School of Psychology

Welcome. The School of Psychology is housed in a purpose-built facility in the centre of campus. We are dynamic, innovative and recognised for our teaching, research, and community contribution. We have a suite of professionally accredited undergraduate and postgraduate (Higher Diploma, Masters and PhD) programmes. We also have two active and successful research streams: Brain & Behaviour, and Health & Wellbeing. Researchers from both have participated in acquiring major national and international funding awards and we continue to develop a strong profile in quantity and quality of research output.

 

23 November 2022

MicroRNAs can help predict disease recurrence in patients with breast cancer

University of Galway researchers discover biomarkers which may help in determining tailored cancer treatment Researchers at University of Galway have determined that biomarkers known as microRNAs can help predict which patients with breast cancer are likely to face a recurrence of the disease and death. The researchers, led by Dr Matthew Davey, Professor Michael Kerin and Dr Nicola Miller, from the University’s College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, conducted a multicentre trial In Ireland, involving 124 patients who were treated with chemotherapy.  The findings of the research have been published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons (JACS).  They include:  MiRNAs can be used as a biomarker to predict which patients are likely to face breast cancer recurrence and mortality. Researchers conducting a multicentre trial in Ireland drew blood samples from 124 patients with breast cancer at 5 different timepoints during their cancer journey, and assessed their outcomes almost nine years later. Researchers say their discovery of the predictive value of miR-145 could help physicians better tailor treatment to the need of each patient being treated for breast cancer. According to figures from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland, over 3,500 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. While long-term outcomes have improved for patients with breast cancer, the most common cancer diagnosed in women, 20% to 30% of these patients will see their breast cancer relapse.  Dr Davey said: “The process of identifying which patients are more likely to have a recurrence has been a challenge. Therefore we set out to determine whether miRNAs -small, non-coding molecules that modulate genetic expression and affect cancer development - are capable predicting which patients are more likely to have a recurrence of, and die from, breast cancer. “We discovered that patients with an increased expression of a certain type of miRNA, called miR-145, are unlikely to have a recurrence of breast cancer.  “We showed that increased expression of this biomarker, which was measured in patients' blood samples during chemotherapy, actually predicted their long-term oncological outcome. We can predict those who are likely to suffer recurrence and also those who will be free of recurrence. Further studies into the clinical application of this biomarker are ongoing. “This study may also help identify breast cancer patients who could benefit from closer monitoring and additional therapies post-surgery or treatment.” This research is made possible by the National Breast Cancer Research Institute and Cancer Trials Ireland.  Ends

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22 November 2022

University of Galway Investigator awarded European Research Council Starting Grant

Dr Andrew Daly, Assistant Professor in Biomedical Engineering and CÚRAM Funded Investigator, will develop new bioinks for organ bioprinting University of Galway Investigator Dr Andrew Daly has today been named a recipient of a European Research Council Starting Grant Award of €1.49m. morphoPRINT will focus on creating dynamic bioinks that can program morphogenetic behaviours in bioprinted organs to enhance their physiological relevance.  Three-dimensional bioprinting, where bioprinters are used to position cells into organ-shaped constructs, holds great promise for tissue and organ engineering. Although remarkable progress has been made in recent years, it remains challenging to bioprint organs with suitable functionality for implantation. For example, in the case of the heart, bioprinted heart cells (termed cardiomyocytes) do not beat with sufficient intensity or force to pump blood around the body. This is largely because bioprinted cardiomyocytes, now typically derived from induced pluripotent stem cells, are immature, with properties more similar to juvenile rather than adult cardiomyocytes.  In the body, as our heart develops, cardiomyocytes are exposed to mechanical and electrical stimuli that 'train' and 'shape' the cells into a more mature form. Integrating these behaviours into bioprinted organs that initially exist outside of the body has been challenging. Dr Daly explains: “The morphoPRINT project will develop a new range of programmable bioinks that will allow us to 'sculpt' heart cell maturation using mechanical stimuli. I am delighted to accept this funding award which will enable our lab to develop cutting edge technology that brings us closer to the reality of bioprinted organ replacements.” Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM, said: “This European Research Council Starting Grant Award is an exciting opportunity for Dr Daly and speaks to the calibre of his research career to date. I welcome the opportunity for Dr Daly to continue to develop this ground breaking and promising research and the impact it will have to enhance and grow his professional reputation and profile.” Dr Andrew Daly was awarded a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Trinity College Dublin in 2018, where he developed bioprinted implants for cartilage and bone regeneration. For this work, he was awarded the Engineer’s Ireland Biomedical Engineering Research Medal. Following this, he moved to the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania for his postdoctoral training. In 2020, he was awarded an American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship to develop bioprinted cardiac disease models for screening of miRNA therapeutics. In January 2021, he started his research group at the University of Galway.   To date, his work has been published in the top journals in the field, including Nature Communications, Nature Reviews Materials, Cell, Biomaterials, Advanced Science, Acta Biomaterialia, Advanced Healthcare Materials, and Biofabrication.  Dr Daly is one of 408 researchers to have won this year’s European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grants. The funding is worth in total €636 million and is part of the Horizon Europe programme. It will help excellent younger scientists, who have 2 to 7 years’ experience after their PhDs, to launch their own projects, form their teams and pursue their most promising ideas. Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: “We are proud to empower younger researchers to follow their curiosity. These new ERC laureates bring a remarkable wealth of scientific ideas, they will further our knowledge and some already have practical applications in sight. I wish them all the best of luck with their explorations.”  President of the European Research Council Professor Maria Leptin said: “It is a pleasure to see this new group of bright minds at the start of their careers, set to take their research to new heights. I cannot emphasize enough that Europe as a whole - both at national and at EU level - has to continue to back and empower its promising talent. We must encourage young researchers who are led by sheer curiosity to go after their most ambitious scientific ideas. Investing in them and their frontier research is investing in our future.” The grants will be invested in scientific projects spanning all disciplines of research from engineering to life sciences to humanities. Ends

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21 November 2022

International excellence in medical education award for University of Galway School of Medicine

AMEE, an international association for health professions education, has awarded a team at University of Galway’s School of Medicine a prestigious ASPIRE to Excellence Award for their achievements in medical simulation education and research.  The School of Medicine’s Irish Centre for Applied Patient Safety and Simulation (ICAPSS) is the first of its kind in Ireland to earn the accolade.  The ICAPSS team is a collaborative group of researchers and academics from University of Galway and clinicians from the Saolta University Healthcare Group who provide hands-on medical education training in a simulated environment. The special facility where they work, train, educate and research was officially opened by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly T.D. in March 2022. The ASPIRE award identifies the School of Medicine as an international centre for excellence in medical education.  Professor Ronald Harden, a leading international authority on Medical Education, and AMEE General Secretary, said: “The ASPIRE to Excellence programme has an important role to play at a time of rapid change in education, when the value of a university’s teaching as well as their contributions to research are recognised." Dr Dara Byrne, Professor of Simulation Education at University of Galway and Director of Simulation for the Saolta University Healthcare Group and at the ICAPSS said: “This award is the first of its kind for a simulation facility in Ireland. It reflects our commitment to improving patient safety and the quality of care through our simulation activities that are translational and interprofessional, across the continuum of health professions education.  “Applying for an ASPIRE award challenges medical education and training providers to benchmark themselves against what is considered exemplary. This requires learners, staff and other stakeholders to develop and demonstrate excellence in education. The collaborative process stimulates the School of Medicine’s focus on improving medical education.” Dr Paul O’Connor, Senior Lecturer in General Practice at University of Galway and Research Director for the ICAPSS, said: “Patient safety and patient safety research are our priority. As we now are members of the ASPIRE academy, we can collaborate with other centres for excellence and continue to improve our simulation activities which support learners in the University and Saolta.” The ASPIRE Award highlights medical schools which have demonstrated teaching excellence in one or more areas including assessment, curriculum development, faculty development, inspirational approaches to medical education, international collaborations, simulation, social accountability, student engagement and technology enhanced learning. The collaboration between University of Galway and Saolta was particularly commended by the international expert assessment team.  In their feedback on the award, the assessment team stated "The work of the ICAPSS team is impressive and we also applaud their achievements in a relatively short period. We also note the success of the collaboration between a university and a healthcare service partner. These relationships are not always productive, so the achievements are even more impressive. We recommend sharing this model so others may benefit too, acknowledging that contextual factors may also be unique. In summary, the number of personnel at ICAPSS, many with considerable experience and qualifications in relevant domains have created, implemented and evaluated a range education programs. The application reflects a well-developed organisational structure which functions effectively, serving both the sponsoring organisations.” Ends

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In the School of Psychology approximately 100 visiting students from around the world take our modules each semester. We offer about 20 different modules over the course of the academic year to our visiting students. These range from foundational introductory courses to specialised final year electives. Therefore there is the opportunity for our visiting students to experience the full breadth and richness of psychological science during their time with us.

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