All 2012

From Early Detection of Disease to Space Probes - Optical Imaging

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Researchers and industrial organisations involved in optical imaging will meet in NUI Galway on Friday for the first ‘Opto-Imaging Ireland’ Workshop. The optical imaging device sector is burgeoning, with applications for highly sophisticated cameras to be found everywhere from mobile phones to cars, to space probes. The workshop will cover various applications of optical imaging, including imaging the eye to allow early detection of disease, and new microscopy techniques to enhance the study of microorganisms. The workshop is being organised by Dr Nicholas Devaney of the Applied Optics group in the NUI Galway’s School of Physics. The research team at the University has worked with industry on many projects such as customising lenses after cataract surgery, the early detection of eye diseases before they cause blindness and using laser beams for communication.  According to Dr Devaney: “The potential market for new imaging systems is enormous, and several Irish companies are already leading developments in the field. For example, Digital Optics Corporation, which has a centre in Galway, is a world leader in the production of miniature imaging systems. We see its applications all around. In top of the range cars, cameras combined with sophisticated software are used to automatically detect pedestrians and warn drivers in time to avoid accidents. Andor technology, based in Belfast, is a world leader in high-quality cameras for medical imaging systems.” Dr Devaney added: “Images from security cameras can be analysed to search for missing persons or criminals, and thermal cameras will allow this to be possible at night. Thermal cameras can also be used to detect cancer without the use of harmful x-rays. In this exciting filed, 3D imaging systems are also becoming available. These allow images to be refocused after they are taken and even allow the user to change the perspective or angle from which the picture appears to be taken.” The workshop will be addressed by eminent international experts; Professors Andrew Harvey, of the University of Glasgow and Professor Alan Greenaway of the Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. According to Dr Devaney, this is a unique opportunity for academic and industrial researchers to learn from one another and explore exciting new projects. The Applied Optics Group was set up in 2002 with the support of Science Foundation Ireland and developed into a world-leading center for innovation in optics and imaging. The group is led by Dr Nicholas Devaney and Dr Alexander Goncharov. Petronel Bigioi, General Manager for the Embedded Image Enhancement Division of Digital Optics Corporation, explains: “The modern consumer imaging devices are size, cost and performance driven, forcing the modern designs to combine the optics, light sensing and digital image processing to achieve the right balance to be successful. The Applied Optics Group has the right expertise and mix of knowledge to deliver imaging solutions within the modern constraints.” -ends-

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NUI Galway Business Students Lecture Egyptian MBAs on the Cloud

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The first group of educational users in the world to utilise Microsoft Office 365 Lync have delivered a virtual lecture to MBA students at the American University of Cairo, Egypt.  The lecture was delivered by NUI Galway Lecturer Dr Murray Scott with final-year BSc Business Information Systems (BIS) students and the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass). The lecture was delivered as part of an international student virtual team project that aims to prepare students for the modern working environment and was received by participants from around the globe including Galway, Cairo, Boston, and Barcelona.  Dr Murray Scott, BIS Module Director at NUI Galway, said: “For the last number of years we have been collaborating with Professor Gino Sorcinelli and his team at UMass Amherst to deliver this exciting new course, which is at the forefront of teaching modern cloud computing technologies.  This is a great example of students putting what they learn into practice and being able to utilise the latest cloud technologies we teach in the classroom.” The lecture was delivered partially by Peter Langan from Drumcliff, Co. Sligo, a final year BSc Business Information Systems (BIS) at NUI Galway. Peter describes his experience of the module as one of a kind. “It was an amazing feeling to jointly deliver the lecture on a Sunday morning from my home in Sligo along with colleagues based in Galway to a class of MBA students in Cairo.”    Classmate Dorothy Rab, from Portlaoise, Co. Laois, was also involved in lecture saying: “This was a great opportunity in preparing me for the modern working world, where employers no longer limit their employees’ boundaries to one building or even one country but require them to communicate with colleagues located on different sides of the globe.” The students’ experience of collaborating across international boundaries has been captured by Microsoft and now features on their Office 365 for Education website. -ENDS-

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New Research Shows Hardship of Older People During Recession is Under-Reported

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

“Older people’s finances are not regarded as a problem, but look deeper and genuine hardship is there” Tuesday, 4 December, 2012: A new report suggests that many older people are experiencing real hardship during Ireland’s recession, but that this remains largely hidden from public view. This suggests caution is necessary when interpreting official statistics, which show deprivation and poverty rates for pensioner households to be at an all-time low. The NUI Galway research report‘Deprivation and its Measurement in Later Life’ was undertaken by the University’s Irish Centre for Social Gerontology. It was funded through the Irish Research Council with support from the Department of Social Protection. Led by Professor Thomas Scharf, Director of the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology at NUI Galway, the research tries to understand how older people respond to the 11-item basic deprivation index used in official poverty statistics. Re-analysis of available national data shows that measured deprivation depends in large part on the choice of indicators used. Some indicators used in official measures are less relevant to older people than other population groups. This was reinforced in focus groups and interviews with a diverse sample of older people. As a result, older people are less likely to be identified as deprived. In launching the report, Professor Scharf said: “Older people’s finances are not regarded as a problem, but look deeper and genuine hardship is there. Our research suggests that older people respond differently to standard deprivation measures than other population groups. This means that reported levels of deprivation may under-estimate the actual experience of poverty and deprivation amongst older people.” Professor Scharf feels that a new, stand-alone deprivation index for older people is needed for use in official statistics. Many research participants held a relatively narrow view of poverty, linking this to an inability to afford basic household items. Participants were generally more likely to identify as necessities items relating to housing and accommodation, food and food quality, household bills and clothing. By contrast, taking a holiday away from home or being able to afford to replace worn-out furniture were less likely to be regarded as essential. The research shows that poverty and deprivation continue to affect the lives of many older people in Ireland. While the value of state pensions has been maintained, a number of people who took part in the research were struggling to cope with the loss of other forms of support at a time when additional demands were being placed on their finances. In particular, providing financial support to adult children and grandchildren during the recession featured in several participants’ accounts. Welcoming the research, Robin Webster, CEO of Age Action Ireland, congratulated the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology on producing this timely report that gives a greater insight into the nature of deprivation as experienced by many older people in maintaining their quality of life in the face of rising costs and reduced support services. He also welcomed the proposal to have a new deprivation index for older people. ENDS

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NUI Galway Research Features Significantly in ‘Picture of Health 2012’

Thursday, 6 December 2012

NUI Galway research features significantly in the Health Research Board’s ‘Picture of Health 2012’ publication which will be launched in Dublin today. The highlighted research from NUI Galway includes work on adult stem cells, diabetes in pregnancy, communicating with GPs diabetic foot disease. The annual Picture of Health publication highlights, in non-technical language, recent and exciting developments arising from Irish health research funded by the Health Research Board. Research featured includes projects that seek to improve patient care, search for better treatments and innovate in health policy and practice. At the launch, Dr Akke Vellinga, a senior lecturer in primary care and lecturer in bacteriology at NUI Galway, willspeak about her work on antibiotics. TheHealth Research Board-funded study in the west of Ireland shows that many antibiotics are prescribed inappropriately, and highlights a link between the prescription of antibiotics and an increased risk of antibiotic resistance. “By using antibiotics we make them gradually less useful,” says Dr Vellinga. “The antibiotics end up in the environment and the bacterial community adapts by developing resistance.” The study at NUI Galway looked at databases on prescribing practices and antibiotic resistance risk and found a direct link between the amount of antibiotics prescribed and the chance that an individual patient would be diagnosed with a resistant E.coli infection. The researchers also found that while they could identify bacteria in 20 per cent of samples from patients with urinary tract infections, more than 50 per cent of the patients were prescribed antibiotics. And of those, only 37 per cent were prescribed the recommended treatment.    In addition, the risks of being diagnosed with an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection shot up if a patient had more than one course of antibiotics: having two or more rounds of the medication could increase the risk of resistance by more than six-fold. NUI Galway’s Vice President for Research, Professor Terry Smith, said: “The NUI Galway research highlighted in the report represents concrete examples of the innovative thinking our researchers are applying to impact positively on people’s health and wellbeing with the ultimate aim of improving health outcomes and contributing to a world-class health service in Ireland.” Other Health Research Board funded research at NUI Galway which is featured in ‘A Picture of Health 2012’ includes the following: Professor Fidelma Dunne and Dr Geraldine Gaffney headed a major study called Atlantic Diabetes in Pregnancy (DIP) to measure the incidence and outcomes of diabetes in pregnancy in the west and north-west of Ireland. The research led to improved pregnancy outcomes for women with diabetes in the west of Ireland. Dr Claire Welford investigated the question as to whether older people in residential care have autonomy. Her research led to information for a resource pack and tool kit for all nursing homes in Ireland. A project looking at interacting with GPs asked migrants and health professionals about the ideal ways to break down communication barriers in consultations. The outcomes informed guidelines on interpreting needs of migrants in GP consultations and Ireland leading a €2.9 million EU project in this field. Dr Róisín Dwyer collaborated with the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at Galway and the Mayo Clinic in the US to look at the possibility of using adult stem cells to fight tumours. The work opened up the potential for developing a new therapeutic delivery system and won an award from the Irish Cancer Society. A new study measured, for the first time, the levels of risk of diabetic foot disease among patients in a community setting. Dr Sean Dinneen’s work identified a potential link between a standard blood test and diabetic foot risk. A study led by Dr Thomas Ritter sounded a note of caution for treatments that require many infusions of stem cells in the same patient. The research highlights that the immune system could get wise to ‘foreign’ stem cells over time and potentially eliminates them. The Irish Primary Care Research Network, a collaboration between the HRB Centre for Primary Care Research, the Irish College of General Practitioners and the WestRen Research network, led by the discipline of General Practice at NUI Galway, seeks to assess and provide comparative clinical data that enable health professionals to enhance the quality of care they provide to their patients. The work already has provided decision-support tools to help diagnosis and prescribing in primary care. Enda Connolly, Chief Executive at the HRB says: “The government’s continued investment in research must be recognised as a vital step to encourage innovation and help reinvigorate the economy. Researchers must see this investment as a vote of confidence in their ability to deliver change and embrace the opportunity to continue to demonstrate that the work that they do has real impact. In the past few years, the HRB has taken a strategic decision to focus our funding on research that has a positive impact on people’s health, patient care and the health service. The outcomes highlighted in this report show the difference our funded researchers are making in these areas.” ends

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NUI Galway Students Secure €50,000 in Competitive Start Funding

Monday, 10 December 2012

Two NUI Galway students have won €50,000 in Competitive Start Funding from Enterprise Ireland with their energy saving product. The team consists of NUI Galway Engineering students Justin Conboy and Dearbhaile Forde, who beat off stiff competition with their Drag Reduction System. The second year engineering students invented a drag reduction device which can reduce the drag between a truck and its container load so significantly that it will reduce fuel consumption of the truck by 8%. The Competitive Start Fund award will be used to accelerate the growth of the students company Cú Buí Engineering Concepts Ltd., trading as Drag Reduction Systems Ireland/ and This award will enable the company to reach key commercial and technical milestones and provide them the capability to succeed in global markets. The Competitive Start Fund is to accelerate the growth of start-up companies that have the capability to succeed in global markets.  The fund is designed to enable those companies reach key commercial and technical milestones. The fund was open to applications from early stage companies, from the following sectors: Internet, Games, Mobile, Apps, SaaS, Cloud Computing, Enterprise Software, Lifesciences, Cleantech and Industrial Products.  Congratulating the award winners on their success, Mary Dempsey, College of Engineering and Informatics, NUI Galway, said: “The CSF award of €50,000 is an outstanding achievement for our undergraduate students. These budding engineers have demonstrated how design, innovation and creativity are critical components of engineering education which can translate into a commercially viable business. Their recipe for success has included self belief and resilience. It is heartening to witness their energy and enthusiasm and I congratulate them on their achievements.” -ENDS-

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