Screening for harmful algae and their toxins to improve shellfish quality

Screening for harmful algae and their toxins to improve shellfish quality-image

Monday, 20 September 2004

Phytoplankton research at the National Diagnostics Centre, NUI Galway New molecular tests to identify the presence of dangerous phytoplankton in Irish waters are being carried out by scientists at NUI Galway. Phytoplankton are microscopic organisms and a major plant life in the sea. A small proportion of these, known as harmful algal blooms, produce substances that are toxic to humans and can cause fish kills. This new research, being conducted by the National Diagnostics Centre in collaboration with the Martin Ryan Institute at the University, and funded by the Higher Education Authority is aimed at developing more automated tests than are currently in existence, to identify the presence of these harmful species and their toxins. The NUI Galway project is two-pronged and involves a range of experts at the National Diagnostics Centre and the Martin Ryan Institute. The first part of the project is exploiting a molecular technology, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in combination with DNA probes, short specific sequences of DNA, to identify HAB species. These tests will enable rapid detection of toxic species thereby providing an early warning system for their presence in shellfish production areas. The other part of the research programme at the NDC involves the production of antibodies specific for the algal toxins. The detection systems involving antibodies are not labour-intensive and relatively unskilled personnel can produce reliable and reproducible results. The two major stakeholders with an interest in such a research project are the consumer and the fish-farmer. The consumer requires good quality shellfish for consumption and the fish-farmer depends on this industry for a sustainable livelihood. When toxic phytoplankton are found in water, a decision has to be taken on the possible closure of various waters or bays in the vicinity, while follow-up examinations are carried out to ascertain if toxins are present. "Exports of Irish shellfish are currently worth €50 million annually to the Irish economy," says Dr Majella Maher, who is leading the molecular technology section of the three-year project, due to be completed next year. Dr Maher explains that one of the drawbacks of the existing visual method of identification is that it can be difficult to identify precisely some of the toxic phytoplankton species present in samples. "However, with specific molecular tests, we could identify all toxic species," she says. "As the procedure involves fully-automated instrumentation, results become available within a single working-day." Dr Marian Kane, Manager of the National Diagnostics Centre and one of the leaders of this project, says: "A variety of analytical methods is required for the detection and determination of algal toxins in shellfish to satisfy the requirements of both the commercial producers and the regulatory agencies". "Antibodies are versatile tools – they are cheap to produce on a large scale and can be used for fully-automated test systems, such as biomolecular interaction analysis (BIA) assays, or packaged into rapid detection systems that can be used at the point where they are needed, rather than sending samples to laboratories for toxin detection," says Dr Kane. This research is being carried out in collaboration with the Martin Ryan Institute, NUI Galway, and the National Marine Institute, now also based in Galway. Ends

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Israeli academic to provide insights into multi-ethnic education

Israeli academic to provide insights into multi-ethnic education-image

Monday, 13 September 2004

The Arab-Israeli conflict is rarely absent from world news and the deep-seated problems associated with it often seem intractable. Educating young people on both sides to understand and respect each other's past is a positive contribution towards creating a long-term peaceful society in that troubled region. One such man who has done valuable work in this area is Dr Simon Lichman who will be in Galway this week, to give a talk entitled Using Culture and Folklore in Education to Build Bridges Between Arab and Jewish Children In Israel, in Room D 202, Education Technology Building, NUI Galway on Friday, 17 September at 12.00 noon. The talk is hosted by the University's Department of Education. Dr Simon Lichman, a graduate of Hebrew University and the University of Pennsylvania, has specialized in drama, folklore and the use of culture and traditions to better understand our past as a means to positively shape our future. He is the initiator and Director of the Traditional Creativity in the Schools Project. The Project works with Islamic Palestinian and Jewish Israeli children in twinned classes and schools and focuses on both the commonalities and the differences in their shared Semitic cultural backgrounds. It creates relationships, sometimes friendships and provides a basis amongst ordinary people for a peaceful co-existence. "There are clearly some parallels between the troubles in Northern Ireland and the situation in Israel/Palestine so as well as being of interest in its own right, the lecture will be of particular interest to an Irish audience for this reason," says Professor Keith Sullivan, Department of Education, NUI Galway. "Dr Lichman is an excellent speaker who provides an insight into how he and his colleagues in the Traditional Creativity in the Schools project have dealt with a difficult problem in a way that is both respectful towards and enabling for both cultures involved. The solutions provided will also provide useful insights for those who have an interest in multiethnic educational initiatives for an increasingly ethnically-mixed Ireland." The lecture should be of interest to teachers, from the primary, second and third level sectors, to University academics and to anyone interested in human rights issues in education. Ends

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NUI Galway to host Major Conference on Human Rights and Disability Discriminatio

NUI Galway to host Major Conference on Human Rights and Disability Discriminatio-image

Thursday, 9 September 2004

The Disability Law & Policy Research Unit (based in the Law Faculty, NUI Galway) and the Equality Authority, are to co-host a major conference entitled Human Rights and Disability Discrimination: Exploring the Value Added by the ECHR and other sources of European Law, on Saturday 25th September from 9.00am-5.30pm in the Fottrell Theatre, Arts Millennium Building, NUI Galway. The conference is one of the first events to deal with the immediate implications of incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into Irish law for a particular category of persons and comes on the eve of publication of the long-awaited Disabilities Bill. It will be of interest to persons involved in disability discrimination litigation whether as litigants or lawyers as well as to those involved in public policy, service delivery and research. Speakers include: Niall Crowley and Eilis Barry of the Equality Authority; Professor Gerard Quinn, Donncha O'Connell, Shivaun Quinlivan, Mary Keys and Dr. Laurent Pech of the Law Faculty, NUI Galway; and Des Hogan of the Irish Human Rights Commission. The conference will also be addressed by two experts from the United Kingdom: Anna Lawson of the University of Leeds and David Ruebain, a solicitor specialising in disability discrimination litigation with a particular interest in the education rights of young persons with disabilities. The conference will be addressed by Alderman Catherine Connolly, Mayor of Galway at 5.00pm. There is no registration fee for participants who are, however, advised that advance registration is requested by the organisers. Ends

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Leading Cancer Research Scientist to speak at NUI Galway

Leading Cancer Research Scientist to speak at NUI Galway-image

Monday, 6 September 2004

A renowned expert in cancer research will give the inaugural Annual Cancer Research Lecture in NUI Galway later this month. Professor Thanos Halazonetis's talk, "DNA Damage Checkpoints and Cancer" will take place at 1.00pm on Friday, 17 September 2004 in the McMunn Theatre. The lecture is being hosted by the University's Department of Biochemistry and supported by the Bank of Ireland, University Branch. Professor Thanos Halazonetis graduated from the Dental School in Athens and did a PhD degree in Genetics at Harvard University. He currently holds a research position at the Wistar Institute and a Professorship in the Department of Pathology at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Halazonetis is researching how normal cells respond when the genetic material is damaged and how defects in these responses result in cancer. A particular focus is the DNA Damage Checkpoint Pathway, which co-ordinates a range of cellular responses to DNA damage, ensuring efficient repair and therefore suppression of tumour formation. In particular, Professor Halazonetis has been studying various DNA damage response markers in a spectrum of lung lesions ranging from hyperplasia to invasive carcinoma. His findings indicate that even in its earliest stages, cancer is associated with activation of the DNA Damage Checkpoint Pathway. Professor Halazonetis is coming to NUI Galway because of similar research to his being carried out by Professor Noel Lowndes and his team in the University's Genome Stability Laboratory. "We are privileged that Professor Halazonetis is coming to share his knowledge with us," said Professor Lowndes, whose research team is currently working on related genes in model systems more amenable to genetic studies. "We believe that the involvement of the DNA damage checkpoint Pathway in cancer requires that we understand this pathway at the molecular level. In fact, great strides have been made in recent years in research in this area and, with the recent establishment of the Genome Stability Cluster, NUI Galway is now contributing to the exciting progress being made. This understanding will lead to advances in the treatment of one of the most serious diseases of our time". Ends

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October 2004

NUI Galway confers honorary degrees on four outstanding individuals

NUI Galway confers honorary degrees on four outstanding individuals-image

Tuesday, 19 October 2004

NUI Galway has conferred honorary MA degrees on four individuals in recognition of their special contribution to their specific areas of activity. They are: Jim Lyons, former CEO of Co. Clare Vocational Education Committee for his immense achievements in many aspects of education in Co Clare, particularly in the area of Adult Education. During the 1980s, in partnership with NUI Galway he set up the first literacy tutor-training course in the region, and established a pioneering adult literacy programme within Clare VEC, which served as a model for other regions. He has also published two successful books on education, School in Action and School 2000. Sr Enda Ryan, for her immense achievements in many aspects of education in Malaysia, where she founded Assunta Secondary School which started with 84 students in 1958 and today has more than 2000 pupils. Since going to Malaysia, Sister Enda s contributions towards building that new nation have not gone unrecognised, as she has received numerous awards and honours recognising her achievements. Seán and Máire Stafford, for their outstanding contributions over many years to the activities of An Taibhdhearch Irish language theatre in Galway. Both have had long and distinguished acting and directing careers with the theatre. Hugo O'Neill, O'Neill of Clanaboy, descendant of the O'Neill Chiefs of Ulster, was honoured for his contribution to Ireland-Portugal relations. His forebears went to Portugal in the 1740s but retained strong links with Ireland. Ends

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University Head urges Government to continue investment in third-level education

University Head urges Government to continue investment in third-level education-image

Monday, 18 October 2004

"The Government must continue to invest in the basic capital infrastructure of our Universities and in pioneering research programmes like the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) in order to reach the goals established under the European Union's Lisbon Strategy," according to Dr Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh, President of NUI Galway. Dr Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh was addressing graduates at the University's autumn conferral ceremonies which continue throughout the week when more than 3,000 students will be conferred with primary and higher degrees. Dr Ó Muircheartaigh stated that, "Investment in Irish universities is not an "option" – it is a necessity, a necessity which is supported by the findings of the recent OECD Report on third level education in Ireland." Welcoming the report which points the way forward for the sector and the country at a time when higher education is at a crossroads, Dr Ó Muircheartaigh said that the Report requires "a comprehensive response from Government and should be acted on in a holistic and not a piecemeal way if it is to have a major impact on the country's development." Dr. Ó Muircheartaigh went on to say that in the context of the report, "We see NUI Galway as a university committed to providing a world-class education for its students, to significantly enhancing its research profile, to modernising its structures and engaging with its communities in support of economic, cultural and social development." He said that together with the other universities in Ireland, NUI Galway is more than ready to play its part in providing leadership for change. "To enable us to do this, however," he said, "it is essential that government adopt a funding policy for Higher Education which will support ambitious and progressive strategic plans, such as that of NUI Galway," Ends

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Marine plankton, bubbles and sea-spray could regulate climate

Marine plankton, bubbles and sea-spray could regulate climate-image

Monday, 11 October 2004

An EU-funded research team lead by Professor Colin O'Dowd from the National University of Ireland, Galway and Dr. Maria Cristina Facchini from the Italian National Research Council's Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate has discovered a new and dominant source of aerosol particles over the ocean which can contribute, through the formation of haze and cloud layers, to the Earth's heat shield. This in turn can partially reduce global warming driven by the increase in greenhouse gases. These aerosol particles are mainly comprised of organic matter, produced by plankton, and concentrated at the ocean surface due to its surface-active properties. Through the formation and bursting of bubbles in oceanic whitecaps, this organic matter is ejected into the atmosphere in the form of sea-spray aerosol particles. The bubble bursting process produces sea-spray which is generally thought to comprise sea-salt (i.e. inorganic matter). However, this new research has demonstrated that during periods of plankton blooms, sea-spray comprises organic matter rather than inorganic sea-salt and that the addition of this organic matter can increase the availability of aerosol particles and cloud nuclei – both of which contribute to increasing the cooling effect of the Earth's heat shield. Previous research had linked algae and plankton to climate change through sulphur and iodine vapours forming aerosols. This new research which has been published in the most recent edition of Nature magazine, has shown that organic matter could in fact be the most important contributor to marine aerosols. However, this source of marine aerosol is currently lacking in state-of-the-art climate modelling studies. This breakthrough, linking the marine biosphere to climate change, is expected to have an important impact on the future prediction of the Earth's response to greenhouse-gas induced global warming. The research team is composed of scientists from the Environmental Change Institute of the National University of Ireland, Galway; the Italian National Research Council's Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate; and the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, also in Italy. This work was funded by EC FP5 projects QUEST and PHOENICS. Ends

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Minister for Education, Mary Hanafin TD opens €35 million biomedical research fa

Minister for Education, Mary Hanafin TD opens €35 million biomedical research fa-image

Monday, 4 October 2004

"Research – central to our economic progress"- Hanafin The Minister for Education, Mary Hanafin, TD, today (October 4th 2004) opened a new €35 million biomedical research centre at NUI Galway which has the potential to revolutionise patient treatment, eliminate the need for organ transplant and improve the health and quality of life for millions of people worldwide. The National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science (NCBES) brings together a team of over 150 researchers who will also focus on developing treatments for diseases which are currently incurable. Speaking at the opening of the NCBES, Minister for Education, Mary Hanafin, TD said, "It is an honour for me to be present for the opening of this facility which firmly places NUI Galway and Ireland at the frontier of international biomedical research. We look forward to the impact that this research will have on future generations around the globe. Ireland must remain internationally competitive and the development of world-class research across a range of disciplines in Irish universities is vital for us to fulfil this ambition. Scientific education and research is central to our economic progress". Commenting on the research ongoing at the new facility, Professor Terry Smith, Director of the NCBES said, "We are very excited about the development of this new facility and the extent of the research being undertaken here. The facility brings together a broad team of researchers from the disciplines of science, engineering and medicine, who will work together to develop new techniques which will revolutionise current processes. The NCBES is unique in Ireland and will work closely in collaboration with local industry involved in the biomedical field and with University College Hospital, Galway (UCHG). Through its interdisciplinary approach, the NCBES has established an international reputation for its research and is working with other similar institutes in Europe and the US to ensure that rapid advances are made in this exciting area of biomedical research." One of the specific areas of research currently ongoing is the development of materials that will minimise rejection of stents in the human body. Stents are implanted in the body for a variety of heart and other operations. The research involves the development of SMART materials, so called because they adapt to their environment in the human body by reacting to the body's temperature. The development of SMART materials is unique to an Irish university and involves the use of sophisticated modelling techniques. The material is inserted into the body as a fluid which then becomes a gel. A coating of the smart material on the stent also facilitates effective drug-release control. The main advantage of the use of these biomaterials is that they are biodegradable and can also be removed if necessary. Other research projects ongoing at the centre include tissue engineering which is a new field of biomedicine that unites science, engineering and medicine, to restore or replace tissues and organs that have been damaged by disease or injury. Ends

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November 2004

NUI Galway's reform agenda being implemented "quickly and without rancour"– Pres

NUI Galway's reform agenda being implemented

Tuesday, 30 November 2004

-President supports establishment of multimillion euro fund to drive reform in the University system- University Reform, identified as a key issue in the recently published OECD Report, is being successfully implemented in NUI Galway through widespread consultation with staff and in a collegiate spirit, according to NUI Galway President, Dr. Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh. The President was speaking at the University's final conferring ceremony of the year today (Tuesday). Dr Ó Muircheartaigh said that there appears to have been a widely-perceived implication in the media that because there have been major internal disagreements in other universities on these matters, those universities are perceived as being "the most advanced" in terms of reform. However, Dr. Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh stated that substantial reforms have already been instituted at NUI Galway based on a strong consultative process and that NUI Galway is to the forefront among the Irish universities in terms of reforms actually implemented. He said: "For our part, we believe that reasoned dialogue and exchange of ideas are the essence of a university, and would suggest that because we have engaged in such debate and deliberation, we have managed to arrive at collegial positions on difficult issues, thus enabling reforms to be implemented relatively quickly and without rancour." In conjunction with this, Dr Ó Muircheartaigh also welcomed Minister Hanafin's proposal that a multimillion fund be established to support reforms in the university system but called for a process that is open and clear with measurable metrics. Dr Ó Muircheartaigh said, "We would urge that, if such a fund is set up, whatever process is adopted for the allocation of this fund should be open and transparent, and that clear and measurable metrics be applied both in relation to what has already been achieved, and in relation to proposed further reforms. There is no doubt that our continuing reform can certainly be accelerated with financial support." Dr Ó Muircheartaigh went on to outline specific changes implemented in NUI Galway's academic programmes and structures: A number of departments have been successfully amalgamated to create larger academic units, and, as a matter of policy, are actively promoting this agenda. Two chairs and associated departments have been suppressed in areas where student demand did not justify the continuation of such departments. The University has semesterised and modularised all of its undergraduate academic programmes. The start of the academic year has successfully been brought forward to early September in order to support this modularisation and semesterisation. Again this has been achieved with the full support of all staff. A Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CELT) has been created and resourced in order to provide support for staff in their teaching activities, including active encouragement to use the most advanced technology available. NUI Galway has successfully competed in all PRTLI (Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions) cycles and has succeeded in embedding both the PRTLI-related research centres and the new structures funded by SFI (Science Foundation Ireland) into reformed academic structures. In particular, the University has developed new structures to integrate the teaching and research functions both within and across departments. The University's Quality Assessment function has succeeded in completing a full cycle of assessments of all academic departments, and, where appropriate, significant reforms – both structural and operational - have been instituted. With the support of academic staff, NUI Galway has successfully launched a Service Learning and Community Knowledge Programme in order to involve students more actively in the community. This programme actively encourages students to engage with communities on a volunteering basis – in Galway, throughout the region, nationally and internationally and NUI Galway has begun to integrate such activities into the University's formal academic structures. Ends

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Open Day at NUI Galway

Open Day at NUI Galway-image

Monday, 22 November 2004

Thousands of second-level students from all over the country are expected to attend NUI Galway's annual Open Day which takes place this year on Thursday 2 December, from 9.00am to 3.00pm. Parents are also welcome to attend. The event is an ideal opportunity for second-level, access and mature students to get information on the academic programmes provided by the University. Academic staff from the University's fifty-two departments will be available at the exhibition stands to answer queries and provide detailed subject and course information. With seven Faculties and almost 14,000 students, NUI Galway is the first choice option for many students when completing their CAO forms. "Given the huge range of courses on offer, Leaving Cert students often find it difficult to choose the options best suited to them," says Mary Coyle, NUI Galway's Schools Liaison Officer. "Open Day provides an ideal opportunity for the students to meet academic staff and postgraduate students at the various stands and discuss the various courses being provided." On their arrival at NUI Galway on the 2nd December, students are requested to come to the assembly point in the Quadrangle, where they will be given directions to introductory lectures and exhibition areas. Guided tours of the campus will be provided throughout the day. These will include visits to the Clinical Science Institute (Medical School), the Martin Ryan Institute, the Arts Millennium Building, Áras na Gaeilge, Student Accommodation and Sports Facilities. There will also be laboratory demonstrations in the Departments of Physics and Chemistry. Students will have the opportunity to visit the Information Technology Labs. and the University's Applied Languages Centre. NUI Galway is constantly improving facilities for its students and staff. A new Graduate School of Business and Public Policy as well a new Centre for Nursing, Therapies and Political Science and Sociology, are currently under construction. In addition, the University hopes to proceed with the construction of a new €53m. Engineering School, as part of the overall St. Anthony's campus development while plans are at an advanced stage for the construction of a new Sports and Recreation Centre, which will include a swimming pool. Ends

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