NUI Galway Exhibition Focuses on Art of Exploration

NUI Galway Exhibition Focuses on Art of Exploration-image

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

As part of Medical Device Week, which will run from 3-6 June, NUI Galway will host Chimera, Art of Exploration exhibition. Chimera, Art of Exploration is a curated group exhibition in which artists works exploring notions of biosciences are exhibited alongside industrial medical devices, and will bring professional artists, student artists, the medical device industry, biomedical science and engineering researchers together. Chimera, Art of Exploration will open on Tuesday, 3 June at 5pm and will run daily from 12pm to 4pm in the Biosciences Building on campus. Siobhan McGibbon is an Irish artist based in Roscommon, she graduated from sculpture in Galway Mayo Institute Technology in Galway in 2009 and was awarded sculpture student of the year. In 2014 she was awarded a scholarship from the Limerick City of Culture to undertake a research led practice based masters in LCAD, Limerick, entitled ‘The modern prometheus, otherness and the body’. Her practice is predominantly sculpture based with a distinct medical slant. In 2014 McGibbon will embark on a self-directed residency in the University Collage Hospital Galway within the histology, radiology, pathology and oncology laboratory’s.  McGibbon has been awarded a fellowship to study in the Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians, Philadelphia which will take place in the Autumn of 2014. Marie Connole is an Irish visual artist and teacher based in Co. Clare. Her studio practice combines drawing, painting, installation and animation.  She works through highly personal thematic content involving the subconscious, the body and the domestic environment.  In 2005 she was awarded a two-year bursary from the Clare Arts Office to undertake a research based Masters in Fine Art from NUI Galway and Burren College of Art.  Connole is a tutor with Limerick and Clare Education Training Board and an art teacher at second-level. Her work is supported by Clare Arts Office. Paul Maye graduated with a BA Fine Art - Paint & Printmaking in 1996. In 2002, he was awarded an Arts Council for a residency at Arthouse, Dublin. He was selected to participate in the Florence Biennial in 2003 and again in 2005. More recently he was commissioned by Absolut Vodka for the 2011 Galway Arts Festival. The exhibition will present works by students of the Centre for Creative Arts and Media, Galway Mayo Institute of Technology, who are participating in a short research project to create works in response to what they have seen and experienced in the NFB research laboratories. The exhibition also includes medical devices, by companies such as Boston Scientific, Vornia, Aerogen, and Osteoanchor, and some other material designed to educate the public on medical device research.  Local artist Cecilia Danell and Professor Rhodri Cedrig from the National Centre for Bioengineering Science will choose the winners of the ‘Biosciences Art Competition.’ The competition includes art works by research scientists and engineers within the Biosciences building and the winners will be announced at the wine reception on Tuesday evening. -Ends-

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Study on Bullying of Nurses and Midwives in the Workplace

Study on Bullying of Nurses and Midwives in the Workplace-image

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has teamed up with NUI Galway and the National College of Ireland to undertake a study on bullying of nurses and midwives in the workplace which will be launched in INMO HQ in Dublin at 11am tomorrow, Thursday, 29 May. The INMO conducted a survey of its members in 1993 which sought to review the extent to which bullying in the workplace was affecting their working life. This led to an INMO policy on bullying and eventually the HSE policy on bullying and harassment being negotiated. Within the Irish Public health care system, bullying in the workplace should be addressed through the HSE’s ‘Dignity at Work Policy’ which came into operation on 1 May 2004. Yet academic and practitioner evidence suggests that nurses and midwives working in Ireland continue to frequently experience workplace bullying. This is reported as having very negative consequences for nurses and midwives’ personal health and personal and family relationships. It also adds to already high levels of stress experienced by members working within the Irish health care system.  At the INMO’s recent Annual Conference in Kilkenny there was a motion put forward to repeat this study and the Organisation has partnered with NUI Galway and the National College of Ireland to conduct a survey on current levels of workplace bullying experienced by its members. Critically, the survey is seeking nurses/midwives’ input on how bullying can be reduced and what support is needed if they experience or witness bullying in their workplaces.  The survey will be available on the INMO’s website until 1 July 2014. Input from nurses and midwives is critical to the success of this study which is completely anonymous. The study is headed by Professor Maura Sheehan at NUI Galway who has published widely on issues of workplace discrimination and injustice. Commenting on the survey, Maura said: “The focus groups that my study colleague, Dr TJ McCabe at the National College of Ireland, has held with nurses and midwives in Ireland about their experiences with bullying were shocking and very disturbing. As researchers, it became clear that we need to conduct a survey of nurses and midwives to establish the extent of this problem and most importantly, to formulate recommendations on how bullying at work can be reduced and the types of support that victims and witnesses need. In order to give our findings credibility, we need a large response rate from all nurses and midwives working in Ireland and specifically INMO members as the largest trade union representing nurses and midwives.” INMO Director of Industrial Relations, Phil Ní Sheaghdha said: “It is unfortunate that INMO members are still reporting high levels of allegations of bullying in the workplace. Representation of members alleged against, and making allegations, is a big part of the workload of our industrial relations staff. We do need to examine the current situation. We are delighted to have this opportunity to work with the researchers led by Professor Maura Sheehan, to roll out this survey.” The survey will take about ten minutes to complete online at and the evaluation and results of the survey will be available to the INMO in October 2014. -Ends-

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NUI Galway launches Bug Run School Days: an ‘Antibiotic Awareness’ iPad App

NUI Galway launches Bug Run School Days: an ‘Antibiotic Awareness’ iPad App-image

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Bug Run is a fun and interactive iPad app to educate children and adults on the issue of Antibiotic Resistance The Discipline of General Practice at NUI Galway have launched Bug Run, a free iPad app that combines a game and an educational video to educate children and adults on the issue of antibiotic resistance. Funded by the Health Research Board (HRB), the app has two parts; a game and an educational video. The game teaches children (4 – 10 years) about the importance of staying healthy and that taking antibiotics comes at a price. The accompanying short video developed for adults highlights the issue of antibiotic resistance and provides suggestions on how to discuss this with their General Practitioner. Bug Run recently received the 2014 Crystal Clear MSD Health Literacy Award, which recognises and rewards excellence in health literacy in the healthcare sector. Bug Run received the award in the category ‘Best Project in General Practice’ for improving a patient’s understanding and help them take more responsibility in managing their health. Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to patients’ safety in Europe because it can result in treatment failure of serious infections. To address the issue of antibiotic resistance it is important that antibiotics are used in the right way to secure their use in the future. In the Bug Run game ‘Bob’, the character, runs through a school as fast as possible while avoiding bugs and staying healthy by picking up fruit and water. If he picks up too many bugs, he may need an antibiotic, but this comes at a price as Bob slows down. The key messages are that fruit and water will keep you healthy but if you do get a serious infection that can be treated with an antibiotic, taking an antibiotic can have side effects. The video ‘Antibiotic Awareness’ is an educational animation for adults to learn about antibiotics and their side effects. In addition, the video encourages patients to talk to their GP about antibiotic and antibiotic resistance and discuss with their GP if they really need an antibiotic. Speaking about Bug Run, Dr Akke Vellinga, NUI Galway, said: “The opportunity provided by the HRB to translate the complex message of antibiotic resistance in a fun way was a great challenge taken up by our team. We hope this app will encourage a conversation about antibiotics between GP and patients.” Bug Run School days has been piloted in 20 General Practices in Galway and Roscommon since last November as part of a larger research project the SIMPle study ( The SIMPle project is a collaborative project in which General Practice, Epidemiology, Marketing, Microbiology and Health Economics work together with GPs to improve their prescribing. The iPads with BugRun were installed in participating GP practices to support communication between GP and patient about the role of antibiotics. Bug Run is free and can be downloaded from the App store to any iPad. Bug Run is for use in General Practices, schools, home and other learning environments The research and concept of ‘Bug Run School Days’ iPad app were led by Dr Akke Vellinga from the Discipline of General Practice, School of Medicine at NUI Galway, along with Professor Andrew Murphy and Post Doctorate Fellows, Sinead Duane, Sandra Galvin and Aoife Callan. The funding for the Bug Run School Days project was obtained from a new initiative of the Health Research Board which promotes new approaches to knowledge exchange and education. About the study The development of Bug Run is part of a bigger research project, the SIMPle study: Supporting the Improvement and Management of Prescribing for urinary tract infection. In this study, Dr Vellinga and her team have integrated prescribing guidelines with the generic software package a GP uses on a daily basis when diagnosing patients and prescribing medicines. General Practices involved in the SIMPle study, receive feedback on how they are prescribing, antibiotic resistance patterns, how their own practice is performing compared to practices, and they can also track the results and changes in prescribing patterns. The success of the SIMPle study is evaluated over the next months with a view to making all the materials available to all General Practices’ nationwide. The research, development and implementation of the Apps and software projects were funded by the Health Research Board (HRB). -Ends-

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NUI Galway Lecturer Finalist of the inaugural Research2Business Award 2014

NUI Galway Lecturer Finalist of the inaugural Research2Business Award 2014-image

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Dr John Breslin, Lecturer in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at NUI Galway, was a nominee for the inaugural Knowledge Transfer Ireland Research2Business Award. The inaugural Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI) Research2Business award recognises excellence in engagement between researchers and the business community. The winner of the award was Dr Mark Southern of UL and it was presented by Sean Sherlock T.D. Minister for Research & Innovation at the launch of the office of Knowledge Transfer Ireland and its web-portal, the first resource of its kind in Europe which took place in Dublin yesterday (28 May 2014). The Research2Business award recognises the researcher whose interactions have delivered exceptional impact for businesses and for their host institution. Dr John Breslin has had many interactions with local and international businesses, through research outputs that have been deployed in commercial and open-source systems, companies he has co-founded, businesses that he advises, and start-up community activities that he coordinates. Here are some of these activities and impacts: John is the creator of the SIOC semantic Web framework that has achieved widespread adoption on over 25,000 websites and in hundreds of software systems by companies including Yahoo!, Boeing and Vodafone. A prolific business advisor, he sits on the board of many start-up companies, such as CrowdGather, Trugence, Pocket Anatomy, CloudDock, AYLIEN and BuilderEngine. An internet entrepreneur in his own right, John is co-founder of, and StreamGlider. John has also made a significant contribution to developing the entrepreneurial eco-system in Ireland through the setting up, in cooperation with local CEOs, Startup Galway, and through the establishment of the Entrepreneurship Society at NUI Galway. John is also the founder of Technology Voice, through which he provides technical know-how and start-up advice to budding founders through the monthly podcast/radio show he hosts. Dr Jacinta Thornton, Associate Director of Ignite Technology Transfer Office said “The award recognises business engagement that has resulted in exceptional and sustained interactions with the business community. John’s engagement and resultant impacts with the business community has been outstanding and we at Ignite TTO are delighted that he has been recognised as a finalist in this Inaugural Research2Business Award. We wish him continued success in his academic and business accomplishments”. Knowledge Transfer Ireland (KTI) is the State-funded central technology transfer office, located in Enterprise Ireland and operated collaboratively by Enterprise Ireland and the Irish Universities Association. The nominees for the award included: · Dr John Breslin, NUI Galway · Professor Willie Donnelly, Waterford Institute of Technology · Professor Luke O’Neill, Trinity College Dublin · Dr Mark Southern, University of Limerick ENDS

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April 2014

NUI Galway Appoints Dr Kieran Conboy as Dean of the College of Business, Public Policy And Law

NUI Galway Appoints Dr Kieran Conboy as Dean of the College of Business, Public Policy And Law -image

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

NUI Galway has appointed Dr Kieran Conboy as Dean of the College of Business, Public Policy and Law. Dr Conboy is an internationally acknowledged expert in information systems innovation. Prior to his appointment Dr Conboy served as Head of the School of Business and Economics, Vice-Dean of Research for the School of Business and Economics and as Senior Lecturer in Business Information Systems at NUI Galway. Dr Conboy also held an Associate Professorship of Information Systems at the University of New South Wales, Australia.  As an educator, Dr Conboy has designed and delivered courses including agile and lean project management, portfolio management, contemporary innovation models and paradigms. Together with leading international colleagues, he has developed a global standard for information systems curriculum design and content. In 2012, Dr Conboy established the Enterprise Agility research cluster at the Whitaker Institute. As cluster leader, he leads on a number of national and international projects funded by SFI (Science Foundation Ireland), Enterprise Ireland and the Irish Research Council. Prestigious research achievements include an SFI award to assess agile and open project management and software engineering - the first such award made by SFI to a Business School in Ireland. The cluster has built extensive industry collaboration and funding from organisations including Dell, Atlassian, Information Mosaic, and HP, as well as numerous SMEs nationally and internationally. Recently, Dr Conboy was awarded an Irish Research Council Award to identify ways in which national agencies can optimise the inputs, processes, outputs and outcomes of crowdsourcing efforts and maximise participation of individuals and firms including gender and ethnicity, industry sector and location diversity.  Commenting on his appointment, Dr Conboy stated that, “The College of Business, Public Policy and Law has developed innovative programs and approaches to delivering education across diverse and contemporary themes. We are exploring creative ways to better prepare students for employment and continually seek to advance the College through scholarship, industry and community engagement. The success of the College is recognized by prestigious awards such as AMBA and EPAS accreditation, and postgraduate programme awards. A key focus during my tenure as Dean will be to create a College with a unique identity which provides Global perspectives and expertise on key issues in law, business and economics.”  NUI Galway is an integral part of the regional, national and international education and research landscape. The College of Business, Public Policy and Law is rich in academic value and research impact and a strong contributor to the international profile of NUI Galway. As Dean, Dr Conboy will seek to leverage the success of the College in terms of its future research focus. Dr Conboy continued, “As Dean I will pursue an ambitious research and innovation agenda with a focus on excellence and impact. I will work with colleagues across the University to create a strategy that builds on our strengths and nurtures new and emerging areas of research. A key emphasis will be placed on collaboration across the University and the broader research community, particularly as we look towards EU Horizon 2020. From a policy and practice perspective I feel this is where we are as a College and can add real value in terms of the excellent research being undertaken across the College in rich and diverse areas such as Disability, Law, International Management, Public Policy, Economics, Innovation, Human Resource Management and Human Rights amongst others.” A native of Mayo and graduate of NUI Galway and the University of Limerick, Dr Conboy is a leading author in agile and lean processes in software organisations. He has authored more than 100 articles and reports, including publications in Information Systems Research, Information Systems Journal, the Journal of the AIS and IEEE Software. He is an editor of the European Journal of Information Systems and has chaired a number of international conferences in his field, most recently the Lean Enterprise Software and Systems Conference (LESS2013) in Galway. The breadth of his expertise and international reputation is recognized through his advisory roles on agile and innovation management practice across many organisations and on funding agency policy and practice in Ireland, the EU, Australia and the U.S. Dr Conboy is also a Fulbright scholar, who in 2009 visited Carnegie Mellon University advising on the business value of IT systems to the Software Engineering Institute. Dr Kieran Conboy succeeds Professor Ciaran O’Neill, of the College of Business, Public Policy and Law, who is to concentrate on his research having recently been named as one of the six national Health Research Board Leaders in Ireland. -Ends-

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NUI Galway’s Whitaker Institute to Host InterTradeIreland Innovation Lecture and Master Classes with Professor Wim Vanha

NUI Galway’s Whitaker Institute to Host InterTradeIreland Innovation Lecture and Master Classes with Professor Wim Vanha-image

Monday, 28 April 2014

Open Innovation fails because companies are not prepared to open up, says Wim Vanhaverbeke, Professor of Strategy and Innovation, University of Hasselt, Belgium The Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway and InterTradeIreland will host an Innovation Lecture and three Master Classes, delivered by Wim Vanhaverbeke, Professor of Strategy and Innovation, University of Hasselt, Belgium, on Thursday 8 and Friday 9 May at NUI Galway. The events are free to attend and open to all. They will be of particular interest to established organisations and businesses, start-ups, government bodies, academics, policy makers and anyone who is interested in stimulating the local economy. The public lecture on Thursday, 8 May at 6pm, will explain how firms that can harness outside ideas to advance their own businesses, while leveraging their internal ideas outside their current operations, are likely to thrive in this new era of open innovation. Professor Vanhaverbeke’s lecture will focus on the most common management problems when companies start open innovation. Numerous companies have started to experiment with ‘Open Innovation’ but for many of them the switch from closed to open innovation has proven to be more difficult than expected. The key to success is creating an open platform around your innovations so your customers, your employees and even your competitors can build upon them. Only then will you create an ongoing, evolving community of users, doers and creators. Professor Vanhaverbeke will also deliver the following three Innovation Master Classes in Room CA110, Cairnes Building, NUI Galway. From Open Innovation to Innovation Ecosystems – Thursday, 8 May from 10am to 12pm. This Master Class will look at how can we expand open innovation to companies that are not directly involved in technological innovation themselves, and how can we connect open innovation to innovation ecosystems? Innovation in High-Tech and Low-Tech SMEs – Thursday, 8 May from 2pm to 4pm. This Master Class will look at how can we extend open innovation to SMEs and, if so, how? Recent research shows that we can’t use the same open innovation management approach which was originally developed for large, technology using companies. SMEs (especially in low-tech settings) need a different management approach to open innovation. Crafting Innovation Deals between Large and Small Companies – Friday, 8 May from 8.30am to 10.30am. This Master Class will look at the ‘Sanus case’. This is a negotiation exercise where participants learn how to develop a Letter of Intent when a small firm has a patented technology and a large company has the potential to develop and commercialize the technology. The InterTradeIreland All-Island Innovation Programme aims to promote and encourage innovation across the island of Ireland. It brings international expertise in innovation to NUI Galway, Queen’s University Belfast, University College Cork and University College Dublin. Best international practice is shared with business leaders, students, academics, knowledge transfer professionals and policy makers in each region through innovation lectures, seminars and master classes. This Programme is organised by InterTradeIreland, NUI Galway, Queen’s University Belfast, University College Dublin and University College Cork. For further information or to register for any of the FREE innovation events, please visit or 091 492817. For further details on the Programme please visit  

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NUI Galway’s 6th International Disability Law Summer School, the Biggest Worldwide, Opens for Registration

NUI Galway’s 6th International Disability Law Summer School, the Biggest Worldwide, Opens for Registration -image

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Titled ‘Access to Justice and Political Participation’ the Summer School will run from the 16th to the 20th of June 2014   The 6th International Disability Law Summer School, hosted by NUI Galway’s Centre for Disability Law and Policy, will take place from the 16-20 June 2014. Registration is now open for the biggest such Summer School in the world, with a focus on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Entitled ‘Access to Justice and Political Participation’, it will focus on facilitating access to justice for all and encouraging political participation. The aim of the five-day Summer School is to equip participants with the insights and skills necessary to help them translate the generalities of the UN Convention into tangible reform for persons with disabilities. Over 100 delegates from 38 countries are expected to attend this year’s event. The participants include persons with disabilities, their families, civil society groups as well as advocates for disability law reform, lawyers, policy makers and policy analysts. The faculty will include senior academics, practitioners, advocates and policy makers from around the world. Most of the speakers have been directly and actively engaged in drafting and implementing the UN Convention. Others are advocates for change and reform. The keynote speaker for the Summer School will be Amita Dhanda, Professor of Law and Head of the Centre for Disability Studies, NALSAR, University of Law, Hyderabad, India, who has published extensively on the legal position of persons with mental disabilities. Dr Dhanda has also actively engaged in the work of the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee negotiating the UN Convention. Mr Donal Toolan, founder member of the Forum for People with Disabilities will respond to the keynote address. Most presentations will either be given by, or responded to, by disabled activists from around the world. A notable feature of the annual Summer School is a Moot Court exercise based on the UN Convention. Dr Eilionóir Flynn, Deputy Director of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy, NUI Galway, said, “Above all, the School belongs to people with disabilities and their allies and is structured in such a way as to enable people explore for themselves the relevance of the Convention in their own lives and in the process of change. It sees people with disabilities as agents of change whether in Ireland, Kenya or India. It sees people with disabilities as providers and advocates for solutions – instead of as problems.” The Summer School is in part supported by the Atlantic Philanthropies, The Soros-Open Society Institute, The Department of Foreign Affairs (Irish Aid), The FP7 Marie Curie DREAM project of the European Union and NUI Galway. Registration for the Summer School is now open and will cost €330. Further information is available at or phone Niamh Lally on 091 494270. Participant accessibility (physical or communicational) requests and enquiries are welcomed.

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NUI Galway To Host 8th International Conference on Cultural Gerontology

NUI Galway To Host 8th International Conference on Cultural Gerontology-image

Monday, 7 April 2014

Major International Conference at NUI Galway relating to Ageing, the Life Course and Meaning will look at the theme “Meaning and Culture(s): Exploring the Life Course” NUI Galway will host the 8th International Conference on Cultural Gerontology, which is also the 2nd Conference of the European Network in Aging Studies. The conference entitled Meaning and Culture(s): Exploring the Life Course will take place in the Arts Millennium Building at NUI Galway from the 10 – 12 April. This major international conference provides further evidence of the University’s global reputation in questions relating to ageing and the life course. The conference theme reflects the fact that the process of ageing is not the same everywhere. In some societies older people are powerful and revered. In others, ageing may be feared as a period of exclusion and decline. How people get older thus depends not only on key factors such as health, but also on issues including the values and ideas attached to ageing in the societies in which they live and how they are expected to contribute to their communities. The conference, jointly organised by the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology and the School of Political Science and Sociology at NUI Galway, explores older people’s different ways of interpreting their own life-courses, as positive or negative, the contrasting ways we age in different cultural environments, as well as expectations or stereotypes that affect older people’s possibilities for participating in society and their experience of ageing. Over 200 papers presented by more than 250 delegates from all over the world will interrogate the opportunities, challenges and disputes connected with values and practices affecting people’s life-courses. How connected are they with economic assumptions that appear to reject people after they have left work or with youth cultures demanding that everyone should aim for physical beauty? Three keynote speakers will participate, all of whom are outstanding scholars and acknowledged international leaders in the thriving field of cultural gerontology. Harry R. Moody, recently retired as Vice President and Director of Academic Affairs at AARP, USA, will give a plenary lecture entitled “Gray is Green: Elders and the Care of the Earth”. It will take place in the Arts Millennium Building, Ó hEocha Theatre (AM250) at 1.45pm on Thursday, 10 April. Aagje Swinnen from Maastricht University, The Netherlands, will give a plenary lecture entitled “Healing Words: Critical Inquiry of Poetry Interventions in Dementia Care”, on Friday, 11 April at 1.30pm. And on Saturday, 12 April, Stephen Katz from Trent University, Canada, will give a plenary lecture entitled “Music, Performance and Generation: The Making of Boomer Biographies”, at 12.45pm in the Ó hEocha Theatre. Professor Ricca Edmondson, School of Political Science and Sociology, NUI Galway said, “The scientific study of ageing focuses increasingly on values, ideas and habits associated with the ageing process: where they come from, what impacts they have, and how they can be changed. Our conference brings together international experts from disciplines ranging throughout the humanities and social and behavioural sciences to explore these key issues.” Professor Thomas Scharf, Director of the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology, NUI Galway said, “Exploring the cultural aspect of ageing is crucial to understanding how our life-courses take shape. It helps us to understand better how social processes enhance or undermine the implications of ageing for all of us. This conference can make an important contribution to public and political debate on the status of older people, not just in Ireland but also in many other countries.” The conference runs from the 10-12 April with registration at the Arts Millennium Building, NUI Galway. Visit  

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Ireland’s Leading Expert on Climate Change Gives Lecture at NUI Galway

Ireland’s Leading Expert on Climate Change Gives Lecture at NUI Galway -image

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Ireland has one of the largest per capita greenhouse gas emission rates says Professor John Sweeney, Ireland’s Leading Expert on Climate Change Ireland’s leading expert on climate change, Professor John Sweeney, delivered a lunchtime talk hosted by the School of Natural Sciences at NUI Galway entitled, Ireland and Climate Change: Adapting in an Environment of Uncertainty. The event drew a large public attendance followed by a lively discussion at the end. Professor Sweeney talked about extreme events, how recent storms and high rainfall are weather patterns, driven by jet stream irregularities and an unusually close-to-earth moon. But he also reminded us that sea-level is incontrovertibly rising, at an accelerated rate in recent decades, largely due to accelerated ice cap melting. Thus any coastal storms will have an increasingly powerful effect due to higher sea-level. Professor Sweeney quoted the 2013 International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report: the observed accelerated increase in global temperatures is “at least 95%” likely to be mainly due to human activity, especially burning fossil fuels. Greenhouse gas emissions are far greater in the northern hemisphere: Ireland has one of the largest per capita emission rates and very few countries, not even Ireland, have so far taken serious measures to reduce these emissions. Increased temperatures and rainfall may become more seasonal, so Ireland is projected to have hotter, drier summers and wetter winters with an increased storm incidence. Professor Sweeney emphasised that the Irish government and local authorities need to focus on damage limitation, in terms of future flood prevention and location of housing development or septic tanks in relation to rising water tables and flood risk, but also –critically – summer water budget management. All products bought require large water budgets to grow or manufacture, some much more than others. Water use efficiency requires more attention. An increase in rainfall seasonality is also likely to affect our high-conservation habitats, especially wetlands such as bogs. Provision is required to maintain their hydration in the face of increased summer drying conditions. NUI Maynooth’s collaboration with NUI Galway’s School of Natural Sciences, Plant Ecology Research Unit (PERU) and Applied Ecology Unit (AEU) has demonstrated that many vulnerable Arctic-Alpine species are projected to contract in range with a rise in temperature, but other, currently more southerly-distributed native species, may expand throughout the island. This has particular implications also for invasive species and even indigenous pests. During the public lecture, Professor Sweeney also highlighted some positive spin-offs of projected warmer summers; grain crops –and even grass– may increase yield, though potatoes require adequate summer rain for best performance. As more southern regions heat up, we may also benefit from increased tourism. But without informed leadership to recognise the reality of observed and projected climate changes, measures will not be taken in advance of future events in order to reduce damage repair costs and even mortalities. Professor Sweeney ended by warning against believing sensationalist media; scientists are poor communicators, needing reference to complex data, in the face of sound-bites aimed to sell news. As members of the public, we need to develop discernment in what we read and hear about climate change, and to take individual action to reduce our carbon – and water – footprints, as well as educating our peers and superiors. The event was organised by Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, Plant Ecology Research Unit (PERU) and Dr Mike Gormally of the Applied Ecology Unit (AEU), School of Natural Sciences at NUI Galway.

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Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Bernie Ní Fhlatharta meets Professor Michael O’Dwyer, haematologist and researcher Galway City Tribune, Friday, March 21, 2014 A drug that could save people’s lives is the goal of a Galway consultant who is at the heart of groundbreaking research into the treatment of blood cancer. Professor Michael O’Dwyer considers himself lucky that he is not only doing one job he loves but two. He is a Consultant Haematologist at University Hospital Galway and he is also based at the Apoptosis Research Centre (ARC), a wing in the new Biomedical Science Building which opened in NUI Galway last month. There he heads up research into blood cancers, in particular multiple myeloma and leukaemia, work that he hopes will one day lead to the development of a drug that will target these types of cancers. Eighteen months ago, he obtained a prestigious Clinician Scientist Award from the Dublin-based Health Research Board to develop his translational research programme, and his close links with the pharmaceutical industry might some day lead to his findings translate from science bench to bedside. Michael, whose father, Eamonn was a Professor of Obstetrics at UCH for over 35 years, loves research work and appreciates that if medics are to cure life-threatening diseases, it can only be done through research and development. In the United States about $230m has been raised for this research alone – his research work was awarded €1.7m recently and already they are at phase one of clinical trials here in Galway. “I have the best of both worlds in that I get to see patients and I also get to come here (to NUI Galway) to research blood cancers,” he says. He explains it very simply: “Cancer cells produce abnormal sugars on their surface making them sticky, which helps them to travel around in the body and stick to the walls of organs. “These cells become resistant to chemotherapy and standard cancer treatments. Our research here in Galway is revealing the role these abnormal sugars and enzymes play in cancer. There is evidence that these sugars are important in the development of leukaemia for example and in the spread of cancer.” The first part of that research was identifying the sugars and the next part will be finding out how to inhibit or prevent them from being produced in the first place. In doing that, they will be less able to spread and will be easier to treat. Michael stresses that these cancer-related sugars are not thought to be linked to lifestyle or diet and are just an intrinsic part of the disease. He believes that research will lead to the development of a drug that will prevent the formation of these sugars and therefore stop cancers metastasising. That would be a dream come true for him and he is currently working with a US pharmaceutical company to bring that vision closer to reality. The ultimate plan is to provide results in the laboratory so that these strategies can be transferred to clinical trials in his native Galway. “We are now conducting phase one of these clinical trials and this is the only centre in the world doing this, as in working with blood cancer patients.” He explains that patients give their informed consent and that there’s no obligation on anyone to take part in these trials. In the last two years 16 patients have been put on the clinical trial but this number will be increased significantly in the future. The research team includes Dr Siobhan Glavey, a PhD student who is based in the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Harvard, while the man who was responsible for getting Michael into research on his return to Galway is Professor Lokesh Joshi, Professor of Glycobiology. “My interest in studying sugars in blood cancers came originally from discussing it with him,” Michael explains. Michael studied medicine in NUI Galway but like many other graduates went abroad – he went to the United States in 1998, to do a fellowship in haematology in Portland, Oregon. There he was fortunate that he got to work on the development of a blockbuster drug now used in the treatment of cancer – and incidentally made in Ringaskiddy in County Cork. “From that I developed a deep interest in research, particularly in the development of targeted therapies. Chemotherapy is a non-specific treatment and I was amazed with that particular treatment which had little or no side effects. It made an impression on me and my intention was to stay involved in the research of these types of drugs.” Michael returned to Galway in 2002 to take up a clinical job and five years later was appointed Professor of Haematology, which allowed him one day a week in research. He is deeply grateful to be able to work in his native city in the hospital and also in research, something he says is possible thanks to the good reputation of NUI Galway’s biomedical department, one that has been greatly enhanced with the opening of the new building at Corrib Village in Dangan. There are state-of-the-art laboratories with top-class equipment in the new facility and this is where he now heads up the research project. When Michael started his research work in Galway it was in the Orbsen Building on the NUIG campus until the team moved to their new home just before Christmas. He now has a growing group of researchers and he is also involved in other research for a small Irish company as well as being associated with a start-up company that has, in the pipeline, “very small molecule drugs that we believe could have great promise in the treatment of blood cancers”. Michael agrees that it’s hard to compete with bigger universities when it comes to mainstream research as larger institutes have more resources but he believes that it’s important for an institution to play to its strengths. “And here in Galway we have strengths that wouldn’t necessarily be mainstream like the glycosciences, where we have a particular expertise in this niche area. It’s then possible to be competitive in those areas. Another example is stem cell research.” He has three brothers in medicine (one is a GP, one is an anaesthetist in the UK and another is an A&E Consultant in Kilkenny) and a brother practising as a barrister. He could have followed in his father’s footsteps as he won the Gold Medal in Obstetrics and in Pathology when he graduated but he preferred and chose pathology. Blood cancers account for the top four or five cancers globally and multiple myeloma is the second most common blood cancer in Ireland, where about 240 new cases are diagnosed every year. Michael says that while great strides had been made in the treatment and survival of patients with multiple myeloma, there was still room for improvement, which is why he remained dedicated to his research. “It is vital that scientists across the entire Irish research spectrum work together to find new treatment approaches and improve patient outcomes. “Our goal is to discover new ways to reduce the ability of the cancer cell to move to other sites within the body and identify new ways to make the cancerous cells more sensitive to chemotherapy drugs,” he says. Michael is married to Clodagh Wade and they live in Salthill with their two young children aged seven and ten. He admits that the plan had always been to return to Galway when the right job turned up and luckily for him and his young family it did. “When I came back it was not with the intention of doing any academic work but once I got bitten by the bug (in the US), I got drawn back to research and I consider myself lucky to be able to do that here in Galway. “Ultimately, it would be fantastic to be in a position to see it (the new drug) in action on patients,” he says with a quiet determination. Michael also lectures third and final year medical students as well as giving tutorials in the college. Yet, for all his responsibilities, he comes across as a relaxed man who is at ease with himself and the world. One thing for sure, he is very content being exactly where he is — at the cutting edge of research that will undoubtedly one day save lives.


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