Abstracts 2016

Eoghan Dunne

College of Engineering & Informatics
Accelerated Neural Network Classification using System on Chip Technology

The successful treatment of breast cancer depends on the early identification of malignant tissue. Neural networks are computation models of the brain/nervous system and they have been applied to a range of classification applications such as pattern recognition and medical diagnosis. An unexplored area of breast cancer classification is the use of neural networks implemented on System on Chip technology. Such implementations have the potential to offer improved neural network training and testing times compared to software-based methods. This research has employed the publicly-available Wisconsin Breast Cancer Dataset to train and evaluate the System on Chip based neural network. A generational genetic algorithm has been employed to evolve the parameters of the System on Chip neural network during the training phase. Results demonstrate a potential speed-up of a factor of five when executing the network in software compared to hardware, thereby highlighting how software-based learning can be improved upon with System on Chip technology. The proposed implementation demonstrated a classification accuracy of over 82 % with further potential of increasing this accuracy.

Meagan Lynch

College of Arts, Social Sciences, & Celtic Studies
Implicit Measures and Suspicious Thoughts

While it may be considered uncommon, research has shown that suspicious thoughts can occur on a frequent basis. A recent study found that approximately 10–20% of the survey respondents held paranoid ideation with strong conviction and significant distress. Previous research in this area has pointed to Self-Esteem as a mitigating factor. More recently however, researchers have begun to examine the effect of how we view ourselves (i.e.; self-schemas) as an attributing factor. At present, few studies have examined this concept and have also not included an examination of how we feel about other people (i.e.; schemas about others). Psychological research has found that humans have little control over their thoughts or that they can be very well hidden. To address these issues studies have been examining our so called “implicit cognition”. Implicit cognition refers to a person’s unconscious influences such as knowledge or perception that can influence their behaviour without them realising.  This study will use a computer procedure known as the Implicit Relational Assessment Procedure (IRAP) to examine if schemas about the self and others contributes to the development of suspicious thoughts. Understanding more about the development of suspicious thoughts will be useful in examining theories of paranoia. It will also hopefully, help to normalise the experience of suspicious thoughts which as previously stated are far more common than we realise.

Niamh Crowley

College of Medicine, Nursing, & Health Sciences
An audit of cervical screening status in eligible practice population

All women in Ireland between 25-60 years of age are eligible for regular, free cervical screening with any GP registered with Cervical Check. While Cervical Check has its own recall system, I found that it has shortcomings, particularly for patients who might have changed addresses or who are lost to follow up for other reasons. As a result, many women are missing out on this important health check.  Our audit’s aim was to determine the number of patients within this age bracket who were due or overdue their smear and to increase uptake rates by implementing a fail-safe recall system to act as a ‘second safety net’ within the GP practice. Our audit involved three stages. Firstly, we ran a report on Socrates of all the eligible patients resulting in a cohort of n=297. Following a detailed chart review, we discovered that 34% were overdue their smear tests and of those women, only 21% had been reminded by their GP. The 2nd stage involved sending out reminder letters to these 100 women. Finally, we re-audited which showed the recall system resulted in a further 56 patients having a smear, 3 of which required further follow up. These results highlight the benefits of having such a system in place. Without it, many women may be lost to follow up, some of whom may have early cell changes in their cervix, which if undetected may progress. Therefore, I believe that such recall systems should be rolled out nationwide.

Katie St John, O’Brien, K., Khan, S., Joyce D.P., Kerin, M.J., Dwyer, R.M.

College of Medicine, Nursing, & Health Sciences; Discipline of Surgery, Lambe Institute for Translational Research, School of Medicine, NUI Galway.
Genetically Engineered Exosomes as a Novel Method for delivery of Therapeutic microRNAs.

Introduction: Understanding the role of intercellular communication in cancer development is of critical importance. Small membrane-derived vesicles, known as exosomes, are a vital component in this process. Exosomes selectively package genetic material such as microRNAs, which are important regulators of genes involved in breast cancer progression. Engineering exosomes to carry selected tumour suppressor microRNAs to recipient cells is a new and evolving field of research with exciting therapeutic potential. Methods: HCC-1954 breast cancer cells were transduced to over-express miR-379 (HCC-379) along with a non-targeting control (HCC-NTC). Exosomes were isolated by differential centrifugation, micro-filtration and ultracentrifugation, followed by quantification using a protein assay. The microRNA content was subsequently extracted and analysed by RQ-PCR. The exosomes were then transferred to wild-type HCC-1954 and BT-20 cells to examine the effect on proliferation. Results: Exosomes were successfully isolated from HCC-379 cells and were found to have enriched expression of miR-379 when compared to exosomes isolated from the HCC-NTC cells. Exosomes were effectively taken up by recipient wild type cells and stimulated increased cellular proliferation. This impact of miR-379 enriched exosomes mirrored the effect of over-expressing miR-379 in the parent cell population. Conclusions: This promising data highlights genetically engineered exosomes as vehicles for delivery of functional microRNAs. This has important implications for developing novel breast cancer therapies.

Bram Siebert

College of Science
Modelling Diffusion on a Network

The goal of this project is to model diffusion on a network. Our approach is to start with studying the classical approach to modelling diffusion on a plate (for example) using partial differential equations. This partial differential equation can then be discretized using a finite difference method when solving it numerically. The mesh used by the finite difference method can be though of as an example of a graph and leads to a discrete version of the partial differential equation. We generalise this to arbitrary graphs, so that we can model diffusion on a network.

Maeve Cahalan

College of Medicine, Nursing, & Health Sciences

Introduction:  Human adult mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are known to be actively recruited to the primary breast tumour microenvironment. Bidirectional communication between MSCs and breast cancer cells has become an area of great interest in recent years, and it is now known that exosomes are involved in this process. Exosomes are membrane-derived vesicles that are actively secreted by cells. They are capable of the transfer of genetic material between cells. The aim of this study was to identify the functional impact of exosome-mediated intercellular communication in this setting.  Methods:  Breast cancer cell lines (Sk-Br-3s and BT-20s) were cultured in media containing exosome-depleted FBS for 48 hours. Secreted exosomes were harvested from conditioned media using differential centrifugation, microfiltration and ultracentrifugation. Isolated exosomes were then applied to MSCs that had been seeded in a 96-well plate format. A proliferation assay was performed to examine the functional effect of breast cancer cell-secreted exosomes on MSCs.   Results:  Exosomes were successfully isolated from each breast cancer cell line. Secreted exosomes were characterised and were found to be of the correct size and shape. Transfer to recipient cell populations was demonstrated. MSC proliferation was noted to be increased by 11% and 27% in response to BT-20 and Sk-Br-3-derived exosomes respectively. The greater effect noted in the case of BT-20 exosomes may indicate a significant degree of crosstalk between MSCs and BT-20s.   Conclusions:   Exosome-mediated intercellular communication between MSCs and breast cancer cells may play an important role in intercellular communication in the primary tumour microenvironment.

Mary Christina Byrne Casey, G. Coleman, A. Whyte, T. Cormican, M. Ní Riain Ú.

College of Medicine, Nursing, & Health Sciences
Is Yersinia enterocolitica as a cause of community-acquired diarrhoea in the west of Ireland under detected? A comparison of selective culture and molecular detection.

Introduction: The bacterium Yersinia entercolitica is a causative agent of community-acquired diarrhoea  (CAD)1,2. The current incidence of Yersinia as a cause of CAD in the Galway region is unknown, as culture for Yersinia is not routinely undertaken in the absence of identified risk factors. Results from participation in a recent snapshot international study suggest that local incidence may be higher than previously recognized.3 The current study undertook to determine the current incidence of Yersinia in CAD stool samples in this region by conventional selective culture and in comparison, by molecular detection. Methods: Over a 6-week study period, June-July 2015, all CAD samples (N=602) received in the microbiology department of University Hospital Galway were cultured on Yersinia selective, cefsulodin-irgasan-novobiocin (CIN) agar. Suspect Yersinia colonies were identified by Matrix-assisted laser desorbtion/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF).  All but one CAD stool samples were also examined for presence of detectable Yersinia DNA by polymerase chain reaction (PCR).  Results: 6 (1%) of 602 diarrhoeal stools cultured were culture positive for Y.enterocolitica.. PCR detected presence of Y.enterocolitica DNA in 10 (1.66%) of 601 samples tested. Conclusions: A significant proportion of community-acquired diarrhea cases in this region are associated with Y.enterocolitica. Y.enterocolitica is isolated from CAD samples in this region more frequently than many other enteric pathogens, including salmonella and shigella, for which testing is routinely undertaken. Consideration should be given to expanding the testing of CAD samples to include routine testing for Y.enterocolitica. Molecular testing is a more sensitive method for detection of Yersinia than conventional selective culture from stool.

Billy Delaney

College of Engineering & Informatics
Using Smarter Technologies to Improve the Transport Planning Process

Road transport currently accounts for 17% of the world’s energy related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (UNEP, 2010) and in Ireland the transport sector is the largest contributor to energy related CO2 emissions. Ireland must work towards decarbonising its transport system in order to meet EU and international targets. According to literature, active modes of transport will play a significant role in reaching these targets. Transport planning for active commuters requires extensive data on cyclist and pedestrian travel patterns, routes, volumes and speeds. Currently this data is limited and often expensive to obtain. Internationally, GPS enabled smartphone applications are being more commonly used in the transport planning process. In Ireland, to date there has been relatively no use of these applications. This study will examine Galway’s recognised transport problem with respect to GPS enabled transport planning. The objectives of this project will enable a different outlook on transport planning and will facilitate further research on sustainable transport in Galway City. Using an empirical data set collected through volunteers as well as anonymised data purchased from Strava, various aspects of the transport process will be studied. These include permeability across Galway, graphically representing infrastructure deficits and also highlighting the opportunity for bottom up engagement in the transport planning process. Ultimately, there are more effective ways to plan for transport, with current problems in Galway city this research should highlight the potential for innovation and increased engagement in the transport planning process.

Jade Daniels

College of Arts, Social Sciences, & Celtic Studies
Schizotypy, Attachment and Social Interaction

The relationship between attachment styles on schizotypy has previously been established in empirical investigations. Research also indicates that demographic variables, including age, gender, and cannabis use, are associated with the development of individual attachment behaviours and progression of schizotypy.  However, previous research has not yet directly examined these associations in full. More importantly, potential mediating variable(s) between attachment and schizotypy, though hypothesised, have not been confirmed. It is within this hiatus that ‘affective responses to social interaction’ invoke to explain this relationship. Social interaction was shown to be a significant theoretical component of both attachment theory and schizotypy, though previous research has overlooked this association as a possible mediator. A mediation analysis will attempt to address three inter-connected questions. Firstly, is the effect of insecure attachment on schizotypy measures mediated by social anhedonia and social interaction anxiety? Secondly, are the effects of insecure attachment on measures of schizotypy mediated by intrapersonal social attributions? Lastly, do demographic variables, including age, sex and cannabis use, predict the effects of intrapersonal social attributions, social anhedonia and/or social anxiety on a measure of schizotypy? A convenience sample of 130 university students will be used to complete a number of self-report, online questionnaires. The results of this investigation would be a significant incremental advance in the research on schizotypy, while also addressing contradictions, inconsistencies and apertures within the relationship between schizotypy and attachment. Furthermore, it may also aid the assessment and early detection of a pre-disposition to schizophrenia, particularly in individuals with relatives that have been diagnosed with the disorder.

Aileen Riney

College of Medicine, Nursing, & Health Sciences
Arthritis and participation in paid employment: Perceptions of arthritis-work spillover

Participation in work is accepted as one of the key areas of occupational performance offering intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. Research to date has focused almost exclusively on the impact that arthritis has on performance of the worker role. This study aims to examine the potential reciprocal impact that employment may have on the management of arthritis. This study will employ a qualitative design using a semi-structured interview to access the perspectives of people living with arthritis in Ireland. It is hoped that this study will increase knowledge for effective condition management and vocational rehabilitation programs in Ireland.

Ethan Moore

College of Arts, Social Sciences, & Celtic Studies
Barriers to cycling as identified by NUIG students

This study purpose is to clearly analyse the barriers that exist in relation to cycling in Galway city as identified by NUIG students. The focus of the dissertation is to see if barriers that are present in the cycling literature are also seen as issues for students in Galway or if different barriers need to be addressed. There is a great need to increase the number of people cycling in Galway city to help address the growing congestion problem in the city. This research examines university students an often neglected and important segment of the population to consider as transport habits formed while at university often persist into adulthood. This dissertation looked at primary data in the form of a questionnaire distributed to NUIG students along with previous research and performed secondary analyses on local development plans and other relative documents to see if barriers that students identified were being dealt with and what approaches used in other cities could be used in Galway to tackle these barriers. With this completed several policy recommendations were outlined including need for increased traffic calming and need to make junctions easier to navigate for cyclists. This research is extremely important as it supports existing evidence that several barriers exist to cycling in the city, it also suggests ways to address these barriers to get more students cycling and help tackle Galway’s city’s  congestion problem.

Michael Flattery

College of Science
Aztec Diamond Domino Tilings

Aztec Diamond domino tilings are a type of tiling that have strong connections to other structures studied in mathematics and have been used to model physical systems relating to areas like the physics of intermolecular forces. One important aspect of the study of these tilings is the study of how to generate large tilings at random. It is known that these tilings can be described in terms of another structure called Alternating Sign Matrices (ASMs) using a condition called compatibility, but there was no description of how one might generate large tilings by using this connection. This project studied how ASMs could be used in this way to provide an alternative way of generating large tilings. Specifically this project studied the effect of the widely used domino shuffling algorithm for tilings on the corresponding ASM and how to apply this as a computer program. I show that the domino shuffling algorithm is in fact equivalent to the generation of compatible ASMs as described by Robbins and Rumsey. To simplify the representation of the tilings for computation, the tilings themselves are given a new description as matrices which led to the development of effective programs for generating large tilings. This brings together different aspects of these tilings, demonstrating the deep interconnection of these combinatorial structures and as a result, empirical evidence on the behaviour of these structures is more accessible than it was, making the exploration of open problems in this field easier.

Sean Noonan, 

Aoife Lynch

College of Science
Characterisation of a novel rat model of Parkinson’s disease induced by nigral infusion by the viral mimetic Poly I:C

Chronic neuroinflammation is one of the hallmarks of PD pathophysiology. Chronic release of proinflammatory cytokines by activated astrocytes and microglia leads to the exacerbation of dopamine neuron degeneration in the substantia nigra. To date, bacterial inflammagen-induced models such as lipopolysaccharide, have been relatively well researched and characterised, but there is little literature examining viral-induced models. Poly I:C is a synthetic viral TLR-3 agonist which mimics the inflammatory innate immune response resulting from a viral infection in the brain. Given that the Poly I:C model is emerging but relatively poorly characterised, the aim of this study was to assess the impact of a direct nigral infusion of the viral mimetic Poly I:C on motor function, dopaminergic neurodegeneration and neuroinflammation in the rat brain. Sixteen young male Sprague Dawley rats were divided into four groups. The groups received a unilateral stereotaxic infusion of vehicle (4 μl sterile saline) or 20 μg, 30 μg or 40 μg Poly I:C in (4 μl sterile saline) into the substantia nigra. The effect of Poly I:C administration on lateralised motor function was assessed using the Stepping and Whisker tests for two weeks post injection, after which, amphetamine-induced rotational testing was completed. The rats were then sacrificed, and post-mortem analysis of the resultant nigrostriatal neurodegeneration, microgliosis and astrocytic activity was assessed using quantitative tyrosine hydroxylase, OX-42 and GFAP immunohistochemistry respectively. It was found that injection of Poly I:C into the substantia nigra caused dose-dependent significant motor deficits in contralateral forelimb kinesis (Stepping test) and sensorimotor integration (Whisker test), but did not induce rotational asymmetry after amphetamine administration. The nigral infusion of Poly I:C caused significant dopaminergic neurodegeneration, as evidenced by the reduced tyrosine hydroxylase optical density of the injected side, and significant neuroinflammation in the form of microglial and astrocytic infiltration in the substantia nigra, as evidenced by the increased OX-42 and GFAP optical density of the injected side. In conclusion, Poly I:C induced a profound proinflammatary response in the substantia nigra leading to dopaminergic neurodegeneration, thus supporting the development of this viral-like approach to modelling Parkinson’s disease.

Heidar Al - Hashimi

College of Arts, Social Sciences, & Celtic Studies
Direct Provision System in Ireland: Investigation into Poverty, Social Exclusion and Inequality.

The Direct Provision system is one of two systems available for people seeking Refugee status in Ireland. Although both systems function under the same name, they are different and arguably unequal. The DP has long contributed to producing disadvantaged communities and excluding groups by breaching a number of norms of international human rights law. While Asylum Seekers are waiting for their status to be determined, they are accommodated in centers designed for six to twelve months stays, whereas it may take a number of years before the final decision is made.  This research study presents an investigation into Poverty, Social Exclusion and Inequality within the direct provision system in Ireland.  This paper examines several aspects of the Direct Provision System in Ireland such as its meaning and origins as well as investigates the social consequences of the system. It provides a strong analysis between the direct provision system and the issues of health inequalities, poverty and social exclusion for Asylum Seekers.

Aaron Kilboy, 

Brian Regan, Alan Brett, Bram Siebert, Jack Collins, Maria Bridges

College of Science
Improving connectivity in Ryanair's European Flight Network

Ryanair is Europe's no. 1 low cost airline and facilitates travel between 176 destinations. But how easily can an average flyer get between two arbitrary airports? Can the connectivity of Ryanair's flight network be improved so as to maximise customer's satisfaction and to make Europe as small a place as possible? The answer is yes, and in this piece of research I explore different models for Ryanair's flight network that improve connectivity and make it easier to fly all over Europe.

Kyle Moore

College of Arts, Social Sciences, & Celtic Studies
Caring Credits for the European Union

My Essay examines the coming demographic crisis in the EU. In 2008 the ratio of working age people to retired people was 4:1 by 2060 it will have halved to 2:1. The net cost to some member states will be more than twice that of the financial crisis. As healthcare services are placed under ever greater strain and the tax base to pay for them is simultaneously eroded. But these changes could be viewed as an opportunity and not a crisis. I examined the system of time banks in existence across Japan. Which allow ordinary citizens to earn credits for caring for elderly members of their communities. Earning one credit for one hours care. These credits can be saved and used for that persons own care when they are older or used for long distance care. Where credits are given to their elderly parents living in another part of Japan. My idea is to create an EU wide connected networks of time banks to allow citizens across the EU to care for the elderly in their community and earn credits for their own care or that of their parents who may be living in another member state. Thus providing effective low cost care and strengthening European solidarity. I explain how much of the infrastructure needed to make this scheme a reality is already in place. And that a system of caring credits across the EU has the potential to make its elderly citizens live; longer, healthier, happier lives in a way current healthcare systems simply cannot.

Stephen Doyle

College of Arts, Social Sciences, & Celtic Studies

The Dwarf in Book 1 of Spenser's Faerie Queene: the unseen but essential

Spenser's allegory The Faerie Queene has been interpreted in many different ways through its multitude of characters, events, style, and structure. The character of the Dwarf in Book 1 has been left out of much of the scholarly work on this epic early modern poem. There was a brief focus on the Dwarf in the early 1970's and something of a return to interpreting him in the last few years, but there is a lack of an in-depth multifaceted treatment of the Dwarf. This research discusses the role of the Dwarf as a character that is essential and important to the story and meaning of The Faerie Queene. Due to the scarcity of available materials on the Dwarf, the research focusses primarily on close reading of The Faerie Queene. The research owes much to the Hobgood and Wood edited Recovering Disability in Early Modern England. Though he is a background character for much of the book, and fades from the narrative in the last quarter of the text, the Dwarf is an individual with a character arc as rich, internally complex, and autonomous as the other persons in the text. By discussing the Dwarf through a process of "ethical staring" (Hobgood and Wood), this paper seeks to add to a rarely considered aspect of Spenser's The Faerie Queene.

John O' Donnell

College of Arts, Social Sciences, & Celtic Studies

Refugees as Weapons of War: Cambodia and Rwanda

Despite neutrality and impartiality being the core tenets of nearly every aid organisation in the world the aid provided to refugees from a conflict can in fact be used to prolong the conflict. At present there are few comparative case studies examining the patterns and how they take place. This paper seeks to examine the refugee crisis' in the aftermath of Cambodia and Rwanda using UN documents, Medicine San Fronteires and Human Rights watch cases studies. Ultimately the use of refugees as weapons of war is not in the hands of NGOs or even the UN but the Nations with vested interests in the conflict.

Jana Ward

College of Medicine, Nursing, & Health Sciences

Does The Tempo of Music Have an Influence on Purposeful Behaviours of a Person in a Minimally Conscious State?

Objective: To establish if there were differences in purposeful behaviours displayed by 3 patients in a minimally conscious state (MCS) to sensory stimulation with music at 60 beats per minute (bpm), 120bpm or no music. Background: Although evidence is limited and somewhat conflicting, literature suggests music can be a useful intervention for disorders of consciousness; stimulating brain activation, promoting adaptive behaviour or differentiating vegetative and minimally conscious states. To date, no studies have investigated the characteristics of music, such as tempo, that may be contributing to results. Methodology: 3 participants in MCS were randomly selected from an inpatient neurorehabilitation centre. An ABAB experimental design was used over 4 weeks, consisting of 3 weekly sensory stimulation sessions; playing 60bpm music, 120bpm or no music. Music was based on client preference and 20 minute sessions evaluated using the Wessex Head Injury Matrix (WHIM), with all displayed behaviours recorded.  Results: Results indicate music led to an increase in variety and frequency of behaviours, with higher ‘total’ WHIM scores when compared to baseline sessions with no music. There is a trend for higher frequency and variance of behaviours with 120bpm music, however this was inconsistent.  Conclusion: These results indicate a potentially positive effect of music on frequency and variance of purposeful behaviours of those in MCS. Further research is needed to clarify whether whether slow tempo (60bpm), or fast tempo (120bpm) is most effective and to evaluate the role of music in the promotion of purposeful behaviours of those in MCS further.

Roisin Fallon, 

Laura Donnellan

College of Science

The Effect of Exercise on Immune Function

Current research indicates that moderate exercise enhances immune function while prolonged, high intensity exercise may cause immunosuppression. While many studies have examined the effects of exercise in athletes, few have investigated the effects in people with varying fitness levels. The purpose of this study therefore was to investigate the salivary IgA and C-reactive protein (CRP) responses to exercise in a group of students with varying fitness levels. It also aimed to investigate the impact of carbohydrate consumption. Twenty participants (13 female, 7 male) were recruited to take part in a multistage fitness test (20m) on two separate days, a week apart. Participants were given Lucozade or Placebo on the first day and the alternate drink on the following week. Timed unstimulated saliva samples were taken before, immediately after and 30 minutes following exercise. Salivary IgA and CRP were measured by ELISA. While IgA levels were not related to the fitness level of the participants, a significant negative association was observed between the level of exertion (as indicated by the change in heart rate) and the change in IgA secretion rate 30 minutes following exercise. Although there was no statistically significant effect of exercise on CRP overall, 72% of participants experienced a decrease in CRP 30 minutes following exercise. Lucozade consumption had no effect on the parameters measured. Overall, the study indicates that exercise with moderate levels of exertion may have positive immunomodulatory effects, regardless of fitness levels.

Ciara Keighron

College of Science

Formation Of A Type 1 Diabetes Young Adult Panel To Engage End-Users In Research: A Patient-Centred Approach To Improving Care

Big Problem: Young adults (YA) with type 1 diabetes (T1D) often disengage from health services, resulting in poor diabetes management.
Gap in the Literature: Emerging evidence recognises the importance of public/ patient involvement is service redesign and improvements but very few studies appear to involve end-users in a meaningful and active way. Filling the Gap: Our aim was to create a YA Panel (YAP) of 18-25 year olds with T1D and engage/ involve them in all aspects of a Health Research Board-funded study to develop novel interventions to improve health outcomes for YA with T1D in Ireland. This panel was formed using a successful model developed by Jigsaw, Galway, a youth, community-based model for early mental health interventions. Specific Material/ Approach: Information about the formation of the YAP was achieved through social media campaigns, a Consultation Evening with potential members and finally interviews. 8 YA were selected for the panel and undertook the following training; • Research methodologies; • Committee skills; • Critiquing relevant scientific papers; • Input into development of an online platform to enhance communication with healthcare professionals; • Qualitative methodologies, e.g., topic guides; Original Argument: A dialogue has now been established between diabetes healthcare professionals, researchers involved in the study and the YAP members. Conclusion: YAP members have a better understanding of what needs to be achieved in order to improve health services for their age group. YAP members contribute to the co-design of an intervention aimed at improving health and wellbeing of YA with T1D and will contribute to development of an app. Through its formation patient engagement in healthcare has become feasible and more productive. 

James Prendergast, 

Niamh Leonard

College of Science

Impact of stress on liver injury

Stress plays a part in our everyday lives; it is an important survival mechanism however severe, prolonged and uncontrolled stress can have detrimental effects on physiological function and health. Acute liver injury is a rare, but fatal, clinical condition which can be caused by a variety of insults including drug overdose and infection. Our project aimed to investigate the effects of a heightened vulnerability to stress on the body’s response to acute liver injury. Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rats are a strain of rats that are known to be hypersensitive to stress, and the effects of acute liver inflammation/injury in this strain versus a normal stress responsive strain of rat (Sprague Dawley; SD) were examined. Histological examination of liver sections revealed that WKY rats had exacerbated liver damage when compared to SD counterparts. The hypothalamus is a key site for mediating the stress response. Our data showed that WKY rats had significantly lower markers of microglial activation (a neuro-immune cell) in the hypothalamus but were still capable of producing similar levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines in response to liver injury. These findings suggest that acute live injury may be exacerbated in this stress sensitive strain of rat which may in part be mediated by changes in the neuro-immune axis.  Research conducted as part of final year research project in Physiology, School of Medicine under the supervision of Dr Michelle Roche, Marykate Killilea, Dr Beth Mallard and Prof. Antony Wheatley.

Lorraine Lally

An Assessment of the “Changing Conflict” Schools Programme
College of Arts, Social Sciences, & Celtic Studies

We live in a world of conflict in which we learn from a young age who to cope and deal with conflict situations. This research forms part of an EXPLORE project named “Changing Conflict” in which we have already attended two Galway City schools to run our programme. The programme focuses on the role of peer mediation as a mechanism to resolve conflict.
The presentation of my research will focus on the programme structure and the learning objectives that we initially began with as a team.
• To define conflict
• To identify conflict in the context of the community and in the school environment
• To explore methods of conflict resolution
• To understand the role of human rights within conflict and the resolution of conflict.
• To engage in negotiation within a group context using effective communication and teamwork within the educational environment.
• Evaluate the role of a student in dealing with conflict
• The requirement for independent, impartial and non-judgmental mediators.
• Developing the necessary effective communication skills to be a mediator.
• Understand the role that students can play in resolving conflict within the educational environment.
The presentation will include feedback received from the students, teachers and parents as well as the NUIG law students assisted in running the programme. Conclusion will be some critical learning points from the project and plans to develop the programme within Third Level Institutions as part of a Civic Engagement programme.

Leah Brew

College of Engineering & Informatics

Development of a hydrogel/scaffold for annulus fibrosus repair in IVD degeneration

A patient with a herniated disc experiences severe lower back pain and the current solution is an invasive procedure called a discectomy. This procedure is not always successful so a tissue engineering approach is being proposed. A gellan gum (GG) and nanocelluose (NC) hydrogel scaffold is put forward as a viable alternative, which would seal the fissure in the intervertebral disc. However, there has been little research into cell viability with this type of scaffold. Due to the challenging environment of the intervertebral disc, a number of formulations and fabrication methods were assessed to determine the optimal formulation for promoting cell viability. hBMSCs were encapsulated in the four different formulations and Alamar Blue assay was employed to quantify cell metabolic activity. It was found that GG/NC hydrogels can maintain cell metabolic activity however no statistically significant difference was determined between the formulations. It has been shown that GG/NC scaffolds can support cell viability and have strong potential for tissue engineered intervertebral disc repair.

Cristian Axenti

Understanding Global Citizenship 

College of Business Public Policy and Law

More and more academics are getting involved in researching the concept of Global Citizenship. But the more research is going into it, more and more people seem to not even grasp the meaning of it. This narrative research is an on-going hands-on research experience by documenting personal experiences of attending different conferences developed around this topic. I started my research looking for an an explanation of why people would volunteer but I came to the issue of understanding global citizenship in the midst of the research findings presented at conferences. Going forward, we must keep the research on how to develop the notion of Global Citizenship, but in order to make the research effective, we must make sure people actually understand a broad definition of global citizenship.

Robert Soper

College of Arts, Social Sciences, & Celtic Studies
Sleep Paralysis, Schizotypy and Catastrophization

Background: Sleep Paralysis (SP) is characterized by an inability to move for a period after returning to a conscious waking state. It is also associated with somatic and hallucinatory episodes, known in the literature as HHE’s. This study seeks to explore the experience of SP in an Irish University sample, and whether catastrophic and schizotypal cognitions can mediate the unusual experiences of SP. The study could have knock on effects for coping methodologies designed to target SP. Methods: A cross-sectional design was employed, with a validated scale for the SP being distributed to registered National University of Ireland, Galway students. One Schizotypy scale and two Catastrophic scales were also administered, and Sleep Hygiene was controlled for. Results: The results suggest SP is common in an Irish population. Catastrophization was found to be a predictor of Sleep Paralysis, and also to predict the intensity of HHE’s. Overall, Schizotypy was not found to be a predictor of SP, however, factors of Schizotypy including negative affect and suspicious thoughts are bordering significance. Conclusions: SP in Irish University students is a largely consistent with what has been found in International studies. Talk therapies, such as CBT and Psychoeducation, may be effective treatments for reducing SP symptoms.

Paul O' Donnell

College of Arts, Social Sciences, & Celtic Studies
The ethics of the built environment: A case study of Galway City

"Today over half of the worlds population live in cities, and the percentage is growing at a steady rate. We spend most of our daily lives in the built environment (our buildings, streets, estates, transport networks, energy networks etc), as opposed to in the natural environment (forests, beaches, rivers etc which have not been shaped or planned by people). Consequently many complex ethical considerations arise from the built environment, including issues of: 'human intra-generational justice, human intergenerational justice, the ethics of human-non-human relationships (including the preservation of global biodiversity) and, ultimately questions concerning the richness, beauty and even survival of life on earth' (Fox, 2000, p5). Following on from the Brundtland Commission in the 1980's, Agenda 21 became the UN action plan for sustainable development and this accelerated a global discussion and process for sustainable urban development and green building in our cities. But is there agreement on what sustainable development is in our cities and communities? And what does it mean for communities and cities like Galway City? Sustainability is nowadays widely accepted as a goal which is in the best interests of the stability of life on our planet, including human society. However, discussions about sustainable development and green building can be 'visualised as a landscape of often fragmented, contradictory and competing values and interests' (Guy and Farmer, 2000, p73). Looking at different mindsets, from a social constructionist perspective, of what sustainable development and green building is, can help us to identify the ways in which the mindsets compete, and the power dynamics of these competitions. Using these understandings as a starting point, we can begin to see possibilities for cooperation. I will offer that the goal of sustainable development is achievable through a process of intentional community development practices and these conflicts and power imbalances to be overcome through communication and understanding between the different mindsets. I will conclude by offering sustainable development, as a process and a goal, which can help with many of the problems and injustices in Galway City, while also addressing our ethical responsibilities in global and intergenerational respects."