All 2011

NUI Galway Hosts the Irish Colloquium of the International Geographical Union

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The School of Geography and Archaeology at NUI Galway will host the 19th Annual Colloquium of the Commission on the Sustainability of Rural Systems (CSRS) of the International Geographical Union. This is the first colloquium of this Commission to take place in Ireland and will run from 1 to 7 August in the IT Building, NUI Galway. The Colloquium entitled The Sustainability of Rural Systems: Local and Global Challenges and Opportunities will see delegates travelling from 16 countries to present over 40 papers on the themes of Agriculture; Tourism; Population; Local Governance and Rural Development; Innovative forms of Employment; Rural Society and Alternative Energy. Rural systems are defined as including environment, society, economy and culture and the inter-relations between them. These systems are increasingly subject to global influences which are characteristic of the contemporary age. The local remains important as a context for the working out of processes associated with globalisation. The colloquium will allow delegates to explore these changes with fieldtrips to Cois Fharraige, south Galway, the Burren, and south and west Mayo. Keynote speakers for the colloquium will include: Professor Guy Robinson, University of South Australia; Professor Ana Maria Bicalho, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Professor Lucette Laurens, University of Montpellier 3, France; Professor Michael Woods, University of Aberystwyth, Wales; and Professor Tony Sorenson, University of New England, New South Wales, Australia. Conference Chair and NUI Galway Lecturer, Dr Mary Cawley, said: “It is an honour to have been invited to host the 19th Annual Colloquium of the CSRS at NUI Galway. Our tradition of geographical research on rural issues and sustainability and our location in a rural environment make the University a particularly appropriate meeting place. We look forward to discussion and sharing research findings with our international colleagues during the paper sessions and the fieldtrips.” The International Geographical Union represents academic geographers internationally with their activities organised under the remit of commissions. The Commission on the Sustainability of Rural Systems was established in 1992 and meets annually in a different country. For further information on the colloquium contact Dr Mary Cawley at   ENDS 

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Research into Risks to Coastal Communities

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

40km Stretch of Mayo Coastline Plays Vital Role in European Project A 40km stretch of the Mayo coastline is playing a vital role in a European research project investigating the threats posed to coastal regions by climate change. Initial findings regarding the area, from Carrowinskey to Newport, will be shared with European experts involved in the project in Westport on Thursday, 21 July. The event will be hosted by the Irish partners, NUI Galway, Mayo County Council and Údarás na Gaeltachta, and examine the extent to which development planning is addressing coastal risk. This particular stretch of Mayo coastline was chosen as it is a microcosm of the Irish western seaboard, with open and sheltered bays, tidal flats, estuaries, dunes and urban areas along the relatively small geographic area. The Atlantic Network for Coastal Risk Management (ANCORIM ) project is focusing on three key issues of erosion, water quality and planning. The €1.9 million initiative is funded by the EU and aims to bridge the gap between climate change scientists and coastal zone decision-makers. “There is concern over the extent to which natural risks are taken into consideration in planning decisions,” commented Dr Kevin Lynch of NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute, who is spearheading Irish participation in the project. “What we are finding is that the public are assuming there is safety from risk when granted planning permission by local authorities, but that is not necessarily the case.” Risks linked to climate change include flooding, strong winds, coastal erosion, water pollution and forest fires. The ANCORIM project hopes to support coastal managers and planners in methods for anticipating such risks and planning for unforeseen natural events. Commenting on this NUI Galway’s Professor Micheal Ó Cinnéide urged planning authorities to have due regard for risk in their decision-making and pointed out that ANCORIM was preparing an inventory of scientific resources and handbooks to facilitate this process.   Led by the region of Aquitaine in southwest France, the project is supported by the Europe Union in the framework of the INTERREG IVB programme - Atlantic Space: Investing in Our Common Future. Three years of research in Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal will culminate and the publication of full findings at a conference planned for Spring 2012.   -ENDS- 

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Ericsson Offers Scholarships to Information Technology Students at NUI Galway

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Industry and academia work together to meet current and future skills requirements NUI Galway is delighted to announce an exciting initiative with the Ericsson R&D Centre in Athlone. The Discipline of Information Technology offers a one-year Higher Diploma and a two-year Masters in Software Design and Development to graduates from diverse disciplines. In conjunction with these programmes, Ericsson will offer a number of scholarships to second year MSc students. The scholarships will comprise of a contribution towards fees plus a paid internship during which students will work on a supervised research or development activity at the Ericsson R&D Centre in Athlone. A unique initiative within IT at NUI Galway, this will be of particular relevance to current or recent graduates from any discipline interested in pursuing a 4th level qualification in Software with well defined career prospects. Dr Hugh Melvin, of the Discipline of Information Technology at NUI Galway, commented that: “Both these conversion courses offer students from diverse disciplines, career opportunities in the broad, vibrant and evolving software sector. We are delighted with this Ericsson sponsorship and it shows how industry and academia can work together to meet current and future skills requirements. We are in discussions with other industry partners and hope to make further such announcements.” Mr Michael Gallagher, CEO of Ericsson in Ireland, described the initiative as: “Part of a multi-faceted commitment from Ericsson to help the growth of Ireland’s knowledge economy. Software Engineering is an area in which this country has the capacity to excel and in which the opportunities are growing exponentially.” The Ericsson R&D Centre in Athlone employs over 700 software and systems engineers providing OSS (Operations Support Systems) for Network Management to Telecom Network Operators using advanced mediation, data management and visualization techniques. The Ericsson site in Athlone has global responsibility for end-to-end design, development, release and support of these applications. For further details regarding this announcement or the above postgraduate courses in IT at NUI Galway, please contact Dr Hugh Melvin ( or Dr Michael Schukat (   ENDS 

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Student Volunteering in Ireland Featured at European Parliament Launch

Monday, 18 July 2011

Irish MEP, Marian Harkin and French MEP, Cécile Levieil jointly hosted an exhibition featuring student volunteers from across Irish Higher Education title We Volunteer!.The week-long exhibition took place from 10 to 16 July, in celebration of the European Year of Volunteering 2011. The official launch took place on Tuesday, 12 July, in the European Parliament Brussels and was attended by dignitaries from across the EU Parliament and the EU Commission.  The We Volunteer! photographic exhibition of student volunteering recognises the extent and diversity of student commitment to communities with diverse organisations ranging from the Christina Noble Foundation in Vietnam, to Chrysalis Community Drug Project in Dublin, from the Galway Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to community enterprise in Belfast, from peer mentoring programmes in Limerick and Cork to Karate coaching in Newry. The exhibition showcases the work of student volunteers from 20 Higher Education Institutions across Ireland. We Volunteer! is sponsored by Campus Engage, the national network for the promotion of civic engagement in Irish higher education. The exhibition featured NUI Galway student Nicola Brassil from Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare and GMIT student Fiachra McInerney from Raheen, Limerick. Lorraine Tansey, Student Volunteer Coordinator at NUI Galway, said: “This collaborative exhibition is a great opportunity to visually demonstrate how student volunteers get involved and make a commitment to bring about change.  Bringing the exhibition and featured students to Brussels is an important step in the recognition and celebration of student volunteering in Galway and beyond.”  Dermot O’Donovan, Head of GMIT Letterfrack, says: “For the past three years, as part of the student work placement programme, students from GMIT Letterfrack have been responsible for the establishment of a woodwork training facility in Maamba in Zambia. This centre was established with the aim of providing training for young adults from the region in order to provide them with skills to develop sustainable enterprises and opportunities for work. The project has grown in strength and has been co-ordinated in GMIT Letterfrack by Dr Patrick Tobin, and supported by the Sisters of Charity based in Maamba. We were delighted to be part of this We Volunteer! exhibition.” NUI Galway and GMIT recently announced a new strategic partnership to serve the educational, social and economic needs of their students and the wider regional, national and international communities. The agreement provides for collaborative opportunities in teaching and learning, research, entrepreneurship, regional development, commercialisation, programme design, distance education, and work-based learning. To learn more about the exhibition, to upload your volunteer story or to host the touring exhibition throughout 2011, visit or email   ENDS

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Researchers Mimic Nature to Create a ‘Bio-Inspired Brain’ for Robots

Monday, 18 July 2011

A group of engineers at NUI Galway and the University of Ulster are developing bio-inspired integrated circuit technology which mimics the neuron structure and operation of the brain. One key goal of the research is the application of the electronic neural device, called a hardware spiking neural network, to the control of autonomous robots which can operate independently in remote, unsupervised environments, such as remote search and rescue applications, and in space exploration. According to Dr Fearghal Morgan, Director of the Bio-Inspired Electronics and Reconfigurable Computing (BIRC) research group, at NUI Galway: “Electronic neurons, implemented using silicon integrated circuit technology, cannot exactly replicate the complexity of neurons found in the human brain, or the massive number of connections between neurons. However, inspired by the operation and structure of the brain, we have successfully developed a hardware spiking neural network and have used this device for robotics control. The electronic device interprets the state of the robot’s environment through signals received from sensing devices such as cameras and ultrasonic sensors, which act as the eyes and ears of the robot. The neural network then modifies the behaviour of the robot accordingly, by sending signals to the robot’s limbs to enable activity such as walking, grasping and obstacle avoidance.” Dr Morgan explains: “Our research is focussed on mimicking evolution in nature. The latest hardware neural network currently in development will contain thousands of small electronic neuron-like devices which interoperate concurrently, in a similar way to neurons in the biological brain. The device can be trained to perform a particular function, and can be retrained many times for various applications. The training process resembles the training of the brain, by making, strengthening and weakening the links between neurons and defining the conditions which cause a neuron to fire, sending signals to all of the attached neurons. As in the brain, the collection of interconnected neurons makes decisions on incoming data to cause an action in the controlled system.” “Until now, the robotics arena has focused on electronic controllers which incorporate one or more microprocessors, which typically execute instructions in sequence and, while performing tasks quickly, are limited by the instruction processing speed. Power is also a consideration. While the human brain on average only requires 10 watts of power, a typical PC requires 300 watts. We believe that a small embedded hardware neural network device has the potential to perform effective robotics control, at low power, while also incorporating fault detection and self-repair behaviour. Our aim is to develop a robust, intelligent hardware neural network robotics controller which can autonomously maintain robot behaviour, even when its environment changes or a fault occurs within the robotics system.” Dr Jim Harkin, from the School of Computing and Intelligent Systems, University of Ulster (Magee Campus), comments: “The constant miniaturisation of silicon technology to increase performance introduces inherent reliability issues which must be overcome. Ultimately, the hardware neural network or robot ‘brain’ will be able to detect and overcome electronic faults that occur within itself, and continue to function effectively without human intervention.” The research project is supported by Science Foundation Ireland, the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET), the International Centre for Graduate Education in Micro- and Nano-Engineering (ICGEE), the Xilinx University Programme, the University of Ulster’s Vice Chancellor’s Research Scholarship, and the SFI National Access Programme.   ENDS

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