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May 2015

Galway Students Take on Challenge Science

Galway Students Take on Challenge Science-image

Friday, 1 May 2015

More than 100 pupils from primary schools in Galway had the chance to experience the wonderful world of science recently and learned that science is actually fun. The students from Claddagh National School, Scoil Shéamais Naofa, Barna, Mercy Primary School and Gaelscoil Riada, Athenry all participated in Challenge Science 2015, which was supported by Boston Scientific and held in NUI Galway. The budding scientists were assisted by business volunteers from Boston Scientific, who held workshops on Forensic Science, Defence against Disease, Careers in Science, Technology and Engineering, and they were also treated to a tour of the Science Department and Campus at NUI Galway by student volunteers from the ALIVE programme. The workshops provided an appreciation and greater understanding of the ever evolving world of science.  The event was opened by Professor Donal Leech, Dean of Science at NUI Galway, who welcomed the students to the University: “NUI Galway is delighted to host ‘Challenge Science’ which is hugely valuable in developing an interest in science. I hope to see some of the pupils back in NUI Galway in the future as science students or even working in the Science or Engineering departments at the campus.”  “The workshops with the Boston Scientific staff really helped the students to realise that you can take several different paths in order to work in the field of science. The teams also showed that science can be so enjoyable and we heard lots of excitement and enthusiasm in the workshops today, as the students vied against each other to be No. 1 forensic detective! Thanks to Boston Scientific for inspiring all of our young minds”, said Inez Riordan, Vice-Principal, Claddagh National School. Siobhan Murphy, Senior HR Business Partner at Boston Scientific, Galway, said: “It’s great to see so many young people with an interest in Science and Technology as it’s important to develop and keep up STEM subjects in Secondary School. I’d like to thank the teachers for supporting and bringing the students to this event and for helping to develop an interest in STEM at a young age, particularly given our location here at the Medical Device Hub here in Galway” -Ends-

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April 2015

Enactus NUI Galway Project Launch and Showcase

Enactus NUI Galway Project Launch and Showcase-image

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Students of Enactus NUI Galway recently held a project launch and showcase event. Enactus is a global student-lead initiative where students, along with the guidance of business and faculty advisors, create projects which benefit society socially, economically and environmentally and in doing so engage members of society. The recent event gave Enactus students the opportunity to present this year’s four projects, including the Wallflower Initiative, Bike Back, Eat Your Words and TARA, as well as the future plan for these projects. NUI Galway was one of the founding Irish teams of Enactus Ireland and this year will mark its fourth year of involvement. Guided by academic advisors and business experts, participating students from all disciplines form a team on their university campus and apply business concepts to create and implement community empowerment projects around the globe. The current Team Leader and master’s student at NUI Galway, Elizabeth O’Brien, has been involved in Enactus for three years and also attended the Enactus World Cup 2014 which took place last year in Beijing, China. Elizabeth said: “Enactus has given me the opportunity to improve our local community but also enhance my educational experience. It has helped me to understand special challenges and issues, develop solutions and make a difference in people’s lives. It was an honour to open our launch event and share the good work that we are doing.” Michael Campion, a lecturer at NUI Galway’s J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics, and Faculty Advisor for Enactus NUI Galway, said: “The typical student who engages with Enactus is enthusiastic and passionate about making things better for others. Designing and developing Enactus projects is not easy due to the criteria laid down and it challenges students to be creative, enterprising and tenacious. It’s a privilege to work with and support such students in their Enactus endeavours.” In May, Enactus NUI Galway students, along with seven other third-level institutions, will gather at the Chartered Accountants of Ireland in Dublin for the Enactus Ireland National Final 2015. This will give one team the opportunity to travel to Johannesburg, South Africa to represent Team Ireland for this year’s World Cup Final where Enactus students from 36 countries will be represented and each team will present their projects to a judging panel of global business leaders. -Ends-  

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Major investment in human genome research by joint SFI-HRB-Wellcome Trust funding

Major investment in human genome research by joint SFI-HRB-Wellcome Trust funding-image

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Professor Brian McStay, from, NUI Galway has secured €1.5 funding from the SFI-HRB-Wellcome Trust Biomedical Research Partnership to study uncharacterised regions of the genome that could advance our understanding of a wide range of human diseases.                                         According to Professor McStay, who works in the Centre for Chromosome Biology, School of Natural Sciences at NUI, Galway: "This project will explore some of the unmapped regions of the human genome that play a key role in how ribosomes, which make proteins, are made. We will look at the genetic factors that influence how ribosomes themselves are put together. We know that unregulated ribosome production plays an important role in many types of cancer, so a better understanding of what impacts ribosomes has obvious potential to help our understanding of cancer and a range of human diseases which are collectively termed ribosomopathies." Commenting on the award, Graham Love Chief Executive at the Health Research Board says, "This funding is not easy to get and competition is intense, so Brian’s success should be acknowledged.  Biomedical research like this, which will help us to better understand our fundamental human make up, is central to providing new avenues for scientists to explore in the search for better and more effective treatments." Dr Michael Dunn, Head of Genetics and Molecular Sciences at the Wellcome Trust, adds, "Wellcome Trust Investigators represent some of the very brightest minds in biomedical science.  We are delighted to make an award to Professor Brian McStay whose work aims to address an important aspect of basic chromosome biology that is still poorly understood.  The award provides generous, long-term, flexible funding, which we hope will enable Professor McStay to make significant advances in knowledge in this important field and thereby help the Wellcome Trust to achieve its mission of improving human and animal health." Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said,  "The SFI-HRB-Wellcome Trust Partnership supports research into some of the most pressing biomedical and clinical research questions in health, ultimately delivering a social impact by enhancing the quality of patients care.  This joint funding scheme also boosts Ireland’s biomedical research credentials internationally, thereby attracting investment and ultimately creating jobs.  The fact that Professor McStay’s study secured the funding ahead of international competition underlines the quality of the world class research taking place in Ireland." -Ends-

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Over 200 Primary School Students ‘Graduate’ from NUI Galway

Over 200 Primary School Students ‘Graduate’ from NUI Galway-image

Thursday, 2 April 2015

NUI Galway recently conferred special certificates on the seventh cohort of ‘graduates’ from its Youth Academy, with 225 primary school children from across the western region receiving their certificates. Established in 2012, the Youth Academy aims to inspire entry to university by introducing primary school students and their families to university life. Since its foundation, over 1,000 students have graduated from a variety of  courses on Saturday mornings ranging from Italian to Film Studies, Engineering to English Literature, Cell-EXPLORERS and Kitchen Chemistry to Smart Act-Aisteoirí óga anseo!, and The World of Cops and Robbers to Drama. The Youth Academy runs for a six week period and works with high-ability fourth, fifth and sixth class primary school children to support their learning and academic development, in partnership with their primary schools. Speaking at the event, Registrar and Vice-President of NUI Galway, Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, said: “The Youth Academy is a very important initiative by this University. We feel that it responds to the educational needs of our most important young citizens and gives talented young students the opportunity to get experience of learning in a university. NUI Galway is committed to the sharing of knowledge with the wider community and ensuring that the pathways to university are open to all. I hope that initiatives such as the Youth Academy can highlight how the university can and does serve its community, not only here Galway but in society in general.” For further information on the courses and participation please contact Geraldine Marley, NUI Galway Youth Academy Coordinator, at youthacademy@nuigalway.ie. -Ends-

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Overwhelming Majority of People in Favour of National Registry and Biobank for Autism in Ireland

Overwhelming Majority of People in Favour of National Registry and Biobank for Autism in Ireland-image

Thursday, 2 April 2015

The findings from the national stakeholder consultation process present “compelling evidence of the timely need to create a comprehensive registry and biobank.” 93% of respondents to a national survey believe that a registry and biobank for autism in Ireland is needed, according to the findings from a nationwide stakeholder consultation process launched today on World Autism Awareness Day. The consultation process engaged with all stakeholders affected by or involved with autism or other related neurodevelopmental disorders including self-advocates, families, clinicians, health professionals, service providers, advocacy agencies and researchers. The aim of the initiative is to advance world-class clinical, biomedical and environmental research in Ireland and inform best practice in health, education and service provision for individuals with ASD/ NDD and enable the best possible quality of life. The Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Research Group at Trinity College Dublin partnered with the Irish Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Research (ICAN) at NUI Galway and the US-based Autism Speaks for this initiative. The consultation process was launched following a private members bill, The Autism Bill, brought forward to Government in 2013 and the National Review of Autism Services in 2012, both of which called for the creation of a national database for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD). The authors of the report and the respondents believe the biobank and registry would support policy decisions by providing reliable information on the scale of these conditions in Ireland as well as their social and economic costs. The key concern most respondents had was around the area of data privacy and protection and in particular who would have access to the data. Currently in Ireland there is no effective health information system or biobank gathering essential data for ASD/NDD, nor are there any accurate prevalence rates, despite the fact that ASD and NDD are lifelong conditions which have significant implications for families, state services, society and the individuals themselves. Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Trinity, Louise Gallagher said: “It is clear from the responses of those who took part in the national survey and the regional town hall meetings that there is a huge and positive appetite for the establishment of a registry and biobank for Autism in Ireland. Parents said it was the first time they had ever been asked what would make their child’s life better.” Professor Gallagher continued: “It is now timely to act and invest resources to build this registry and biobank with the potential to alleviate the rising financial and resource challenge on Irish public health system and align with upcoming government health strategies, e.g. Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People. This is Ireland’s opportunity to propel world-class research and its application for the public good with an innovative unique registry and biobank for a major public health challenge.” Dr Geraldine Leader, Director of the Irish Centre for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Research at NUI Galway commented that: "The lack of reliable and systematic information on ASD/NDD not only affects children with these conditions but also impacts adolescents, adults and older adults. There are huge gaps in service provisions and care for adults and the elderly with ASD. They can be left undiagnosed, receive inappropriate services or struggle with no access to proper enabling environments which would assist with employment and independent living. The development of an autism specific registry and biobank targeted at the health, educational and long term needs of the Irish autism community will be a vital resource to inform service planning and delivery and will also support a range of important research questions.  The Irish Autism Registry and Biobank will be transformative in accelerating the pace of autism research in Ireland.” June O’Reilly, parent and chairperson of the stakeholder advisory group spoke about the benefits from a parent’s perspective: “When you receive a diagnosis for your child there are so many questions that you search for answers to in order to maximize your child’s potential. Questions like what interventions should my child be getting, what type of education would be best, or how will they progress as they get older.  The registry gives all stakeholders an opportunity to work in partnership and address these questions.  It will help indicate the most effective approaches, throughout the lifespan from early intervention and treatments for young children through to adulthood, giving informed feedback to parents and stakeholders about best outcomes.” She continued: “I am excited about the registry and biobank as I see it impacting best-practice service provision and education for our children, leading to research discoveries in new treatments and empowering our children who have immensely inspirational strengths and talents.” Dr Amy Daniels, Assistant Director of Public Health Research from the US-based Autism Speaks said: "We are excited to present these findings from the stakeholder consultation, as they document an overwhelming support from the community for developing a national registry for autism and related neurodevelopmental disabilities in Ireland. From the perspective of the advocacy community, our hope is that the registry will be a valuable tool for informing how best to enhance services and the quality of life for individuals with autism and their families now and in the future." The collaborative research team are currently in the process of developing and implementing a pilot registry and are working on this with OpenApp, who provide Quality Assurance and Disease Registry type software solutions for Healthcare within the Irish and other health service settings. The full report on the Consultation for a National registry and Biobank for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders is available here: www.iarb.ie/national-stakeholder-consultation-report/  -Ends-  

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NUI Galway Courses Shortlisted for Prestigious Postgraduate Awards

NUI Galway Courses Shortlisted for Prestigious Postgraduate Awards-image

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Two NUI Galway postgraduate courses have been shortlisted for the national postgradireland Postgraduate Course of the Year Awards 2015. The award winners will be announced on Thursday, 30 April at a reception in the Mansion House in Dublin. The annual Postgraduate Course of the Year Awards recognises excellence amongst Irish postgraduate course providers. The winning courses are judged on the success of the course including employability of graduates, recognition of the course’s quality or ranking by external bodies, research record of academic staff, and providing a good experience for students. Judges also take feedback from students into consideration when selecting a winner. The Higher Diploma in Software Design & Development (Industry Stream) is shortlisted in two categories: Postgraduate Course of the Year in Engineering Award and also in the Postgraduate Course of the Year in IT Award. The MSc (Biotechnology) programme is shortlisted in the Postgraduate Course of the Year in Science category. Valerie Leahy, Postgraduate Recruitment Officer at NUI Galway, said: “We are delighted to again make the shortlist for these important national awards; it’s great that the calibre of our postgraduate courses is being acknowledged, as is their effectiveness in terms of employability, and interaction with industry and business. The courses in question are accepting applications now and those interested can apply online via the Postgraduate Applications Centre at www.pac.ie/nuigalway. This year we’re also offering generous full-time taught masters scholarships for first-class students, so that’s another reason to consider NUI Galway for postgraduate studies.” NUI Galway offers a wide range of fourth level courses, developing programmes based on its traditional academic strengths of Arts, Social Sciences, Celtic Studies, Commerce, Medicine, Nursing, Health Science, Law, Engineering, Informatics and Science. These areas have been augmented with innovative Research Centres in areas as diverse as Biomedical Engineering, International Human Rights, Digital Media & Film Studies, and Regenerative Medicine. Almost 3,500 postgraduate students (including international students) currently attend NUI Galway. For further information on any of the postgraduate courses available at NUI Galway call 091-495148 or visit www.nuigalway.ie/courses. -Ends-  

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‘Nanomedicine’ shines light on combined force of nanomedicine and regenerative medicine

‘Nanomedicine’ shines light on combined force of nanomedicine and regenerative medicine-image

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Nanomedicine has published a special focus edition on the combined force of nanomedicine and regenerative medicine; two fields that continue to develop at a dramatic pace. Titled ‘Engineering the nanoenvironment for regenerative medicine’, the issue is guest edited by Professor Matthew Dalby of the University of Glasgow, UK, and associate editor of Nanomedicine, with Dr Manus Biggs of the of the newly established Centre for Research in Medical Devices (CÚRAM) at NUI Galway. It comprises nine primary research articles and three reviews covering topics relevant to the current translation of nanotopography and nanofunctionalization for nanoscale regenerative strategies in medicine. Indeed, the field of ‘nanoregeneration’ has grown exponentially over the last 15 years, and fields of study focusing on the nanobiointerface now include nanotopographical modification, formulation of existing biomaterials and modification of the extracellular matrix, as well as the development of targeting techniques using nanoparticles. Nanoscale platforms are becoming increasingly recognized as tools to understand biological molecules, subcellular structures and how cells and organs work. Therefore, they could have real applications in regenerative medicine and increase our knowledge of how stem cells work, or in drug discovery and cell targeting. “The fields of nanomedicine and regenerative medicine continue to evolve at a dramatic pace, with new and exciting developments almost a daily occurrence. This special focus issue highlights the translational research, reviews current thinking and ‘shines a light’ on the future potential of a field where nanomedicine converges with regenerative medicine,” said Michael Dowdall, Managing Commissioning Editor of Nanomedicine. “We feel this is an important subject for our readers to have a comprehensive and contextual overview of. The special focus issue helps provide this context for researchers, by framing the potential applications of nanomedicine/nanoengineering in terms of the current ‘state of the art’ regenerative medicine techniques.” Dr Biggs commented: “This special issue on regenerative medicine within the nanorealm focuses on basic and translational aspects of nanofabrication and nanofunctionalization strategies, and also gives perspective to future developments in biomedical nanotechnology and the challenges associated with clinical translation. Critically, leading experts in the field have contributed to the special issue, in which we outline the latest developments in nanomedicine.” Members of RegMedNet, the online community for those working in the field of regenerative medicine, can access select articles from the special focus issue through the online platform. A full listing of articles included in the issue is available at: http://www.futuremedicine.com/toc/nnm/10/5 -Ends-

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Learn how to unlock the DNA code at NUI Galway

Learn how to unlock the DNA code at NUI Galway-image

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

To celebrate International DNA Day 2015 on Saturday, 25 April, NUI Galway’s School of Natural Sciences will hold a special event for second-level students in senior cycle Biology. ‘DNA day – Learn how to unlock the DNA code’ is a free three hour practical experience in the NUI Galway Biomedical Sciences laboratories. Human DNA contains the blueprint for many aspects of what makes us who we are - what our eye, skin and hair colour will be, how tall or short we may grow to be, and even if we are more susceptible to getting certain diseases. During the workshop students will learn how scientists identify differences in the DNA code and how we can use these techniques to diagnose genetic disorders or determine if one person may be more susceptible to a disease than another. The DNA workshop is organised by Dr Derek Morris, Programme Director for the BSc in Biomedical Science and Dr Muriel Grenon, Director of the Cell EXPLORERS Science Outreach Programme, both from the School of Natural Sciences, NUI Galway. Dr Derek Morris, a human geneticist, will discuss his research which focuses on understanding how small changes in our DNA code can put us at risk of lots of common illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, cancer and schizophrenia. By studying the DNA code in different people, Dr Morris aims to identify genes that are responsible and develop new methods of diagnosis and treatment that can help patients. The DNA day practical experience will teach students about the power of genetics by providing them hands-on experience of DNA analysis in a research laboratory setting. They will be mentored by a team of young postgraduate researchers into performing authentic experiments individually. The practical activities proposed have been optimised by a group of final year Biochemistry students as part of the Cell EXPLORERS science outreach programme. The activities have been designed to introduce these topics in a fun and exciting way, allowing the students to take the lead and providing a real insight into science at university level. Dr Morris said: “The amazing instruction book contained in each of our cells is celebrated every year on DNA Day, 25 April. This is a special day in DNA’s history as on this day in 1953 the structure of DNA was published and on the same day in 2003 it was announced that the Human Genome Project, a mission to sequence all the human genes, had been completed. These remarkable achievements have led to huge advances in the fields of genetics and have allowed scientists to uncover many of the mysteries of how DNA controls our make up and impact on our health.” This event will take place on Saturday, 25 April, from 2-5pm and coincides with the NUI Galway Open Day. Students attending this event can spend the day on campus and also find out more about at the third-level courses available at NUI Galway, such as the flagship Biomedical Science undergraduate course. To register go to www.cellexplorers.com, download the application form and return it by post before Friday, 17 April to: Dr Derek Morris, School of Natural Sciences, NUI Galway. -Ends-  

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NUI Galway researcher identifies ‘off-switch’ to reduce the spread of bowel cancer

NUI Galway researcher identifies ‘off-switch’ to reduce the spread of bowel cancer -image

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Research funded by Irish Cancer Society and led by NUI Galway wins prestigious European Association for Cancer Research Award Irish researchers have found that switching off a specific protein in bowel cancer cells can stimulate an anti-tumour immune response which can reduce the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. The breakthrough research by Dr Aideen Ryan of NUI Galway, which was funded by the Irish Cancer Society, has been awarded the prestigious European Association for Cancer Research (EACR) Young Investigator Award. Dr Ryan works in the area of Biosciences as an Irish Cancer Society Research Fellow with the Immunology Group in REMEDI. Bowel cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting both men and women. With approximately 2,400 new cases and almost 1,000 people dying from this cancer each year, bowel cancer represents a significant health concern in Ireland. To date, therapeutic developments to tackle the problem of bowel cancer spreading to other parts of the body have had very little success and new methods are urgently needed to improve survival for patients. This award winning research found that the activity of a key protein known as NF-kappaB, with the help of a type of immune cell, called tumour-associated macrophages (TAMs), promotes the spread of cancer cells from the bowel to the abdominal cavity. TAMs are present within or close to tumour tissue and can act in tumour-promoting or a tumour-killing manner, depending on their surrounding environment. Dr. Ryan and colleagues in NUI Galway found that TAMs can be switched from being tumour-promoting to being tumour-killing by turning off the NF-kappaB protein in bowel cancer cells, thereby causing a significant reduction in bowel cancer spread to the abdominal cavity. Dr Ryan said “I am delighted to have been presented the EACR Young Investigator Award for this research. Our findings have, for the first time, uncovered the effect of targeting the NF-kappaB protein in bowel cancer cells. We are continuing this important research in order to develop a new treatment approach for bowel cancer which could potentially result in better treatments for patients with this disease.” This research adds to recent developments in bowel cancer research conducted with the support of the Irish Cancer Society whereby Irish scientists are now developing a simple and inexpensive blood test which can be used as an early detection tool for bowel cancer. Irish Cancer Society funding, provided through the Society’s Research Fellowship Programme to Dr Gregor Kijanka, Dublin City University, was instrumental in the initial development and validation of this new test. Commenting on the research, Dr Robert O’Connor, Head of Research, Irish Cancer Society said, “We are delighted to see that the Society’s investment in bowel cancer research is generating exciting new findings which will make a difference to patients. We congratulate Dr Aideen Ryan on receiving the EACR Young Investigator Award which is testament to the significant contribution she has made to the area of bowel cancer with her ongoing research. This research, which was made possible by Irish Cancer Society research funding, opens new avenues for the development of novel treatment approaches which will hopefully benefit bowel cancer patients in Ireland.” The announcement of Dr Ryan’s award comes as the Irish Cancer Society launches Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. The campaign is calling on men and women throughout Ireland to be aware and act on the early signs and symptoms of bowel cancer. These include: A change in your normal bowel motion, such as diarrhoea or constipation Feeling you have not emptied your bowel fully after a motion Pain or discomfort in your abdomen (tummy) or back passage Trapped wind or fullness in your tummy Weight loss Tired and breathless (due to anaemia from blood loss) Rectal bleeding or blood in stools A lump in your tummy area Dr Ryan’s research was published in Oncogene, one of the world's leading cancer journals, and Dr Ryan was awarded the European Association for Cancer Research (EACR) Young Investigator Award at the annual Irish Association for Cancer Research (IACR) conference. This award is presented to outstanding young researchers in the field of cancer research for a recent, significant contribution to the field. Anyone who is concerned about Bowel Cancer should call the Irish Cancer Society’s National Cancer Helpline on 1800 200 700. ENDS

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Top Judges to speak at NUI Galway’s Law School Annual Lecture

Top Judges to speak at NUI Galway’s Law School Annual Lecture-image

Monday, 13 April 2015

NUI Galway’s School of Law Annual Distinguished Lecture 2015 will be delivered by the Right Honourable Sir Declan Morgan, the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland on the topic of ‘The role of the judiciary in the vindication of human rights’. The event, which takes place in the Aula Maxima at 8pm on Friday, 24 April, will be chaired by the Chief Justice of Ireland, Ms. Justice Susan Denham. Announcing the event, Professor Donncha O’Connell, Head of the School of Law at NUI Galway, said: “It is a great honour for the School of Law at NUI Galway to host the Chief Justices from both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland for our Annual Distinguished Lecture. We hope that this event will be an opportunity for our students and alumni to hear from two outstanding jurists who hold the highest judicial offices at a critical time for both of their legal systems.” Previous speakers in the Annual Distinguished Lecture series include: Professor Christopher McCrudden of Oxford University; Judge John T. Noonan of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; Professor Neil Walker of Edinburgh University; Baroness Brenda Hale of the UK Supreme Court; Ms. Justice Catherine McGuinness of the Irish Supreme Court; and Mr. Justice Nial Fennelly of the Irish Supreme Court. The event is held on an annual basis to mark the end of the academic year and is open to students and graduates of the School of Law, NUI Galway as well as interested members of the public. -Ends-  

>> Read full story about Top Judges to speak at NUI Galway’s Law School Annual Lecture

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