UL welcomes largest cohort of international students in its history

03.09.14 UL International Students. Picture: Alan Place.


The University of Limerick welcomes the largest cohort of International Students in its history with 2,500 students representing over 100 countries attending the University.

Officially welcoming the students to UL, Professor Don Barry, President said: “UL is proud of its long tradition in welcoming visiting students to Limerick. We have one of the largest Erasmus exchange programmes in Ireland; we have been welcoming study abroad students for the past 20 years and have made many academic links and partnerships with universities right across the globe.”

Among the international students visiting UL this year are those taking part in Study Abroad programmes, Erasmus and International Exchange programmes and full-time degree students.

UL also welcomes 150 Brazilian students taking part in the Science without Borders programme. Josephine Page added: “I think the reason we excel in this area is because so many of our students are encouraged to partake in international study themselves and so we welcome international students as we’d like our students to be welcomed abroad.  30 % of UL undergraduate students spend a semester abroad, this is through Erasmus, non-EU exchange or Cooperative Education.”

UL has links with over 400 universities in 38 countries and welcomes over 2,500 international students each year.  International students currently account for 13.5% of the total student number and this continues to increase year-on-year. 1 in 3 undergraduate students at UL spend a semester overseas – last year saw almost 600 UL students travel abroad on study or work placements making it the largest and most successful Erasmus programme in Ireland. In a recent International Student Barometer™ survey, UL was voted as the number one university in providing the Best Student Experience, Best Student Support and Warmest Welcome in Ireland.   Across the four surveyed categories of ‘Living’, ‘Support’, ‘Arrival’ and ‘Learning’, UL was voted as having the best overall Living Experience in Ireland and the 5th in the world.

UL also scored first out of 238 institutions world-wide in the categories of ‘Social Activities’, ‘Opportunities to experience Irish Culture’, ‘Social Facilities’, ‘Accommodation Office’ and ‘Clubs & Societies’. We have a number of supports in place for international students including a dedicated international student support officer, study support centres, language training, a Buddy Programme and a generous number of scholarships available.

UL leads major European partnership to address environmental impact of alumina production

A major European partnership BRAVO co-ordinated by the University of Limerick seeks to address the environmental challenges of alumina production waste.BRAVO which stands for “Bauxite Residue and Aluminium Valorisation Operations” is one of the largest commitments of its kind with over 30 partner members including large Industry, SMEs, leading Universities and Institutes throughout Ireland and the EU.

Co-ordinator, Dr Lisa O’Donoghue, Department of Design and Manufacturing Technology, UL explains: “Alumina processing creates a waste by-product called bauxite residue (red mud) which is normally landfilled. It is estimated that globally there is currently over 2.7 billion tonnes of bauxite residue stored in landfill and this is estimated to increase by 120 million tonnes annually. There is  however a huge potential to re-use this material as a valuable raw material for other industries such as cement, ceramics and electronics. This partnership has been setup to address a serious environmental issue while also providing the opportunity to generate spin-off industries in the alternative supply of key materials for the European market.”

Ireland houses one of Europe’s largest alumina refineries in Co. Limerick with an annual production capacity of 1,990,000 tonnes of alumina and employment of approx. 450 people. The refinery produces approximately 1 million tonnes of bauxite residue annually which is currently stored in a 180 ha engineered impoundment, making BRAVO a highly relevant partnership for state of the art bauxite residue management and the opportunity to turn this waste in a potential resource.
Dr Jonathan Derham, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said; “The extraction and processing of primary and secondary minerals are essential aspects of our economy, societal health and our wellbeing. There are environmental challenges associated with the minerals industry, not least of which being the finite resource available on our planet.  We have to maximise the utility of minerals through their value chain and mitigate any environmental burden associated with the minerals cycle: only in this way will we approach the necessary conditions for sustainability.  The BRAVO partners take on this challenge for the aluminium cycle and I am really confident in their potential for success.”

BRAVO is a six year commitment to meet an important objective of boosting the innovation capacity by using waste residue as a potential source of critical high value raw materials. The waste residue has been found to contain fractions of these high value materials which have been identify by the EU as under a potential supply risk as these materials are usually imported to Europe. BRAVO will work with its 31 partners to foster international co-operation to undertake this challenge as well as promote socially acceptable and environmentally responsible technologies.
BRAVO partners include: University of Limerick (Co-ordinators), Ceinnmat (Spain), International Aluminium Institute (UK),  Rusal (Ireland),  Ecocem (France), Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece), Tecnicas Reunidas (Spain), Universitat Politecnica de Valencia (Spain), Aidico (Spain), Votechnik (Ireland), Geonardo (Hungary), Tecnalia (Spain), Trinity College Dublin (Ireland), Fraunhofer (Germany), Loser Chemie (Germany), National Technical University of Athens (Greece), BRGM (France), Environment Protection Agency (Ireland), Acciona (Spain), University of Hull (UK), Sintef (Norway), Enval (UK), Hydro Aluminium (Norway), TU Bergakademie Freiberg (Germany), UC Rusal Engineering and Technology Centre LLC (Russia), Euromine (Belgium), Alteo Gardanne (France), National Agency for New technologies, Energy and Sustainable development (Italy), European Aluminum Association, Universita di Napoli (Italy), and Rio Tinto ( France).

UL early career researchers awarded over €1.85 million in SFI funding

Career Development Award recipient, Dr Pat Kiely, University of Limerick
Career Development Award recipient, Dr Pat Kiely, University of Limerick
Four University of Limerick researchers have been awarded in excess of €1.85 million in funding by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) as part of today’s €23 million funding announcement by Minister for Research and Innovation, Sean Sherlock. The UL research awards included Career Development Awards to Dr Pat Kiely, Dr Sarah Hudson and Dr Christophe Silien and a Starting Investigator Research Grant to Dr Stephen Dooley.
Dr Mary Shire, Vice President Research, UL welcomed the announcement; “The Career Development Awards and Starting Investigator Research Grants programmes from Science Foundation Ireland are essential in supporting the next generation of world-class researchers in Ireland. Programmes like these enable our best researchers to pursue their work to make a real impact for society.”
The research activities supported through these grants are in the vital fields of cancer, alternative energy, nanoscience and drug delivery.
Career Development Award recipient, Dr Pat Kiely is undertaking research into colon cancer. Dr Kiely explains; “Approximately 3,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer every year in Ireland and it is the second most common cause of cancer death in Ireland.”

Dr Kiely’s research is focused on a protein called RACK1, he explains: “RACK1 is present in all cells and its role is similar to that of a conductor of an orchestra. When the conductor does not work properly, things go wrong, leading to the development of cancer. The work here is designed to reveal RACK1 function as a potential prognostic marker and therapeutic target in colon cancer and establish inhibitory peptides with novel therapeutic prospects as anti-cancer drugs.”
Dr Kiely’s research is a unique collaboration between bioscientists, engineers and medics. Dr Kiely explains; “will be based in the Department of Life Sciences, MSSI and Stokes Institute where we will use state of the art microscopy and novel cell monitoring platforms to advance our understanding of colon cancer. The project will also help forge stronger links between UL and clinicians based in University Hospital Limerick.”
University of Limerick – SFI Career Development Award Winners
Dr Christophe Silien, Nonlinear optical micro-spectroscopy for multiplex susoension immunoassay. Department of Physics and Energy, University of Limerick.
Dr Sarah Hudson, Bio-availing of Antimicrobial Resources. Dr Hudson is a researcher with the Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre, (SSPC), University of Limerick.
Dr Pat Kiely, Targeting RACKI as a dynamic cog downstream of growth factor. Dr Kiely’s research is based in the Department of Life Sciences, MSSI and Stokes Institute at the University of Limerick and will help forge stronger links between UL and clinicians based in University Hospital Limerick.
University of Limerick SFI Starting Investigator Research Grant Winner
Dr Stephen Dooley, Realistic Reaction Kinetics Models for the Production of Platform Chemicals and Designer Fuel, Carbolea – research group for advanced biomass strategies and technologies, University of Limerick.

UL researchers find simple blood iron test predicts fatal outcomes in the general population

Members of the Kidney Health Research Consortium at the Graduate Entry Medical School and University Hospital Limerick. (left to right) Dr Ells Gillis, Darya Yermak, Dr Mohamed Elsayed, Dr Liam Casserly, Professor Austin Stack, Professor Ailish Hannigan, Dr John Ferguson, Dr Hatim Yagoub, Dr Waleed Mohamed.
Members of the Kidney Health Research Consortium at the Graduate Entry Medical School and University Hospital Limerick. (left to right) Dr Ells Gillis, Darya Yermak, Dr Mohamed Elsayed, Dr Liam Casserly, Professor Austin Stack, Professor Ailish Hannigan, Dr John Ferguson, Dr Hatim Yagoub, Dr Waleed Mohamed.


Study finds extreme levels of Transferrin Saturation Ratio reflecting blood iron levels linked to increased risk of death.

A new study led by researchers at the Graduate Entry Medical School (GEMS), University of Limerick (UL) has found that people with low levels and very high levels of a commonly measured laboratory test, the “transferrin saturation ratio” are at an increased risk of death. The test is a measure of the amount of available iron in the bloodstream with low levels generally reflecting a state of iron deficiency and high levels suggesting a relative excess.

The study found that subjects with extremely low transferrin saturation levels (less that 17.5%) were at a 45% higher risk of death. On the other hand, the risk of death was also significantly higher for subjects with very high levels of transferrin saturation above 31.3 %. According to primary author, Professor Austin Stack, Foundation Chair of Medicine at University of Limerick Graduate Entry Medical School, and Consultant Nephrologist at University Hospital Limerick, “the transferrin saturation ratio” is a commonly used blood test to assess the amount of iron in a patient. Low levels of transferrin saturation ratio generally indicate iron deficiency, while high levels;-traditionally > 50% indicate an excess of iron, which can be detrimental to health. High levels usually occur in states of iron overload like haemochromatosis, multiple blood transfusions and cirrhosis. There is some uncertainly as to what the optimal levels of transferrin saturation ratio are to maintain normal health, and while some studies to date have shown that low levels are associated with elevated death risk, others have suggested the contrary.”

In this study of 15, 823 adults from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) conducted from 1988 to 1994 in the US and with follow-up 2006, the research team sought to examine in detail the risks associated with transferrin saturation ratio and determine the optimal levels that were associated with best survival. “In this very large population-based study, we found that individuals at both ends of the spectrum-people with very high and very low levels were at increased risk of death” said Professor Stack. This pattern of association was what we call a j-shaped relationship. We found that adults with the lowest levels of transferrin saturation ratio (< 17.5 %) had higher percentage of anaemia and several other chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and poor socioeconomic status, indicators that might have accounted for the higher rates of death. Yet, when we accounted for these factors in our analysis, low levels continued to predict higher death risk.”

“What was even more surprising, was that adults who had high transferrin saturation ratio > 31% also experienced higher rates of death, a relationship that was not accounted for by levels of inflammation or other medical conditions.” “When we looked at the relationship between transferrin saturation and deaths from cardiovascular disease, the results were even more striking. A low transferrin saturation ratio less than 17.5 % increased the risk of cardiovascular death by over 200% while a higher TSAT level above 31% increased the risk by almost 60%” said Dr John Ferguson PhD, biostatistician and senior author of the study. “We believe that these results have important practical implications for the wider medical community” said Professor Stack. Our analysis suggests that the optimal transferrin saturation range for patient survival should be between 23% to 40% and that careful clinical assessment is warranted for patients with low and high levels in order to identify states of iron deficiency or iron excess. Our study demonstrates that transferrin saturation ratio is a useful prognostic tool in assessing a patient’s health and while we support the correction of low transferrin saturation levels in the general population, we would also advise caution against excessive iron loading to levels beyond 40%.


The study ‘Transferrin Saturation Ratio and Risk of Total and Cardiovascular Mortality in the General Population’ is published by Quarterly Journal of Medicine (QJM): An International Journal of Medicine and authored by ¹²³Austin G. Stack MD MSc, ²Arif I. Mutwali MBBS, ¹³Hoang T. Nguyen PhD, ¹³Cornelius J. Cronin MBBCh, ¹³Liam F. Casserly MBBCh MSc, John Ferguson PhD

The Graduate Entry Medical School is leading a number of national and international projects to evaluate the health status and clinical outcomes for patients with chronic disease in order to improve patient outcomes. The study was performed at the Graduate Entry Medical School in collaboration with the Departments of Nephrology and Internal Medicine, University Hospital Limerick.