Thursday, 18 July 2019

A team at NUI Galway has been awarded funding of US$300,000 from The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research to develop a novel approach to brain repair for Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is a condition that primarily affects a person’s ability to control movement leading to a progressive deterioration in ability. The symptoms of the condition are caused by the degeneration and death of brain cells that regulate movement. Brain repair for Parkinson’s involves replacing these dead cells by transplanting healthy brain cells into the brain, but the widespread roll-out of this therapy has been hindered by the poor survival of the implanted cells. In research that made global headlines recently, Dr Eilís Dowd’s research team at NUI Galway demonstrated that the survival of the cells was dramatically improved when they were implanted into the brain within a supportive gel made from the natural material collagen. The funding from The Michael J Fox Foundation will allow Dr Dowd to take this research to the next level where she will test if the collagen gel can also improve the survival of healthy brain cells generated from adult stem cells. Commenting on the funding award, Dr Eilís Dowd at NUI Galway, said: “In our previous research published in the Nature journal, Scientific Reports, we showed that collagen provides the cells with a nurturing, supportive environment in the brain and helps them to survive the aversive transplant process. This funding from The Michael J Fox Foundation will allow us to test if this approach can also improve survival and reparative ability of healthy brain cells derived from adult stem cells. If so, this could lead to a dramatic improvement in brain repair approaches for Parkinson’s – a field that has been hampered for years by poor transplant survival.” The Michael J Fox Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease and to ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s today. Dr Liliana Menalled of The Michael J Fox Foundation, said: “Cell replacement therapy is a promising approach to restoring cell function and easing symptoms of Parkinson’s. This approach of enhancing cell survival with collagen is an innovative way to overcome a persistent challenge and may significantly advance these therapeutics for the many people living with this disease.” The research will be led by Dr Eilís Dowd, in collaboration with colleagues from the Galway Neuroscience Centre and CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices at NUI Galway, and University of Edinburgh. Dr Dowd’s ongoing research in this field featured in the short documentary Feats of Modest Valour which won the coveted Scientist Award at the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York, as well as the Professional Documentary Award at the Raw Science Festival in California. Dr Eilís Dowd has been working in the field of pre-clinical Parkinson’s research for almost 20 years, and her research focuses on understanding the cause of the condition and on developing novel pharmacological, cell, gene and biomaterial therapies for it. She received her PhD from University of Edinburgh, after which she completed post-doctoral research at University of Cambridge, McGill University, Canada and Cardiff University. Dr Dowd is currently president of Neuroscience Ireland, Ireland’s official neuroscience society. She sits on the governing councils of both the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and the International Brain Research Organization. To view a short trailer of the documentary Feats of Modest Valour, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbMX3QVLwIw For more about The Michael J Fox Foundation, visit: www.michaeljfox.org/ -Ends-

Monday, 15 July 2019

NUI Galway seminar on ‘Decarbonising Ireland with Zero-Carbon Technologies’ to coincide with launch of €1.4 million Hydrogen Utilisation and Green Energy project  NUI Galway will host a public seminar on ‘Decarbonising Ireland with Zero-Carbon Technologies’, presenting current activities in Ireland and abroad around the use of renewable hydrogen as a clean energy vector. Successful examples of small and large-scale installations will be presented by leading experts in the field along with breakthrough research. The event will be opened by Minister of State for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands, Sean Kyne, TD on Tuesday, 16 July.  In the last six months, hydrogen has experienced an exponential growth in interest with large car manufacturers and oil and gas companies among others, showing a clear shift on their investment strategies towards this chemical. Notwithstanding, hydrogen as a clean energy vector meets targets of a number of Sustainable Development Goals with a direct impact on climate change mitigation. Recently, Energia announced a €3 billion investment in renewable energy in Ireland with hydrogen being a key actor. This seminar aims to bring together all stakeholders from the island of Ireland to discuss opportunities and challenges for the deployment of hydrogen technologies in rural and peripheral regions. This includes green hydrogen production through excess wind and/or solar energy use in transportation, power-to-gas, energy storage and gas for industries, among others. It will also look at low-carbon technologies for public infrastructure and housing.  Dr Pau Farràs Costa, Energy Research Centre, Ryan Institute, NUI Galway, says: “The seminar is a stepping stone towards a wide dissemination to the public and stakeholders of the advantages of hydrogen as a fuel for the future, with direct implications for climate change, energy resilience and the development of jobs in rural communities.”  The seminar includes presentations and open discussions with a panel of experts on:  Hydrogen developments in Iceland Northern Netherlands TSO2020 project, large-scale deployment. Haeolus project in Norway, hydrogen in extreme climate conditions. SEAFUEL project (Sustainable integration of renewable fuels in local transportation) GenComm project (GENerating energy secure COMMunities) Hylantic (Atlantic Network for Renewable Generation and Supply of Hydrogen to promote High Energy Efficiency) Feasibility study for wind-to-hydrogen for local transportation - bus fleet Hydrogen in Northern Ireland Hydrogen Mobility Ireland Launch of HydrogenIreland @Galway The seminar will coincide with the kick-off meeting of the INTERREG Northern Periphery and Arctic project, HUGE (Hydrogen Utilisation and Green Energy). HUGE is a €1.4 million project led by The Environmental Research Institute with Dr Pau Farràs Costa at NUI Galway as partner. The project aims to provide communities with energy security by delivering to them the necessary tools to assess the hydrogen renewable energy chain opportunities in the Northern Periphery and Arctic area and beyond. This seminar is also part of the knowledge transfer activities designed in HUGE to engage with potential stakeholders and communities at the different regions of the partnership. Galway and the west coast of Ireland is an excellent example of the huge potential for production and use of hydrogen as a clean energy vector. In the seminar, successful examples of hydrogen activities occurring in Europe will be showcased to demonstrate the viability to invest in the technology and the benefits it can bring to the region. Ireland is starting to play a key role that include the formation of the Hydrogen Ireland Association, which will be presented for the first time in Galway, as well as a presentation of the Hydrogen Mobility Ireland group, with clear targets for the deployment of hydrogen refuelling stations and vehicles in a short timeframe. The event will also see one of only the two hydrogen-fuelled cars in Ireland, a Toyota Mirai owned by Photonomi Group CEO, John Quinn. The seminar is co-funded by the INTERREG Atlantic Area project SEAFUEL led by Dr Pau Farràs at NUI Galway. SEAFUEL targets the production and use of green hydrogen for local transportation in isolated territories, in particular islands. The project is looking at the Aran Islands as a key location for the technology, and aims to demonstrate the viability of hydrogen to be a key energy vector for the decarbonisation of the islands following their renewable energy targets (see www.seafuel.ie). The free event will take place in the Institute for Lifecourse and Society, North Campus, NUI Galway on Tuesday, 16 July from 9.30pm to 3pm. To register and attend this free event, visit: www.eventbrite.ie and enter ‘HUGE’ or ‘Decarbonising Ireland with Zero-Carbon Technologies’. To live stream the seminar, logon to: https://youtu.be/DAgTkI8sII0 For more information about the seminar contact, contact Dr Pau Farràs Costa, Ryan Institute, NUI Galway at pau.farras@nuigalway.ie or 091 492765. -Ends-

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Pioneering first-in-world technique development in human genome research at NUI Galway takes another step towards completing the human genome  The McStay laboratory in the Centre for Chromosome Biology at NUI Galway has made a significant contribution to the ongoing *human genome project. Contrary to popular belief the human genome sequence is incomplete. Professor Brian McStay has led the development of a pioneering new technique that provides new human genome sequences, essential to support advances in a field important for improving human health. Professor McStay’s laboratory at NUI Galway study uncharacterised regions of the genome, aiming to understand their normal function and how genetic alterations within them influence human health. This latest genome discovery will boost Ireland’s biomedical research credentials internationally and underlines the quality of world class research taking place in Ireland.      It is now over 18 years since the first draft of the human genome was released, yet, key regions of our genome remain uncharacterised. Due to difficulties in determining the DNA sequence of these missing regions and their critical role in our biology, they are sometimes referred to as genomic dark matter (analogous to the missing mass in the universe). Prominent among these missing regions are five chromosomes with unusual short arms, the so-called acrocentric chromosomes, numbered 13, 14, 15, 21 and 22 (see Figure 1 attached). Chromosomes are cellular structures for packaging DNA molecules, which in turn contain genes that define a person’s physical traits and uniqueness. Each of a person’s cells contains DNA measuring nearly two meters in length, yet the cells containing them only measure millionths of meters in length. Therefore, within chromosomes, long DNA molecules are wound into ever tighter coils ultimately producing short squat structures, with long arms either side of a central constriction. When at their most condensed, chromosomes are often described as resembling butterflies with each wing corresponding to a chromosome arm, and are now small enough to be successfully partitioned into new cells during cell division. The acrocentric chromosomes are unusual in that one of the arms is very small and highly specialised. Through an ill-understood process DNA contained within their small arms is required to form factories, termed nucleoli, to produce complex machines, termed ribosomes. Ribosomes are machines within our cells that convert the genetic information that is coded in the DNA of a person’s genes into the functional proteins that build people’s bodies.  Professor Brian McStay, Professor of Biochemistry, Centre for Chromosome Biology, NUI Galway, said: “Given their fundamental role in our biology it is critical these missing regions of our genome be included in updated human genome references as this will make them accessible to researchers worldwide and accelerate the discovery of how they function.” Professor Noel Lowndes, Established Professor of Biochemistry and Director of the Centre for Chromosome Biology, NUI Galway, said: “The McStay laboratory have developed novel genomic methodologies that can now be applied to other regions of the human genome still missing from the latest human genome releases. Support for pioneering biomedical research like this is critical to better understand our fundamental human make up, which in turn is central to providing new avenues for scientists to explore in the search for more effective treatment of disease.” The McStay laboratory has a long-standing interest in understanding how nucleoli form and function. In work that is funded by a partnership between the Wellcome Trust in the UK, Science Foundation Ireland and the Health Research Board in Ireland, they have developed and implemented novel approaches at determining the DNA sequence required to form nucleoli. These DNA sequences, previously part of the genome dark matter have now been incorporated into the most recent human genome draft by the Genome Reference Consortium (GRC). See links below to recent GRC blogs associated with the latest release (GRCh38.p13) of the human genome which references this work. Genome Reference Consortium on the latest releases of the human genome and references to the work of the McStay laboratory: http://genomeref.blogspot.com/2019/03/grch38p13-has-been-released.html http://genomeref.blogspot.com/2019/03/shining-light-on-human-acrocentric-p.html For more information about the Centre for Chromosome Biology, visit: www.chromosome.ie -Ends-

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

NUI Galway develop zoology partnership with the University Ibn Zohr in Morocco sharing strengths in ecology, ecosystem conservation and sustainable use of natural resources In the coming three years, NUI Galway will assist with the development of the first natural History Museum in Southern Morocco, participate towards the teaching of ecology courses and provide internships for Moroccan students. NUI Galway undergraduate and postgraduate zoology students will also have the opportunity to travel to Morocco for up to two months to work and sharpen their skills in a range of North African ecosystems, including the Sahara Desert, national parks and coastal regions.  In 2018, NUI Galway’s College of Science and the Ibn Zohr University of Agadir in Morocco formed a general Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and are continuing to develop teaching and research partnerships through the discipline of Zoology in the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway and the Ibn Zohr University Faculty of Sciences. In May 2019, NUI Galway was successful in securing its first Erasmus Plus proposal worth over €65,000 to strengthen the relationship between the two institutions with the long-term goal of raising the profile of NUI Galway as an international partner on the African continent and developing a stream of incoming international students. Ibn Zohr University is the largest of the Moroccan universities and provides third level education to over 120,000 students on 16 campuses in eight cities across Southern Morocco. This is NUI Galway’s first partnership with a major African university to collaborate simultaneously on a research-led staff exchange programme, teaching and learning technology exchange programme, co-teaching of undergraduate/postgraduate modules in both institutions and undergraduate/postgraduate summer student exchange programmes. For the 2018/2019 academic year, undergraduate students in Zoology were already part of an eight-day module on ‘Practical skills in Zoology in Souss Massa National Park in Morocco’ that provided a succession of field-based training, focusing on the study of various ecosystems within the National Park, including coastal, semi-arid and steppe ecosystems, delivered and coordinated by staff at both universities. The success of this module has led to an increase in the intake of fourth year students and postgraduate students for the 2019/2020 academic year. Speaking about the partnership, Dr Michel Dugon, Zoology, Ryan Institute, NUI Galway, said: “Morocco is fast becoming a pan-African political and economic leader. It is ranked second in Africa for foreign direct investment, and emphasises high-skill industries such as green energy. The Ryan Institute and the Ibn Zohr University Faculty of Science share strengths in ecology, bioprospecting, ecosystem conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources. This is a great opportunity for our students to gain international exposure and develop skills in unfamiliar environments. It also further establishes the position of NUI Galway as a leading partner for the development of high-standard Higher Education in emerging countries.” Dr Colin Lawton, Zoology, Ryan Institute, NUI Galway, said: “Developing this teaching and research partnership with Ibn Zohr University Faculty of Sciences offers exciting opportunities for our students and researchers to learn about diverse ecology and ecosystems like Southern Morocco. The discipline of Zoology is also in the process of applying for grants to fund further research in partnership with Ibn Zohr University and local stakeholders.”  For more about NUI Galway’s Zoology courses, visit: https://www.nuigalway.ie/zoology/ or email zoology@nuigalway.ie. -Ends-

Monday, 8 July 2019

Scientists have pinpointed the “pace” and “shape” of life as the two key elements in animal life cycles that affect how different species get by in the world. Their findings, which come from a detailed assessment of 121 species ranging from humans to sponges, may have important implications for conservation strategies and for predicting which species will be the winners and losers from the global environment crisis. “Pace of life” relates to how fast animals reach maturity, how long they can expect to live, and the rate at which they can replenish a population with offspring. “Shape of life”, meanwhile, relates to how an animal’s chance of breeding or dying is spread out across its lifespan. The scientists from NUI Galway, Trinity College Dublin, Oxford University, the University of Southampton, and the University of Southern Denmark, have today(8 July 2019)published their work in leading journal, Nature Ecology and Evolution. The wide range of animal life cycles Animal life cycles vary to a staggering degree. Some animals, such as the turquoise killifish (a small fish that can complete its life cycle in 14 days) grow fast and die young, while others, like the Greenland shark, (a fish that glides around for up to 500 years), grow slowly and have extraordinarily long lifespans. Similarly, the spread of death and reproduction across animal life cycles also varies greatly. Salmon, for example, spawn over a short period of time with the probability of dying being particularly high both at the start of their life cycle and when they reproduce. Fulmars and some other sea birds, on the other hand, have wider time periods of reproduction and face relatively similar chances of dying throughout their lives. Humans and Asian elephants have long lifespans and face a relatively low risk of mortality until later ages, but have a fairly narrow age range for reproduction due to having both long juvenile periods and as they can live after the reproductive part of their life-cycles. Both species share a similar lifespan with the Australian freshwater crocodile, but the crocodile has a completely different reproductive strategy – its reproduction is spread relatively evenly throughout its lifespan but its young have a low chance of reaching adulthood and reproducing. The puzzle of different life cycles Why animal life cycles vary so much has long been an important puzzle that scientists have sought to solve. Among the reasons are that understanding why animals age, reproduce and grow at different rates may 1) help shed light on the evolution of aging itself, and 2) help identify how species will respond to global environmental change. In their study, the scientists used population data to compare detailed life cycles for species ranging from sponges to corals, salmon to turtles, and vultures to humans. By mapping 121 life cycles, the scientists noticed that certain animal ecologies and physiologies were associated with certain life cycles. Dr Kevin Healy who conducted the research at Trinity, now a Lecturer of Zoology at NUI Galway, and the lead author of the study, said: “When we mapped out the range of life cycles in the animal kingdom we saw that they follow general patterns. Whether you are a sponge, a fish or a human, your life cycle can, in general, be described by two things – how fast you live and how your reproduction and chance of dying is spread out across your lifespan. “As we expected, species with low metabolic rates and slow modes-of-life were associated with slower life cycles. This makes sense; if you don’t burn much energy per second, you are restricted in how fast you can grow. Similarly, if you are an animal that doesn’t move around a lot, such as a sponge or a fish that lives on the sea bed, playing a longer game in terms of your pace of life makes sense as you may need to wait for food to come to you.” Conservation implications The scientists also investigated whether certain life cycles made animals more susceptible to ecological threats, by looking for associations between an animal’s life cycle and its position on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of endangered species. Professor of Zoology and Head of the Zoology Department at Trinity, Yvonne Buckley, a co-senior author of the research, said: “We found that extinction risks were not confined to particular types of life history for the 121 species. Despite these animals having very different ways of maintaining their populations, they faced similar levels of threat. “Populations of a particular species, like the Chinook salmon or Freshwater crocodile, vary more in how mortality and reproduction are spread across their life-spans than they vary in their pace of life. This is important for the animal populations that we need to conserve as it suggests it may be wiser to consider actions that boost reproduction and/or impart bigger effects on the periods of the life cycles when mortality and reproduction are more likely – rather than simply aiming to extend the lifespans of these animals.” Associate Professor in Ecology at the University of Oxford, Dr Rob Salguero-Gómez, a co-senior author of the research, said: “This comparative work, which builds on previous research we have developed testing basic assumptions of how life structures the Plant Kingdom, highlights important commonalities in the ways that both animals and plants go about making a living and adapting to different environments. Indeed, classical works in life history theory predicted a single way to structure life strategies. Our work with plants and now here with animals shows the range of possibilities is much wider than previously believed. “The unparalleled wealth of animal demographic schedules used in this research” produced by an initiative led by Assoc. Prof Salguero-Gómez & co-author Assoc. Prof. Owen Jones, “opens up new exciting ways to explore what are the most common strategies used by different species to thrive in their environments, but also to use demographic models to make predictions about what species will be the winners and losers of climate change.” The research was funded by Science Foundation Ireland, the Natural Environment Research Council (UK), Australian Research Council, Danish Council for Independent Research and the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (Germany). To read the full study in Nature Ecology and Evolution, visit: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-019-0938-7 -Ends-

Friday, 21 June 2019

: Scientists and students at the Ryan Institute, NUI Galway will make a day trip on the Marine Institute research vessel, RV Celtic Voyager, today (21 June) to take part in Ocean Sampling Day 2019. Ocean Sampling Day is a simultaneous sampling campaign of the world’s oceans by scientists globally.  It is organised by an EU consortium of marine research institutes, known as “ASSEMBLE Plus”, of which NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute is a part. Chief Scientist Professor Louise Allcock, who is director of the Centre for Ocean Research and Exploration within the Ryan Institute, will lead a team of four experienced scientists and 11 Marine Science undergraduate students who are in years 1 to 3 of their studies. Professor Allcock, NUI Galway, said: “We will sample and filter water from the ocean, and our filter papers, as well as those from other sites around the world, which will be sent to a molecular lab in a marine station in Greece where all the DNA on the filter papers will be sequenced to give an estimate of what bacterial and invertebrate species are present in the ocean.  A healthy ocean has a wide variety of species – an unhealthy ocean less so, and hence we get an overview of our ocean health.” NUI Galway’s Sheena Fennell, one of the experienced scientists in the team who has spent extensive time at sea, explained the benefits to the undergraduate students joining the expedition. “The students learn in their lectures all about the water column, the bacteria and inverterbrates living therein, and the specialised gears that we use to sample, but this is an opportunity for them to get genuine hands-on experience while contributing to an international research project.” The science team will sample directly above the SmartBay SubSea Cabled Observatory in Galway Bay. Professor Allcock emphasised the importance of this site to the project: “The SmartBay Observatory provides subsea data all year round which means there is an enormous environmental dataset to complement our physical samples. Taking our samples from here, also affords us the opportunity to highlight this impressive infrastructure to our European colleagues.” To follow the NUI Galway team on Ocean Sampling Day, you can follow on Twitter @DrShmoo and hashtags #OceanSamplingDay2019 and #OSD2019. For more information visit the Center for Ocean Research and Exploration in the Ryan Institute at http://www.nuigalway.ie/ryaninstitute/researchcentersandclusters/corex/ -Ends-

Thursday, 13 June 2019

New facilities established in NUI Galway to accelerate the development of next generation biomaterials and advanced manufacturing technologies Researchers at NUI Galway launched on (12 June 2019) two new facilities, a Pilot Line for Bio-microsystems Development and an Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory, as part of the University’s ever expanding biomedical research and advanced manufacturing infrastructure. Pilot Line for Bio-microsystems Development This integrated advanced manufacturing testbed is the first of its kind globally and will accelerate the translation of laboratory-based research concepts towards pilot production. The printed electronics and printed biomaterials advanced manufacturing facility complements the University’s existing expertise and investments in biomaterials and stem cell manufacturing. The testbed will be used to evaluate advanced manufacturing of two types of biomedical product concepts – smart medical devices and tissue-engineered organs on a chip device. Smart medical devices are of particular relevance to the medical device industry in Galway; these devices are empowered with diagnostic and therapeutic functionalities. An example is a smart woundcare device that enables future smart wound dressings to sense the status of the wound and administer a drug accordingly. The manufacturing testbed enables Galway researchers to demonstrate how scalable printed technologies can be used to realise such devices, customised for each patient’s individual needs, on an economic scale. The manufacturing testbed can also generate arrays of artificial tissue know as tissue scaffolds. These structures are being developed to fully mimic different organs in the body. The ability to produce tissue scaffolds on a scalable platform are of increasing importance in the development of new advanced therapeutic medicinal products. For example, new cell based therapies to cure chronic illnesses can be efficiently evaluated using arrays of tissue scaffolds which mimic disease states in the human body. For example, mesenchymal stromal cells can be used to regenerate damaged tissues. The testbed was developed by Dr Gerard O’Connor, Head of the School of Physics at NUI Galway, over the last five years in partnership with UK manufacturing system integrator *M-Solv (Oxford) Ltd. Dr O’Connor leads the *NCLA Laser Laboratory at the School of Physics. He believes having the ability to integrate electronic, optical, and thermal stimuli in flexible medical devices “will be transformative - changing the way we connect with, and use, future healthcare products.” Dr O’Connor, said: “The new facility enables the NCLA Laser Laboratory to investigate the versatility of using multiple laser patterning, inkjet printing and spray deposition tools in the advanced digital manufacture of next generation smart medical devices and therapeutic devices.” The contribution by M-Solv Ltd., an advanced manufacturing systems company located in Oxford, UK, is very significant. Dr O’Connor and M-Solv have collaborated for 10 years, resulting in several publications, patent filings, and commercial contracts. The company’s CEO, Dr. Phil Rumsby, is excited by applying their significant expertise in hybrid electronics manufacturing to the biomedical sector using the three interconnected manufacturing modules which comprise the testbed. Dr Rumsby said: “The first module, a laser-based micro-machining module creates structured surfaces for microfluidics and embedded electronics. The second module uses laser, inkjet and spray tools to create structured conductive/non-conductive printed electronic features. Finally, a third bio-printing module applies living cells and other life-supporting biomaterials to structured surfaces. This is a major research platform with significant innovative potential, we are pleased to have been able to rise to the challenge.” The testbed is funded by Science Foundation Ireland under the Infrastructures Programme. SFI Research Centres *I-FORM (advanced manufacturing) and CÚRAM (medical devices) are available to provide support for enterprises and academics seeking access to the manufacturing platform. Speaking at the launch of the new testbed, Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM in NUI Galway, said: “This manufacturing testbed will significantly increase our ability to lead research in the development of novel technologies. CÚRAM will work closely with the NCLA and I-Form to harness this unique platform and continue creating next generation biomaterials that will play a critical role in the treatment of a host of chronic ailments.” The laboratory in which the testbed is located was developed with funding provided under the Atlantic Area Interregional (INTERREG) EU programme under a project entitled AtlanticKETMed. The project is also led by Dr O’Connor and has established an international community of first adopters for the testbed comprising of hospitals, networks of industries, and international research centres. The testbed and its ancillary laboratories are located in the School of Physics. The School’s MSc in Medical Physics is the first European MSc programme to be awarded accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programmes (CAMPEP), the second only programme worldwide outside the USA to do so. Dr O’Connor is keen to recognise the many contributions made by graduate students and technical staff throughout the School of Physics in realising this development. The School has established an MSc programme in Key Enabling Technologies to provide graduate training on the manufacturing testbed. Advanced Manufacturing Laboratory Dr Noel Harrison from the College of Engineering at NUI Galway also launched on (12 June 2019) the new Advanced Manufacturing Lab (AML) in the Alice Perry Engineering Building, which houses a suite of Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) technologies. The lab has been developed by Dr Harrison (Mechanical Engineering and I-Form Funded Investigator) to advance teaching, fundamental research, and industry collaboration on future sustainable manufacturing technologies, materials and product design. With NUI Galway’s first metal powder bed fusion printer (3D Systems DMP ProX 100), the AML offers new capability for in-house prototyping and experimental manufacturing. Last month, an AM cementless orthopaedic device technology developed and patented by Dr Harrison was licenced to the medtech company Loci Orthopaedics Ltd, also based at NUI Galway. Dr Noel Harrison from NUI Galway, said: “Multiple industries now demand engineering graduates with knowledge and experience in 3D Printing process hardware, software, materials and design. The AML lab is an invaluable resource for our Degree and Masters students and is a state of the art research facility for our PhD student and Postdoctoral researchers.” “Manufacturing is the second largest employer in Ireland and accounts for 36.5 percent of GDP”, said I-Form Director, Professor Denis Dowling. “These new testbeds at NUI Galway are key pieces of infrastructure for the manufacturing research community, and they will ensure that Irish manufacturers continue to have access to leading edge technology for the development of world-class products.” Speaking about the awards supporting both of these facilities, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to support the launch of this state-of-the-art manufacturing testbed, which is funded through our Research Infrastructure Programme. The programme specifically seeks to support researchers by ensuring there are superb technologies and supports in place for them, ultimately facilitating excellent and impactful scientific research. The testbed is a great reflection of collaboration between different stakeholders in the ecosystem, with SFI Research Centres CÚRAM and I-Form collaborating with NUI Galway to enhance our understanding of advanced manufacturing.” -Ends-

Monday, 17 June 2019

Professor John Pius Dalton, a renowned scientist in Infectious Diseases, has joined NUI Galway as Professor of Molecular Parasitology to tackle major parasitic diseases of humans and their livestock. He joins the University through the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Professorship Programme, which supports national strategic priorities by recruiting world-leading research and leadership talent to Ireland. He will develop a €5 million research project, which will devise an overall strategy for the development of a novel preventative vaccine of parasitic diseases for both humans and animals. Globally, almost two billion people, one-quarter of the world’s population, suffer from parasitic worm diseases. These occur predominantly in low to middle income regions of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and South America, where households earn less than two dollars a day. Parasitic diseases cause high morbidity, particularly amongst children, and reduce the economic potential of these regions, and compound the health and wellbeing issues related to poverty. While infections with parasitic worms, such as pin-worm, may have been common in Ireland over 70 years ago, due to better sanitation and control measures these are, thankfully, now infrequent. However, within the agricultural community parasitic worm infections are all too common – think about the annual advertisements on TV that advise farmers to drug-treat their animals to rid them of fluke, lungworm or other parasites! In fact, Irish farmers spend over €90 million per year to protect their sheep, cattle and pigs from such diseases. The emergence of drug-resistance parasites as well as the impacts of climate change on parasite transmission is causing major concern as we are now seeing an increase of livestock parasites in Ireland and across Europe. Speaking about his new role at NUI Galway, Professor Dalton, says: “To develop new vaccines we need to understand the basic biology of the interaction between the parasite and its host – from this we can devise vaccines to break this relationship and protect the host, and we now have the molecular, bioinformatics and genetic tools to do this, as well as the technology to manufacture vaccines. “I’m looking forward to developing a world-class Molecular Parasitology research team at NUI Galway and to tapping into the excellent expertise in infectious diseases already established here and nearby at Teagasc, Athenry. This is a perfect research environment to translate our research into real and practical outcomes in veterinary and human medicine, not only for Ireland but also for much less well-off regions in the world.” Professor Dalton’s research will also develop novel diagnostic tests for parasites to help farmers control and manage infection on the farm to reduce their reliance on chemical treatments. “The ultimate aim is to benefit farmers”, says Professor Dalton, “they need better means of detecting diseases on farms so that they can strategically, rather than randomly, treat their livestock. It saves them money, effort and, in the long term, can help eradicate disease.” However, there is another exciting edge to this research. Parasites can survive up to 20 years in humans and animals and they do this by manipulating the immune responses of their host. Professor Dalton, explains: “The way parasites have evolved to selectively and effectively control specific arms of the host immune system is fascinating and explains why they are so successful and so widespread. But on the other hand, we can learn lots from them on how to control immune responses.” Professor Dalton’s team will focus on elucidating how parasites suppress and alter the effectiveness of their host’s immune system and have already discovered various parasite molecules that enter immune cells of the host and silence their normal functions.  Professor Dalton, adds: “The very same molecules can be used to treat disorders of humans whereby the immune system is over-reacting, we call these parasite-design biotherapeutics and we are using them to dampen down destructive immune reactions. For example, a major common component of diseases such as inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and arthritis is damage caused by our immune system targeting our own tissues. Our experimental research this far indicates that we can use our parasite-designed molecules to silence these auto-reactive responses and possibly come up with new treatments. So our goal at NUI Galway will be to advance our approach to human systems.” Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice President for Research at NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted to welcome Professor John Pius Dalton as he joins our vibrant research community here in Galway. Professor Dalton is recognised as a world-leader in the area of major parasitic diseases and his appointment is an invaluable addition to the ongoing health research at NUI Galway. His research will develop a better understanding of parasitic diseases with opportunities for novel biomarkers and vaccines.” Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Adviser to the Government of Ireland, commented: “It is fantastic to see Professor John Dalton bringing his wealth of knowledge and expertise in infectious diseases to Ireland through the SFI Research Professorship programme. We are very pleased to be working alongside NUI Galway on his appointment, which will have positive impacts for Irish scientific research, and may lead to future benefits for farmers and their livestock as well as for doctors and their patients. “Recruiting world class researchers to lead ground-breaking research programmes with potential societal and economic impact is a priority for Science Foundation Ireland. I am confident that Professor Dalton will be a significant new asset to the thriving research community in Ireland, and will contribute to furthering Irelands international reputation for excellent scientific research with impact. I congratulate Professor Dalton on his appointment and extend him a very warm welcome and best wishes for a successful future.” Professor Dalton was a Professor of Infectious Disease at Queen’s University of Belfast. Before this he was a Canada Research Chair in Infectious Diseases at the Institute of Parasitology, McGill University, and Director of McGill’s Graduate Program in Biotechnology. Dalton was previously Director of the Institute for the Biotechnology of Infectious Diseases, University of Technology Sydney, Australia, where he was awarded the New South Wales Government BioFirst Award in Biotechnology between 2003-2008. Recently, he was awarded a Royal Society Research Merit Award and European Research Council Advanced Grant Award for his studies of animal and human parasitic diseases and development of vaccines and diagnostics. -Ends-

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

: Scientists from the Applied Optics group in the School of Physics at NUI Galway have been selected by the European Space Agency to carry out a study to detect gravitational waves from many different kinds of sources, such as massive stars rotating each other, or black holes spiralling into each other, as part of the space mission LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna). The European Space Agency (ESA) contemplates the possibility to launch in 2034 three spacecraft in the LISA mission, the first space-based gravitational wave observatory. Selected to be ESA’s third large-class mission, LISA will address the science theme of the Gravitational Universe. The purpose is to detect ‘gravitational waves’, which are tiny ripples in the fabric of space-time. To do this, the three spacecraft will be placed 2.5 million kilometres apart from each other in a triangular formation, following Earth in its orbit around the Sun to detect tiny changes in their separations. The size of the changes is 1 ‘pico-meter’, which is 100 times smaller than an atom. Optical techniques are required to achieve this incredible precision, and the European Space Agency has contracted scientists from the Applied Optics group in the School of Physics at NUI Galway to carry out a study in order to ensure that such precision is indeed feasible. This follows on from the scientists’ recent successful completion of an ESA project to build a prototype Active Optics system for future Space Telescopes. Each of the three spacecraft will carry two telescopes, one of which is used to transmit a laser beam to another LISA spacecraft, and one to receive a laser beam. The combined beams give rise to a pattern of bright and dark lines. Gravitational waves cause tiny changes in the spacecraft separation, and these lead to shifts in the pattern which can be detected.  The ground-based LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational – Wave Observatory) experiment has already detected gravitational waves due to coalescing black holes, with the experiment designers winning the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics. However, these detections are very difficult on the ground due to interference from vibrations ranging from earth tremors to distant trucks. In space, LISA will be sensitive to many more sources of gravitational waves and will open up a whole new type of astronomy. Dr Nicholas Devaney and Dr Fiona Kenny from the Applied Optics Group in the School of Physics at NUI Galway are writing software to precisely calculate the transmission of light between the LISA spacecraft’s. They will include the optical design of the telescopes and determine the effect of errors in the telescope optics. It is vital for the European Space Agency to know how the optics have to be made in order to be able to detect gravitational waves. This will determine the final telescope design and have a major impact on the mission.  Speaking about the study Dr Nicholas Devaney from NUI Galway, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Irish scientists to be involved in this exciting mission. It recognises the expertise of NUI Galway scientists in the field of space optics and we plan to build on this work to expand Galway activities in this area.” The NUI Galway gravitational wave spacecraft study is being carried out under a programme of and funded for by the European Space Agency. For more information about LISA, visit: http://sci.esa.int/lisa/ -Ends-

Friday, 7 June 2019

More than 50 famous landmarks and buildings across the island of Ireland lit up blue this weekend (7-10 June) as part of the ‘Go Atlantic Blue’ initiative to celebrate our connection to the Atlantic Ocean and to mark World Oceans Day (8 June). The global day connects people worldwide in celebrating the ocean, its importance in our lives and how each of us can protect it, no matter where we live. In its inaugural year, the ‘Go Atlantic Blue’ campaign has had an incredible response with more than 50 landmarks and buildings across the country coming on board including Dublin, Shannon and Cork airports, a host of universities and colleges, State buildings (Iveagh House and Government Buildings) and lighthouses (Baily Lighthouse, Roche’s Point and The Great Light). Galway was a sea of blue with NUI Galway, Dunguaire Castle (Kinvara), Port of Galway, GMIT Letterfrack, Galway Atlantaquaria, Galway Bay Boat Tours, Seavite, Murphys Ice Cream and the Marine Institute all joining in the national initiative to ‘Go Atlantic Blue' to celebrate our sea. “NUI Galway is delighted to ‘Go Atlantic Blue’ for World Oceans Day,” said Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, President of NUI Galway. “Our location on the Atlantic seaboard is a defining and distinctive part of our University’s identity. We celebrate our presence along the Wild Atlantic Way – from Donegal through Mayo, Sligo, Galway and Clare. Our scholars and researchers work with the great resources of the Atlantic Ocean, across areas of academic endeavour as disparate as economics, health and wellbeing, energy engineering, marine biodiversity, earth science and climate change. Increasingly the awareness of the importance of our oceans will inform social policy.  We recognise the truly unique connection which Ireland and the people of the western seaboard, in particular, have with the Atlantic Ocean. NUI Galway is proud to ‘Go Atlantic Blue’ from the 7th to the 10th June 2019 as a signal of our commitment to sustainability." ‘Go Atlantic Blue’ is being spearheaded in Ireland by the Marine Institute-led AORA-CSA (Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Co-ordination & Support Action) against the backdrop of SeaFest 2019 (7-9 June) and Our Ocean Wealth Summit (9-10 June), both held in Cork this year. SeaFest is Ireland’s national maritime festival and Our Ocean Wealth Summit is Ireland’s flagship event for the marine sector, bringing together Irish and international organisations to create innovative and sustainable solutions to drive our Blue Economy. It’s the first year to ‘Go Atlantic Blue’ with the aim of raising awareness of the vital role that the Atlantic Ocean plays in the lives of Irish people, no matter how near or far they live from the Atlantic coastline. Dr Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute, said, “Our ocean is our greatest natural resource and we see that most directly in Ireland with the vital importance that the Atlantic Ocean plays in our daily lives – from influencing the weather to facilitating our trade industry and from seafood to surfing off the coast.” Director of Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance Co-ordination & Support Action, Dr Margaret Rae, said that the initiative gives people all around the country a chance to show their appreciation for the Atlantic Ocean. “Going Atlantic Blue is a way to draw attention to how each and every one of us experiences the Atlantic, what we love about our Ocean and how we can be that generation that makes a difference,” she said. Some of the Landmarks around Ireland Going Atlantic Blue ·         Dublin Airport ·         Shannon Airport ·         Cork Airport ·         King John’s Castle, Limerick ·         University of Limerick ·         CIT Crawford College of Art & Design, Cork ·         St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh ·         National University of Ireland Galway ·         University College Cork ·         University College Dublin ·         Dublin City University ·         Trinity College Dublin ·          Iveagh House, Dublin (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) ·          Government Buildings (Merrion Square, Dublin)     ·         GMIT, Letterfrack ·         Galway Bay Boat Tours ·         Dunguaire Castle in Kinvara, Galway ·         Galway Atlantaquaria, National Aquarium of Ireland ·         Tyndall National Institute, Cork ·         Port of Galway ·         Cork City Hall ·         Berwick fountain (Grand Parade), Cork ·         Bishop Lucey Park, Cork ·         St Peter’s, North Main Street, Cork ·         St. Luke’s, Cork ·         Roche’s Point Lighthouse, Cork ·         Baily Lighthouse, Dublin ·         The Great Light (Titanic Quarter, Belfast) ·         Port of Cork ·         National Maritime College of Ireland (NCMI) ·         Marine and Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI) Centre, Cork ·         Marine Institute ·         One Albert Quay, Cork ·         The Capitol, Cork ·         Western Development Commission ·         XOCEAN, Co Louth ·         VOYA and VOYA Seaweed Baths, Co Sligo ·         Murphys Ice Cream, Nationwide ·         Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium, Co Kerry ·         Blennerville Windmill, Tralee, Co Kerry ·         Seavite ·         Science Foundation Ireland ·          Údarás na Gaeltachta ·          Carbery Group ·          Seal Rescue Ireland ·         Milish Bakery, Bundoran ·         Martina Hamilton Jewellery How you can ‘Go Atlantic Blue’ • Decorate your business/home/school with an Atlantic blue colour – add dark blue filters, fairy lights or blue light bulbs in outdoor lights • Dress in Atlantic blue clothing e.g. T-shirts, wear a blue wig or paint your face dark blue • Organise your own ‘Atlantic Blue’ themed event Share how you ‘Go Atlantic Blue’ • Take a photo or video of how you’ve gone Atlantic Blue and share it on social media platforms. Feel free to share what makes the Atlantic Ocean special to you • Tag your social media posts with #WorldOceansDay and #GoAtlanticBlue to link with a community of fellow ocean appreciators! • Tag AORA in your tweets (@AtlanticAll) and also tag @Seafest_ie and @OurOceanWealth if you’ve room! Ends.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

NUI Galway’s microbiologists are putting microbiology in the spotlight with the recent launch of an ambitious student-centered, video-teaching initiative. The project showcases a range of techniques that are routinely performed in microbiology teaching and research laboratories. The 40 professionally produced videos are contained on a freely available YouTube channel and will be a valuable resource for both third and second level students. Project Lead Dr Katrina Lacey sees multiple benefits for students in NUI Galway and worldwide, stating: “We started this project from a very pure, student-focused blueprint, with the goal of enhancing our teaching of small-scale, specialist techniques that are often difficult to demonstrate to large classes. Feedback from an initial trial used in our Microbiology degree this year was hugely positive, both in helping students to develop their practical skills and in improving their understanding of core concepts in microbiology.” Produced in combination with Slipjig Media, the videos depict individual techniques routinely carried out in teaching laboratories. Techniques covered in the videos range from simple methods such as culturing and identifying bacteria, to more specialised and sophisticated procedures used in analysing and manipulating DNA and proteins. The film-making project, which took two years to complete, saw a team of PhD students in the Discipline of Microbiology hone their skills in the relevant techniques before carrying out the experiments on camera. This was followed by months of video and audio editing to ensure the technical details are expertly presented in the finished mini-movies. Professor Gerard Wall, Head of Microbiology at NUI Galway, said: “Visual learning is an important strategy for many students, especially when it comes to understanding core laboratory techniques. These videos will support students’ learning, not only in the case of third level undergraduates, but Junior and Leaving Cert students too. The videos will also help students who wish to continue their studies in the biosciences field in their progression to third level.” The new YouTube channel, containing a trailer that gives a flavour of the content and aims of the video suite as well as the instructional videos, can be found at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsP4xz5aq7sWfR9eXSCd_QQ/ -Ends-

Friday, 17 May 2019

Astronomers from NUI Galway have been working with Croí na Gaillimhe on an intergenerational project involving an active retirement group and students from Our Lady’s College Galway. The project is part of a wider project, Making Space, celebrating 200 years of the Royal Astronomical Society. Every Tuesday for the past three months the University has worked with a local artist Finbar McHugh who created new art works which demonstrate different scientific ideas. The programme included trips to the University and to Birr Castle where the latest astronomical observatory in Ireland, the i-Lofar Radio Observatory, is based.  On Tuesday, 21 May, there will be a celebration of the event showcasing the work and the presentation of certificates. The event will be introduced by Professor Walter Gear, Dean of the College of Science and Engineering, NUI Galway, and the certificates will be presented by Professor Steve Millar from the Royal Astronomical Society.  Croí na Gaillimhe will also mark the end of their Galway 2020 ‘Small Towns Big Ideas’ project, Mill Street Quilters by hosting a graduation ceremony in the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance, NUI Galway. The project brought together two groups, the sewing group at Croí na Gaillimhe and the intergenerational group Young Hearts, to create three quilts based on the Galway 2020 themes of Language, Landscape and Migration. Under experienced tutor Marcella Morgan, the Mill Street Quilters group met regularly and the quilts were hand sewn to encourage more intergenerational connections between the young and the old. This event is presented in partnership with the NUI Galway Physics Department. Professor Andy Shearer, Centre for Astronomy, NUI Galway, said: “Our intention with Making Space is to bring astronomy to communities which don’t normally take part in scientific outreach. We also wanted to explore different ways of communicating scientific ideas, can artists help scientists tell the public what they do? We were delighted to work with Croí na Gaillimhe to develop better links with community groups outside of the University.” Loretta Needham, Manager of Croí na Gaillimhe, spoke about the importance of Making Space available to the community and the acknowledgement by NUI Galway and Our Lady’s College Galway of learning what is happening in places other than the class room, saying: “It is true to say that young and old participants have broadened their horizons. Community Education is what Croí na Gaillimhe is about, it is learning that promotes change and transformation, and promotes empowerment for those marginalised or oppressed. I would like to thank NUI Galway and RAS200 for extending the programme into the community and Galway 2020 for the quilting project.” -Ends-

Friday, 17 May 2019

NUI Galway researcher develops a new bioengineered cardiovascular stent  A new type of cardiovascular stent, coated in antibodies to improve its incorporation into blood vessels, has been developed by scientists and engineers in Ireland and Poland. Professor Gerard Wall, a microbiologist and investigator of the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices (CÚRAM), based at NUI Galway, led the EU-funded project which has designed and produced a novel stent. The stent is the first of its kind to use human antibodies for cell capture, to avoid activating the patient’s immune response. The antibodies are isolated in the laboratory using phage display technology, a genetic engineering approach that mimics the human immune system, followed by production in E. coli bacteria for tethering onto the lattice structure of the stent under sterile manufacturing conditions. Coronary artery disease occurs when the coronary arteries become hardened and narrowed due to the buildup of plaques on their inner walls. This can lead to stenosis, or narrowing of coronary arteries, reducing blood flow to the heart. This is the most common cause of death in Europe, resulting in approximately two million deaths each year. While surgical insertion of stents to re-open arteries is now commonplace, arteries can become re-blocked over time when cells such as macrophages and smooth muscle cells from the patient’s blood grow over the stent surface. It is this problem that the new stent design addresses: steel stents produced by the manufacturing partner in Poland are coated with human antibodies, produced in the NUI Galway laboratory, to capture endothelial cells from the patient’s blood and the surrounding artery. This leads to stents becoming rapidly “camouflaged” within the walls of the native blood vessels, enabling them to avoid rejection by the patient’s immune system while providing the mechanical strength necessary to keep the artery open. Professor Wall, Head of Microbiology and CÚRAM Investigator at NUI Galway, explains: “The prototype stent arises from the combined expertise of stent manufacturers, protein engineers and interventional cardiologists. It has demonstrated its effectiveness in preclinical studies and is now under development by the manufacturer in Poland with a view to reducing restenosis (reoccurrence of a narrowing of a blood vessel) events in patients and improving the long-term outcome of surgical interventions.” Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM in NUI Galway, said: “The development of this new cardiovascular stent addresses a critical patient need, which drives all research at CÚRAM. By partnering with leading research institutions in Europe, this unique team brought together a critical skill set to design and produce a real solution that will have a very significant impact for those who urgently need it. The outcome of this partnership is a testament to the power of collaborative research.” The work, published in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research, was carried out at NUI Galway, Poland’s Wrocław University of Technology and Wrocław Medical University, and Comenius University in Slovakia, as well as stent manufacturer Balton in Warsaw. It was funded under the EU’s Marie Curie Industry-Academia Partnerships and Pathways (IAPP) scheme and provided cross-sectoral research training for researchers from the three participating countries. To read the full piece in Journal of Biomedical Materials Research, visit: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jbm.b.34380 -Ends-

Monday, 29 April 2019

Marine litter and microplastics have become a huge global issue and their negative impact on marine animals causes great concern. A new study led by marine scientists from the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway in collaboration with UCC and Villefranche sur Mer Laboratory has found that microplastics may also impact on important ecosystem processes which facilitate the uptake of carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. The research was published in the international peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology. The study’s findings suggest that the uptake and the long-term storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide in our oceans that is fuelled by key organisms may be negatively impacted by microplastics. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas released during the burning of fossil fuels and its atmospheric levels have continually risen over the past couple of centuries. It is naturally absorbed by our oceans through biological, chemical, and physical processes. The research team from NUI Galway, the Villefranche Ocean Observatoire, France and UCC studied how microplastics interact with marine animals called salps. Salps are jellyfish-like animals and they play a very important role in this uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and its downward transport to the sea floor where the carbon gets stored. Lead author of the study, Alina Wieczorek, Ryan Institute, NUI Galway, explains: “Our oceans are estimated to have captured one quarter to one half of all human-derived carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the last two centuries and this downward transport of carbon by salps and other zooplankton animals accounts for a major portion of this.” At the sea surface, microscopic algae turn dissolved CO2 into fuel (organic carbon). These algae are consumed by many different animals and form the basis of the marine foodweb. As this organic carbon is passed up through the food chain much of it is respired and converted back into CO2 which is then released into the ocean and the atmosphere. However, some of the captured carbon is transported to the sea floor in the form of sinking particles. This is where salps play an important role. They ingest algae at the sea surface and produce dense faecal pellets, which rapidly sink to the deep sea, carrying with them some of this captured carbon. However, during laboratory experiments carried out at the Villefranche Ocean Observatory the researchers found that when salps ingest microplastics and incorporated them into their faecal pellets they did not sink as fast anymore. Alina Wieczorek adds: “Our study suggests that salp faecal pellets will remain at the sea surface for longer when they contain microplastics and while there, they may get broken down causing the carbon dioxide to be re-released back into the ocean and atmosphere. These findings show that microplastics have the potential to lower the efficiency of one of the most important natural processes occurring within our oceans, that is, the biologically driven transport of CO2 to the seafloor.” The researchers also noted that while alterations in the density of the salp faecal pellets may cause some of them to be recycled in the upper waters, some may still reach the sea floor and transport the microplastics within them to the deep sea. Recent findings of microplastics in the Mariana Trench, the deepest point on Earth located in the western Pacific Ocean, support this theory. Dr Fabien Lombard, a co-author of this study, Villefranche sur Mer Laboratory (Sorbonne Université), explains: “Most studies focus on the quantity of plastic in the oceans, but when looking at these quantities, it appears that a large quantity of the smaller plastic is “missing” and disappears from the sea surface without a clear explanation. Such transport mediated by zooplankton faecal pellets may explain why plastics are even found in deep sediments.” Dr Tom Doyle, senior author of the study from UCC, (formerly NUI Galway), comments: “Our study highlights that marine litter and microplastics may impact on animals and even ecosystems in ways we just haven’t considered yet. However, it is very important to point out that our study was carried out in a laboratory and under controlled conditions. We now need to go out into the field to further test our hypothesis by quantifying the abundance of microplastics found in salps and their faecal pellets in different areas of our oceans.” The study was funded by an NUI Galway postgraduate scholarship and by the PLASTOX Project under the Marine Institute’s Marine Research Programme run by the Irish Government via framework of JPI Oceans. The research was also supported by the European Marine Biological Research Centre-France, whose French state funds are managed by the ANR within the Investments of the Future program. This research was further supported by a research grant from Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geoscience (iCRAG), co-funded under the European Research Development Fund and by PIPCO RSG and its member companies.  To read the full study in Environmental Science and Technology, see: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.8b07174 Video of the Salp study: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mCLaj9cy9g&feature=youtu.be -Ends-

Monday, 15 April 2019

Astronomers at NUI Galway are part of an international team which for the first time have used the VERITAS gamma-ray telescopes to measure the angular diameter of stars. The study was published today (15, April 2019) in the journal Nature Astronomy. VERITAS is an array of four 12-metre gamma-ray telescopes located at the F.L. Whipple Observatory in southern Arizona.  They are used to detect very-high-energy gamma radiation from exotic objects in space. They do this by measuring the brief flashes of visible light produced when gamma rays enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Dr Gary Gillanders of the School of Physics, Centre for Astronomy at NUI Galway, explains: “Stars are so far away from us that they appear as points of light in the sky. Their diameters are usually estimated indirectly using measurements of temperature and brightness.” The VERITAS team have directly measured the angular diameter of two stars by using an asteroid occultation method in which the shadow cast on the Earth when an asteroid passes between the star and the Earth is measured. This is a first for telescopes of the type used by VERITAS, and opens up a new window for direct measurement of the size of stars. Amy Joyce, then an MSc student at NUI Galway was part of the observing crew which measured one of the occultations.  Supported by the Irish Research Council, she is now based at the European Space Agency in Madrid. According to Amy Joyce: “The occultation is like a mini solar eclipse, although it is extremely faint and only lasts a few seconds, VERITAS is an ideal instrument to detect it.” Dr Mark Lang of the School of Physics, Centre for Astronomy at NUI Galway welcomed the results: “Normally we use VERITAS to observe objects like the supermassive black hole in M87, recently imaged by the Event Horizon Telescope. Now we have shown that VERITAS can make other types of measurements”. The study was led by Dr Michael Daniel of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Dr Tarek Hassan of DESY, the German high-energy physics institute. The VERITAS collaboration includes colleagues at UCD and Cork IT. To read the full study on Monday, 15 April at 16:00 London time in Nature Astronomy, visit: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-019-0741-z -Ends-

Thursday, 4 April 2019

The importance and prestige of Paracycling is on the rise, but insight in Paracycling aerodynamics is very limited. Therefore, researchers from NUI Galway (Ireland), Eindhoven University of Technology (The Netherlands) and KU Leuven (Belgium) have used advanced technologies such as engineering simulation (Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)) developed by ANSYS and wind tunnel facilities typically dedicated to aerospace, nuclear or automotive research to better understand and improve the complex aerodynamics of elite Paracycling tandem and handcycling disciplines. The results show that decisive gains can be achieved by counter-intuitive postures and wheel selection that can change the outcomes in the Paracycling competitions in the games next year.  Dr Eoghan Clifford, NUI Galway, a four-time paracycling world champion and current Paralympic Champion has joined forces with Professor Bert Blocken, Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and KU Leuven, recognised worldwide for his expertise in elite cycling aerodynamics. Surprised by the scarcity of scientific research performed on Paracycling where many fundamental insights are lacking, they decided to set up the first large open scientific research project into Paralympic cycling in collaboration with Drs. Magdalena Hajdukiewicz (NUI Galway), Dr Yasin Toparlar (TU/e), Dr Thomas Andrianne (U Liège) and Dr Paul Mannion (who was jointly awarded a PhD by NUI Galway and TU/e for his work on this project). The project combined computer simulation (CFD) with ANSYS software on Irish and Dutch supercomputers with wind tunnel testing in the wind tunnels of Eindhoven University of Technology and the University of Liège. The investigation focused on both tandem cycling and H1-H4 handcycling. This investigation resulted in four key new findings. Applying these findings in races would yield significant gains in terms of time. In recent top races at Rio 2016, the difference between Gold and Silver or missing the podium was often a matter of seconds: Tandem cycling: Men - 4 km pursuit (Rio velodrome) – Gold to Silver (1.6 seconds); Bronze to 4th place (0.9 seconds). Tandem cycling: Men 30 km time trial (Rio road) – Gold to Silver 8.8 seconds. Tandem cycling: Women – Tandem 3 km pursuit (Rio velodrome) – Gold to Silver (3.5 seconds). In qualifying 0.8 seconds separated the 3rd place position from the 5th place position (3rd and 4th quality for a medal ride off). Tandem cycling: Women 30 km time trial (Rio road) – Silver to Bronze 0.8 seconds. Handcycling: Men 20 km time trial (Rio road) – Gold to Silver in some cases was as low as 2 seconds and 10 seconds with Silver to Bronze being as low as 0.9 seconds in one category. The research resulted in four key new findings that are generally opposite to what Paracyclists and their entourage would expect and that in race circumstances can make very significant differences in time: The typical time-trial setup with a time-trial handlebar for the pilot and the stoker does not provide the lowest aerodynamic resistance. The stoker holding the seatpost of the tandem bicycle (frame-clench setup) provides a gain of 8.1 s over a 10 km race. The most aerodynamic race setup of the tandem cyclists is not the one where pilot and stoker bodies are closest to the horizontal. The pilot being slightly more upright gives a benefit of 6.5 s over 10 km. The most aerodynamic wheel choice for a H1-H4 handcycle is not disk wheels at the rear, as commonly accepted, but two spoked wheels at the rear, because disk wheels would channel the flow between these wheels and create extra suction (drag) on the cyclist body. Spoked wheels at the rear and a single disk wheel at the front would save 16 s on 10 km. For downhill handcycling, athletes tend to adopt the so-called 6 o’clock position, with the hands in the lowest position and the arms tucked against the body. The 9 o’clock position with hands farthest upstream has a 4.3% lower drag, which gives a gain of 0.8 s over a 500 m descent. As a 4-time paracycling world champion and current Paralympic champion Dr Eoghan Clifford has corroborated these findings and with the research team and high performance coaches has tested athletes and used the findings to guide these athletes towards better performances. Dr Eoghan Clifford, College of Engineering and Informatics, NUI Galway, said: “This has been one of the most exciting and challenging projects I have worked on. The extensive experimental and computational modelling work was unprecedented for Paralympic cycling and indeed for most sports. The work will fundamentally impact Paralympic cycling and will cause teams and engineers to rethink their approach to aerodynamics. This work also opens the door for world-class Paralympic athletes to have the same expertise and equipment available to them as other professional athletes. At the world championships and Paralympics where tenths of seconds can decide medals this work can unlock that vital time!” Professor Bert Blocken, Eindhoven University of Technology & KU Leuven, said: “I am passionate about Sports aerodynamics because it really pushes the boundaries of computer simulation and wind tunnel testing. In most topics on aerodynamics, accuracies of 5-10% are considered sufficient. In sports aerodynamics however, tenths or even hundredths of percentages can be decisive. This first extensive open project in Paralympic cycling reveals new insights to obtain such gains in these competitions.” Thierry Marchal, Global Industry Director Sports & Healthcare, ANSYS, concluded: “As the engineering simulation leader, ANSYS is keen to assist the sport community improving safety and performance of athletes by adopting a technology traditionally used in the aerospace and automotive industries. Elite sport is an ideal window to illustrate the impact of pervasive simulation across all industries.” Paralympics Ireland Chief Executive Officer, Miriam Malone, added: “I would like to congratulate the research team on the publication of this fantastic research. The results published will fundamentally change the approach that many paracyclists take to their sports and will ensure that more exciting times lie ahead as performances improve. It is particularly pleasing that Paralympics Ireland board member and Paralympic champion, Dr Eoghan Clifford, is spearheading this research project.” Neill Delahaye, National Performance Coach, Cycling Ireland, added: “Cycling Ireland has had significant international success in Track Cycling and Road Cycling over recent years. To compete with the world’s top nations, we actively engage with research and innovation. From the outset we recognised this work could have significant benefits for our athletes especially given aerodynamics plays such a key role in cycling.” Scientific publications about this project: https://surfdrive.surf.nl/files/index.php/s/mCw2JSapLPcKa6Z Photos of Dutch World Champion handcycling in Eindhoven wind tunnel:  https://surfdrive.surf.nl/files/index.php/s/Tjdpjx2ScpFadn9   Photos of Irish tandem cyclists in Eindhoven wind tunnel: https://surfdrive.surf.nl/files/index.php/s/7RHe3wP9EifBol9  

Monday, 1 April 2019

NUI Galway will host Ireland’s first ‘Open Science Week’ with the aim of showcasing the importance of research and education that is accessible to everyone. The inaugural event will take place from 8–12 April.  Open Science Week 2019 will bring together researchers, academics, educators, policymakers and members of the public to highlight and showcase what open science is and how it can be achieved, and to work together towards creating knowledge that is open and accessible to everyone. Events taking place throughout this innovative initiative will target several elements of Open Science, including Open Data, Open Access, Open Education and Citizen Science.  Open Science is a global movement towards research and educational practices that are collaborative and transparent. The aim of open science is to make research and educational resources such as publications, data, research outputs and teaching and learning resources publicly available as early as possible, as well as actively encouraging participation in the research process by the general public and co-creation of knowledge.  Throughout Europe, it is estimated that €250 billion is expended annually on publicly funded research - bringing its own scrutiny, pressure and urgency. Open Science Week 2019 will address some big questions and problems that demand nothing short of a paradigm shift in how research is conducted: How do we make sure our research is properly reproducible? How do we eliminate the rare but deadly publication-pressure induced fraud that threatens to taint legitimate findings with the stain of fake news? Are there more effective alternatives to academic peer review? What should the role of universities be in a society that is increasingly networked and open? Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, President of NUI Galway, commented: “I am delighted to see Ireland’s first Open Science Week being led by colleagues at NUI Galway. Knowledge and scholarship are important drivers of our society and our economy. Investment in education and research - which generates such knowledge - is harvested by increased public access to and engagement with knowledge outputs – publications, data and a greater sense of relationship between the citizen and knowledge. Open access and the inaugural Open Science Week 2019 represents the evident social dividend from investment in education and research and I commend colleagues at NUI Galway, and beyond, for highlighting this area of societal importance.”  Dr Elaine Toomey, Health Behaviour Change Research Group (School of Psychology) and Open Science Week committee member at NUI Galway, said: “It’s really exciting to see such a wide range of activities and events taking place across campus for Open Science Week, and in particular to see such great engagement from different disciplines within the University. We’re also really hoping to get as many people from outside the University involved as possible, as this is an issue that affects everyone, whether or not they realise it.”   On Monday, 8 April Professor Lokesh Joshi, Vice President of Research at NUI Galway, will officially launch Open Science Week at NUI Galway’s Hardiman Building. It will be followed by the Screening of the movie ‘Paywall: the Business of Scholarship’ and a Q&A. Paywall focuses on the need for open access to research and science and questions the rationale behind the $25.2 billion a year that flows into for-profit academic publishers. (https://paywallthemovie.com/); Wikipedia edit-a-thon on Women in Science highlights how women in science are under-represented on Wikipedia, with just 18% of biographies for women. Tuesday, 9 April events include: Data Conversation - Talking Historical Data which aims to bring data practitioners of all kinds together to talk about how researchers might best create, collect, use and share data in the context of Open Science; Open Educational Resources (OER) Policy Lab is the first ever OER Policy Lab that aims to collect global OER policies with a special focus on Europe, identify new functionalities needed for the OER Policy Registry and develop a global network of OER Policy experts to facilitate global mainstreaming of Open Education.  On Wednesday, 10 April the 10th Annual Open Educational Resources (OER) Conference 2019 will be held for the first time in Ireland. Keynote speakers include: Dr Kate Bowles (University of Wollongong); Dr Su-ming Khoo (NUI Galway); Taskeen Adam (University of Cambridge); Caroline Kuhn (Bath Spa University); and Judith Pete (Catholic University of Eastern Africa). This year’s conference theme is: ‘Recentering Open: Critical and Global Perspectives’, focusing on critical approaches to open education and how Open Education can improve educational access, effectiveness, and equality. On the 11-12 April an Open Science in Irish Health Research: two-day introductory workshop for Early Career Researchers will take place. This two-day workshop funded by the Irish Health Research Board intends to introduce ‘all things Open Science’ for early career researchers in health. For registration and full details visit: www.nuigalway.ie/openscienceweek and follow #OpenSciGalway on Twitter. -Ends-

Friday, 1 February 2019

Scientists and engineers based at the University of Limerick, NUI Galway and Ulster University, Coleraine have found that ship wrecks off the west coast of Ireland are acting as artificial reefs providing habitat for species more typically found in deeper waters or in canyons. It is thought the wrecks may be acting as refugia leading to improved species resilience to human impacts and climate change by increasing population connectivity. The recently unveiled Irish National Monuments Service Wreck Viewer lists the locations of more than 4,000 ship wrecks from a total of 18,000 records of potential wrecks in Irish waters giving some indication of the available infrastructure on the seafloor. In recent years, advanced technique scuba divers have started to dive on some of these wrecks located as deep as 150 metres but no deeper wrecks have been surveyed. Dr Anthony Grehan, School of Natural Sciences from NUI Galway and ocean scientist who made the discovery, said: “Divers report that wrecks are often festooned with corals and other species of epifauna. As such, the wrecks act as artificial reefs and given the quantity of wrecks in Irish waters, may make an important contribution to maintaining coral and other species by providing refugia and stepping stones for further colonisation or restoration of damaged habitats. By surveying these deeper wrecks we wanted to establish whether deeper reef forming corals could survive in shallower water.” A number of these wrecks lying in deep waters off the west coast of Kerry - beyond the reach of scuba divers - were identified using the Infomar wreck database and investigated for the first time by the team of SFI MaREI engineers and scientists led by Dr. Ger Dooly from the University of Limerick. Profiting from benign weather conditions at this time of year, the survey aboard the national Celtic Explorer (CE19001), successfully located and dove on two large - greater than 100 metres in length – wrecks using a newly commissioned University of Limerick Remotely Operated Vehicle nicknamed Étáin.  A high definition TV survey of one of the wrecks revealed that intact parts of the ship were indeed colonised by various colourful epifauna: anemones, solitary corals, oysters and brachiopods. The biggest surprise was finding a colony of the coral reef forming Lophelia pertusa, a stony coral species usually found below 500 metres or deeper in Irish waters. The colony was hanging from the apex of two plates where it was likely protected from fishing but still received a plentiful food supply. Speaking about locating the colony, Dr Anthony Grehan, NUI Galway, said: “This indicates that the species can survive in much shallower waters in Ireland than previously thought with implications for the design and management of marine protected areas and habitat restoration.  Indeed, recent scientific literature addressing ‘ocean sprawl’ points to some of the unexpected positive benefits of long-term structures found on the sea-floor. -Ends-

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Scientists from the Apoptosis Research Centre at NUI Galway have found that targeting the IRE1 stress response pathway may improve the response to chemotherapy and reduce relapse for patients with triple negative breast cancer. These first in world research findings were published today (15 August 2018) in the internationally renowned Nature Communications journal. Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is one of the most aggressive and difficult to treat forms of breast cancer. This type of breast cancer accounts for around 15% of all breast cancers diagnosed and occurs more frequently in younger women. Unlike other forms of breast cancer, there are no targeted therapies available for triple negative breast cancer. Currently, chemotherapy is the mainstay treatment, and although initially successful, a large percentage of TNBC patients relapse within one to three years of treatment and have a poor long-term prognosis. The exact mechanism of the tumour relapse post chemotherapy remained unknown until now. In this study, the research team, led by Professor Afshin Samali at NUI Galway have shown for the first time that IRE1, which is a cellular stress sensor that normally acts to alleviate short-term stresses within cells, such as lack of nutrients or oxygen, is a central driver of treatment-related relapse. Professor Afshin Samali, Director of the Apoptosis Research Centre at NUI Galway, said: “This study is the result of extensive laboratory experiments, analysis of breast cancer patient samples, testing pre-clinical models of triple negative breast cancer and collaboration with our international and industry partners. The new era of precision oncology aims to tailor treatments to individual cancer patients and here at NUI Galway, we are excited to identify a new therapeutic strategy for triple negative breast cancer patients who are most in need of better treatment options. Furthermore, this strategy may benefit many other cancer patients whose cancer cells rely on activated cell stress responses to survive.”  Dr Susan Logue, first author of the study at NUI Galway, said: “This work has uncovered a previously unknown role for IRE1 and suggests that it may represent a good therapeutic target for the treatment of triple negative breast cancer. While further research is needed, this work is a great example of how curiosity-driven basic research can lead to translational outcomes with real potential to impact on patient treatment.” The team discovered that chemotherapy can activate the IRE1 stress response in triple negative breast cancer, leading to the production of survival signals that are pumped out of the cell to support the growth of new cancer cells. Most importantly, the study showed that this process can be halted by specifically inhibiting IRE1 using a clinically-relevant, small molecule drug called MCK8866 that not only improves the effectiveness of the initial chemotherapy treatment, but also reduces relapse of this aggressive form of breast cancer.    Using triple negative breast cancer cells treated with chemotherapy, the research team found that blocking IRE1 activity reduced the production of survival signals, and in turn reduced the growth of new cancer cells by 50%. Furthermore, in a pre-clinical model of TNBC, the drug increased the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment, leading to regression of 8 out of 10 cancers compared to regression of just 3 out of 10 cancers using chemotherapy alone. The combination of the MCK8866 drug with chemotherapy also reduced tumour relapse in this pre-clinical model of triple negative breast cancer. In addition to these laboratory-based experiments, an analysis of 595 patient tumours revealed that triple negative breast cancer tumours displayed the highest IRE1 activity compared to other subtypes, suggesting that IRE1 may be of particular importance in TNBC. This discovery suggests that combining chemotherapy with IRE1 inhibitors could offer substantial benefits for triple negative breast cancer patients.   The study was funded by Science Foundation Ireland, Irish Cancer Society and Horizon 2020 with initial funding from Breast Cancer Now. To read the full study in Nature Communications, visit: http://www.nature.com/ncomms -Ends-

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

NUI Galway and Complete Laboratory Solutions (CLS) recently announced a new CLS MedPharma Student Excellence in Microbiology Award. The award is open to Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Microbiology students. Criteria for the award is specifically based on a student’s performance in the analytical microbiology and laboratory quality management modules. Colin O’Toole, Director of Analysts on Contract at CLS, said: “We have been working with NUI Galway since CLS MedPharma was first established here in Galway city in 2008 and likewise at our first facility in Ros Muc in Connemara since 1994. In the intervening years over 40 NUI Galway graduates have been recruited at CLS. The Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Microbiology equips graduates with the practical techniques and skills required for a career in science and this is down to the exceptional work of Dr Cyril Carroll and Dr Gerard Fleming, Directors of the Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Microbiology. Supporting the next generation of microbiologists is very important to us and I am excited to celebrate our tenth year at CLS MedPharma by recognising talented students this year.” Dr Cyril Carroll, Co-Director of the Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Microbiology course at NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted that CLS MedPharma has chosen to mark their 10 years by supporting our talented scientists here at the University. This course which is now in its 30th year gives Microbiology graduates a thorough training in a wide range of analytical techniques and the ancillary skills necessary for careers in manufacturing and service industries, especially the healthcare, food, biomedical and pharmaceutical sectors.” The CLS MedPharma Student Excellence in Microbiology Award winning student will be announced in conjunction with the NUI Galway conferring ceremony in October this autumn. -Ends-  

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Researchers from the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway and the Herpetological Society of Ireland have just published the first record of a spider feeding on a reptile in Ireland. The Noble False Widow spider, which has colonised much of Ireland since first being recorded here twenty years ago, has been observed feeding on Ireland’s only native terrestrial reptile, the Viviparous lizard. The report has just been published in the Biology and Environment: Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy journal. The unusual scene was recorded in a private garden in Killiney, Co. Dublin in May 2017 when the 8.5cm juvenile Viviparous lizard was found entangled on a web with the 3.3cm Noble False Widow spider feeding on its flesh. The somewhat gruesome scene is not uncommon in the tropics, where a handful of spider species are known to occasionally feed on birds, rodents or reptiles but it is not something we are accustomed to in Ireland.   Noble False Widow spiders are remarkably adaptable and possess fast-acting neurotoxic venom that can cause neuromuscular paralysis in terrestrial vertebrates (organisms that possesses a spinal column or vertebra and lives predominantly on land) and occasionally feed on small reptiles. Dr Michel Dugon from the Venom Systems Laboratory in the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, says: “This report is quite significant for two reasons. One, it is the first time a terrestrial vertebrate has fallen prey to a spider in Ireland and second, the Viviparous lizard is a protected species in Ireland while the Noble False Widow is a recent alien species that is still actively colonising Ireland. This poses the question of the delayed impact of overlooked invasive species on iconic native organisms. It also raises the question of the true impact of the Noble False Widow on our native ecosystems.” John Dunbar, lead author of the study and PhD researcher at the Venom Systems Laboratory in NUI Galway, said: “While Black Widows are known to prey on small reptiles, there are only two previous accounts from other species of False Widow spiders preying on a lizard in Iran and on a snake in Bulgaria. Surprisingly, this is the first time the False Widow spider that is currently colonising Ireland has been documented preying on vertebrates. In addition to its venom possessing a powerful vertebrate specific neurotoxin, it can produce very strong silk which gives it a real advantage over our native spiders in entangling large prey.” Co-authors Collie Ennis and Rob Gandola from the Herpetological Society of Ireland, caution: “With the Noble False Widow spider following the increasing urban spread into our countryside, the possibility of them coming into contact with native wildlife will no doubt increase.” The researchers added: “We are right in the middle of the lizard birthing season and this is when most lizard sightings are made and when juveniles are likely to turn up in gardens. Female lizards give birth to between 6-11 babies that are jet black and about 40mm long. It’s the juveniles that disperse to new areas but given their tiny size you can see how this is a dangerous endeavour. We’d ask people who are lucky enough to have lizards near or on their property to keep a watch out and report any sightings of Noble False Widows predating on lizards. It would be really helpful to get an idea of how frequent these interactions occur and even the size classes involved, it may not only be young lizards that fall prey.” Noble False Widow spiders have made regular headlines in recent years as they have become more prevalent in Irish homes. While not thought to be life threatening to humans, a bite from the Noble False Widow delivers a fast acting neurotoxic venom which can cause pain and discomfort for a few days. The Venom Systems Laboratory at NUI Galway is the only one in the world currently working on extracting venom from the Noble False Widow spider for potential therapies. This particular species of spider is having a detrimental effect on other local species and other spiders in Ireland due to their competitiveness and fast breeding nature. The Noble False Widow lives for five to seven years whereas most other spider and bug species in Ireland only lives for a maximum of one year. In Ireland, Noble False Widow spiders live close to buildings and houses inhabited by people. Dublin, Cork and Wexford have the highest number of Noble False Widows to date. To report Noble False Widow spider and Viviparous lizard sightings in Ireland, contact michel.dugon@nuigalway.ie or 091 494491. To read the full report in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy journal, visit: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3318/bioe.2018.05 -Ends-

Monday, 23 July 2018

Robot submarine and detailed seabed maps used to find sensitive underwater habitat  A team of marine scientists have returned to Galway after spending three weeks at sea investigating Ireland’s deep ocean territory 300 miles off the west coast. The deep sea expedition led to new discoveries using the Marine Institute’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Holland 1 onboard the ILV Granuaile. The high definition ROV-mounted video captured a number of ‘firsts’ in Irish waters, including a species of octocoral of the genus Corallium, which grows into huge fans with a delicate porcelain-like skeleton, and a species of black coral different to others described to date, which may prove to be an entirely new species. The survey confirmed Irish deep-waters as a haven for these rare and delicate deep-sea black corals. The team of scientists also reported areas of potential ‘sponge reef’ on the Rockall Bank, a highly unusual accumulation of living and dead sponges forming a complex habitat for many other creatures. Such formations are very rare and have previously only been recorded in Canadian waters. Cold water coral reefs are ecosystems that host a diverse range of marine animals including sea fans, sponges, worms, starfish, crustaceans and a variety of fish species, making them vitally important habitats for marine biodiversity. These fragile deepwater reefs are commonly associated with topographic features subject to strong bottom currents, for example continental margins, seamounts and mid-ocean ridges, because as filter feeders, the corals depend on suspended food particulate matter. The high resolution bathymetric dataset acquired as part of the national seabed mapping programme –Integrated Mapping For the Sustainable Development of Ireland’s Marine Resource (INFOMAR) - was used to target potential locations of reef habitat for this survey by identifying specific seabed morphological features likely to support cold water coral. The last two decades have seen a dramatic increase in our understanding of the cold water coral reef ecosystems, their susceptibility to environmental change, and their low resilience to human impact. Professor Louise Allcock, NUI Galway, who is funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the Marine Institute to study the pharmaceutical potential of deep-sea corals and sponges added: “This project highlights collaboration and cooperation between Irish and international marine scientists, helping us to further our understanding of these sensitive ecosystems and has also been able to provide training opportunities and sea-going experience for young scientists.” Chief Scientist on the SeaRover survey, David O’Sullivan, Marine Institute said: “We are very pleased to discover what appear to be new coral species and a rare sponge reef, neither of which have been previously documented in Irish waters. These sensitive habitats are very important and this study is key to getting a better understanding of Irelands’ deep sea. Our key objective is to discover, protect and monitor Ireland’s rich offshore marine biodiversity so we can manage our marine resources effectively. Without a knowledge of what lives on our seabed we are at risk of never fully understanding and appreciating Ireland’s invaluable marine environment.”  Dr Kerry Howell, Plymouth University said: “This is the first time I have seen a sponge reef like this in nearly 20 years of studying the deep NE Atlantic. This is an important find. Sponges play a key role in the marine ecosystem providing habitat for other species and recycling nutrients. They may even be a source of new antibiotics. These new data will help us to better understand where and why these reefs occur.” The ‘SeaRover’ survey is the second of three planned expeditions jointly funded by the Irish Government and the EU’s European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). The cross government initiative is supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht, and Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) as part of the Marine Institute’s implementation of the Marine Biodiversity scheme.  Survey operations were coordinated and led by the DCCAE funded INFOMAR programme, which is a joint venture between the Geological Survey Ireland and the Marine Institute. This year’s expedition extended the habitat exploration area to the Rockall Bank, the farthest offshore extent of Ireland’s Economic Exclusive Zone. Scientific experts onboard to witness the exciting findings were from the Marine Institute, National Parks and Wildlife Service, National University of Ireland Galway and Plymouth University. Ends

Friday, 13 July 2018

A study carried out by Dr Elaine Dunleavy in the Centre for Chromosome Biology at NUI Galway, has uncovered an unexpected new link between genes that normally function in energy production, and male fertility. Results from the research were published today (13 July 2018) in the renowned scientific journal, Nature Communications. The study was carried out on the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, which serves as an excellent model organism in which to study gene function. In the cell, the function to produce energy is carried out in a compartment called the mitochondrion, while the genetic material (DNA) is housed in a different compartment, the nucleus. The authors identified a previously unknown and surprising role for a set of mitochondrial proteins in the nucleus. Senior author of the study, Dr Elaine Dunleavy at NUI Galway, said: “We were surprised to uncover a new nuclear function for proteins that normally function exclusively in the synthesis of ATP, the cell’s energy production. Our use of the fruit fly allowed us to carry out genetic experiments that would have been very difficult to perform in humans.” The results provide insights into how cells arrange DNA to produce the male sex cell, sperm. Dr Dunleavy found that the fruit fly was unable to arrange its DNA to produce sperm cells if it didn’t have this particular protein. In the past century, global fertility rates have reduced dramatically. Given that approximately 60% of genes found in the fruit fly are also found in humans, the findings are potentially relevant to human sperm development and fertility studies to further investigate disrupting this pathway on individuals who experience fertility problems. Professor Noel Lowndes, Director of the Centre for Chromosome Biology at NUI Galway, said: “Dr Dunleavy, our newest recruit to the Centre for Chromosome Biology, has made a surprising link between the cell’s energy production machinery and the production of sperm, which has resulted in a highly impactful publication in one of the world’s major journals. In the Centre we take advantage of simple cellular systems to discover new biology of relevance to humans and, in this case, the work of Elaine and her team will have impact in the field of human fertility.” Dr Dunleavy’s work studies the genetics of fruit flies as a way to understand human health and as a model to understand the cell division that gives rise to eggs and sperm. Her research aims to discover the genes that are important for fertility in males and females and understanding how the genes work in the fruit fly will help explain how they work in humans. To read the full study in Nature Communications, visit: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-05093-9  For more information about the Centre for Chromosome Biology, visit: www.chromosome.ie -Ends-

Monday, 9 July 2018

MaREI secure €4.4 million to support Ireland’s indigenous biomass and bioenergy industry The Research Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy Ireland (MaREI) has secured an additional €4.4 million in funding from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and industry partners under the Sustainable Energy and Fuel Efficiency (SEFE) SFI Spokes Programme, to be based at NUI Galway. Speaking at the launch Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Seán Kyne TD, said: “Climate Action has never been more important to the continued growth and prosperity of our nation as it is now. Ireland has an abundance of natural resources with enormous potential for sustainable energy output, but we need to continue to invest in more efficient technologies for harnessing this potential. I am delighted to see researchers from the SFI Research Centre, MaREI exploring new and innovative technologies to support Ireland’s ambition of meeting national environmental, energy and climate targets, as well as those set by the European Commission.” The Sustainable Energy and Fuel Efficiency research programme led by Professor Henry Curran at NUI Galway and Professor Jerry D Murphy, UCC, leverages the scientific expertise of ten of Ireland’s top academics in bioenergy research across four Universities (NUI Galway, UCC, UL, TCD) and Teagasc. The programme of work will include the technical and commercial expertise of 10 national and international companies. This four-year collaborative programme aims to identify viable routes to increase the efficient utilisation and supply of sustainable energy, and to support Ireland’s ambition to meet National and EU environmental targets. The Sustainable Energy and Fuel Efficiency Spoke, which is affiliated to the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, and run by MaREI funded researchers, has an ambition of developing new processes, technologies and markets through the co-operation of a number of scientists from various disciplines across a number of institutes and working with 10 innovative companies to support Ireland’s energy transition. Professor Henry Curran from the School of Chemistry and Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, said: “The granting of the Spoke award by SFI and the national and multi-national industry commitment endorses and strengthens the research being undertaken in sustainable energy systems by the participating universities and Teagasc.  I look forward to collaborating on world class research that will underpin the transition to a sustainable, low-carbon future.” Professor Murphy, Director of MaREI and head of the bioenergy research group, stated: “The benefit of the SFI Research Centres has been immense for research and innovation; Ireland now has a one-stop-shop system for research expertise that includes the best researchers across the island, coupled with the most relevant industrial partners. This removes the previous competition between researchers and enhances research impact through multi-disciplinary, multi-institute input into industrially relevant cutting edge work. This partnership will bring together the top academics and industry in bioenergy and biofuels, with an overarching ambition of meeting the national objective of decarbonising energy and facilitating Ireland’s transition to a low carbon technology.” The Spoke research teams will collaborate in developing technologies capable of converting a wide variety of residues and by-products to homogenous energy carriers and optimising performance of internal combustion engines using advanced fuels including biofuel blends. The Spoke work programme will complement existing MaREI activities in the bioenergy sector as well as adding new competencies in the area of advanced thermal treatment, combustion modelling and design. The outputs of the Spoke work programme will contribute in a measurable way toward important EU and national environmental and economic objectives in the areas of energy decarbonisation, wastewater treatment, sustainable transport, resource recovery, clean air and water, rural development and diversification of agriculture. The technologies to be advanced by the SEFE Spoke will address some of the drawbacks associated with Ireland's reliance on imported biofuels and intermittent renewables by improving the efficiency and reducing the carbon intensity of power generation and transport from combustion and boosting the supply of renewable heat, which makes up 41% of Ireland’s energy consumption, as well as meeting sustainable waste management challenges. Professor Brian Ó Gallachóir, Co-Director of MaREI, commented: “I am particularly enthused by the industry support for this project. Our research in MaREI is greatly enriched through the partnership we have with our industry partners. In addition to deepening our collaboration with Gas Networks Ireland, this project enables us to benefit from collaborating with a wide range of new partners including ABP Food Group, Arigna Fuels, Siemens and NVP Energy. This investment will in turn enable these industry partners to harness and benefit from the research and innovation capacity we have in MaREI.”   Deputy Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, Dr Ciarán Seoighe welcomed the announcement, saying: “Science Foundation Ireland is delighted to support the Sustainable Energy and Fuel Efficiency Spokes project, which comes at a time when the need for new and innovative means to tackle climate change are sorely needed. The Spokes Programme offers a valuable means for research-active companies to align with any of the 17 SFI Research Centres and utilise the world-renowned expertise and state-of-the-art infrastructure therein. Partnerships such of this support Ireland’s drive towards an environmentally sustainable future and places us at the forefront of renewable energy research.” -Ends-

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Research to investigate a yet unknown mechanism that guides specialised cells to revert to unspecialised stem cells that directly contribute to tissue regeneration Professor Uri Frank from the Centre for Chromosome Biology at NUI Galway has received an Investigator Award through the SFI-HRB-Wellcome Partnership, for his research into the ‘Mechanisms that induce dedifferentiation to drive regeneration in the absence of stem cells.’ The study will address the mechanisms that are activated following tissue and organ loss, driving specialised cells in the body, like muscle cells and neurons, to exit their status and become unspecialised stem cells. These stem cells can then contribute to the regeneration of lost body parts. Since humans and other mammals have poor capabilities to regenerate, these experiments will be performed on Hydractinia, a native Irish marine invertebrate, closely related to jellyfish, sea anemones, and corals. Like many of its kin (collectively known as cnidarians), Hydractinia can regenerate any lost body part, including the head, and is easy to maintain and manipulate in the laboratory. Professor Frank’s team discovered that Hydractinias, which normally regenerate by using resident stem cells, can activate a ‘plan B’ to regenerate in the absence of stem cells. A yet unknown mechanism guides specialised cells to revert to unspecialised stem cells that directly contribute to tissue regeneration and the research funded by Wellcome aims to identify this mechanism. All animals, humans and jellyfish included, are related, having descended from a single common ancestor. Therefore, they share many genetic and cellular mechanisms. Hydractinia's stem cells should be very similar to their human counterparts, and studying them may provide information on human stem cells and help develop new strategies to be used in regenerative medicine. Speaking about his SFI-HRB-Wellcome Partnership award, Professor Uri Frank, a developmental biologist from the Centre for Chromosome Biology at NUI Galway, said: “This funding will allow us to study the molecular mechanisms that drive decision-making in cells.” Professor Noel Lowndes, Director of the Centre for Chromosome Biology at NUI Galway, said: “This large and highly prestigious award makes it a total of four Wellcome funded researchers based in NUI Galway’s Centre for Chromosome Biology. Professor Frank now joins Professor Brian McStay (Investigator Award), Dr Elaine Dunleavy (Research Career Development Award) and Professor Ciaran Morrison (Seed Award) as Wellcome Trust Awardees.” Dr Ciarán Seoighe, Deputy Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, said: “We are delighted to partner with the HRB and Wellcome to co-fund research that can bring significant societal benefit to Ireland. Professor Uri’s work is a prime example of this. The SFI-HRB Wellcome Biomedical Partnership Awards demonstrate what can be achieved through collaboration between funding agencies that share a common ambition of supporting impactful research.” The Centre for Chromosome Biology is the leading unit in Ireland for fundamental research into the structure of chromosomes and how they are replicated, repaired and segregated during cell division. This award is co-funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the Health Research Board under the SFI-HRB Wellcome Research Partnership. For more information about the Centre for Chromosome Biology, visit: http://www.chromosome.ie Videos of Professor Uri Frank’s research: Stem cell migration towards an injury site in the cnidarian Hydractinia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZ4mPgFxR8Q Hydractinia polyps: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZVDLVRL13c Appearance of stem cells in a Hydractinia embryo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbnDhp_xEzw -Ends-

Monday, 9 July 2018

Following the recent increase in lion’s mane jellyfish sightings and stings experienced by swimmers across parts of Ireland, jellyfish research experts from the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway and UCC have issued the following information. If you are stung, the Irish Water Safety authority recommends that you rinse the affected area copiously with seawater and apply a cold pack. You must seek medical attention at the nearest emergency department if you are  Research published by NUI Galway in the international journal Toxins in 2017 showed that the best first aid treatment for a lion’s mane sting is to rinse with vinegar (or the commercial product Sting No More® spray) to remove tentacles, and then immerse in 45°C (113°F) hot water (or apply a heat pack) for 40 minutes. Dr Doyle will meet with the Beaumont Poison Centre at Beamount Hospital Dublin to discuss these findings in the next few weeks. The lion’s mane jellyfish is a large jellyfish (up to 1 metre bell diameter) with thousands of long tentacles located beneath the bell. In Irish and UK waters, lion’s mane jellyfish can be encountered from June until late September. It is one of the least abundant jellyfish in Irish and UK waters, typically occurring as single individuals rather than in blooms or aggregations. Despite being one of the least abundant jellyfish, relatively high densities of large lion’s mane jellyfish have been recorded close to high population areas in recent weeks, and therefore stings have been a recurrent concern. Five people have now been hospitalised after being stung. Jasmine Headlam, PhD and Fullbright Researcher from the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, says: “We often see lion’s mane jellyfish on the east coast, where the water is cooler, around hotspots like the Forty Foot diving area in Dun Laoghaire and popular beaches like Bettystown, Co. Meath and Clogherhead, Co. Louth. In the last few weeks we’ve had reports of large adult lion’s mane from the west coast in places like Salthill, Kinvara, Carna and Oranmore in Galway as well as Newquay in Clare and even Cork harbour. We urge sea swimmers and coastal visitors to report any sightings with photographs if possible to the National Biodiversity Data Centre website and the Big Jellyfish Hunt Facebook page. “Lion’s mane stings, though not generally considered fatal, can cause a lot of pain. Stings from large lion’s mane can be particularly dangerous, as the thousands of thin tentacles can each extend to several meters long. Initially, a sting may result in itching or localised pain that may radiate to other areas of the body, potentially progressing to severe pain within 20 minutes or more. In some cases, stings can result in Irukandji-like syndrome. This syndrome, named after a type of box jellyfish, can involve symptoms including back pain, nausea, abdominal cramps, sweating and hypertension.” Dr Tom Doyle, zoology lecturer at UCC’s school of biological, earth and environmental sciences, added: “Lion’s mane are spreading geographically, with sightings in the Celtic Sea and Atlantic waters in recent weeks. It is not correct to say this is the first time they have been spotted on the west coast, as we had reports for the last two years, but they are particularly large and mature. The typical jellyfish lives in the water column for six to eight months, having been released as a juvenile in December, but we believe these jellyfish may have over-wintered and may be on their second season.” Jasmine Headlam will travel to Hawaii in 2019, as a Fulbright Marine-Institute awardee, to investigate the venom of the lion’s mane jellyfish in state of the art facilities with Dr Yanagihara at University of Hawaii at Manoa. -Ends-

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Bridging the gap between medicine and science through teaching future medics and facilitating cutting-edge research Minister for Health, Mr Simon Harris TD will today (Monday, 2 July) officially open NUI Galway’s €34 million Human Biology Building, bringing together the existing disciplines of Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology & Therapeutics at the University. The building will be home to undergraduate and post-graduate teaching and will carry out cutting-edge research by academics from throughout the campus in the areas of Science and Medicine, and Engineering. The Human Biology Building, funded by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and NUI Galway will create a platform for discovery, development and delivery. It will also build on the output of NUI Galway’s cluster of world-leading biomedical research groups in areas such as regenerative medicine and stem cell research, cancer biology (particularly breast and prostate cancer) biomechanics and biomaterials. Speaking at the opening, Minister for Health, Mr Simon Harris TD, said: “I’m delighted to officially open this building and its facilities, which will extend the capacity for and delivery of biomedical research at NUI Galway. NUI Galway researchers are tackling some of the most pressing issues of our times and the opening of this new building will, I hope, help to strengthen the university’s deserved international reputation as being amongst the very best in the provision of research-led education.” Teaching The Human Biology building has been designed and developed as a joint teaching and research facility to provide these long established disciplines of Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology & Therapeutics, a platform to deliver: core pre-clinical teaching to Medical and allied Health Science students core teaching to Science, Biomedical Science and Engineering students provide a purpose-designed venue for discipline-specific training at undergraduate and postgraduate level and enhance learning and teaching within a research-led environment There is currently teaching to over 200 medical undergraduates in the building along with transformative clinical teaching also taking place in state-of-the art laboratories. There are an additional 100 final year Science undergraduate students studying the three disciplines of Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology & Therapeutics along with postgraduate students on taught masters programmes from areas of Science and Medicine. Research The building will house academics from various research groups on campus such as CÚRAM, REMEDI, School of Psychology, and Galway Neuroscience Centre. There are also PhD students working in the three disciplines of Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology and Therapeutics through research funded by the Irish Research Council (IRC), Health Research Board (HRB), Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and industry partners. The opening of the Human Biology Building sees the completion of a capital projects programme undertaken by the University some decades ago, which was enabled by a combination of philanthropy and State support, while funding from the European Investment Bank, in its first ever loan to the University, assisted in the completion of this new building. In recent years the University has opened a new Engineering building, a new Biomedical Sciences building, and a unique clinical and translational research facility. Taken together these three facilities along with the new human biology building complete an ecosystem of education, research, innovation and healthcare in the West of Ireland.   NUI Galway President, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “We are delighted to mark the opening of our new Human Biology Building, which will transform the learning environment for our health science students.  By having access to the best facilities, our students will be supported to realise their potential and make a real impact in their chosen field. Investment in education is vital for our regional development and continued funding is imperative so that our new buildings can be great places to learn, teach and research in. Our students compete with the best of the world and so must we.” The Building The Human Biology Building is a five-storey state-of-the-art building with a gross floor area of 8,200m².  It is strategically located in the University’s south campus with close proximity to University Hospital Galway. The building has been developed on a previously developed site on which stood the former National Diagnostics Laboratory building. It was designed by award-winning architects, Scott Tallon Walker Architects, in conjunction with international design firm, Building Design Partnership, while BAM Building Ltd. was the contractor. Professor Timothy O’Brien, Dean of the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at NUI Galway, said: ‘The Human Biology Building will provide the next generation of scientists, doctors and healthcare professionals with a world class learning environment and will also provide our academics and researchers with state of the art facilities to further the teaching and research mission of the University. The structure of the building is state of the art, will greatly facilitate enhanced interactions between staff and students, and will provide superior technical and operational capabilities that underpin a research and innovation intensive environment.”   ENDS Seolann an tAire Sláinte an tÁras Bitheolaíochta Daonna in OÉ Gaillimh Ag líonadh na bearna idir an leigheas agus an eolaíocht trí liachleachtóirí na todhchaí a theagasc agus taighde ceannródaíoch a éascú Bitheolaíochta Daonna €34 milliún OÉ Gaillimh inniu (Dé Luain, 2 Iúil), ina dtabharfar le chéile disciplíní na hAnatamaíochta, na Fiseolaíochta  agus na Cógaseolaíochta & Teiripe san Ollscoil. Tabharfar faoi theagasc fochéime agus iarchéime san áras agus déanfaidh acadóirí atá ag obair ar an gcampas trí chéile taighde ceannródaíoch ann i réimse na hEolaíochta agus an Leighis, agus na hInnealtóireachta. Éascófar ardán d’fhionnachtain, forbairt agus seachadadh san Áras Bitheolaíochta Daonna, atá maoinithe ag an Údarás um Ard-Oideachas (HEA). Cuirfidh sé freisin leis an aschur ó na grúpaí taighde bithleighis is fearr ar domhan, a bhfuil braisle díobh in OÉ Gaillimh, i réimsí cosúil le leigheas athghiniúnach agus taighde gascheall, bitheolaíocht ailse (go háirithe ailse bhrollaigh agus phróstataigh), bithmheicnic agus bithábhair. Ag caint dó ag an oscailt, bhí an méid seo a leanas le rá ag an Aire Sláinte, Simon Harris: “Tá an-áthas orm an t-áras seo agus a áiseanna a oscailt. Cuirfidh sé le cumas OÉ Gaillimh taighde bithleighis a dhéanamh agus a thabhairt chun críche. Tá taighdeoirí in OÉ Gaillimh ag dul i ngleic le roinnt de na saincheisteanna is tábhachtaí lenár linn agus tá súil agam, le hoscailt an árais nua seo, go láidreofar cáil idirnáisiúnta na hOllscoile mar áit ina bhfuil oideachas taighdebhunaithe ar ardchaighdeán á chur ar fáil.” Teagasc Dearadh agus forbraíodh an tÁras Bitheolaíochta Daonna mar áis taighde agus teagaisc araon chun go gcuirfear ardán ar fáil do dhisciplíní fadbhunaithe na hAnatamaíochta, na Fiseolaíochta  agus na Cógaseolaíochta & Teiripe chun na nithe seo a leanas a chur i gcrích: teagasc croíláir réamhchliniciúil a sholáthar do mhic léinn Leighis agus mic léinn Eolaíochtaí Sláinte gaolmhara teagasc croíláir a sholáthar do mhic léinn Eolaíochta, Eolaíochta Bithleighis agus Innealtóireachta ionad atá tógtha go speisialta a chur ar fáil d’oiliúint atá sonrach don disciplín ag leibhéal fochéime agus iarchéime agus cur le foghlaim agus teagasc laistigh de thimpeallacht atá á treorú ag taighde Tá breis agus 200 fochéimí leighis á dteagasc faoi láthair san fhoirgneamh, agus tá teagasc cliniciúil bunathraitheach ar siúl sna saotharlanna nua-aoiseacha. Anuas air sin, tá 100 mac léinn fochéime Eolaíochta sa bhliain deiridh i mbun staidéir ar thrí dhisicplín na hAnatamaíochta, na Fiseolaíochta  agus na Cógaseolaíochta & Teiripe in éineacht le mic léinn iarchéime ar chláir mháistreachta mhúinte i réimse na hEolaíochta agus an Leighis. Taighde Beidh acadóirí ó ghrúpaí taighde éagsúla ar an gcampas lonnaithe san fhoirgneamh, leithéidí CÚRAM, REMEDI, Scoil na Síceolaíochta, agus Ionad Néareolaíochta na Gaillimhe. Tá mic léinn PhD ann freisin i mbun taighde i dtrí dhisicplín na hAnatamaíochta, na Fiseolaíochta  agus na Cógaseolaíochta & Teiripe, ar taighde é atá á mhaoiniú ag Comhairle Taighde na hÉireann (IRC), an Bord Taighde Sláinte (HRB), Fondúireacht Eolaíochta Éireann (SFI) agus ag comhpháirtithe tionscail. Tá clabhsúr curtha ar chlár tionscadal caipitil na hOllscoile le hoscailt an Árais Bitheolaíochta Daonna, ar clár é ar tugadh faoi os cionn scór bliain ó shin agus ar tacaíodh leis trí dhaonchairdeas agus tacaíocht Stáit. Chabhraigh maoiniú ón mBanc Eorpach Infheistíochta, i bhfoirm a chéad iasachta riamh don Ollscoil, chun an foirgneamh nua seo a chríochnú. Le blianta beaga anuas, tá áras Innealtóireachta nua oscailte ag an Ollscoil, chomh maith le háras nua do na hEolaíochtaí Bithleighis, agus áis uathúil do thaighde aistritheach agus cliniciúil. Nuair a chuirtear le chéile na trí shaoráid seo in éineacht leis an áras bitheolaíochta daonna nua, tá mórchóras iomlán againn don oideachas, taighde, nuálaíocht agus cúram sláinte in Iarthar na hÉireann.   Seo mar a labhair Uachtarán OÉ Gaillimh, an tOllamh Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh: “Tá an-áthas orainn ceiliúradh a dhéanamh ar oscailt an Árais Bitheolaíochta Daonna nua. Fágfaidh sé go n-athrófar ó bhonn an timpeallacht foghlama dár mic léinn eolaíochta sláinte.  Agus teacht ag ár mic léinn ar na háiseanna is fearr dá bhfuil ar fáil, cabhrófar leo barr a gcumais a bhaint amach agus tionchar ceart a bheith acu sa réimse a roghnaíonn siad. Tá infheistíocht san oideachas ríthábhachtach dár bhforbairt réigiúnach agus is den riachtanas é go leanfar leis an maoiniú ionas gur ionaid den scoth a bheidh inár n-árais don fhoghlaim, don teagasc agus don taighde. Ní mór dár mic léinn dul in iomaíocht le scoth na mac léinn ar fud an domhain, agus is amhlaidh dúinne." An Foirgneamh Foirgneamh cúig stór úrscothach atá san Áras Bitheolaíochta Daonna, agus tá oll-achar urláir 8,200m² ann.  Tá suíomh straitéiseach aige i gcampas theas na hOllscoile, agus tá Ospidéal na hOllscoile, Gaillimh in aice láimhe. Tógadh an foirgneamh ar shuíomh a raibh forbairt déanta cheana air agus is ann a bhí an Diagnóslann Náisiúnta, mar a bhí, roimhe sin. Is iad na hailtirí, Scott Tallon Walker Architects, a bhfuil go leor duaiseanna bainte acu, a rinne an dearadh ar an bhfoirgneamh i gcomhpháirt leis an ngnólacht deartha idirnáisiúnta, Building Design Partnership, agus is é BAM Building Ltd. a bhí ina chonraitheoir. Dúirt an tOllamh Timothy O’Brien, Déan Choláiste an Leighis, an Altranais agus na nEolaíochtaí Sláinte in OÉ Gaillimh: Cuirfear timpeallacht foghlama den scoth ar fáil san Áras Bitheolaíochta Daonna don chéad ghlúin eile eolaithe, dochtúirí agus gairmithe cúraim sláinte. Bainfidh acadóirí agus taighdeoirí leas freisin as na háiseanna úrscothacha, rud a chuirfidh le misean teagaisc agus taighde na hOllscoile. Tá struchtúr an fhoirgnimh go hiomlán nua-aoiseach agus cuirfidh sé go mór leis an gcaidreamh idir an fhoireann agus na mic léinn. Tá deiseanna teicniúla agus oibriúcháin ar ardchaighdeán ar fáil ann chomh maith a thacóidh le timpeallacht dhian taighde agus nuálaíochta.   CRÍOCH

Thursday, 28 June 2018

To celebrate the first ever International LGBT+ STEM Day, members from the LGBT+ Network in NUI Galway will host a number of events on campus on Thursday, 5 July, to demonstrate its commitment to supporting its staff and students who are members of the LGBT+ community and who significantly contribute to the University’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) disciplines. Chris Noone, Co-chair of LGBT+ Staff Network and lecturer in the School of Psychology at NUI Galway, said: “The NUI Galway LGBT+ Staff Network is committed to creating a safe and inclusive environment for staff of all sexual identities and genders at the University and to advocate for and raise awareness of LGBT+ issues. It is well documented that staff and students within the STEM disciplines face added difficulty in being out compared to those in other disciplines and we are proud to support International LGBT+ STEM Day and House of STEM, an Irish-based network dedicated to connecting and supporting LGBT+ scientists in Ireland. “NUI Galway is home to many members of the LGBT+ community who contribute to our teaching and research in STEM disciplines. Our students go on to contribute to STEM research and industry and are valued members of the LGBT+ community in Ireland. For example, NUI Galway graduate, Shaun O’Boyle founded House of STEM and is spearheading the development of International LGBT+ STEM Day.” LGBT+ Staff Network members who will talk about their work at NUI Galway include: Dr David McNamara, Co-chair of LGBT+ Staff Network and lecturer in Earth and Ocean Sciences, NUI Galway. Talk title - An Energetic Geologist David is a structural geologist whose research mainly focuses on energy and mineral resources with the aim of assisting in their sustainable and environmental extraction to work towards decarbonisation of our society. He recently returned to Ireland after seven years researching energy in New Zealand.  Social Media handle @mcnamadd - Twitter, Facebook Cameron Keighron, LGBT+ Network Steering Committee member and Masters student in Regenerative Medicine, NUI Galway. Talk title - The perspective of an early stage researcher Having completed his undergraduate studies in Biotechnology at NUI Galway, Cameron is currently studying for his Masters in Regenerative Medicine at the University and hopes to build his research career from there. He has been involved in a few research projects at NUI Galway over the last number of years, most notable the D1 Now study, which aims to improve health outcomes for young adults with Type 1 Diabetes. He is a member of the LGBT+ Staff network steering group and the Vice Chairperson of AMACH! LGBT. Social media handle – Twitter: @CameronKeighron and Instagram: @Queertransboy The LGBT+ Staff Network will also host talks by those working in the Galway STEM industry and in STEM research abroad: Aoife Fitzgibbon-O’Riordan and Elizabeth Flanagan, Co-founders of Togán Labs Talk title: Queering entrepreneurship: starting up in a toxic startup world.  Togán Labs is a boutique open source software development and consulting firm specialising in the Internet of Things. It was set up in Cork by Aoife and Elizabeth in 2016.  Social Media handle: @ToganLabs Steve Muir, EA Games Talk title - Diversity and Inclusion at EA Steve is a Gaymer who moved to Galway from Glasgow in 2011 to work in the gaming industry. Social media handle - Twitter: @ScottishSteveo Dr Stefaan W. Verbruggen, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow at Queen Mary University of London. Talk title: A window on the womb: how strong is a baby's kick? Dr Stefaan W. Verbruggen is currently based in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Columbia University, New York where his research focuses on the mechanobiology of cancer, and how it metastasises to bone from other areas of the body. Prior to his fellowship, Dr Verbruggen conducted his PhD research in the Biomechanics Research Centre at NUI Galway, followed by postdoctoral research in the Developmental Biomechanics Lab at Imperial College London. Social Media handle: @docbruggsbunny Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, President of NUI Galway will open LGBT+ STEM Day in the Alice Perry Engineering Building at 1pm on Thursday, 5 July and events will take place directly afterwards. For more details about LGBT+ STEM Day, visit: https://lgbtstem.eventbrite.ie For more information about the Office for Equality and Diversity at NUI Galway, visit: http://www.nuigalway.ie/equality/ -Ends-

Thursday, 7 June 2018

NUI Galway recently hosted the inaugural meeting of the Cell EXPLORERS Network, an expanding group of scientists and students from ten Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across Ireland who are committed to bringing science out of the lab and into the classroom. Funded by Science Foundation Ireland and coordinated from the School of Natural Sciences at NUI Galway, Cell EXPLORERS is a science outreach and public engagement initiative.   Cell EXPLORERS aims to inform, inspire and involve people in the excitement of science, increase the general public’s engagement with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and advocates for its importance in society.   Professor Ciaran Morrison, Head of NUI Galway’s School of Natural Sciences, said: “The programme is unique, and has involved 850 team members to reach more than 21,000 members of the Irish public since 2012. It is a unique collaborative approach between 10 higher education institutions that has an impact both on the young people reached but also on our students and researchers. Dr Grenon has also started to develop education research to inform the future development of the programme. The overall impact of Cell EXPLORERS has in fact won her a Societal Impact Award from NUI Galway in 2017.”   Delegates from across Ireland attended the meeting to consolidate the recent expansion of the project, from five partner institutions, to a current total of ten HEIs nationally. The Cell EXPLORERS project now covers twelve counties, including nine of those previously identified as having poor exposure to STEM-related activities. The first year of activity for the Network has resulted in the direct engagement of 6,700 young people and their families by over 250 volunteer scientists who continue to give their time, passion and knowledge to inspiring the next generation of scientific explorers.   Dr Muriel Grenon, Founding Director of Cell EXPLORERS, said: “It is so important to engage our young people in STEM from an early age to break the stereotypes around science and scientists. It was great to meet with all the coordinators to discuss the impact that we see in the classroom and plan for the future of our community of practice.”   The research developed by Cell EXPLORERS aims to evaluate the impacts of the programme on all participants. In particular, it focuses on understanding how demonstrator scientists impact on the opinions and attitudes of children to science and scientists, which could strongly affect the dissemination of science education and public engagement activities in Ireland. Some of this research – assessing the impact on young children’s confidence in conducting science – has won postgraduate researcher and NUI Galway Cell EXPLORERS volunteer coordinator Sarah Carroll a poster prize at the third Scientix (the Community of Science Education in Europe) Conference in Brussels last month.   Cathy Foley, Senior Executive at Science Foundation Ireland, said: “This project is a strong example of public engagement at work and the well-developed model could be used in many other settings across a myriad of subject areas. The programme will inform best practice for the involvement of HEIs in public engagement in science: this Network meeting is a first step in achieving that.”   The long-term goal of Cell EXPLORERS is to strengthen its nationwide programme by incorporating best practice from both its team’s experience and research findings to making the Irish public the most scientifically-informed globally.   -Ends-

Thursday, 10 May 2018

NUI Galway will host a research seminar presented by Nobel laureate, Professor Paul Modrich of Duke University Medical Center and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the US. Professor Modrich will talk about ‘Mechanisms in human DNA mismatch repair’. Professor Paul Modrich was one of three scientists to share the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2015 for landmark discoveries over four decades of work in DNA repair.  His host at NUI Galway, Professor Robert Lahue, trained as a postdoctoral fellow in Modrich’s laboratory. The Nobel Committee cited one of the Lahue-Modrich publications as groundbreaking. The Nobel Committee recognised Professor Modrich’s work on mismatch repair, which acts as a genetic spellchecker to preserve the DNA. Defects in mismatch repair are now known to cause certain hereditary forms of colorectal cancer. Genetic testing of cancer patients helps identify those with mismatch repair defects, providing information, which is important in guiding their treatment. Professor Robert Lahue from the Centre for Chromosome Biology at NUI Galway, said: “The research community at NUI Galway is tremendously excited about Professor Modrich’s visit and seminar.  He is a world leader in the area of DNA biochemistry and cancer biology. We are fortunate to have him visit, to present a seminar and to interact with members of our Centre and other researchers at NUI Galway.” -Ends-

Monday, 21 May 2018

Researchers from the School of Physics at NUI Galway have carried out a biological monitoring study among the Irish adult population on non-occupational exposure to glyphosate, an active ingredient in chemical pesticides used to control weeds. This is the first study in Ireland describing glyphosate exposures among this population and the results suggest low exposure. The study investigated the background level of human exposure to glyphosate in Ireland and results from the study were recently published in the international journal, Environmental Research. The research was carried out by Michelle Leahy as part completion of her MSc in Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety and by Exposure Science PhD student Alison Connolly from the School of Physics at NUI Galway. The herbicide glyphosate is the active ingredient in over 750 products including Roundup®. Glyphosate is the highest volume herbicide used globally and extensively in agriculture and horticulture to combat weeds, and is sprayed as a pre-harvest drying treatment on certain food crops. It is also widely sprayed in parks, public spaces, lawns, gardens and roadsides. Dietary exposure through pesticide residues that remain on fruit, vegetables and grains after spraying, or home use of glyphosate based pesticide products, are thought to be the most common exposure routes among the general population. The NUI Galway researchers and collaborators from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in Great Britain measured glyphosate in urine samples provided by 50 Irish adults to estimate background levels of exposure among this population. Environmental and dietary exposure to glyphosate can be determined by measuring levels in biological samples such as urine. Of the 50 samples analysed, 10 (20%) of the participants urine samples had detectable trace levels of glyphosate. The median concentration of the detectable data (10 samples) was 0.85 µg L-1. This is more than 1000 times lower than the Acceptable Daily Intake level of 0.5 mg/kg body weight/day set by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for glyphosate.  Commenting on the study, research project supervisor Dr Marie Coggins and Exposure Science lecturer at the School of Physics at NUI Galway, said: “Biomonitoring data across Europe on chemicals such as pesticides is rare. In this study detectable levels of pesticides in urine were low, however, further studies such as this one are required to fully characterise chemical exposures in humans to support risk assessment and to inform policy.” To read the full study in Environmental Research, visit: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935118302251    -Ends-

Friday, 4 May 2018

Pint of Science Galway brings scientists out of the lab and in to your local pub NUI Galway scientists will talk about a variety of topics at pubs across Galway City and County, as part of the three-day Pint of Science Festival, where thousands of scientists around the world will speak about their research. The world’s largest festival of public science talks will take place from the 14-16 May. Galway will join nearly 300 cities and 21 countries around the world taking part in the festival. Seven scientists from NUI Galway will take to the stage in pubs across Galway to talk about their research and members of the public will have the chance to ask them questions. Topics will range from: Barnacles, Bacteria, and Beyond; Galway beneath our feet: Reconstructing Parts of our History; and Democracy in Education: Responsibilities as Citizens. The festival brings a unique line up of talks, demonstrations and live experiments to Galway alongside the main talks, and each event will also include a range of science-inspired activities including geeky puzzles and engaging stories. Pint of Science Galway events will take place in Campbell’s Tavern, Cloughanover, Headford with the theme ‘Natural Sciences and Practical Applications’, The Oslo bar event is themed ‘Shaping Future Generations: Education and Society’ and the Róisín Dubh with the theme ‘Innovating Women in Geoscience’. Ivor Geoghegan, PhD student in Biomedical Engineering at the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway, said: “We are excited to bring Pint of Science back to Galway. People can expect to hear fascinating stories of the research currently ongoing in Ireland from the comfort of their local pub.” Festival co-founder Dr Praveen Paul says: “There is so much fascinating research happening right under our noses that we don't know about. Some can get lost in translation leading to fake news. Pint of Science allows people direct access to inspiring scientists and encourages open discussion, all in the most familiar of places, the pub! It's great to see this enthusiasm for knowledge shared across the world.” Pint of Science was established six years ago by a group of UK-based postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers and has grown into one of the world’s biggest science festivals. The founders, Dr Praveen Paul and Dr Michael Motskin, have brought a personal touch to science, giving everyone the chance to meet the people behind the incredible research taking place across the globe. Tickets are €2 per event and on sale at: https://pintofscience.ie/events/Galway or www.pintofscience.ie -Ends-  

Monday, 21 May 2018

NUI Galway’s School of Natural Sciences Bio-EXPLORERS programme, in collaboration with Kitchen Chemistry, is now taking bookings for its three Summer Science Camps. Attendees can choose to attend the first camp from 2-6 July, the second from 9-13 July, or the third camp from 16-20 July.   The camp is open to all young budding scientists aged between 8 and 13 years old and participants will get a chance to work as real scientists by performing and analysing experiments in a real research environment.    The Bio-EXPLORERS programme is composed of two science communication and public engagement initiatives: Cell EXPLORERS directed by Dr Muriel Grenon and Eco-EXPLORERS directed by Dr Michel Dugon. With Dr Michel Dugon, the host of the RTÉ’s Bug Hunters, children will participate in activities such as discovering live local and exotic plants and animals, studying their habitats, and understanding how they interact with their environment. With the dynamic team of Cell EXPLORERS, children will learn how cells make our bodies work. They will run their own experiments, build models, observe their own cells under microscopes and extract DNA from cells. Each camp will also include a session with Kitchen Chemistry, from NUI Galway’s School of Chemistry, who run fun, hands-on experiments that bring chemistry to life!   The primary goal of these NUI Galway science outreach programmes is to inspire interest in science among young people and to impact positively on science education. All three programmes run activities designed to engage children in a hands-on way and stimulate their interest in exploring science-related themes. They have engaged thousands of children in the West of Ireland and are very active during the Galway Science and Technology Festival. Bio-EXPLORERS have run successful summer and Easter science camps since 2014, in addition to the very popular ‘Scientist for a Day’ one-day workshops during mid-terms, run in conjunction with Kitchen Chemistry. These camps provide a fun take on science where children can get involved and experiment as real scientists do. Small participant numbers, hands-on activities and a good ratio of well-trained, interactive demonstrators maximize the learning environment.   This year’s summer camps will each run over five days from 9.30am to 4.30pm daily and places are limited and will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis. The cost is €150 per child for this course packed with fun and exciting activities.   Visit www.cellexplorers.com for details on the camp and links to register. For any queries email cellexplorers@nuigalway.ie.   -Ends-