International Researchers Can Reach Their APEX in Cork

International researchers can reach their APEX in Cork, pictured at the launch of APEX, l-r: Dr Sally Cudmore, Manager APC Microbiome Ireland; Ms Oonagh Cahalane, APC; Dr Jill Haynes, APC; Prof Helen Whelton, Head of School of Medicine & Health, UCC and Prof Fergus Shanahan, Director APC Microbiome Ireland, UCC. (Pic: Catherine Buckley)

The SFI Research Centre APC Microbiome Ireland, based in University College Cork, has secured €1,416,000 in competitive funding from the European Union’s Marie Sklodowska-Curie programme, to bring 20 senior international researchers to Ireland, through a new post-doctoral fellowship programme, APEX. The new programme will further help cement Ireland’s international position as a leader in microbiome science.

APEX (APC Postdoctoral EXcellence) is an innovative, intersectoral and trans-disciplinary training, career development and mobility programme, which focuses on the research area of the microbial community (microbiome) living in and on humans and its role in health and disease.

The aim of APEX is to develop the next generation of international scientific leaders who will gain hands-on experience and develop cross-disciplinary and entrepreneurial skills through individual research projects with a mandatory secondment to a non-academic research partner during their two years of fellowship.

Fellowships will be offered in the four thematic APC research areas of ‘Microbes to Molecules’, ‘Diet and Microbes at the Extremes of Life’, ‘Brain-Gut-Microbiota Axis’ and ‘Host-Microbe Dialogue’. The fellowships are targeted at experienced researchers who must be in possession of a doctoral degree or have at least four years of full-time equivalent research experience in academia or industry.

International mobility is a core element of the APEX programme so applicants must be incoming fellows to Ireland.  There will be two calls under the APEX programme, with 10 fellowships awarded in each call. The first call is now open with a submission deadline of 9th April 2018, and a second call will close on April 9th 2019.

The programme was launched by the Director of APC Microbiome Ireland, Prof Fergus Shanahan. For more information on the programme and to check eligibility and mobility requirements visit

Biology Students Get Hands-On Experience at University of Limerick

450 Leaving Certificate biology students from all over Munster are getting hands-on experience of the state-of-the-art laboratories at the University of Limerick this week.

The Department of Biological Sciences at UL are giving the students an opportunity to conduct the laboratory practical experiments set on the Leaving Certificate Biology curriculum in a third level environment.

The Leaving Certificate Biology Practical Sessions were first presented by the Department of Biological Sciences at UL eleven years ago.

“Many biology leaving cert students throughout the country do not get the opportunity to actually carry out and practice the experiments included in their course work and a lot of secondary school laboratories simply don’t have the facilities to allow this” explained Professor Sean Arkins of the Department of Biological Sciences, UL.

“Our biology laboratories have the most up to date experimental equipment to facilitate in depth research and experimentation.  It’s also a great opportunity for secondary school students to practically engage with the University.

“The departments technical team as well as post graduate students and final year BSc Ed students who will be qualified as second level biology teachers at the end of this semester, will be present in the laboratories to assist students throughout the week and instruct them in conducting the experiments.

The biology students will also be given information on programmes offered by the Biological Sciences Department and the Faculty of Science and Engineering at UL

UCC designated a University of Sanctuary

University College Cork (UCC) has been designated a University of Sanctuary after awarding seven refugees and asylum seekers full scholarships. The seven recipients will be entitled to free tuition from September 2018 and a number of annual bursaries covering travel expenses.


Commenting on the news, Professor Caroline Fennell, Senior Vice President of UCC, said: “Universities provide a key space in which to challenge societal assumptions and to support and highlight work aimed at fostering a culture of welcome for asylum seekers and refugees.”


Fennell continued: “Through the range of initiatives cultivated over many years in UCC, we are dedicated to providing spaces to learn about what sanctuary means, to develop a sustainable culture of welcome and to share our practices and initiatives with communities and other higher education institutions.”


UCC is the third Irish university to be designated a University of Sanctuary; Dublin City University (DCU) was designated the title in 2016 and the University of Limerick (UL) in July of last year.


The University of Sanctuary status was awarded to UCC by People of Sanctuary Ireland, a network of groups which share the objectives of promoting the integration, inclusion and welfare of refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants, by encouraging every sector of society to make a practical commitment to becoming places of welcome and safety. Trinity has yet to be awarded the status.

€11 million State-of-the-Art Extension for RCSI Teaching Hospital

The three-storey extension marks the third phase of development for the facility

A new €11 million three-storey extension to the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) Education and Research Centre at Dublin’s Beaumont Hospital is due for completion in May this year. The facility represents the third phase of development for the education and research facilities of the RCSI at Beaumont Hospital.

“The first phase was the development of the library and the education centre at the front of Beaumont Hospital,” RCSI CEO and Registrar, Prof Cathal Kelly, said.

“The second phase was development of the Smurfit building, the first development of a clinical research centre at a public hospital site in 2000.

That has been tremendously successful as a centre for translational research. “The research portfolio goes from strength to strength — that translational research ethos, of bringing basic science expertise of the college with the clinical science expertise of our clinicians, has worked really well, so much so that RCSI is climbing up the word university rankings.

Now we are in the top 2 per cent of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings list and that is based on our research citations, which are based, in large part, on the fact the we are totally focused on healthcare,” Prof Kelly added.

A student concourse at ground-floor level will link the Education and Research Centre with the new facility. The ground floor will provide multi-functional
tutorial rooms, and the first floor will have faculty offices and meeting spaces, while research facilities will be on the second floor.

The three-storey building is to be linked vertically with feature stairs located under a large atrium.

UCD to Lead €4m Project on Artificial Intelligence with Samsung

Artificial intelligence (AI) experts from University College Dublin will lead a €4 million collaborative research project with Samsung to onboard technology from the lab into the company’s products.

The three-year research project will be led by UCD’s Professor Barry Smyth, Dr Aonghus Lawlor and Associate Professor Neil Hurley from the UCD School of Computer Science.

It will involve a team of over 25 researchers and staff from Samsung and University College Dublin. Twelve new research posts will also be created.

A key feature of the collaborative project will be the transfer of research skills between staff at Samsung and UCD. Career opportunities for students from the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at Samsung research facilities in the United Kingdom and South Korea are also expected.

AI systems like those behind recommended videos on Netflix and YouTube are becoming more influential in guiding the decision making of users. They also impact physical behaviour like diet and exercise through integration in mobile and wearable technology.

“Until now, we have been living in what can be termed the era of ‘search’, but this is now changing due to converging technologies,” said Baekjun Lim, Vice-President and Head of the Data Intelligence Lab at Samsung Electronics.

“Today people are searching less, with recommendation features filling the gap. Given this environment, we are extremely excited about the opportunity to work with world-class experts in the field of recommendation systems at UCD, and we expect to see impactful results from this collaboration.”

The collaborative research project will leverage deep data science and AI expertise at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics including machine learning, user modelling and recommender systems.

“Ireland has an excellent reputation in machine learning and recommender systems and the Insight Centre for Data Analytics is delighted to be working with Samsung to help bring our innovative technologies out of the lab to Samsung devices and customer-base,” said Professor Barry Smyth, UCD School of Computer Science and a Founding Director of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics.

The Insight Centre for Data Analytics is a joint initiative between researchers at UCD, NUI Galway, UCC, DCU, and other partner institutions. The €75 million research centre is funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) and a wide range of industry partners.

By: Jonny Baxter, digital journalist, UCD University Relations

International Recognition for UCC Researchers

‘Seekers of Knowledge’ by artist Annette Hennessy

Four University College Cork (UCC) scientists feature in the latest “Highly Cited Researchers” list.

This annual list identifies scientists whose research publications, and the extent to which they have been cited by other scientists globally, place them among the top 1% most cited in their subject field.

The UCC researchers featured in the 2017 most Highly Cited List all work in the area of food, microbiome and health and are Principal Investigators at the APC Microbiome Institute based at UCC and Teagasc.

The researchers named are:

  • Prof Elke Arendt, School of Food & Nutritional Sciences and APC Microbiome Institute, UCC. Her research in the area of food and health is related to cereals and beverages, including gluten free, starter cultures, antimicrobial agents, food structure, brewing and malting and functional foods.
  • Prof John Cryan, Head of Dept. of Anatomy & Neuroscience and APC Microbiome Institute, UCC. His current research interests include the neurobiological basis of stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders including depression, anxiety and drug dependence. Moreover, his group is also focused on understanding the interaction between brain, gut and the gut microbiome and how it applies to stress and immune-related disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome, obesity and neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder. He is also interested in applying novel approaches to facilitate drug delivery to the brain in vivo.

NUI Galway Medical Students Celebrate Thirteen Years of Teddy Bear Hospital

The 13th annual Teddy Bear Hospital at NUI Galway will take place Thursday and Friday, 18 and 19 January. The event will see over 1,300 sick teddy bears admitted to the hospital, accompanied by their minders, 1,300 primary school children.

The event is organised by the Sláinte Society, the NUI Galway branch of the International Federation of Medical Students Associations, and up to 200 medical and science students will diagnose and treat the teddy bears. In the process, they hope to help children, ranging in age from 3-8 years, feel more comfortable around doctors and hospitals.

Over the years, children have come along with teddy bears suffering from an imaginative range of sore ears, sick tummies and all kinds of other weird and wonderful ailments.

Sally Cahill, a third year medical student at NUI Galway and co-auditor of Sláinte Society, said: “This year we are celebrating the 13th annual Teddy Bear Hospital. Over the past couple of years, demand from schools to attend the event has increased and as a result the event has become ever bigger in an attempt to cure all of the sick teddies of Galway. We are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our first ‘patients’ on Thursday, 18 January and hope to create a relaxed and enjoyable ‘hospital’ environment for the children.”

This year, 25 local primary schools are participating in the event, equating to over 1,300 children. On arrival at the Teddy Bear Hospital on campus, the children will go to the ‘waiting room’, which contains jugglers and face painters. Then the children and their teddy bears are seen by a team of Teddy Doctors and Teddy Nurses, who will examine them. The students will have specially designed X-ray and MRI machines on hand, should the teddy bears need them.

Recuperating teddy bears can avail of medical supplies from the Teddy Bear Pharmacy, stocked with healthy fruit from Burkes Fruit and Veg, along with medical supplies sponsored by Matt O’Flaherty Chemist.

After all this excitement the children can enjoy a bouncy castle and entertainment from the juggling society in the college. Further sponsorship for the event came from Bank of Ireland, Dunnes Stores, NUI Galway Socs Box and Medical Protection Society.

Ríona Hughes, NUI Galway’s Societies Officer, said: “The Teddy Bear hospital is a magical opportunity for the society to invite the children and their teddies to campus and provide a valuable learning experience for all. It is one of the NUI Galway societies’ most colourful and endearing community outreach programme and we are thrilled with its success.

Congratulations to Sláinte Society who engage such a large number of our students in this event for such a positive purpose and we look forward to a rewarding few days for all involved.”

Study at RCSI Aims to Improve Care for Hemophilia Patients by Using Personalized Approaches

Clinical Study in Ireland Aims to Improve Care for Hemophilia Patients by Using Personalized Approaches

A novel clinical study called “The Irish Personalized Approach to the Treatment of Hemophilia (iPATH)” will seek to investigate the potential of new personalized treatment approaches in hemophilia by tailoring care based on the needs of individual patients.

The collaborative study will be led by the Irish Hemophilia Society, in partnership with Shire, a global biotech company that specializes in rare diseases, the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI).

iPATH will divert from standardized treatments and study hemophilia patients in Ireland who are registered at a single National Coagulation Centre, where data on the use of factor concentrates and bleeding rates have been collected, to conduct a study aimed at better understand the underlying causes and mechanisms of the blood disease. Ultimately, the parties involved have the goal of developing personalized approaches to care that eventually can be extended to the global community.

“Today, in developed countries, most patients receive prophylactic treatment, which is recognized as the standard of care. For those patients on prophylaxis, treatment should be optimized by combining innovation with personalization,” Peter Turecek, senior director of global medical affairs at Shire, said in a press release. “Through the iPATH study, we hope to uncover new solutions that build on and maximize the role of factor therapy and further personalize care for hemophilia patients.”

“Hoping to enhance quality of life for people with hemophilia … we need to begin developing innovative treatment strategies that can be tailored specifically according to the needs of each individual patient. To achieve this objective, we first need to understand the biological mechanisms that underpin the marked differences in bleeding risks and long-term complications that exist between individual patients with hemophilia,” said James O’Donnell, study leader and director of the Irish Centre for Vascular Biology at RCSI. “By understanding these mechanisms, the iPATH study could potentially pave the way for the introduction of personalized medicine for patients with hemophilia,” he said.

“The future of hemophilia care should be based on a personalized approach to treatment. We anticipate that this exciting, innovative and collaborative research program may provide us with answers to potentially optimize future treatments for individuals with hemophilia in Ireland and to hopefully further apply this research to hemophilia patients globally,” added Brian O’Mahony, chief executive of the Irish Hemophilia Society.

iPATH will be conducted over the course of four years, with the support of a strategic partnership initiative between SFI, RCSI, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and Shire. The partnership also includes clinical researchers based in several Dublin hospitals and is designed to be potentially adapted for other diseases.

TCD Listed as one of Five Most Beautiful Universities in the World

You wouldn’t want to skip a class in these breathtakingly beautiful schools

By Sophia Lam

Schools are probably the last place that come to mind when you’re planning for an escape – especially if they are what you’re escaping from in the first place – but these postcard-like campuses will make you wish you were back to school again. Here are some of the most beautiful universities around the world, and some tips on how to plan your itinerary.

Trinity College, Dublin

Trinity College in the autumn. Photo: Hernán Piñera/Flickr Creative Commons

Founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, Trinity College in Dublin stands alongside Oxbridge among the seven ancient universities in Britain and Ireland. The academic complex is infused with serenity, despite being located at the centre of the capital just across the street from the Irish Houses of Parliament. The campus, spanning 190,000 square metres, features a mix of old collegiate architecture on the west side, and modern establishments on the east. It was ranked by Forbes as one of the 15 most beautiful college grounds in the world in 2010.

Up your game at the library of Trinity College, the largest research library in Ireland. Being a legal deposit library, it is legally entitled to a copy of every book published in Britain and Ireland, accounting for its staggering volume of six million printed materials including an extensive collection of manuscripts, music scores and maps.

The Long Room in Trinity College, Dublin. Photo: Keith Ewing/Flickr Creative Commons

The Old Library, a masterpiece of Irish architect Thomas Burgh within the library complex, houses the precious Book of Kells and has become one of the most frequented tourist attractions in the country. Before you lose yourself among the hefty shelves of books, grab a book and read the afternoon away in the Long Room, a 65-metre-long main chamber adorned with marble busts of philosophers and writers under a luxurious barrel-vaulted ceiling. Tips for those who want a quick selfie with your idol’s bust: find out the location of every bust on the library’s official website before your visit.

While you’re there … explore the many whisky distilleries around town, including the Old Jameson Distillery, which has stopped running for a while but offers guided tours, a re-enactment of whisky making, and a sampling of various scotches and whiskies.

University of Salamanca, Spain

Statue of Fray Luis de León at the University of Salamanca. Photo: Jorcolma/Flickr Creative Commons

If you are a history buff, you would have heard of the Unesco World Heritage city of Salamanca, and the oldest university in Spain located in the city.

The University of Salamanca dates back to the early 12th century when the Cathedral school was recognised as a “General School of the Kingdom” by King Alfonso IX. The school has been the cradle of many notable figures in history, including Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, and Aristides Royo, president of Panama (1978 – 1982).

The ornate plateresque facade of the university overlooks the giant statue of Fray Luis de León, an Augustinian friar and academic who assumed the post of vice rector at the university in mid-15th century. If you go deep into the maze of baroque architecture, you can still find his classroom preserved in the school’s old building.

The city of Salamanca. Photo: Laura Tomàs Avellana/Flickr Creative Commons

While you’re there … delve into the history and culture of Salamanca, where you will find 12th century cathedrals, Dominican monasteries and the Roman bridge, which dates back to as early as 89 A.D.

Flagler College, Florida

Flagler College in Florida. Photo: Chris M Morris/Flickr Creative Commons

This is a school where one could have actually taken a vacation a century ago. The predecessor of the Flagler College is the old Ponce de León Hotel, built by architects John Carrère and Thomas Hastings in 1888. Voted by Travel+Leisure as “the most beautiful college in Florida”, Flagler College is a private liberal arts college in St Augustine some miles off the coast of Florida.

The 129 year-old establishment, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is an illustration of the Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style which resulted from the Spanish rule in St Augustine starting from the 15th century.

Looking up into the dome in the lobby of Flagler College. Photo: CurtisReese/Flickr Creative Commons

The front facade of the building, with a striking orange roof covered in clay tiles and irregularly shaped chimneys, opens to a luscious courtyard filled with bushes and pine trees. Small classes are sometimes held on the lawns.

While you’re there … join one of St Augustine’s infamous creepy crawls that will take you on a walk featuring tales of ghosts, romance and murder in this old city founded by Spanish explorers.

University of Cape Town, South Africa

A view of the Upper Campus of the University of Cape Town, from the other side of the rugby field. Photo: Adrian Frith/Wikimedia Commons

The highest-ranked university in Africa has the advantage of being surrounded by one of the world’s most picturesque landscapes. Founded in 1829 as a boys’ school, the University of Cape Town is the oldest tertiary education institute in South Africa.

Propped against the slopes of Devil’s Peak, the main teaching campus began construction in 1928, based on the blueprint designed by architect JM Solomon. The compact campus converges upon the Jameson Hall – fondly known to students as “Jammie” – which serves as the location for major ceremonies and examinations and stands out in the hilly backdrop with its distinctive triangular pediment and classic white columns.

While you’re there … pay a visit to the contemporary art galleries that litter the suburban Woodstock at the foot of Devil’s Peak, an area that is quickly rising to become the city’s latest art hub.

The University of Oxford

Christ Church College, Oxford. Photo: Dmitry Dzhus/Flickr Creative Commons

The oldest university in the English-speaking world made our list for not only the beauty that meets the eye, but also that of the imagination it inspires.

The 11th century labyrinth of cloisters, pillars and alleys has been the muse of many writers and directors – some modern instances include the parallel universe of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy set at the Exeter College, and a Christ Church College’s cameo in the Harry Potter series.

Four architectural masterpieces on Chinese university campuses
The chapel of Exeter College, Oxford. Photo: Lawrence OP/Flickr Creative Commons

Do not miss the Radcliffe camera, built in the 17th century to be the university’s science library which has now retired to become a reading room for the Bodleian Library. The Camera, which stands for “room” in Italian, epitomises a traditional circular library with its dome and vaulted stone ceiling. It is occasionally open to the public in summertime, but is otherwise restricted to students and staff.

The Radcliffe Camera, from the tower of St Mary’s Church. Photo: Alison Day/Flickr Creative Commons

While you’re there … drop by Alice’s Shop, a quaint stonewalled gift shop at 83 St Aldate’s which was featured in Lewis Carroll’s novel Through the Looking Glass as the Old Sheep Shop. Alice fans will enjoy the thrill of rummaging for Alice-related souvenirs before enjoying a Mad Hatters tea party at Café Loco next door.

University College Dublin Search for Design Team for €48m Project

by Lewis Catchpole


University College Dublin (UCD) is commissioning an international search for a design team to devise and design a landmark €48m building.

The international competition, which will launch in early 2018, is to design the 8,000 sqm University’s Centre for Creative Design as well as an Entrance Precinct Masterplan.

London-based Malcolm Reading Consultants have been appointed to manage the process.

UCD plans to improve and develop its campus to reflect its 21st Century identity, and offer faculty and students exemplary facilities that raise the University’s profile internationally and give it greater presence within Dublin.

University College Dublin president, Professor Andrew J. Deeks, said: “The architectural quality of our campus offers us an immediate way to communicate what UCD is about: an exceptional student experience, a productive intellectual exchange and an ambition to impact the world that draws students from diverse cultural backgrounds.

“Holding an international design competition is a perfect fit with our day-to-day values of stimulating creativity, welcoming talent and rewarding excellence. We’re very much looking forward to the competition launching in early 2018.”

The two-stage global search will culminate in the selection of five teams chosen on the basis of relevant skills and past experience. At the second stage, the teams will be invited to visit the site and will be asked to produce concept designs. International teams will be required to team up with a local executive team during the second stage.

Malcolm Reading, competition director, said: “This project has the potential to define UCD, the largest university in Ireland, over the next fifty years. As the project has two distinct aspects, this could be a great opportunity for an emerging practice to collaborate with an established one.”

Interested architects, urban designers and masterplanners can now sign up to receive notification of launch on the competition website’s holding page at