, implantable, electrically stimulating systems consisting of a number of electrodes that transmit signals via electrical conduction in bodily fluids are being investigated to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s. While implanted electrodes work reasonably well for short term applications, they have had limited success over longer implantation times. With current methods the inflammatory response around the electrode interface increases to such an extent that there is neural loss and instability of the electrodes at the implantation site. It is this problem that Catalina’s research addresses by improving long-term function through use of conducting polymers to coat the implanted electrodes. Under the supervision of Professor Abhay Pandit, Dr Manus Biggs and Dr Eilís Dowd, she is developing polymeric neural probes for deep brain stimulation to treat Parkinson’s disease. Current therapies for Parkinson’s only provide relief from the symptoms of the disease and do not offer a cure. Catalina’s research, funded by Science Foundation Ireland, offers the possibility of halting the degenerative process with potential to cure the disease. Originally from Colombia, Catalina got her BSc with honours in Biomedical Engineering at Escuela de Ingeniería de Antioquia. After this, she was awarded her MSc in Biomedical Sciences from the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, USA. She is starting her second year as a PhD student at NUI Galway. -Ends-
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NUI Galway is Top Irish University for World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds
Wednesday, 2 July 2014
Three outstanding researchers at NUI Galway have been ranked among the ‘World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds: 2014’. Professor Henry Curran, Professor Colin O’Dowd and Professor Donal O’Regan have been ranked among the world’s top 3,000 scientific minds by the multinational media body Thompson Reuters. Those named on the list have earned their distinction by publishing the highest number of articles that rank among those most frequently cited by fellow researchers. More individuals were listed from NUI Galway than from any other Irish university. According to NUI Galway’s President, Dr Jim Browne: “The report describes those listed as being ‘on the cutting edge of their fields’ and ‘among the most influential scientific minds of our time’. This is certainly true of the NUI Galway individuals who excel and out-perform in their fields of chemistry, climate change and mathematics.” Professor Henry Curranis Director of the Combustion Chemistry Centre at NUI Galway. His research interest lies in the study of the chemistry of how fuels burn in combustors in order to increase efficiency and reduce emissions for a cleaner world. Professor Colin O’Dowd is the Director of the Centre for Climate and Air Pollution Studies, at the Ryan Institute, NUI Galway. Through his pioneering work in the field of atmospheric physics, has become internationally renowned as one of the leading scientists in the field of climate change. Professor Donal O’Regan is a Personal Professor of Mathematics at NUI Galway and an internationally recognised expert in the field of Nonlinear Analysis, Differential Equations, and Fixed Point Theory. He has written over 1,000 peer-reviewed mathematical articles, making him one of the most prolific authors in the history of mathematics in the world. Thomson Reuters analysts assessed papers indexed between 2002 and 2012 in 21 broad fields of study. They tracked authors who published numerous articles that ranked among the top one percent of the most cited in their respective fields in the given year of publication. These documents represent research that the scientific community has judged to be the most significant and useful. -ends-
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