Thursday, 7 June 2018

NUI Galway recently hosted the inaugural meeting of the Cell EXPLORERS Network, an expanding group of scientists and students from ten Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across Ireland who are committed to bringing science out of the lab and into the classroom. Funded by Science Foundation Ireland and coordinated from the School of Natural Sciences at NUI Galway, Cell EXPLORERS is a science outreach and public engagement initiative.   Cell EXPLORERS aims to inform, inspire and involve people in the excitement of science, increase the general public’s engagement with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and advocates for its importance in society.   Professor Ciaran Morrison, Head of NUI Galway’s School of Natural Sciences, said: “The programme is unique, and has involved 850 team members to reach more than 21,000 members of the Irish public since 2012. It is a unique collaborative approach between 10 higher education institutions that has an impact both on the young people reached but also on our students and researchers. Dr Grenon has also started to develop education research to inform the future development of the programme. The overall impact of Cell EXPLORERS has in fact won her a Societal Impact Award from NUI Galway in 2017.”   Delegates from across Ireland attended the meeting to consolidate the recent expansion of the project, from five partner institutions, to a current total of ten HEIs nationally. The Cell EXPLORERS project now covers twelve counties, including nine of those previously identified as having poor exposure to STEM-related activities. The first year of activity for the Network has resulted in the direct engagement of 6,700 young people and their families by over 250 volunteer scientists who continue to give their time, passion and knowledge to inspiring the next generation of scientific explorers.   Dr Muriel Grenon, Founding Director of Cell EXPLORERS, said: “It is so important to engage our young people in STEM from an early age to break the stereotypes around science and scientists. It was great to meet with all the coordinators to discuss the impact that we see in the classroom and plan for the future of our community of practice.”   The research developed by Cell EXPLORERS aims to evaluate the impacts of the programme on all participants. In particular, it focuses on understanding how demonstrator scientists impact on the opinions and attitudes of children to science and scientists, which could strongly affect the dissemination of science education and public engagement activities in Ireland. Some of this research – assessing the impact on young children’s confidence in conducting science – has won postgraduate researcher and NUI Galway Cell EXPLORERS volunteer coordinator Sarah Carroll a poster prize at the third Scientix (the Community of Science Education in Europe) Conference in Brussels last month.   Cathy Foley, Senior Executive at Science Foundation Ireland, said: “This project is a strong example of public engagement at work and the well-developed model could be used in many other settings across a myriad of subject areas. The programme will inform best practice for the involvement of HEIs in public engagement in science: this Network meeting is a first step in achieving that.”   The long-term goal of Cell EXPLORERS is to strengthen its nationwide programme by incorporating best practice from both its team’s experience and research findings to making the Irish public the most scientifically-informed globally.   -Ends-

Thursday, 10 May 2018

NUI Galway will host a research seminar presented by Nobel laureate, Professor Paul Modrich of Duke University Medical Center and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the US. Professor Modrich will talk about ‘Mechanisms in human DNA mismatch repair’. Professor Paul Modrich was one of three scientists to share the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2015 for landmark discoveries over four decades of work in DNA repair.  His host at NUI Galway, Professor Robert Lahue, trained as a postdoctoral fellow in Modrich’s laboratory. The Nobel Committee cited one of the Lahue-Modrich publications as groundbreaking. The Nobel Committee recognised Professor Modrich’s work on mismatch repair, which acts as a genetic spellchecker to preserve the DNA. Defects in mismatch repair are now known to cause certain hereditary forms of colorectal cancer. Genetic testing of cancer patients helps identify those with mismatch repair defects, providing information, which is important in guiding their treatment. Professor Robert Lahue from the Centre for Chromosome Biology at NUI Galway, said: “The research community at NUI Galway is tremendously excited about Professor Modrich’s visit and seminar.  He is a world leader in the area of DNA biochemistry and cancer biology. We are fortunate to have him visit, to present a seminar and to interact with members of our Centre and other researchers at NUI Galway.” -Ends-

Monday, 21 May 2018

Researchers from the School of Physics at NUI Galway have carried out a biological monitoring study among the Irish adult population on non-occupational exposure to glyphosate, an active ingredient in chemical pesticides used to control weeds. This is the first study in Ireland describing glyphosate exposures among this population and the results suggest low exposure. The study investigated the background level of human exposure to glyphosate in Ireland and results from the study were recently published in the international journal, Environmental Research. The research was carried out by Michelle Leahy as part completion of her MSc in Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety and by Exposure Science PhD student Alison Connolly from the School of Physics at NUI Galway. The herbicide glyphosate is the active ingredient in over 750 products including Roundup®. Glyphosate is the highest volume herbicide used globally and extensively in agriculture and horticulture to combat weeds, and is sprayed as a pre-harvest drying treatment on certain food crops. It is also widely sprayed in parks, public spaces, lawns, gardens and roadsides. Dietary exposure through pesticide residues that remain on fruit, vegetables and grains after spraying, or home use of glyphosate based pesticide products, are thought to be the most common exposure routes among the general population. The NUI Galway researchers and collaborators from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in Great Britain measured glyphosate in urine samples provided by 50 Irish adults to estimate background levels of exposure among this population. Environmental and dietary exposure to glyphosate can be determined by measuring levels in biological samples such as urine. Of the 50 samples analysed, 10 (20%) of the participants urine samples had detectable trace levels of glyphosate. The median concentration of the detectable data (10 samples) was 0.85 µg L-1. This is more than 1000 times lower than the Acceptable Daily Intake level of 0.5 mg/kg body weight/day set by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for glyphosate.  Commenting on the study, research project supervisor Dr Marie Coggins and Exposure Science lecturer at the School of Physics at NUI Galway, said: “Biomonitoring data across Europe on chemicals such as pesticides is rare. In this study detectable levels of pesticides in urine were low, however, further studies such as this one are required to fully characterise chemical exposures in humans to support risk assessment and to inform policy.” To read the full study in Environmental Research, visit: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935118302251    -Ends-

Friday, 4 May 2018

Pint of Science Galway brings scientists out of the lab and in to your local pub NUI Galway scientists will talk about a variety of topics at pubs across Galway City and County, as part of the three-day Pint of Science Festival, where thousands of scientists around the world will speak about their research. The world’s largest festival of public science talks will take place from the 14-16 May. Galway will join nearly 300 cities and 21 countries around the world taking part in the festival. Seven scientists from NUI Galway will take to the stage in pubs across Galway to talk about their research and members of the public will have the chance to ask them questions. Topics will range from: Barnacles, Bacteria, and Beyond; Galway beneath our feet: Reconstructing Parts of our History; and Democracy in Education: Responsibilities as Citizens. The festival brings a unique line up of talks, demonstrations and live experiments to Galway alongside the main talks, and each event will also include a range of science-inspired activities including geeky puzzles and engaging stories. Pint of Science Galway events will take place in Campbell’s Tavern, Cloughanover, Headford with the theme ‘Natural Sciences and Practical Applications’, The Oslo bar event is themed ‘Shaping Future Generations: Education and Society’ and the Róisín Dubh with the theme ‘Innovating Women in Geoscience’. Ivor Geoghegan, PhD student in Biomedical Engineering at the College of Engineering and Informatics at NUI Galway, said: “We are excited to bring Pint of Science back to Galway. People can expect to hear fascinating stories of the research currently ongoing in Ireland from the comfort of their local pub.” Festival co-founder Dr Praveen Paul says: “There is so much fascinating research happening right under our noses that we don't know about. Some can get lost in translation leading to fake news. Pint of Science allows people direct access to inspiring scientists and encourages open discussion, all in the most familiar of places, the pub! It's great to see this enthusiasm for knowledge shared across the world.” Pint of Science was established six years ago by a group of UK-based postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers and has grown into one of the world’s biggest science festivals. The founders, Dr Praveen Paul and Dr Michael Motskin, have brought a personal touch to science, giving everyone the chance to meet the people behind the incredible research taking place across the globe. Tickets are €2 per event and on sale at: https://pintofscience.ie/events/Galway or www.pintofscience.ie -Ends-  

Monday, 21 May 2018

NUI Galway’s School of Natural Sciences Bio-EXPLORERS programme, in collaboration with Kitchen Chemistry, is now taking bookings for its three Summer Science Camps. Attendees can choose to attend the first camp from 2-6 July, the second from 9-13 July, or the third camp from 16-20 July.   The camp is open to all young budding scientists aged between 8 and 13 years old and participants will get a chance to work as real scientists by performing and analysing experiments in a real research environment.    The Bio-EXPLORERS programme is composed of two science communication and public engagement initiatives: Cell EXPLORERS directed by Dr Muriel Grenon and Eco-EXPLORERS directed by Dr Michel Dugon. With Dr Michel Dugon, the host of the RTÉ’s Bug Hunters, children will participate in activities such as discovering live local and exotic plants and animals, studying their habitats, and understanding how they interact with their environment. With the dynamic team of Cell EXPLORERS, children will learn how cells make our bodies work. They will run their own experiments, build models, observe their own cells under microscopes and extract DNA from cells. Each camp will also include a session with Kitchen Chemistry, from NUI Galway’s School of Chemistry, who run fun, hands-on experiments that bring chemistry to life!   The primary goal of these NUI Galway science outreach programmes is to inspire interest in science among young people and to impact positively on science education. All three programmes run activities designed to engage children in a hands-on way and stimulate their interest in exploring science-related themes. They have engaged thousands of children in the West of Ireland and are very active during the Galway Science and Technology Festival. Bio-EXPLORERS have run successful summer and Easter science camps since 2014, in addition to the very popular ‘Scientist for a Day’ one-day workshops during mid-terms, run in conjunction with Kitchen Chemistry. These camps provide a fun take on science where children can get involved and experiment as real scientists do. Small participant numbers, hands-on activities and a good ratio of well-trained, interactive demonstrators maximize the learning environment.   This year’s summer camps will each run over five days from 9.30am to 4.30pm daily and places are limited and will be allocated on a first-come first-served basis. The cost is €150 per child for this course packed with fun and exciting activities.   Visit www.cellexplorers.com for details on the camp and links to register. For any queries email cellexplorers@nuigalway.ie.   -Ends-