All 2011

Students Take to the Stage at Druid

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

From 24-26 of November, NUI Galway’s Dramsoc are performing Tom Murphy's The Morning After Optimism in the Druid Lane Theatre. The performance is being facilitated as part of the NUI Galway partnership with Druid Theatre Co. Three of four members of the cast are currently studying on the BA CONNECT Theatre & Performance programme at NUI Galway, while the production team includes engineering, maths, creative writing and Irish language students. Darren Coppinger, an engineering PhD student in NUI Galway, directs the production. He says: “The producer and I discovered this play about two years ago, in the Abbey Theatre bookshop. It jumped out at me immediately and I wanted to put it on. The play had its first run last year, in the Bank of Ireland Theatre, NUI Galway. Thereafter, we felt the play had a huge amount to offer and we are lucky enough to be able to stage it in Druid – home of Tom Murphy - for a second run this year.” He continues, “It’s a play about James and Rosie – the pimp and the whore. In the course of the play, they discover their better selves, as well as idealized lovers in Edmund and Anastasia, a prince and a maiden. It’s a play of opposites: on one side you have the sinners and on the other, the saints. Murphy places them in a surreal forest, as a means of exploring these contrasts and assessing whether they can survive in the one space. In the play, James, the pimp talks about his indoctrination in the form and the language of fairytale. To me, the play is a dialogue about false hopes. It looks at the demise of our childhood illusions, which tend to inhibit us from dealing with harsh reality. The work has universal appeal and although first performed in 1971, it feels contemporary. The concept of fairytales of the past clashing with the cold reality of modernity corresponds, I think to conflicting feelings about where we are as a society. Like James and Rosie, we are asked to confront our illusions and decide where we want to go next.” The play is heavily influenced by on the music of Berlioz (Symphonie Fantastique). It deploys dashes of colour, unusual props, expressive gesture and movement to create its own unique world. Unlike most of Murphy’s works, The Morning After Optimism uses little Irish dialect. He concocts a new vernacular of storybook clichés, rediscovered vocabulary, proverbs, manic imagery and phrases from songs. Thomas Kilroy wrote of it that it ‘exists between the rabid, spilling language of the streets and the language of fairytale. Great lunatic monologues in which these two realities clash and mix and outrage one another’. This production is the second occasion on which NUI Galway Dramsoc has performed in Druid Lane Theatre. Last year, the society hosted the Irish Student Drama Association (ISDA) Festival, and used the theatre as one of its main venues. The Festival itself went on to win the prestigious title of ‘Event of the Year’ in NUI Galway, winning Dramsoc the title of ‘Society of the Year’ at the NUI Galway Society Awards. Darren continues: “The University and Druid formalized their relationship by means of an academic partnership last year. This production, we hope will be the first of many Dramsoc plays to be performed in this iconic theatre. The society is one of the largest on campus, and produces more than 25 productions annually. It is great to see Druid supporting Dramsoc and NUI Galway – already, students are benefitting from the relationship and long may it continue.” The NUI Galway Dramsoc’s production of the play, The Morning After Optimism, by Tom Murphy runs in Druid Lane Theatre from November 24-26. Shows start at 8pm, and tickets are €5/€8, from the Socs Box in Áras na Mac Léinn. Reservations can also be made by emailing or phoning 086 1632868.   -ends-

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Stopping Bugs that Smash Antibiotics

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Many common infections that were once a scourge, such as typhoid and cholera, have been almost forgotten in Europe.  This is largely because of improved water supply and sanitation but also because we have had safe antibiotic treatments that work to treat serious infections for the last 50 years. A lot of this progress is at risk now because bacteria that can resist antibiotic treatment are becoming more common, according to Martin Cormican, Professor of Bacteriology at NUI Galway’s School of Medicine. Friday, 18 November, is European Antibiotic Awareness Day. It is a reminder of how much the discovery of antibiotics has helped us all to live longer and healthier lives, but also of how much is at stake if we do not act to save antibiotics.  According to Professor Cormican: “As bacteria become resistant to all the older antibiotics, we know that drug companies are finding very few new antibiotics. If we do not have antibiotics that work, certain types of surgery and cancer treatments will become almost impossible do safely because the risk of infection in patients will be too great.”   NUI Galway scientists and doctors in the School of Medicine are working with others in Ireland and Europe to track the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria in Ireland and on finding better ways to cut down on overuse of antibiotics. “Our work at NUI Galway shows that bacteria can change their genes and even swap genes with other bacteria very quickly. Some genes can give bacteria the power to smash the antibiotics into pieces before they have a chance to work. The more often we use antibiotics, the better the chance that a bacteria with a gene that breaks down the antibiotic will develop and spread. Every time drug companies manufacture a new antibiotic we see the same thing happen within months or years. Right now we are working with people around the country to track the latest big antibiotic-resistant problem which is called CPE. These CPE bacteria have now been found in seven different labs in Ireland – there are many different kinds of CPE and many of these bacteria are resistant to almost all of the antibiotics that we have to treat infection.” For Professor Cormican, there are some very simple things that can be done to slow down the advance of resistant bacteria. “We need to use less antibiotics, and we can do this safely if we all stop using antibiotics when there is no need for them. Antibiotics are prescribed by a doctor and so part of our research with the Discipline of General Practice and funded by the Health Research Board is to look at ways to help doctors use antibiotics in better ways.” He also points out that many people still think that they should get antibiotics from the doctors for colds, coughs and sore throats and other minor infections. Many minor infections do not need antibiotics and many are caused by a virus and antibiotics do not help even a little bit for infection with virus. However, it is also important to know that taking antibiotics you don’t need, will kill your good bacteria and can cause diarrhoea and thrush. “So keep your good bacteria safe by taking antibiotics only when you really need them,” says Professor Cormican. The Environmental Protection Agency has also supported the work at NUI Galway, which found that some antibiotics and antibiotic resistant bacteria escape from places including hospitals into the environment. “We do not know yet how much this adds to our problems but there is reason to believe it could make things worse”, explains Professor Cormican. “We also need to be careful if we have left-over antibiotics. Do not pour them down the sink or the toilet, do not put them in the bin as they might eventually get back into rivers, lakes and drinking water. We can only dispose of them safely by taking them back to the pharmacy.” Professor Cormican concluded: “If we all work together on this we can help to keep antibiotics that work for our children and grandchildren.” -ends-

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NUI Galway PhD Graduate Awarded Prestigious European Doctoral Award

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Dr Michael Keeney, a PhD graduate of NUI Galway, has been awarded the prestigious European Doctoral Award for his PhD studies. The award is made annually by the European Society for Biomaterials and confers added value to the Doctoral Degree already gained by Dr Keeney, who is originally from Donegal Town.  The award is complementary to the PhD degree, and recognises the European or international dimension of work, acting as a proof of quality.  The award also acknowledges the PhD supervisor, in Michael’s case, Professor Abhay Pandit of the Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials (NFB), NUI Galway, proving the integration of their research at an international level. This is the first European Doctoral Award in the field of Biomaterials won by an Irish student or University. Michael completed his Doctoral Degree at NUI Galway having graduated in 2010. His research, funded by IRCSET and SFI, was undertaken at the NFB and involved tissue regeneration of bone defects; the thesis was entitled “Design and Functionalisation of Collagen/Calcium Phosphate Scaffolds for Non-Viral Gene Delivery in Bone Tissue Engineering”. In order to qualify for the award, Michael spent time at the Jansen Laboratory, at Radboud University in the Netherlands, where he performed in-vivo studies on bone formation, a placement that was supported by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. After a brief period working as a research assistant at NUI Galway, Michael was offered a postdoctoral research fellowship at Stanford University in the United States.  At Stanford, Michael currently works on tissue engineering and drug delivery in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Speaking about his receipt of this award, Michael said: “It is an honour to receive such a prestigious award from the European Society of Biomaterials and it is a credit to all the hard work being performed at the NFB.” -ends-

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Information Evening for Prospective Mature Students

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

An information evening for prospective mature students will take place at NUI Galway on Thursday, 24 November. The event will take place from 7 to 9pm in the Colm O’hEocha Theatre, Arts Millennium Building, NUI Galway. The information evening is designed for people aged 23 and over who are considering embarking on full-time undergraduate degree programmes in NUI Galway in the 2012/2013 academic year. Information will be provided at this session on the programmes available to mature students across each of the University’s five Colleges: College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies; College of Business, Public Policy and Law; College of Science; College of Engineering and Informatics; and College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Studies. Sessions will also cover topics such as entry requirements, application and selection procedures, financial queries and other support systems available within NUI Galway.  NUI Galway’s Mature Students Officer, Trish Hoare, said: “NUI Galway is very proud of our mature students and all of their accomplishments. We value their experience and dedication to their studies.” Applications for third-level are done mostly through the CAO, which has a deadline of the 1 February, 2012.  To qualify as a mature student you must be 23, or over, on or before 1 January, 2012. Mature applicants for programmes in the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies degrees at NUI Galway are also required to register prior to 1 February, 2012, for the Mature Students Admissions Pathway (MSAP) exam which takes place on Saturday, 18 February, 2012. For more information on the information evening contact Trish Hoare at 091 492695 or email  A Mature Students Guidebook is also available with further information at   -ENDS-

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Details of the First International ‘Fascination of Plants Day’ Announced

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Dr Zoë Popper, a lecturer in Botany and Plant Science at NUI Galway, is the national organiser for the first ever European Fascination of Plants Day which will be held on 18 May, 2012. Plants, by accumulating sunlight into sugars, are the primary producers of biomass providing animals and mankind with food and feed. Having the ability to directly synthesise their own food has enabled plants to successfully colonise, adapt to, and diversify within almost every niche on the planet and biologists estimate the total number of plant species to be about 250,000. Launched under the umbrella of the European Plant Science Organisation (EPSO -,Brussels, a special day for plants shall take place on 18 May, 2012. This coordinated activity will plant virtual and constantly germinating seeds in the collective mind of the European and World Public recalling that plant science is of critical significance to the social, environmental and economic landscape now and into the future. The ‘Fascination of Plants Day’ has been already adopted by more than 25 countries worldwide and the number is growing. All information about this initiative can be accessed via and is supported by a network of national coordinators who volunteer their time to promote and disseminate the activity within their countries. More than 60 scientific institutions, universities, botanical gardens, and museums, together with farmers and companies, have already announced that they will open their doors, with a variety of plant-based events for all interested people from toddlers to grandparents. Anyone who would like to contribute to the Fascination of Plants Day is welcome to join in. For more information regarding events at a Global, European and national level please visit the website     -ends-

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