Monday, 5 October 2020

NUI Galway, OmniSpirant Limited and Aerogen Limited have been awarded major funding to develop a new aerosol treatment with potential benefits across acute and chronic lung diseases, including COVID-19 An Irish consortium involving NUI Galway, OmniSpirant Limited, a start-up biotechnology company and Aerogen Limited, have been awarded €11.6 million under the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF). The funding will be used to develop a new exosome based inhaled treatment for Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) which is responsible for the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths. Research from the JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that more than 40% of individuals in the study hospitalised for severe and critical COVID-19 developed ARDS, and over 50% of those diagnosed died from the disease. This cutting edge treatment also has the potential to treat Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD is a disease that affects hundreds of millions of patients worldwide, it is the third leading cause of death globally and is currently lacking any effective treatments. The Global Burden of Disease Study reports a prevalence of 251 million cases of COPD globally in 2016. Globally, it is estimated that 3.17 million deaths were caused by the disease in 2015, 5% of all deaths globally in that year. The three-year grant funded programme aims to complete Phase 1 clinical trial studies in ARDS patients and to complete the preclinical development needed to support clinical studies in COPD patients. Professor John Laffey, Professor of Intensive Care Medicine at NUI Galway and Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine, Galway University Hospitals, said: “Current pharmacologic therapies are of marginal benefit for COVID-19 patients suffering with ARDS, and advanced support of respiratory function in Intensive Care Units remains the main therapeutic approach. Aerosolized delivery of engineered cell products that can target the inflammatory response to COVID-19 could prevent or even reverse severe COVID-19 induced respiratory injury, which would be game-changing in reducing mortality from this devastating infection. It also shows very promising anti-infection benefits, which in addition to having knock-on benefits for COPD patients, could also be applied to other aggressive lung conditions such as Cystic Fibrosis patients.” OmniSpirant will provide the technological expertise to produce exosomes from genetically modified stem cells. OmniSpirant have also developed a method to enhance the delivery of these exosomes into lung tissues. These exosomes will then be delivered by an inhaled aerosol to recode diseased lung cells in patients, using Aerogen’s expertise and best in class technology in this area. The Centre for Cell Manufacturing at NUI Galway will industrialise the scalable manufacturing process for this new treatment. Gerry McCauley MPharm, MPSI, CEO OmniSpirant Limited, said: “We have entered the age of advanced therapeutics, where cell based and gene therapies have curative potential for complex diseases. Our proprietary technologies unlock huge potential to effectively deliver novel treatments into the lung to address many serious lung diseases. Specifically, the DTIF funding is aimed at developing OS002, an innovative treatment which could address two major global pandemics. The death rate for ARDS shows that it has a mortality rate of 30-40% of those diagnosed with the disease. This currently lacks effective treatments and due to COVID-19 is causing a devastating global death toll. Even in a world without COVID-19 ARDS affects an estimated three million people every year. Secondly, OS002 could also prove transformational for chronic lung diseases, particularly the 100’s of millions of COPD patients globally who are currently suffering with no access to effective treatment options.” Aerogen Ireland was founded in 1997 and are world leaders in the field of aerosol delivery devices. Drug delivery of cell therapies by aerosol of this nature has traditionally been complex and Aerogen are partnering on this new and novel treatment to provide the expertise and the technology which will be used to develop devices to deliver the exosome treatments by aerosol. Dr Ronan MacLoughlin, Head of Respiratory Science at Aerogen Limited, said: “Aerogen are delighted to be involved in this potentially transformative project that leans on a unique combination of disruptive technologies. Over 12 million patients have benefited from Aerogen technology to date and we look forward to bringing to bear Aerogen’s unique expertise in this field and working with OmniSpirant and the Centre for Cell Manufacturing Ireland at NUI Galway over the coming years in bringing this technology to patients worldwide.” The Centre for Cell Manufacturing Ireland (CCMI) at NUI Galway is the first and only approved cell manufacturing facility in Ireland. This purpose built fully-licensed centre is designed to manufacture Advanced Therapeutic Medicinal Products, such as stem cells, for use in human clinical trials. Dr Janusz Krawczyk, Clinical Director of the Centre for Cell Manufacturing Ireland (CCMI), NUI Galway, said: “In collaborating with OmniSpirant and Aerogen, the CCMI will apply our unique expertise to develop the manufacturing process of exosome-based therapy. The Centre is ideally placed, with experience and expertise in bringing treatments such as this from bench to pre-clinical stage to early clinical trials. I am delighted to see the CCMI involved in a second DTIF project which ensures that this unique resource in Ireland fulfils its translational potential in stem cell therapy and regenerative medicine. The programme is also aligned with NUI Galway’s ambition to partner with national and multinational industry to ensure that research discoveries have a beneficial impact on patient care. This partnership will confirm the University’s leadership in world-class research and positions Ireland as a strategic global leader in the development of new regenerative medicine technology.” Dr Imelda Lambkin, Enterprise Ireland, said: “The Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund administered by Enterprise Ireland is a big opportunity for both large companies and SMEs to collaborate with research bodies to produce technologies that have the potential to really change a market or sector. Indeed, the funding awarded to OmniSpirant Limited, Aerogen Limited and NUI Galway to develop a new treatment for Covid-19 will potentially save lives. The third call for the Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund will open later this month and we strongly encourage companies and researchers with a disruptive idea or technology to apply.” The Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund is a €500 million Project Ireland 2040 fund confirmed under the National Development Plan in 2018.  -Ends-

Monday, 5 October 2020

Survey led by NUI Galway and the Western Development Commission is seeking participants to give their experience of remote working six months after lockdown Researchers from the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway and the Western Development Commission have launched the second phase of the national remote working survey. The survey will gather data on employees’ experiences of remote working six months after lockdown. The survey is led by Professor Alma McCarthy and Dr Katerina Bohle-Carbonell at NUI Galway, and Tomás Ó Síocháin and Deirdre Frost at Western Development Commission.  The study will provide insights on how remote working has changed employees work and employment experiences. The second survey builds on the survey the research team undertook in April this year soon after the national lockdown which mandated remote working for those employees who could do so. The second phase survey will enable trend analyses on changes in employees’ experiences between Phase 1 (April 2020) and now, six months later (October 2020) in what has become a prolonged change in work habits for many employees who continue to work remotely. Data will also capture commuting habits and how remote working impacts emissions and the environment. Speaking about the second national survey, Professor Alma McCarthy, Professor of Public Sector Management, J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics,  said: “The first survey we did in April 2020 was of huge interest to the public and we got over 7,200 responses from employees who were working remotely across the country. 83% of respondents at that time indicated they would like to continue to work remotely for some or all of the time after the crisis is over. The crisis potentially presents a game-changer for how organisations manage their workforce and employee workplace preferences. It is now timely to examine remote working six months on from lockdown.”  Tomás Ó Síocháin, CEO of the Western Development Commission, said: “The information collected in these surveys will help to ensure that the correct measures are in place to support those working remotely. Identifying the opportunities and challenges will mean that remote working infrastructure such as broadband and remote working hubs, for example, will allow both individuals and communities to minimise the challenges and to make the most of this fundamental shift in the way we work.” The research team will analyse the findings of the second national remote working survey and make them publicly available on both NUI Galway’s Whitaker Institute and the Western Development Commission websites by the end of October. The report and key statistics from the first national survey are also available on these websites. The remote working study findings will be available to inform employers about employee experiences of remote working. The research team will provide recommendations for employers on how to better manage remote working in the current crisis as well as more generally. To complete the survey visit https://bit.ly/3kXjH9w.   To view both surveys on the Whitaker Institute’s Project page, visit: https://bit.ly/3nbxSK8. -Ends-

Friday, 2 October 2020

Free online events will challenge the various stereotypes of young people - from being ‘snowflakes’ who lack resilience, to being uncaring ‘COVID delinquents’  The School of Psychology at NUI Galway will host a series of Youth Mental Health lunchtime webinar events from 5-9 October, leading up to World Mental Health Day on Saturday, 10 October. Some of the questions being addressed at the webinar events include: Why do young people feel the need to meet up so much, even when this is apparently disregarding COVID-19 related public health advice? Why are anxiety levels so high among Irish young people? How can we effectively respond to their needs for support using online and other strategies? Professor Gary Donohue, School of Psychology at NUI Galway, said: “A variety of perspectives and studies will be presented and discussed to expand our understanding of young people, their mental health, and their health service needs. Challenging the various stereotypes of young people - from being ‘snowflakes’ who lack resilience, to being uncaring ‘COVID delinquents’ - this conference will present latest evidence on psychological development and mental health. It will touch on the variety of factors that influence wellbeing, the supports necessary, as well as the challenge for mental health services in responding to those needs.” Professor Margaret Barry, Head of the World Health Organisation’s Collaborating Centre for Health Promotion Research at NUI Galway will discuss the need to reframe the challenge of improving youth mental health in terms of resilience building supports that include access to skills, resources and life opportunities. Dr Aileen O’Reilly, Research and Evaluation Manager for Jigsaw, the National Service for Youth mental health, will present data highlighting how anxiety is a normal response to uncertainty, with COVID-19 adding to the already high anxiety experienced by young people, who live in a complex world where they have already a lot to navigate through. Professor Siobhan O’Neil, Professor of Mental Health Sciences at the University of Ulster and Mental Health Champion for Northern Ireland in her talk on suicide prevention will discuss the genuine losses that young people have experienced at a critical developmental stage -loss of the life transition rituals, uncertainty and debate over the validity of their exam results, and the damage of limitations to the social and peer connections that are necessary to cope.   Tony Bates, Founder of the Jigsaw services in Ireland will host a forum on the challenges to sense of self and mental health currently experienced by young people. In addition to national and international experts discussing the mental health needs of young people aged from 12-25 years, a first person account of lived experiences of young people using mental health services and supports in Ireland will also be shared. The online events each day are free and tickets are available at www.eventbrite.ie, search for ‘YOULEAD 1st Annual Youth Mental Health Research Lunchtime Webinar Series’. -Ends-

Friday, 2 October 2020

The findings are the result of research carried out by a team from NUI Galway’s Journalism and Communications discipline A new study by NUI Galway has found that online abuse of female politicians is on the increase and has included threats of physical and sexual violence against them and their families. Current and former female members of the Oireachtas, as well as female councillors from all major political parties were interviewed in the qualitative study. The interim findings are part of a study carried out by a team from NUI Galway’s Journalism and Communication discipline. The findings were presented today (Friday, 2 October) to a webinar ‘Cyber Harassment: Women in Politics and Online Abuse’ organised by the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality and the National Women’s Council of Ireland. Some 96 per cent of those interviewed as part of the study have received social media or email messages that used threatening language or ‘hate mail’; while three quarters say they have been threatened with physical violence via online or social media. Almost two in five reported they had been threatened with sexual violence, with a quarter saying they have been verbally abused in public. One politician had faeces thrown at her in public while another was threatened with an acid attack. A former TD said: “I was repeatedly threatened by a troll who threatened to throw acid in my face. Another once said he knew where I lived and he’d be standing in my garden waiting for me.” Other respondents admitted to: receiving threatening and abusive phone calls at home and on their mobile phone being worried about their family’s safety as a result of threats on social media not feeling comfortable attending large public meetings alone having considered quitting politics as a result of the abuse received A small minority say they have reported the abuse, but of those that made complaints a number said they found it hard to get gardai and social media companies to take threats seriously, as there was a perception that politicians were ‘fair game’. Tom Felle, Head of Journalism and Communication at NUI Galway, said: “Some of these results are truly shocking. Social media has become a den of misogyny, a cesspit of trolls, where many female public representatives are abused and bullied regularly. Threats of physical violence are criminal acts and abuse of this nature is abhorrent. “At a time when society needs to see more women entering politics there is a real danger that this behaviour will have a chilling effect and discourage women from running for public office. The findings are particularly telling in local government.” The findings are part of ongoing research at NUI Galway. The first series of 69 interviews was carried out between November 2019 and March 2020, with further interviews planned. -Ends-

Friday, 2 October 2020

NUI Galway’s J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics and the School of Physics have been awarded a departmental Bronze Athena SWAN Award in recognition of their commitment to advancing gender equality in higher education and creating cultural change within the University. NUI Galway received an Institutional Bronze award in 2018 along with the University’s School of Medicine NUI Galway President, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “I would like to congratulate the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics and the School of Physics on the Athena SWAN Bronze Award. It is a reflection on the excellent work of all those involved and is truly impressive that this work was completed as we simultaneously faced the challenges of Covid-19, and sustains our commitment to advancing equality to all staff and students consistent with our values of openness and respect.”  Speaking upon the announcement of the award, Dr. Tom Acton, Head of School of the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics, said: “Following two years of data gathering, gap analysis and self-assessment, leading to the development of a comprehensive and ambitious Action Plan, the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway is delighted to learn that it has been awarded the Athena SWAN Bronze Award. We are committed to inclusion, equality and diversity and to implementing the principles that underpin the Athena SWAN Charter and are thrilled that our hard work and commitment has been recognised with this award.” Professor Gerard O’Connor, Head of NUI Galway’s School of Physics, said: “I wish to convey my sincere thanks to staff and students for this important public recognition of our commitment to inclusiveness, equality and diversity in the School of Physics. We see this Athena SWAN Award as a milestone rather than a destination –one which is aligned with the School’s future competitiveness in research and teaching and which is integral with all our students future employability.” The Athena SWAN charter launched in the Republic of Ireland in early 2015. The extension of the charter to Ireland was made possible through funding from the Higher Education Authority. Engagement with the charter is a key pillar of Ireland’s national strategy for gender equality with progress linked to institutional eligibility for funding from Ireland’s major research agencies. The Athena SWAN Gender Equality Charter was originally established to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) employment in higher education and research. Since 2015 the charter recognises work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL), and in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students. The charter now recognises work undertaken to address gender equality more broadly. -Ends-

Thursday, 1 October 2020

NUI Galway Professor discusses the scientific basis of alien life, and its probable extent across the many recently discovered exoplanets, in his new book ‘The Biological Universe’ Wallace Arthur, an NUI Galway Emeritus Professor of Zoology and a distinctive voice in the growing field of astrobiology has published a new book, The Biological Universe. The book brings together the latest discoveries in biology and astronomy to examine the issues of the probable nature of extra-terrestrial life, its extent across the vastness of the Universe, and our chances of finding conclusive evidence for it within the next couple of decades, using the new generation of space telescopes. In addressing these issues, The Biological Universe tackles the many riddles of our place and fate in the Universe that have intrigued human beings since they first gazed in wonder at the night-time sky over ancient Africa.  Wallace Arthur, NUI Galway Emeritus Professor of Zoology, said: “This is a fascinating time in the history of science’s quest to discover life beyond the Earth. Our past speculations about the existence of planets and life beyond our own solar system are fast being replaced by facts, many of which are described in this book. The last 25 years have seen incredible growth in our knowledge of exoplanets – planets that orbit not our own Sun, but distant stars, which are of course suns in their own right. The first exoplanet was discovered in 1995. By the turn of the millennium we knew of a few dozen. By 2010 the number had reached a few hundred. Now, in 2020, it’s more than 4,000 and growing fast.” Many of the newly discovered planets are in the habitable zone – the zone within which liquid water can exist on their surfaces in the form of lakes and oceans, as it does here on Earth. Professor Arthur explains: “We now have the technology to analyse the atmospheres of these planets, looking in particular for biosignature gases, such as oxygen and ozone. And our ability to conduct such analyses will be greatly enhanced by the next generation of space telescopes, currently at an advanced stage of planning at NASA. If evidence of extra-terrestrial life is indeed found soon, and the enduring question of ‘are we alone in the Universe?’ is finally answered with a resounding ‘no’ as seems likely, it will be the most significant discovery in the history of humanity.” For more information on The Biological Universe, which will be will be published this month by Cambridge University Press, visit: http://www.cambridgeblog.org/2020/08/are-we-alone-in-the-universe/.  -Ends-

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

NUI Galway Ryan Institute researchers are developing Covid-19 testing of saliva samples using next-generation synthetic biology tools  Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) is funding a COVID-19 Rapid Response project led by the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, to combine a next-generation Covid-19 genetic testing approach with saliva sampling, using a “synthetic biology” toolbox called CRISPR-Cas. In collaboration with international partners from the USA and UK, the Genetics and Biotechnology lab of Professor Charles Spillane in the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway is developing a rapid CRISPR-Cas based system for detection of the virus in saliva samples. By using pooled samples, they are working on the development of Covid-19 surveillance systems for viral testing of groups of people (households, classes, companies and institution) to ultimately enable routine weekly testing. The current testing system for the presence of the Covid-19 is carried out by taking swabs from people’s noses and the back of their throats, which is cumbersome, costly and time-consuming. Current testing systems for the presence of Covid-19 are largely based on RT-PCR assays on the swab samples, using DNA technologies that were first developed in the 1990s. In the absence of a vaccine, there is an unmet need to massively scale up both sampling and testing throughput so that routine weekly surveillance testing of groups can enable people to know when members of their group may be infected or not.  The Covid-19 Rapid Response project will use a highly-precise genetic “homing system” called CRISPR-Cas to develop protocols for testing saliva samples for the presence or absence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. They will develop workflows for rapidly testing individual saliva samples as well as pooled samples from groups of people, to enable routine mass weekly testing in households, schools, companies and other group settings. By developing a rapid, targeted diagnostics and screening workflow using saliva samples, the research hopes to enable Covid-19 exit strategies from lockdown in Ireland and globally based on large-scale, weekly mass testing. Professor Charles Spillane, Director of The Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, said; “On St. Patricks day I sent a Briefing Note to a range of political leaders and government bodies in Ireland recommending that we should seriously consider a mass-testing strategy for phased exit from Covid-19 lockdown measures that could allow our economy and society to function. While progress has since been made on behavioural change ‘suppression’ measures to limit the growth of the pandemic in many countries, there remains significant potential for developing and deploying cheaper and more rapid viral sampling and test systems that could be scaled up for testing large groups of people on a routine weekly basis for the presence or absence of the virus. “As we progress, I am interested in partnering our research with any groups (companies, schools, institutions, healthcare workers and communities) who may be interested in working with us to scale-up routine weekly testing systems so that groups can better operate for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is important that Science Foundation Ireland is supporting a swathe of rapid response Covid-19 research and innovation activities that have potential to improve the resilience of our public health, society and economy, during and beyond the pandemic.” -Ends-

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

The webinar will be opened by Ms Sabina Higgins, a strong advocate for breastfeeding and breastfeeding mothers The College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at NUI Galway and the Health Service Executive (HSE), will host an online webinar in celebration of National Breastfeeding Week 2020 on Thursday, 7 October at 2pm. The theme of the online event is ‘Diverse global perspectives on breastfeeding and breastfeeding support’ and will be opened by Ms Sabina Higgins, and closed by the National Breastfeeding Co-ordinator Ireland, Laura McHugh. Dr Sarah Brennan, a GP and lecturer at the NUI Galway’s Donegal Medical Academy in Letterkenny, and one of the event organisers, said: “We are conscious that this time is especially difficult for new mothers. We are delighted that so many acclaimed international speakers are able to link in virtually and share with us their diverse wisdom around breastfeeding and breastfeeding support.  “This online webinar is supported by several parties including the National Lead and Minister for Health, Mr. Stephen Donnelly, the HSE, and the HSE Breastfeeding Committees of Community Healthcare Organisation 1 (CHO1) which includes Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan.” The webinar will consist of three sections, each with short 15-minute presentations, with opportunities for questions and answers at the end of each section:  The opening section will explore Human Milk, Sustainability, and Micro-biology with Dr Natalie Shenker, Imperial College London, of Hearts Milk Bank, London; Professor Julie Smith, a global expert in Health Economics, from the Australian National University, Canberra; and Dr Simon Cameron, Vice Chancellor’s Fellow with Queen’s University Belfast. The second section will look at Breastfeeding Support and society during a pandemic and includes Dr Nigel Rollins, Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health at the World Health Organization (WHO); Professor Amy Brown, Department of Public Health, Policy and Social Sciences at Swansea University; and Dr Elizabeth McCarthy, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences and School of Psychology at NUI Galway. The third section will explore Culture and breastfeeding/physiology with James Akre, Freelance author who formerly worked with the WHO and UNICEF; Professor Sue Carter, Distinguished Research Scientist at Indiana University who discovered the relationship between social behaviour and oxytocin; and Dr Wendy Jones, MBE, pharmacist and founding member of The Breastfeeding Network. Co-organiser Dr Elizabeth McCarthy, NUI Galway, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has motivated us to arrange this virtual conference so that we could bring together mothers, fathers, breastfeeding supporters, health care professionals, and policy makers to share and learn from our local and global experts.” The full programme for the event is available at www.nuigalway.ie/breastfeedingconference2020. For further queries please contact Dr Elizabeth McCarthy at elizabeth.mccarthyquinn@nuigalway.ie, or Dr Sarah Brennan at sarah.s.brennan@nuigalway.ie. Registration for this event is essential as places will be limited. Register at: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/diverse-global-perspectives-on-breastfeeding-and-breastfeeding-support-tickets-122400433993. -Ends-

Friday, 25 September 2020

One in four places awarded on a scholarship basis  The NUI Galway Youth Academy, an outreach programme aimed at high ability 9-12 year olds, is taking its courses online and is currently accepting applications for the October 2020 intake. The Youth Academy offers a unique opportunity for primary school children to get their first taste of university life by studying a fun but high level course in a college subject area.   Normally delivered on campus, the courses have been redesigned for virtual delivery in line with current public health guidelines. The courses on offer are outside of the primary school curriculum which allows children the opportunity to make new discoveries in different areas of study, in a fun and interactive way. There are 16 courses available this October including ‘Geographers: the world’s explorers!’, ‘A world we cannot see: the secret life of mircobes’, ‘the mysterious mind’ and ‘DNA: the data inside us’. A student choses one course for the duration of the programe with classes taking place virtually every Saturday for six weeks.    Geraldine Marley, Youth Academy Coordinator, Student Recruitment and Outreach, NUI Galway, said: “We had the opportunity to trial online courses with the Youth Academy Summer Camp in July and received very positive feedback from students and parents. Although we would love to host the children on campus, we have prepared a very exciting six week course which will include sending packs to the homes of participants, instruction and demo videos and a live virtual class each week.”   Eligibility is based on achievement in a pupil’s most recent English or Maths standardised tests (Drumcondra, Sigma or Micra T) carried out in schools. The cost of participation is €110 and in every intake, 25% of places are made available as scholarships for students to attend the Youth Academy free of charge, based on economic circumstances.   Classes will take place virtually every Saturday for six weeks starting on 17 October.  Further information on entry requirements and applications is available at http://www.nuigalway.ie/youthacademy/Applications are made online and remain open until 5pm on Sunday, 27September.  -Ends-  

Friday, 25 September 2020

A researcher at NUI Galway is seeking to record the experiences of a group of young people of disabilities who made decisions that affected their lives.PhD candidate Clíona de Bhailís has launched the project in the University’s Centre for Disability Law and Policy and is recruiting young disabled people from Ireland aged 15 to 20.The research project, It’s My Life!, is exploring how young people with a disability can exercise their right to make decisions and use support when making decisions in line with Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The project will recruit people with experience of a broad range of disabilities including physical, sensory, intellectual or learning disability, neurodiversity or those with experience of the mental health system.Ireland ratified the UNCRPD in 2018 and will submit a report to the UN Committee which monitors countries compliance with the Convention in the coming year. The researcher would like young people with disabilities to answer questions about a good experience of decision making as well as a bad experience of decision making, or a time they didn’t feel listened to and what helps them to make decisions. Researcher Clíona de Bhailís said: “Decision making for adults with disabilities has come under increased focus in recent years with a number of very important research projects and law reform initiatives taking place. But decision making skills don’t magically appear when you become an adult at the age of 18. “It is only by being given the opportunity to make decisions that these skills are developed over time “Young people should have a say on issues that affect them and this project is designed to hear directly from young people with disabilities about their experiences.” Ms de Bhailís added: “We want to build a better understanding of how young people with disabilities are using support and use research as a means of influencing policy and law. It should also help to look at how we might apply the Assisted Decision Making Capacity Act to people at a younger age in the future.” The research was changed in light of the Covid-19 restrictions and the reduced supports available to many young people and it can be done remotely or digitally. The questions are available in a variety of formats including a link to an online survey and an Easy Read form. The It’s My Life research project is funded by the Irish Research Council under the Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Programme and supervised by Professor Eilionóir Flynn, Director of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy at NUI Galway. Ends

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Health and safety of students, staff and the wider community is a top priority as campus reopens NUI Galway reopened its campus this week to welcome its First Year students to a three-day dedicated online and on campus orientation. Senior University staff are leading familiarisation sessions with students as part of efforts to help them navigate their way in this new environment of learning and being on campus. Returning students and teaching staff will return to the blended teaching model from Monday, 28 September. In adherence with Government and Public Health Guidelines the University has undertaken significant measures to encourage new behaviours on campus that are necessary for everyone to work together to keep students, staff and the wider community safe. Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, Deputy President and Registrar of NUI Galway, said: “As we begin an academic year like no other, our top priority is obviously the safety of our community, both on campus and locally. For various reasons, an online only model will not suit many students, and we are doing our utmost to deliver a safe blended teaching model, so students get the best possible learning experience. This group of students carry a responsibility that no other group has had to bear before them, as the usual rites of passage of college life will have to be reimagined, so that we can keep each other safe. We are asking our community to work with us to make that happen. “As with every community in Ireland, the NUI Galway community has been impacted by COVID-19. The University orientation is heavily focused on the safe behaviours required to be a student during this pandemic and to remind the community of the severity of the illness.” Lynn Porter, a second year Commerce student at NUI Galway, who overcame Covid-19 last March, said: “I want to make all students aware of how serious this virus is and that we all have to work together to stop it spreading. When I was in hospital, I never felt fear like it because of the unknown and the uncertainty of how bad I could get. I was lucky to come out the other side, but it’s an experience nobody wants to go through and we know how to avoid it. Wear a mask, wash your hands, socially distance and follow the public health advice. College life might be different this year, but missing a few parties is a small price to pay and could save lives.” The University has undertaken comprehensive steps to reopen safely that includes: All NUI Galway taught programmes will be delivered using blended online and on-campus classes, including tutorials, seminars, lab work, distanced meet-ups and digital options like podcasts, streaming and videos. In line with public health guidelines, teaching spaces are being laid out and managed in order to safeguard the health of both staff and students. All students are being asked to download three Apps – NUI Galway App; the Blackboard App to access education; and the HSE Covid Tracker App. The library, campus sports facilities and most restaurants and social spaces will be open and operating under public health guidance. NUI Galway has been allocated funding from the Higher Education Authority to enhance mental health and wellbeing support for students. Staff are individually phoning (and text to unanswered call) all incoming First Year students who accepted their place in NUI Galway, to welcome and introduce the students to the University. A laptop rental scheme, thanks to a Government Covid-19/HEI support fund, has been setup to help students and up to 800 laptops will be loaned to students through the Access Office. Signage, directional arrows and one-way systems have been installed throughout campus buildings to support safe social distancing. Hand sanitisers have been installed throughout the campus and staff and students are asked to sanitise as often as possible. Sanitising wipes are available in all teaching rooms for students and staff to sanitise their hands and their workstations. Face coverings are being provided to all staff and students for use when indoors on campus. As part of the University’s commitment to suppress the spread of Covid-19, the Cúram Dá Chéile initiative is asking its students and staff to commit to be part of our university community, to behave appropriately, to consider others, to follow advice and public health guidelines, to act responsibly and to respect everyone in the university and wider community. NUI Galway is also playing an active role in the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Within two weeks of the initial lock-down, a research team was enabling healthcare professionals to offer novel, emerging therapies to extremely ill patients. Our top academics in the fields of haematology, immunology and ID were enabling rapid profiling of the immune response of severely ill patients with a view to guiding therapeutic options. By the end of April we were working to expedite diagnosis of COVID-19 in a clinical setting, using artificial intelligence enabled analysis of CT scans, improve long-term patient recovery and reduce disability after COVID-19 critical illness with microRNA-based approaches. And identifying mental health needs and best practice for psychological support of frontline healthcare workers for this and future pandemics. For more information about starting and returning to campus visit: http://www.nuigalway.ie/alert/ or download the NUI Galway App. -Ends-

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

JediGlove uses bat sonar to alert users to objects and obstacles to help them move around safely Researchers at NUI Galway’s Health Innovation via Engineering (HIVE) Lab, led by Professor Derek O’Keeffe, have adopted the sophisticated sonar of bats to develop new technology to help people with visual impairment. Using echolocation, the prototype JediGlove sends sequential micro-vibrations through the users’ fingers and thumb proportional to an object's distance, helping them sense obstacles in their path. Derek O’Keeffe, Professor of Medical Device Technology at NUI Galway and Consultant Physician at University Hospital Galway, said: “We have nicknamed the device the JediGlove because it lets someone who is visually impaired ‘feel the force’ of objects in their environment. “It is hugely innovative technology with significant potential. "Not only can it help people with visual impairment but it could also have applications for first responders in emergency situations, like firemen and rescue teams entering buildings and environments that may have low visibility.” The JediGlove uses ultrasound sensors, like a bat, to echo-locate obstacles. Then, using a bespoke algorithm, the technology sequentially activates micro-vibration motors in each finger of the glove to give the user immediate haptic feedback about objects, obstructions or obstacles which they are approaching. Professor O’Keeffe said: “This technology is a great example of patient centred care and interdisciplinary innovation. “Traditionally with research we talk about a bench to bedside pathway. An idea is developed in a lab and then it goes to the patient for evaluation. What we are trying to do at NUI Galway is to change the paradigm and innovate from bedside to bench to bedside. So, we start first with the patient and identify the problems that matter to them and then we go to the lab to push the technological envelope to develop solutions to improve their care." “During a clinic visit, one of my patients who has visual impairment mentioned that one of the most common navigation aids, a white cane, hadn’t changed much for over 100 years. It can also be both physically and socially burdensome to use. “The prototype JediGlove came about after thinking through potential technological solutions that are more ergonomic for people with visual impairment.” Professor O’Keeffe worked with Mouzzam Hussain, who is studying a Masters in Biomedical Engineering at NUI Galway, to develop the concept. Mr Hussain said: “The JediGlove has been an exciting project to be involved with – putting patients’ needs first in a way that allows me to use my hardware and software skills to help them in their daily routines. It is very gratifying to work on something that will directly benefit someone in such a unique and tangible way.” Sinead Hanrahan, a patient with visual impairment, was one of the first to test the technology. Ms Hanrahan said: “The JediGlove works really well and is a new way finding out what objects are around me - The potential is undoubtedly huge. “There are so many technological solutions for other parts of my life but for mobility there’s only two options to help me be more independent – the cane and a guide dog. “I don’t have a guide dog yet and I don’t particularly like the cane so it is nice to think I could have other options to help with my mobility. "Technology like this is a game changer - it would reduce the need for me to rely on other people. Down the line, when it is more refined, I think it will make a huge difference for people with visual impairment.” The JediGlove technology has been developed in the spirit of Open Source Innovation and all documentation and files are shared in a publically accessible repository: https://github.com/mouzzamqazi/JediGlove -Ends

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

On Monday the 28th of September, at 12pm, it will be exactly 25 years since Flirt FM, Galway’s Campus, and Community of Interest Radio Station based at NUI Galway went live on fm. For our 20th anniversary, we had a silent disco, gala dinner, photo exhibition and afternoon of broadcast and a childrens’ arts and crafts table. All very hands-on. This year, we'll have to do it differently: so we’re organising a 25hr live, extremely socially distanced broadcast marathon from noon on Monday the 28th to 1pm on Tuesday the 29th. We'll be linking station alumni to the studio live over Zoom from locations as varied as Paris, California, Vietnam and… Mayo. The contributors that have already signed up are keen to quiz, reminisce, entertain and surprise you. Normally broadcasting from our Áras na MacLéinn studios in NUI Galway, the move to remote working in March took us all by surprise. The team didn’t miss a beat however, and instead of shutting down, applied to extend the station’s broadcast hours and continued to broadcast from bedrooms, kitchens and living rooms around Ireland and further afield. Off air for some much needed rest and research time in August, staff and volunteers alike are excited to head into an unprecedented and challenging new academic year. Station Manager Paula Healy; “The year ahead is going to be strangest the station has had in its history, but we're a great team - we’ve proven that with our determination to keep broadcasting through all the obstacles so far, and we're going to make it work. A quarter of a century is huge; it’s a testament to the thousands of people involved over the years, from volunteers to guests to staff that the station is here and thriving.” Flirt FM 101.3 is Galway City's award winning Student, Community & Alternative Station, based in NUI Galway since September 1995. We're part of the 20+ member Community Radio Ireland network. With one full-time and two part-time paid staff looking after operations and compliance, the station is home to up to 120 volunteers and many more contributors annually. https://www.flirtfm.ie/articles/2020/9/flirt-fm-is-25/ https://www.flirtfm.ie/20years/

Monday, 21 September 2020

Active* Consent Toolkit includes eLearning module to close gaps in students’ understanding of sexual violence and harassment, including the legal definition of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment, and how to access support services  The comprehensive Toolkit for consent education will be rolled out across 22 Higher Education Institutions featuring new resources and research released led by NUI Galway’s Active* Consent Programme Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, has today (21 September 2020) launched the Active* Consent Toolkit: Developing a Consent Strategy for your Higher Education Institution, produced by NUI Galway’s Active* Consent Programme. The Active* Consent Toolkit: Offers guidance to Higher Education Institutions in developing an Action Plan on consent, sexual violence and harassment, as well as addressing consent education through a sustainable and joined up strategy across each campus community. Provides resources and research from NUI Galway’s new online Active* Consent Programme designed to meet the call for consent education for all students in 2020-2021. Is aimed at Higher Education staff and administrators, including managers, academic, and support staff; Student representatives working with their Students’ Unions, Societies and Sports Clubs, or on behalf of their academic disciplines; and the wider community including external stakeholders such as the rape crisis movement, advocacy groups, and post-primary education.  This toolkit on practical resources, research, and strategy development comes at a time when all Higher Education institutions have been requested by Minister Harris to devise Action Plans to address consent, sexual violence and harassment in third level education, including making consent workshops, developed by NUI Galway, available to all students. Minister Simon Harris, said: “The Sexual Experiences Survey clearly shows us there is so much work to be done. We have to do more to raise awareness and support students, and the Active Consent Toolkit will greatly assist institutions in a really practical way. I want to see all of our higher education institutions further embed the Consent Framework into their policies and procedures so as to ensure a deep and lasting impact. All institutions have now been asked to develop and publish, by February next, specific institutional action plans on tackling sexual violence and harassment and provide an annual report on their progress in implementing the Framework. I believe the higher education sector to take on a leadership role in our societal response to sexual violence and harassment, and these are important steps forward to advance that aim.”  President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “I'd like to thank Minister Harris for attending today’s virtual launch of this very important Toolkit and welcome his prioritisation of this critical issue by making consent workshops mandatory and available to all students. I would also like to congratulate the Active* Consent team at NUI Galway for the excellent work and leadership they have shown throughout the ongoing development of this programme and the workshops that have been openly shared and sustainably scaled up to the 22 Higher Education Institutions to date. “Respect for our students and staff is one of our University’s core values which we take very seriously. Education and support around the subject of consent for our student community is a critical learning component that should be made available to everyone during their university journey. Supporting the safety, health and wellbeing of our students and staff is our top priority.” Taking into account the impact of Covid-19, the Toolkit features a new three-stage Higher Education Institution consent education programme for 2020-2021 that can be delivered fully online – and which makes direct use of the findings from the Active* Consent/Union of Students in Ireland ‘Sexual Experiences Survey’ released in June 2020. Stage One of this new programme, the Active* Consent Online Workshop, will be rolled out to First Year students across 22 Irish Higher Education Institutions and counting in autumn 2020. As part of the toolkit, Active* Consent is also launching an eLearning module, Sexual Violence and Harassment: How to Support Yourself and Your Peers, available for use from 15, October 2020. This Active* Consent eLearning module helps to close gaps in students’ understanding of sexual violence and harassment as reported in the ‘Sexual Experiences Survey’, including the legal definition of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment, and how to access support services. Students will be active participants, taking part in quizzes, polls, and activities to support learning about consent, sexual violence and harassment, and responding to case studies to find out how to support peers with empathic communication and by taking action to intervene when they see something that is harmful. Dr Padraig MacNeela, Active* Consent Programme Co-Lead, NUI Galway, said: “Our latest research shows that teenagers in schools and young adults in colleges strongly support the idea that consent means having the right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and having their partners hear and respect these preferences. But the research also shows that the confidence to act on this understanding can be undermined by embarrassment and shame, including misperceptions of what your peers actually think. There is also now evidence to show that a number of young people either agree with or do not actively reject misinformed and potentially harmful rape myths.” Key new research findings included in the Active* Consent Toolkit This complex picture of consent is demonstrated by findings from NUI Galway’s ‘Sexual Experiences Survey’ last June that have not been released before that include: 37% of female college students and 53% of male college students gave a ‘neutral’ or ‘agree’ response when asked whether asking for consent is awkward. 63% of female college students and 37% of male college students said they were ‘very likely’ to say something to intervene if a friend was taking a drunk person back to their room at a party. 26% of female college students and 51% of male college students gave a ‘neutral’ or ‘agree’ response to the rape myth that, if a girl initiates kissing or hooking up, she should not be surprised if a guy assumes she wants to have sex. Dr Charlotte McIvor, Active* Consent Programme Co-Lead and Editor of the Active* Consent Toolkit, NUI Galway said: “The Toolkit offers significant opportunities for learning, culture and behaviour change in the area of sexual violence and harassment in higher education, not only doubling down on the Active* Consent Programme’s key message that Consent is OMFG (ongoing, mutual and freely-given) through an accessible and comprehensive usable toolkit format but also providing a new fresh vision of how to work together sustainably within and across Higher Education Institutions to achieve lasting change in these areas.” Dr Pádraig MacNeela, concluded: “Schools and colleges are important settings for education on positive, active consent that in turn works against tolerance of sexual violence and harassment. The Consent Framework for colleges is one of the best strategies available internationally for enabling the Higher Education sector to seize the opportunity to achieve this potential – and in providing support for colleges to meet the challenges faced while developing the capacity to do so. By providing supports like the Consent Toolkit, we are asking our colleges to embrace change on all levels, to work together to meet the needs of those affected by sexual violence and harassment, and to promote a culture of positive, active consent consistent with healthy development.” To receive a toolkit please email activeconsent@nuigalway.ie and for further information about the Active* Consent Programme, visit: http://www.nuigalway.ie/student-life/student-support/active-consent/ or on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/activeconsent/ -Ends-

Monday, 21 September 2020

Online event to discuss research on the future of regenerative medicine NUI Galway is today hosting an online forum for the inaugural meeting of 17 Confucius Institutes around the world which are dedicated to the study of Chinese Medicine. The newly established Global Alliance of Confucius Institutes of Chinese Medicine (GACICM) is for the first time bringing together academics, healthcare specialists and researchers from 17 institutes in 13 countries. The Alliance is being led by the Confucius Institute of Chinese and Regenerative Medicine at NUI Galway, which was established in 2019, with a distinct focus on researching the potential benefits of Chinese herbal products in developing new therapies. Professor Timothy O’Brien, Dean of NUI Galway’s College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Director of the Confucius Institute at the University, said: “The Global Alliance of Confucius Institutes for Chinese Medicine is a unique opportunity – for NUI Galway, for our patients, for science and for research and discovery with colleagues across the globe. “It opens doors to study potential therapies for conditions for which we currently don’t have good treatments. It is phenomenally exciting to be leading an ambitious team to see if we can discover new drugs from herbal products used in Chinese Medicine and whether they can be used in the treatment of conditions of unmet medical need, for which we have stem cell models at our flagship lab in NUI Galway.” “Researchers at NUI Galway have been paving the way in regenerative medicine research for over 16 years. Now we are charting a new and ambitious path, with the goal of analysing Chinese Medicine herbal products in a bid to discover molecules which have regenerative capabilities.” In advance of attending the meeting, NUI Galway President Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said: “We are delighted to virtually host the inaugural Global Alliance of Confucius Institutes of Chinese Medicine. We are honoured to be joined by esteemed colleagues from China, Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine and representatives from across the globe. NUI Galway has committed itself to fostering such partnerships. “As set out in our strategy, Shared Vision, Shaped by Values, we are here for the public good. We look forward to research in Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Therapy leading to the development of innovative treatments to improve healthcare for all.”  NUI Galway’s Confucius Institute involves a partnership between clinicians and scientists at the University’s Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI), where Professor O’Brien is Director, and the Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine. NUI Galway’s partnership with Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine is the only link-up of its kind focusing on the interface between Chinese and Regenerative Medicine. It also creates an international link between research teams and the Centre for Cell Manufacturing Ireland in NUI Galway and the only facility in Ireland licensed to produce Mesenchymal Stem Cells for human administration in regulated clinical trials. The online meeting is being chaired by Prof O’Brien. Among those attending will be Mr Lingshan Zhao, the Vice President and Secretary-General of Chinese International Education Foundation; representatives from Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine including Professor Zhiguang Sun, Vice President International; Confucius Institute Directors and University Presidents from the 17 institutes including Ireland, UK, Australia, Japan, Hungary, Portugal, Korea, Thailand, South Africa, USA, Cuba, Brazil and Slovakia. -Ends-

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

In a study of cognitively healthy adults, elevated levels of two biomarkers measured in the blood, GDF15 and NT-proBNP, were associated with an increased risk of developing dementia in later life  New research from Boston University, Harvard Medical School and NUI Galway’s HRB-Clinical Research Facility, has identified two blood biomarkers that could help identify those at risk of developing dementia later in life. The study was published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association.  The researchers measured blood levels of (GDF15) (a biomarker of vascular stress, thought to play a role in inflammation) and (NT-proBNP) (a biomarker of an enlarged heart, associated with worsening heart failure), both potential biomarkers for dementia, in almost 1,600 participants from the Framingham Heart Study. The research team found that GDF15 and NT-proBNP blood levels were associated with an increased risk of dementia as well as signs of vascular injury on MRI brain scans. When combined with traditional risk factors for dementia (e.g. age, high blood pressure, or a history of heart disease), these two biomarkers improved dementia risk classification suggesting their potential use in predicting dementia risk.  Dr Emer McGrath, Consultant Neurologist and lead author of the study at NUI Galway and investigator with the Framingham Heart Study (the research was completed during her previous position at Harvard Medical School), said: “Identifying biomarkers for dementia could improve our ability to predict a person’s risk of dementia and his or her future outcomes. Establishing which individuals are at increased risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, is key to developing new therapies to slow or reverse cognitive symptoms. However, current strategies are limited, both in terms of accuracy and the ability to incorporate them into routine practice. Unlike cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers that require a spinal tap (lumbar puncture), plasma biomarkers can be extracted from the blood, making their collection much less invasive and much more appealing for patients. Novel biomarkers could also help to monitor dementia severity and progression and select suitable participants for future clinical trials.”  While GDF15 has previously been associated with heart attacks, this is the first study to demonstrate an association between GDF15 and later-life dementia risk. The authors also confirmed an association between NT-proBNP levels and risk of dementia, combining their results with those from a Japanese cohort.   Dr McGrath, added: “Our findings validate the results of previous studies within a community-based setting. Blood levels of NT-proBNP are already routinely measured clinically in patients with heart failure. If we could identify appropriate clinical cut-offs for dementia, blood levels of this biomarker could prove to be useful for predicting the risk of dementia in patients.”   The authors caution that the Framingham Heart Study Offspring cohort is predominantly Caucasian, which may limit the generalizability of the findings to more diverse populations. They were also unable to explore the association between changes in plasma biomarker values over time and cognitive outcomes. Further studies will be required to replicate and validate the authors’ observed association between plasma GDF15 and dementia.  Funding for this work was provided by an Alzheimer’s Association Clinician Scientist Fellowship, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, the National Institute on Aging, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.   The full study is available at https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/JAHA.119.014659  -Ends- 

Friday, 11 September 2020

3,500 new students expected to take up places across many courses at NUI Galway, with additional offers made on high demand programmes NUI Galway to phone all first year students in special pre-orientation outreach initiative In this exceptional year for Leaving Certificate students, NUI Galway will welcome an intake of 3,500 First Year students in late September. Mindful of the current challenging context, and correspondingly exceptional increases in CAO points as demand for popular programmes intensified, the University made an additional 190 offers to CAO applicants. Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, President of NUI Galway, said: “We’d like to congratulate the class of 2020 who have illustrated resilience through the challenges of the past year. Managing a safe return to campus and the wellbeing of our students, staff and wider community is our top priority at NUI Galway. We look forward to welcoming our First Year students to their university. While we know it will be a year with a difference and an unusual start to our students’ University journey, it remains an exciting journey where we will endeavour to provide a safe, meaningful on-campus experience for our students with a corresponding reliance on online provision. “Consistent with our values and respecting the health and safety of our community, we appreciate the work being done by many colleagues and students to ensure a safe return to campus and we ask our university community to support the need for a deepened sense of responsibility for the collective good for the new academic year ahead.”  CAO points have risen across all four of NUI Galway’s Colleges and across many of its programmes. A strong focus on public health remains a high priority with a significant surge in points for Nursing, Health Sciences, Medicine and Psychology programmes that offer future careers aimed at improving health and wellbeing. This follows a trend in recent years of increased interest in fields of study with the potential for graduates to have a powerful and positive impact on the world around them. Similarly, demand for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) programmes grew, with NUI Galway’s strong reputation for excellence in Biomedicine once again resulting in points increases for Biomedical Science. The traditional professions like Law, Accounting and Business all saw an increase in points as applicants opted for programmes with clearly defined career paths. NUI Galway introduced four new programmes this year: a BSc in Geography and Geosystems; two new Law degrees: Law and Taxation and Law: Criminology and Criminal Justice; and a BSc in Genetics and Genomics, and all proved popular choices for applicants. Arts programmes also saw points increases for Creative Arts options and in particular, Music; Film and Digital Media; and Drama, Theatre and Performance courses, reflecting Galway’s cultural and artistic reputation as the European Capital of Culture for 2020. For incoming First Year students, an undergraduate orientation will take place in the week commencing 21 September in a safe way, adhering to Covid-19 public health guidelines. Orientations will comprise of a mix of online and on-campus activities to help students familiarise themselves with the university, understand the structures and demands of student life, learn about the supports available to them and get to know their fellow classmates who will in time become lifelong friends. NUI Galway is putting in place a ‘Pre-Orientation Outreach’ initiative to individually call all incoming First Year students. The initiative involves the Chaplaincy team calling (and text to unanswered call) all incoming First Year students who accepted their place in NUI Galway, to welcome and introduce the students to the University.  Jimmy McGovern, Support Worker at NUI Galway’s Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care Centre, said: “We believe it is important to connect with our new students - to congratulate them on accepting their course, to let them know what being a student in NUI Galway will look like, and to welcome them into our University community.” A comprehensive blended learning model of online and on-campus teaching will be provided this year to ensure a top quality educational experience – delivering on students’ expectations and learning outcomes. NUI Galway is building on-campus learning to ensure a meaningful student experience. This will be delivered through a mix of on-campus tutorials, seminars, distanced meet-ups and/or laboratories, based on the needs of various courses. At all times capacity in rooms will conform to public health advice. Large-scale lectures will be adapted for online delivery, as well as some smaller classes where it is not possible and safe to deliver them on-campus. The majority of online lectures will not be timetabled in specific slots but will instead be made available in advance of any related timetabled classes such as seminars, tutorials and lab work. Other online lectures will be provided through podcasts, other digital platforms, interactive Q&A’s, a mix of online real-time tutorials and lectures, and the ‘Covid and Philosophy’ project, which involves projects for assessment but also an end of year public presentation of results. A dedicated First Year Hotline is now open to answer questions and help students, parents and guardians as they prepare for an academic year with a difference, college studies and college life at NUI Galway. NUI Galway First Year Student Hotline and Opening Hours Phone: +353 (0) 91 493999 or visit http://www.nuigalway.ie/startinguniversity/.  The hotline is now open until the 28 September 2020 Monday to Friday from 9am-1pm and 2pm-5pm Round two offers are due to be issued on Wednesday, 23 September at 9am. For more information about studying at NUI Galway, attending campus safely and the University’s Covid-19 Access to Campus Protocol, visit:  http://www.nuigalway.ie/alert/. -Ends-

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Study highlights that effective, continuous training for online and distance learning in education and teaching will be of critical importance in the event of recurring school closures Researchers from NUI Galway’s School of Education have led the publication of a comparative study of learning with mobile technology in collaboration with universities and technology consultants in Europe, the UK and Australia. The international team of researchers found a ‘digital use divide’ in learning with mobile technology in schools, highlighting the need for appropriate, continuous training and supports for teachers, alongside investment in devices and infrastructure. Lead author on the study, Dr Tony Hall, Senior Lecturer in Educational Technology and Deputy Head of the School of Education, NUI Galway, said: “Looking at the history of pandemics and their impact on schooling, but also the differences between the current and previous viruses, there is the real risk of continuing school and campus closures. This means that mobile and distance learning will remain of crucial importance in supporting young people, parents, families, and teachers in ensuring continuity of learning where the pandemic makes learning at school impossible. “A significant finding of our research, which looks at mobile technology in schools in six countries: Australia, Belgium, Cyprus, The Netherlands, UK, and Ireland, is a prevailing gap, not only in terms of those who have technology and access, but also those who can access the required expertise and support they need to use mobile devices effectively. Our study highlights that investment in providing technology alone will not be sufficient, especially if the situation necessitates the large-scale return to mobile and online learning – outside of classrooms.” Through its work developing mobile devices and technologies collaboratively with teachers and schools, and like other projects internationally, Designing and Evaluating Innovative Mobile Pedagogies (DEIMP) has developed resources that can help provide real support to schools and teachers where they need to move their learning online. Dr Hall continued: “The current situation also presents opportunities to rethink education, and to try to make it more inclusive and engaging for all young people, where we can lessen the pressures of formal examinations and assessments. For example, the current situation is reminding us of the importance of learning outside school, and in informal education environments. In our research for the European DEIMP Project, we have developed resources for teachers and educators to use, to guide and develop best practice, including an app, multimedia case studies, and an open online training course for mobile learning. We have also generated 21 principles for effective learning with mobile applications and devices, which can help to guide positive change through mobile learning in education, both in and outside of classrooms. These principles emphasize fundamentally important aspects of learning, education and teaching, including: authenticity, collaboration, and student choice.” The research paper, “Education in precarious times: a comparative study across six countries to identify design priorities for mobile learning in a pandemic” is published in the international journal, Information and Learning Sciences is available at https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/ILS-04-2020-0089/full/html -Ends-

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Young people in Ireland and Northern Ireland are invited to make a short science video to win €1000 for their school or youth organisation NUI Galway is challenging young science enthusiasts and filmmakers in Ireland and Northern Ireland to produce fun short science videos for the innovative ‘ReelLIFE SCIENCE’ competition. With a prize fund of over €5000, the best videos from primary schools, secondary schools and youth organisations will each win €1000. Videos can be up to three minutes in length and can communicate any aspect of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics),on one of the following topics:How Things Work, Climate Action, Healing the Body and Science on the Farm. Filming can be on smartphones, tablets or cameras and the closing date for entries is Friday, 23 October. The best videos will be screened for the public at the Galway Science and Technology Festival on 22 November.  Speaking about the competition’s launch, Ferne Corrigan, BBC wildlife and children’s presenter and judging panellist for ReelLIFE SCIENCE 2020, said: “It seems that we are in a time when science is at the forefront of massive, impactful conversations and what is exciting is that it is this generation, and the next generation that will bring about critical changes and keep the conversation going. Science needs passionate young people and it is programmes like this that help to get it out there. Science isn’t all lab coats and Bunsen burners and we need to make it engaging and accessible for all. I am so excited to be a part of the judging panel for the videos and I can't wait to see what everyone comes up with.” Since launching in 2013, more than 14,000 young people in 450 schools and youth organisations in Ireland have taken part in the ReelLIFE SCIENCE programme, which is organised by Dr Enda O’Connell and a team of scientists from NUI Galway. ReelLIFE SCIENCE is supported by Science Foundation Ireland’s Discover Programme, the Community Knowledge Initiative, the CÚRAM SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices and the Cell EXPLORERS science outreach programme. More information about taking part can be found at https://reellifescience.com/. -Ends-

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

New director and associate director for the HRB Clinical Research Facility Galway  NUI Galway today announced the appointment of Professor Andrew Smyth and Professor Fidelma Dunne as Director and Associate Director of the Health Research Board Clinical Research Facility Galway.  The HRB Clinical Research Facility Galway (HRB-CRFG) is a joint venture between Galway University Hospitals (GUH), Saolta University Health Care Group and NUI Galway, which has been in operation since March 2008. The HRB provides funding to the Clinical Research Facility Galway to support the infrastructure, physical space, facilities, expertise and culture needed for translational research. They focus on studies aimed at understanding a range of diseases and speedily translating the knowledge obtained through this research work into regulatory approved advances in patient care. Andrew Smyth, appointed Director, is the Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at NUI Galway and a Consultant Nephrologist at Galway University Hospitals. His personal research interests are in the epidemiology of chronic kidney disease, particularly modifiable risk factors and the relationship between diet and health outcomes. Through his role at HRB-CRFG, he has been heavily involved in clinical trials across an array of clinical specialities that include: gestational diabetes mellitus; stem cell treatments for limb ischaemia; haematology; breast cancer investigations; and psychiatry. He was the first Irish-based recipient of a Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Career Development Fellowship and collaborates closely with the Population Health Research Institute of McMaster University Canada. Speaking on the announcement Professor Smyth, said: “My vision for HRB-CRFG is to maximise the ability for local patients and investigators to access contemporary clinical research projects and clinical trials to directly impact and improve the health and wellbeing of the population through executing clinical research studies to the highest regulatory standards and ethical frameworks in line with international best practice.” Fidelma Dunne, appointed Associate Director, is a Professor in the School of Medicine at NUI Galway and a Consultant physician in Endocrinology Diabetes and Metabolism at Galway University Hospitals group. Originally a graduate of NUI Galway Medicine, she has previously held a number of leadership roles.* Professor Dunne’s major research interest is in the area of pregnancy and diabetes and her research group are conducting a number of studies as part of the ATLANTIC DIP programme including the EMERGE randomized controlled trial of the drug Metformin, the investigation of a biomarker (CD59) in Gestational diabetes mellitus pregnancies and a 10-year follow up (metabolic and cardiovascular) of women with prior gestational diabetes. In addition, Professor Dunne has been involved in international studies that include CONCEPTT, funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research charity, which examined the benefits of continuous glucose monitoring in women with Type 1 Diabetes during pregnancy, and DALI, a multicentre European funded trial on the prevention of Gestational diabetes mellitus using Vitamin D and lifestyle intervention. More recently she has been the Irish lead for EVOLVE, a pan European cohort study examining pregnancy outcomes of women with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes across Europe, and is currently the Irish lead for the EXPECT study examining a new insulin (Insulin Degludec) in women with Type 1 Diabetes in pregnancy. Speaking on her appointment Professor Dunne highlighted her vision during her tenure: “My vision for HRB-CRFG is to provide a research infrastructure that is safe and conducts research in accordance with best international practice, where all patients irrespective of geography have access to contemporary clinical trials exploring new medicines and treatments, novel screening and detection methods, and state of the art monitoring systems.” Congratulating Professors Smyth and Dunne on their appointments Professor Tim O’Brien, Dean of the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, NUI Galway and Consultant Physician in Endocrinology and Metabolism, Saolta University Healthcare Group, said: “NUI Galway is fortunate to have top-tier talent with substantial experience in clinical research to fill these leadership roles within the CRFG. The next phase for this facility is exciting and this team will provide the infrastructure that will progress healthcare for patients with the highest regulatory standards.” Professor O’Brien also acknowledged the role of previous Director, Professor Martin O’Donnell in the development of the facility. “Professor O’Donnell is a highly cited, internationally recognized clinician investigator who led the HRB-CRFG through its formative stages and we are grateful for his outstanding contribution.”  The HRB-CRFG is currently involved in 50 clinical trials including specialist areas such as stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and nutrition. For more information about the HRB-CRFG, visit: http://www.nuigalway.ie/hrb_crfg/ -Ends-

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Award winner is also part of a research team working with NPHET to understand why people do or do not adhere to Covid-19 physical distancing guidelines Dr Hannah Durand, a Post-Doctoral researcher in the School of Psychology at NUI Galway, has received the Herman Schaalma Award of the European Health Psychology Society (EHPS). The Herman Schaalma award is awarded annually to acknowledge a PhD dissertation in the field of health psychology of outstanding excellence in terms of originality, significance, and rigour. Dr Durand’s research explored reasons why people with hard-to-control blood pressure do or do not take their medications as prescribed. She is the only Irish recipient of the Herman Schaalma Award in its history. Dr Durand’s research was supervised by Dr Gerry Molloy of the School of Psychology and Professor Andrew Murphy of the Discipline of General Practice at NUI Galway. Professor Evangelos Karademas, President of the EHPS, said: “The Herman Schaalma Award aims to highlight excellence in PhD level research and to reinforce early career researchers to address key challenges in health psychology and adopt novel and rigorous theory and methodology. I offer my sincere congratulations to Dr Durand on her well-deserved success.” Galway native, Dr Durand is one of several researchers at NUI Galway leveraging their expertise to address aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. With funding from the Health Research Board and Irish Research Council, researchers from the School of Psychology are working with the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to understand why people do or do not adhere to physical distancing guidelines. A protocol for this research is freely available from the Health Research Board at https://hrbopenresearch.org/articles/3-58. Dr Hannah Durand said: “We are using insights from health psychology to understand what motivates individuals’ behavioural responses to the pandemic. Our aim is to utilise our research findings to inform and refine future government communications about physical distancing.” The first aspect of this research, an online survey conducted in collaboration with researchers at the Montreal Behavioural Medicine Centre, is currently accepting responses. For more information or to take part in the survey visit, https://mbmc-cmcm.ca/covid19/. The Herman Schaalma Award ceremony, which was due to take place at the European Health Psychology Society annual conference in Bratislava, Slovakia, was recently held online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. -Ends-

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Research conducted by NUI Galway academic Dr John Murray has led to the recovery of a medal, thought long-lost, belonging to a Great War veteran from Dublin who was decorated for bravery. The soldier, James Murray, first joined the British army as a young man and fought with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). After returning to civilian life, he married his first wife Mary in 1904 and they had two children. They lived in some of the poorest tenement slums in Dublin and by mid-1909, through a combination of sickness and tragedy, James had lost his entire first family. He remarried in 1912 and started a second family. During the First World War James re-enlisted with his old regiment and participated in both the Battle of Messines and the Passhendaele offensive in 1917. He received two separate commendations for gallantry and also the Military Medal for Bravery during those significant actions. Dr Murray of NUI Galway’s School of Natural Sciences, has been researching his great grandfather James Murray over a number of years and commented: “During the Great War James had to leave behind a very young family, including my own grandfather Michael who was only three years old. They must have waited very anxiously at home for him during all of the times he faced extreme danger in the trenches of the Western Front. He was immensely brave and experienced a number of highs and lows in life. It was a privilege to unearth his life-story, and also something of an emotional roller-coaster.” James Murray was reunited with his young family following the Armistice and returned to working class life in Dublin. He died in 1949 and his widow Jane survived him by some 28 years. Tragedy struck in 1963 when her dilapidated tenement home on Fenian Street catastrophically collapsed, killing two young girls. Jane lost everything in that disaster, and the event helped to precipitate the Dublin housing crisis of the 1960s, which eventually led to the clearing of the remaining tenement slums and the reshaping of Dublin’s urban landscape. During the course of his investigation Dr Murray discovered, quite by chance, that eight years previously someone else had been searching for information online about the very same Great War soldier. Gerard ‘Del’ Delaney, originally from Dublin and now living in the UK, had inherited some old medals from his mother and one of them, a WW1 Victory Medal, clearly bore James Murray’s name and regimental number on the rim. With help from a member of an online military discussion forum, the pair made initial contact. Del, himself a decorated former soldier with the Royal Logistic Corps who actively participates in commemorations and archaeological excavations on the Western Front, said: “I was never quite sure how James’s medal came to be in my family’s possession, particularly as no clear relationship could be traced back to him. When John and I first spoke by phone, I immediately realised the importance of returning this precious item to James’s direct descendants.” Del and John finally met for the first time in Dublin last year and Private James Murray’s Victory Medal was presented back to the Murray family. On the occasion of its return, John commented: “My entire family had believed that so much of the story had been lost, particularly in the Fenian Street tenement collapse. We are all deeply grateful to Del for very kindly returning James’s Great War medal and providing us with a tangible link to our shared past. This literally feels like finding a needle in a haystack.” Del Delaney also added: “It has been a privilege for me to have been a custodian of James’s medal and I am delighted that it is back in the family’s possession. You never know, the publicity surrounding its return may go towards helping establish the whereabouts of James’s other medals - stranger things have happened!” Full details of James Murray’s remarkable life, the Fenian Street tenement collapse and the return of his Victory Medal are published in the current edition (September/October) of the magazine History Ireland. Editor Tommy Graham commented: “This is an amazing story, combining 'big picture' events like the Boer War and the First World War with the detail—and many tragedies—of Dublin working class life. And it has a happy ending of sorts, with the rediscovery of James Murray's First World War Victory Medal by his surviving family.” -Ends-

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Professor Conor Brady, the former Editor of The Irish Times, has been appointed an Honorary Professor at NUI Galway. Professor Brady will work with NUI Galway in the development of a new innovation stream on the University’s MA in Journalism programme, designed to prepare graduates to work in future roles as digital content creators and innovators in the media industry. Professor Brady will also lecture in the history of media to BA Journalism students and will chair the University’s Editorial Advisory Board, a group of external journalists and editors that advises the university on best practice in journalism education. Head of Journalism and Communication Tom Felle said: “Professor Brady would bring a wealth of experience to his new role. NUI Galway has a long history of journalism education and our BA Journalism – relaunched in 2019 – is the top points programme in the country in its category. Our prestigious MA Journalism and MA Sports Journalism and Communication now attract graduates from around the world. “2020 marks the start of a major period of expansion for NUI Galway in media and the creative industries. We have ambitious plans to develop new streams in global financial journalism; climate action; human rights; and a very specialised programme in digital journalism incorporating social media as well as data analytics. We are delighted that Conor has agreed to join us to help us achieve our goals at NUI Galway as we strive to develop an international centre of excellence in journalism and wider media education in the West of Ireland.” Professor Brady said: “I am greatly honoured to be invited to contribute to the development of journalism and media studies at the vibrant and progressive NUI Galway. The technologies, the delivery vehicles, of 21st Century journalism are changing constantly. But it is essential in parallel to preserve Irish journalism’s legacy values of truthfulness, courage, respect and fairness and to ensure that they are embedded in contemporary practice.” Conor is one of Ireland’s more experienced journalists and editors. He served as Editor of The Irish Times from 1986 until 2002, and previously worked for RTÉ and the Sunday Tribune. He worked in a number of postings for the Times including in Northern Ireland, the London Bureau, and the European Desk. He reported on the conflict in Rhodesia, later Zimbabwe, in the 1970s, and was chair of the World Editors’ Forum from 1996 to 2000. Professor Brady has previously held academic positions as Visiting Professor at John Jay College, City University of New York, and as a Senior Teaching Fellow at the Smurfit Business School in UCD. He was a member of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission from 2005 to 2011. He is chair of the Top Level Appointments Commission (TLAC), which selects leadership for senior public service positions. He is a director of the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) and is vice chair of Midlands Radio 103. Professor Brady is also co-founder of Caliber AI, an Enterprise Ireland-funded project, currently developing artificial intelligence to assist in the pre-publication detection of defamatory or toxic content.  -Ends-

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Researchers from five universities awarded prestigious Lero Director’s Prizes Three NUI Galway researchers, Professor Kieran Conboy, Dr Darragh Mullins, and Mariead O’Connell, were among eight researchers from five leading Irish universities who were awarded Lero Director’s Prizes at an online ceremony today. This is the second year of the annual awards presented by Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software, to honour members working across its 11 academic partner institutes nationwide. Awards were presented to academics, researchers and support staff from NUI Galway, University College Dublin, University of Limerick, Maynooth University and Dublin City University. The Lero Director’s Prizes were presented at the annual gathering of Lero members which was held online this year for the first time in the centre’s 15-year history. Closing the conference, Professor Brian Fitzgerald, Director of Lero, told members that their resilience and dedication has meant that Lero has continued and, in many cases, expanded its ground-breaking work despite the COVID-19 pandemic: “I am constantly impressed by the women and men who are the backbone of our world-leading research centre. Their resilience, ingenuity and ambition to provide research-based solutions and insights to resolve problems, have not been derailed by a pandemic that has transformed so many other facets of modern living. “This year, Lero celebrates the 15th anniversary of its foundation. Since 2005, Lero has established itself as one of the top software research centres in the world and this is because of its people. 2020 has brought unique challenges to our members and our world. Today we recognise the resilience and ingenuity of Lero’s academics and researchers in providing scientific and technological solutions to global issues. We also acknowledge their dedication to the centre, to engaging the public and industry and to diversity and inclusion in our work and in our world,” Professor Fitzgerald said. This is the first year that the Professor Rory O’Connor Prize for Outstanding Service to Lero was presented, in memory of the late Lero and DCU researcher. “The Professor Rory O’Connor Prize for Outstanding Service to Lero is a highlight of the Lero Director’s Prize programme and we are very grateful to the family of our late colleague Rory for allowing us to name this prize in his honour. Such was the strength of nominations in this category, we decided to present two awards – one to Lero Principal Investigator Professor Kieran Conboy of NUI Galway and a second to Dara O’Connor, a member of the centre’s support team based in University of Limerick,” Professor Fitzgerald stated. The Lero Director’s Prize for Research Excellence was awarded to Dr Jim Buckley of University of Limerick. Earlier this summer, Dr Buckley received a Science Foundation Ireland COVID-19 Rapid Response Funding award for COVIGILANT, a research project with colleagues in UL and NUI Galway to gather evidence informing and optimising Ireland’s digital contact-tracing strategy and practice. Lero Director’s Prizes for Education and Public Engagement were awarded to Dr Darragh Mullins of NUI Galway and Professor Markus Helfert and his team at Maynooth University. Lero Director’s Prizes for Diversity and Inclusion were presented to PhD students Abeba Birhane of University College Dublin and Mairead O’Connor of NUI Galway. -Ends-

Friday, 4 September 2020

GIAF’s once-off autumn programme welcomes audiences to safely experience visual arts, music, theatre, and talks live in person while facilitating those who may prefer to engage from home Galway International Arts Festival’s Autumn Edition began on Thursday 3 September, with an exciting programme which includes both live arts and an enhanced digital component, giving audiences a choice as to how they wish to engage with it, in person (both indoors and outdoors) or at home digitally.  The aim is that while moving forward and bringing live experiences back to the fore, no one is left behind, especially those who are unable to travel to Galway or are currently staying at home.  Acutely aware of public health concerns, the programme is designed to be presented within public health and Government guidelines, allowing for limited attendance and social distancing. The centrepiece of the programme will be the world unveiling of a major new visual arts commission for Galway 2020, European Capital of Culture. Presented outdoors in Galway city and in Connemara, John Gerrard’s Mirror Pavilion installation, using cutting edge digital technology, will be one of the largest outdoor installations ever to be seen in Ireland and will be in situ on the Claddagh Quay from 3-26 September (this will move to Connemara in October). From 5 September at the Festival Gallery explore new work from Hughie O’Donoghue and Three Women from American video art pioneer Bill Viola. The first weekend of First Thought talks will take place 5 & 6 September. A mix of live in-person, from the Black Box Theatre, and other online talks will explore the big issues and challenges of 2020 including:  Pandemic Reflections 1: The Spanish Flu: Dr Ida Milne, Fergal Bowers  Dr Catriona Clear / Pandemic Reflections 2: Covid-19: Prof Luke O’Neill, Dr Catherine Motherway, Prof Paul Moynagh, Dr Mary Favier, David McCullough / Black Lives Matter: Experiences of Racism in Ireland: Tobi Lawal, Felicia Olusanya, Amanda Adewole in conversation with Roisin Ingle/ The State of the UK: John Lanchester, Fintan O’Toole, Martina Fitzgerald/ Bloody Sunday 1920: Prof Paul Rouse, Associate Prof Anne Dolan, Prof Diarmuid Ferriter/ Climate: What has changed or can change?: Includes Minister Eamon Ryan, Tara O’Neill, Mai Sheehan / What May The Post– Pandemic Future Hold? Fintan O’Toole in conversation with Catriona Crowe / Italia 90: Colm Toibin, Eamon Dunphy, Mark Duncan. Meanwhile host Tiernan Henry talksfavourite music and memories with special guests  in a new series of live Vinyl Hours conversations at Róisín Dubh, Dominick Street, on 6 September the first of his guests, renowned Irish conductor and GIAF regular with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra David Brophy will be talking all things music. The full programme is available at https://www.giaf.ie. "While this has been a very challenging time for everyone, we were determined to present a programme in Galway this year despite everything and we are set to do just that with our Autumn Edition. We wanted this to be a love letter from the arts to our audience during a very difficult period for people. We have had to radically rethink how we do things but one thing's for sure, we look forward to safely gathering again to celebrate great art with everyone - either in person or online – this Autumn.”John Crumlish, Chief Executive, Galway International Arts Festival. “Over the last few months the importance of culture has been more evident than ever before as we all embraced our favourite art forms to help us through such a difficult time. We are hugely excited to re-establish live experiences between artists and audiences alongside online experiences for those who cannot join in person. As the country emerges from lockdown, we hope Galway International Arts Festival will help elevate the mood of the nation and enrich many hearts and minds as we present this Autumn Edition. It will also be a particular thrill to unveil the spectacular Mirror Pavilion by John Gerrard on the Irish landscape.”Paul Fahy, Artistic Director, Galway International Arts Festival Attend and experience in person, in Galway:  Galway International Arts Festival Autumn Edition will kick off on 3 September with the unveiling of Mirror Pavilion, a major new commission from internationally renowned Irish artist John Gerrard known for his spectacular, large scale outdoor works such as Western Flag in the Coachella desert, California. Presented by GIAF and Galway 2020 as part of Galway’s European Capital of Culture. The Pavilion is a beautiful and striking structure, with three sides and the roof clad in a highly reflective mirror and the fourth wall a high–resolution LED wall. This structure will host two new artworks Corn Work and Leaf Work which will unfold on the LED screen presented in two locations; Corn Work at the historic Claddagh Quay in Galway City (3-26 September) and Leaf Work at the spectacular 4,000–year–old Derrigimlagh Bog in Connemara (11-31 Oct). The works reflect and respond to the landscape of both locations. Mirror Pavilion is a response to the escalating climate crisis and fearlessly pushes the boundaries of digital art using simulation. Gerrard has taken digital technology, usually employed by the commercial gaming industry, to create virtual worlds that simulate extremely detailed and authentic landscapes. The characters and landscapes we see on the LED screen may look like video or film but they are not. Commissioned by Galway International Arts Festival for Galway 2020, European Capital of Culture, the Festival is delighted to honour that commitment to premiere Mirror Pavilion in Ireland this year. Watch John Gerrard in his studio, talk about creating Mirror Pavilion in this short video. A ‘one-night-only' peek at a new Enda Walsh play, Medicine, at a work-in-progress stage. Medicine will see Domhnall Gleeson return to the stage, alongside Clare Barrett, Aoife Duffin and jazz percussionist Sean Carpio.  Produced by Landmark Productions and Galway International Arts Festival, Medicine is devastatingly funny and profoundly moving, and examines society’s response to mental health concerns while deconstructing the fabric of theatrical performance. Please note this development showcase will not be streamed and there is a limited audience capacity to facilitate social distancing.  (26 September, 4pm, Black Box Theatre – SOLD OUT) Visual arts programming is always a key element of the Galway International Arts Festival programme. Last summer GIAF moved into a new Festival Gallery space in the heart of the city centre. Housed in An Post’s network of buildings just off William Street, the unused space behind the main GPO was completely transformed by the Festival team. GIAF is delighted that An Post has made the space available again and will this year host a major new exhibition by celebrated Irish artist Hughie O’Donoghue. This exhibition features a number of large-scale works. (5-26 September, Festival Gallery).  Internationally acclaimed video artist Bill Viola’s work focuses on the fundamental human experiences. Audiences this Autumn can explore his workThree Women, which is part of the Transfigurations video series (5-26 September, Festival Gallery). There is a new Room to explore, Changing Room written by Enda Walsh and designed by Paul Fahy, the seventh in their series.This latest addition to the evolving Rooms series sees Enda once again collaborate with GIAF’s Artistic Director to share the story of a character who has inhabited that room. (9-20 September, Bank of Ireland Theatre, NUI Galway – SOLD OUT). Always a hugely popular part of the festival, First Thought Talks returns exploring the big issues and challenges of the day with speakers including Samantha Power, Professor Luke O’Neill, Marion McKeone, Colm Tóibín, Gaia Vince, Eamon Dunphy and Fintan O’Toole.  A selection of talks will be live-streamed and some guests will join by video link. First Thought Talks are presented in association with NUI Galway. Meanwhile host Tiernan Henry talksfavourite music and memories with special guests Julie Feeney, David Brophy and Liz Nugent in a new series of live Vinyl Hours conversations. (6 & 12 September, Róisín Dubh, Dominick Street). These will be available to listen to on the Festival’s new First Thought podcast. Experience through headphones, as you walk through the streets of Galway, Cascando by Samuel Beckett directed by Gavin Quinn, from Pan Pan who make their long–awaited GIAF debut this year. The audience are led through the city streets, the unhurried pace of Andrew Bennett’s deep and riveting voice provide a rhythm for their steps, as they listen to Voice’s struggle to tell a story. Along this journey, the tremendous pulse of Jimmy Eadie’s music threatens to overwhelm, rising in a wave of crashing strings. (17-20 September, 1pm, 4pm & 7pm and 19 September, 11am, 1.30pm & 4pm. Meeting point at the Galway Rowing Club, Wood Quay – SOLD OUT). To celebrate 250 years since the birth of Beethoven, ConTempo will perform a series of live concerts featuring some of his most-loved pieces for strings quartets. (22-25 September, St Nicholas’ Church). Experience GIAF online at home: Galway International Arts Festival is acutely aware that some may not be in a position to experience these in person in Galway this autumn. With that in mind the Festival presents an enhanced digital programme for audiences who cannot visit Galway to attend in person this year, or may prefer to engage from home. A selection of these will be live streamed on our online platforms, some digital only. Additional events will be presented on Facebook Live and Instagram. Check the Festival’s online platforms for regular updates. Watch a Mirror Pavilion video series on the ‘Making of Mirror Pavilion’ featuring stunning footage from both locations at Galway City and Connemara, allowing you to experience this groundbreaking work from the comfort of your home. Continue your exploration of visual arts with a virtual tour of Hughie O’Donoghue’s new show as you are ‘walked’ around the stunning Festival Gallery space and watch a conversation with the artist discussing his spectacular new exhibition. GIAF also welcomes back renowned photographer Sarah Hickson who has been working on a festival commission around those who have lived / are living in Direct Provision in Galway. This online only exhibition brings together photographs that resonate with the theme of ’home’ and explore personal stories of displacement, migration and belonging. This Festival commission will conclude in 2021. (Experience online only from 14 September) A number of First Thought talks will be broadcast across GIAF’s social media channels and on YouTube. For full details see giaf.ie. This year the Festival is also launching a First Thought Podcast series, which invites listeners to discover new perspectives, people and more, through conversations on creativity and the big issues of the day. Pop your headphones in and listen anywhere.  Galway International Arts Festival would like to acknowledge the support of its principal funding agencies the Arts Council and Fáilte Ireland, Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture, Education Partner NUI Galway, Festival Energy partner Flogas and Drinks Partner Heineken®. ENDS  

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Results may help identify patients for novel treatments to halt the growth of cancerous cells  A new study by molecular biologists at NUI Galway has uncovered genetic differences which could be used to identify patients who would benefit from drugs which stop the growth of cancerous cells. The research team from the University’s Centre for Chromosome Biology has been studying the molecular response of cells to a drug that blocks the first step of DNA replication.  The research paper, published in the prestigious journal Cell Reports, states that its findings can be applied to help develop novel cancer treatments. When both normal and cancer cells divide their DNA needs to be replicated, so that both mother and daughter cells get a complete copy of the DNA.  CDC7 is a protein that is needed at an early stage in the process of DNA replication and new drugs that block the action of CDC7 are being developed as anti-cancer therapeutics. But they can also impact the growth of normal cells. Previous research from Professor Corrado Santocanale’s team at the Centre for Chromosome Biology in NUI Galway showed that CDC7 targeting drugs can kill cancer cells while temporarily blocking the growth of normal cells.  Dr Michael Rainey, honorary research lecturer at the Centre for Chromosome Biology and the main contributor to the study, said: “These drugs are likely to have significantly less of the toxic side effects associated with other chemotherapeutic drugs that kill both normal and cancer cells. “But now our research has given us two other key findings on CDC7 targeting drugs and their impact on cells.  “We have uncovered a molecular pathway which influences whether cells either stop growing or die when treated with CDC7 targeting drugs. Even more importantly, we identified a number of genes that are required for the cell growth block - and if these genes are mutated cells can actually grow in the presence of the drugs.” Professor Santocanale and Dr Rainey say these findings pave the way for the identification of cancer patients who may benefit from CDC7 targeting drugs. It would also help to identify those patients who would not respond to treatment with these drugs and can instead be redirected to alternative treatments.  Dr Rainey added: “Using sophisticated molecular genetic technologies we have screened all human genes and found a number of genes that are critical for the cells to stop growth in the presence of CDC7 targeting drugs. Excitingly this work has also helped us to understand how cells coordinate the process of DNA replication and the partitioning of DNA into mother and daughter cells.” Professor Santocanale, Professor of Molecular Medicine at the Centre for Chromosome Biology and Discipline of Biochemistry in the School of Natural Sciences at NUI Galway, added: “Many novel drugs are being developed worldwide to fight cancers. However, because cancers are very different at the molecular level, not all patients respond to treatment in a similar manner. So, for each new drug, the big challenge is to identify the molecular signature that allows us to predict whether a tumour will respond to treatment or fail treatment.  “Major advancements and investments in genomics technology have been pivotal in increasing our molecular understanding of how cells copy the genetic information and in understanding how CDC7 targeting drugs work, which is essential to maximise their therapeutic potential.” This study is published in the prestigious journal Cell Reports and is available at https://www.cell.com/cell-reports/fulltext/S2211-1247(20)31085-8 Ends

Thursday, 17 September 2020

CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway, will once again collaborate with artists Anne Cleary and Denis Connolly to create interactive art and science workshops for children. Having participated in CÚRAM’s Artists in Residence programme in 2017-2018, Cleary Connolly developed AfterImage, an art-science project with Galway’s Westside community. The Baboró International Arts Festival for Children is a welcome opportunity for further collaboration between CÚRAMs researchers and award-winning artists. The project, Wavelengths will enable school children to meet the artists, Cleary Connolly over Zoom, and be shown their exciting Science Foundation Ireland supported exhibition, Invisible Light, at the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork. Participants will see fantastic artworks and Cleary Connolly will introduce the electromagnetic spectrum, using every day and familiar objects to help demystify each type of light. “We are very excited to be working once again with Cleary Connolly on this talk and seeing their new work at the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork.  Anne and Denis have an amazing way of connecting art and science while making complex scientific ideas accessible and fascinating to any audience,” says Andrea Fitzpatrick, Artist in Residence programme manager at CÚRAM.  Like the visible spectrum, the electromagnetic spectrum is divided into seven sections or types of lights, most of which we cannot see. Although most of this light is invisible to the naked eye, scientists have devised many ways of seeing them and using them in medicine, astronomy, meteorology, security, etc. Now Cleary Connolly explores these invisible forms of light as art. Researchers from CÚRAM, SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices, Dr Vijaya Krishna Kanala and Vaishali Chugh, will be participating in the online experience to explain how they use ultraviolet light and fluorescence in the laboratory for the imaging of cells in their research. Funding for the project has been provided by NUI Galway to celebrate Galway’s designation as European Capital of Culture. Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM, says: “This project is another great opportunity for our researchers to communicate their work to new audiences. It exemplifies CÚRAM’s commitment to developing relationships with the community through art and science, and we are delighted to partner with talents such as Cleary Connolly.” CÚRAM’s public engagement programme ‘Breaking Barriers’ supports the Science Foundation Ireland goal of having the most engaged and scientifically informed public. Wavelengths will take place online over Zoom on Monday, October 12th and Tuesday, October 13th and is suitable for 5th and 6th class students.  Full details, including how to book, are available on the Baboró website at https://www.baboro.ie/festival/programme/wavelengths

Monday, 24 August 2020

13 gold medals were awarded to students in the area of Medicine and Health Sciences in 2020 NUI Galway has been acknowledging student excellence through the award of gold medals in Medicine for over 100 years, and this year, in partnership with the Community Knowledge Initiative, an additional gold medal was awarded to a student in the Health Sciences for their Civic Engagement contribution. Civic Engagement activities can take many forms including student volunteering, service learning, collaborate research projects and other activities that benefit both the community and the university including its’ students and staff. Orlaith Lyons, a final year Speech and Language Therapist from County Clare, was awarded the inaugural Gold Medal in Health Sciences for her outstanding record of civic engagement service and achievement. Orlaith has been volunteering with the civil defence providing emergency first aid to the public for community and national events year-round, and has training in search and rescue and has various qualifications for local/national missing person’s searches, body recoveries and severe weather events. Orlaith acts as casualty for major emergency simulations, and Fire Service and Civil Defence training and volunteers with Hear Me! and Communication Partner Programme  to raise awareness of communication disabilities. As part of her Speech and Language qualification she provides six weekly visits to a person living with aphasia to learn how they communicate and live, and since COVID-19 began she has been providing meals on wheels to those who are cocooning.  Speaking on the award of her gold medal Orlaith said: “It is an honour to be announced as the inaugural winner of the CKI Civic Engagement Gold Medal Award. Emerging as a new graduate, my civic engagement achievements will enable me to bring transferable and desirable skills to the work force. Many hours spent at Civil Defence training, community duties and emergency call-outs have instilled in me a combination of skills, values, and self-motivation. Leadership, team work, communication and problem solving skills will be transferable to all aspects of my life and my career as a Speech and Language Therapist. The academic team of the NUI Galway Speech and Language Therapy Department fostered my self-confidence, adaptability and work ethic. This gave me the boost I needed to take on new roles and responsibilities in Civil Defence and the Equestrian Club as the course progressed.” Professor Caroline McIntosh, Head of the School of Health Sciences and Professor of Podiatric Medicine at NUI Galway, said: “This civic engagement medal will be awarded annually to the graduate with the most outstanding record of service to his/her community, and to society in general. We hope that this medal will encourage our students to become more active in their communities, to give of their time and energy to work in collaboration with our patients, the communities in which they live, patient representative organisations and other community groups.”   Dr Lorraine McIlrath, Community Knowledge Initiative (CKI) Co-Ordinator at NUI Galway, acknowledged the calibre of all the applicants for the gold medal: “The Community Knowledge Initiative has supported the Civic engagement Medal in Medicine since its inception in 2013, and we are now delighted to support the new Medal for Civil Engagement in Health Sciences. The standard of applications means that all applications are so deserving and we are delighted to award this inaugural medal to Orlaith Lyons, a BSc Speech and Language Therapy Student.” This year, building on a tradition of rewarding excellence for over 100 years, a total of 13 gold medals in the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences were awarded to final year students. Twelve medals were awarded to final year Medicine students including a second Gold Medal for Civic Engagement. This medal was awarded to Dr Lorcán Ó Maoileannaigh from Dublin for his fundraising and his dedication to the representation of student voice through NUI Galway’s Student Union, and the NUI Galway Healthcare Society. The twelve gold medals include awards for General Practice, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Ophthalmology, Paediatrics, Radiology, Psychiatry, Surgery, Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, and the IUMC Comerford Award, the John D. Kennedy Award for Health and Disease, and the John Flynn Medal for Health and Disease and the James Devaney Medal in Perioperative and Intensive Care Medicine. -Ends-

Monday, 24 August 2020

NUI Galway spin-out company Aquila Bioscience have been successful in their bid to become an approved supplier of PPE to the Education sector allowing up to 4,0000 educational institutions to avail of their decontamination product. Their pioneering decontamination technology Anti Bioagent Decontamination (ABD), which was developed in collaboration with the Czech University of Defense and Defense Forces Ireland to deal with biological contamination, is essential PPE that protects against harmful bacteria and viruses such as coronavirus.   ABD’s are class I sterile medical devices and are used in emergency situations. It is the only product available in the market that can be used on sensitive skin surfaces like the eyes, nose and mouth, and it can also be used on surfaces not suitable for biocide decontamination. ABDs are ideally suited for keeping staff and students safe, particularly those with underlying health conditions or special needs. Including ABD Devices into every first aid kit, Isolation room, classrooms, office, and community areas ensures all staff and students will benefit from the technology and it will help save lives while supporting the education sector in keeping institutions open. Unlike standard wipes and sanitisers, ABDs are free from alcohol, biocides and other toxic chemicals and so do not cause skin irritation or destroy skin cells. The wipe is made of biodegradable material and is environmentally friendly. ABDs are contained within individual pouches and so are easily distributed throughout schools. Cormac Lynch, CEO of Aquila Bioscience, said: "Being approved by the Department of Education to supply our ABD Devices is welcomed, and is a significant decision that will enhance the safety and protection of all staff and pupils in Ireland as our schools reopen." For more information visit https://aquilabioscience.com/abd-devices-for-the-education-sector/ -Ends-

Friday, 21 August 2020

Students are being asked to adhere to public health advice and University guidelines and to act and behave responsibly  NUI Galway has today (Friday August 21st 2020) announced that students will be asked to commit a new community promise – Cúram Dá Chéíle as part of the University’s COVID-19 response plan. NUI Galway President Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said the University was asking the university community to support the need for a deepened sense of maturity and responsibility for the collective good for the new academic year. “We are asking each student to commit to be part of our university community, to behave appropriately, to consider others, to follow our advice and public health guidelines, to act responsibly and to respect everyone in the university and the wider community. "This commitment asks students to respond in an open, positive, and respectful way if their actions are challenged and to avoid scenarios and environments that run counter to these principles. “Cúram dá Chéile sets a challenge. It has the power to be a guiding light - for our university, as a civic institution, to show solidarity with the wider community and reduce the spread of Covid-19.” -Ends-