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The winners of the inaugural ReelLife Science Science Communication video competition for primary and secondary schools were announced this week.

First place in the Secondary Schools competition went to “Life in Space” (click here to view video) created by St. Enda’s College Transition Year student Michael McAndrew, under the direction of Mr. Fahey and Mr. Conroy. The short film combines a fantastic concept and animation style with an intelligent script, wonderful delivery and original score. The film describes the fascinating field of Astrobiology, encompassing the origin and future of life on earth and the search for extraterrestrial life in other “Goldilocks Zones”. In Michael’s own words “it is very exciting what the future might bring us“.

In the Primary Schools competition, first place went to a video as Gaeilge about Seed Dispersal called “Scaipeadh siolta i Rosmuc” (click here to view video). This memorable video was made by the 5th and 6th class students in Scoil Mhuire Rosmuc, under the direction of their teacher Ms. Ni Chonaola. The students took a very specific topic in Seed Dispersal and Germination, and produced three very amusing and informative sketches demonstrating different methods of dispersal. Furthermore, they performed some experiments of their own on the various seeds they found, identifying the different traits associated with them, based on their method of dispersal.

The winners (and the second and third runners up) will be invited to attend the Galway Science and Technology Festival at the end of November in NUI Galway, to receive their prizes and certificates, and to see the shortlisted videos on display to the general public.

To view the videos and for further information about the ReelLife Science project click here

fergus

Professor Fergus Shanahan, from University College Cork (UCC), has been named this year’s SFI Researcher of the Year. Professor Shanahan, who is one of the leading international experts in the area of gastrointestinal research, was presented with the award by Mr Sean Sherlock, T.D, Minister for Research & Innovation in recognition of his significant contribution to understanding how intestinal bacteria influence both health and disease in the gut and beyond.

Professor Shanahan is the current Director of the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (APC) an SFI funded Research Centre, and we featured his work in the area of radiation dose optimisation for Crohn’s disease imaging in series one of The Science Squad. You can view the segment by clicking here: APC – Crohn’s Disease Imaging

Fergus, congratulations from everyone at The Science Squad!

For further information on Professor Shanahan and the SFI award click here

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New findings investigating the influence of a stress-sensitive genetic background on pain have been published in the leading journal in the field Pain, by NUI Galway researchers. The work, funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the Irish Research Council, was carried out by Dr David Finn and his research team in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Centre for Pain Research and Galway Neuroscience Centre at the National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science, NUI Galway.Heightened pain in individuals who are stressed, anxious or depressed is a widely recognized but poorly understood phenomenon. A key factor is the contribution of genetic background and its influence on stress responding and emotional processing. A particular genetic background can predispose individuals to higher stress, anxiety and pain responses but it is not known why.

Previous findings have shown that pain is subject to influence by marijuana-like chemicals called endocannabinoids in a brain region called the rostral ventromedial medulla.  Working with Dr Finn, first author Dr Kieran Rea was able to show that a genetic background associated with higher stress and anxiety responses was associated with a greater pain response and a blunted response of these endocannabinoids in the part of the brain called the rostral ventromedial medulla.

Furthermore, this enhanced pain response was prevented by a drug that increased levels of these endocannabinoids in this part of the brain.  Further experimentation revealed that blockade of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor, at which these endocannabinoids act, exacerbated the pain response.

An increased understanding of how genetic background associated with stress and anxiety can influence pain is important from a fundamental physiological perspective and may also aid the identification of new ways of treating  persistent pain and the impact of  stress-related psychiatric disorders such anxiety or depression.

Click here to find out more…
UCD science film fest
UCD Science Expression – Ireland’s first and only dedicated science film festival – kicks off tomorrow, Thursday 31st October.

If you love science, have a soft spot for scientists and relish the innovative thinking of researchers worldwide, UCD Science Expression is for you.

The 2013 edition of UCD Science Expression showcases some of the most exciting filmmaking inspired by and excavating science. From classic movies seen in a very different light to world-class features and shorts premiering at UCD Science Expression. We present screenings, events and debate for enquiring minds of all ages.  Festival 2013 takes a unique journey through key themes including The Curious Mind, Land & Identity, Frontiers of Discovery and Biodiversity and Ecology in The Lighthouse, IFI, Botanic Gardens and The Ark from October 31stNovember 3rd.

Click here to find out more…
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A software reminiscence therapy for sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia called Rempad has won the Clinical Innovation Award 2013, sponsored by Enterprise Ireland and Cleveland Clinic, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD announced on Wed 23rd Oct.

Julia O’Rourke, a senior speech and language therapist, was presented with the award by Minister Bruton at the Enterprise Ireland Med in Ireland event in Dublin today (Wednesday).

Rempad is a new software tool which uses multi-media content to connect carers and residents with memories from the past to enhance the overall wellbeing of nursing home residents suffering from Alzheimer’s.

There are 35 million people living with dementia worldwide, and this will triple by 2050. Rempad’s reminiscence therapy software uses historical artifacts such as photos and broadcast footage to stimulate memories from the past and help individuals or groups to communicate.

O’Rourke collaborated with the Adelaide and Meath Hospital and researchers at CLARITY in Dublin City University to develop Rempad.

 

Click here to find out more…

dart

Science isn’t about memorising equations and battling with proofs – it’s how we see, and understand and shape the world around us. Over the course of eight weeks, starting on the 21st of October 2013, Prof Shane Bergin, Prof Colette Murphy, Dr Jessamyn Fairfield and The Science Squad’s Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin turn Dublin’s DART into a laboratory and get the city thinking and talking about physics.

Discover and learn scientific concepts through tricky teasers, mind-melting facts and seemingly illogical questions that will be scattered throughout the DART. All you’ll have to do is look around you on your journey.

And if you want to know more, check out the website here

Genomic Selection - Cows in Field

Tyndall National Institute has launched a US-Ireland animal health research project, AgriSense, to diagnose Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) – Ireland’s No.1 cause of calf death.

The research will be conducted under a €900,000 R&D partnership between Tyndall, Georgia Institute of Technology and Queen’s University Belfast. The team will work to develop a sensor-based diagnostic kit to enable simultaneous testing for the four primary viral agents responsible for the disease and could facilitate field side testing for the first time with results in as little as 15 minutes.

Speaking at the launch, Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, said “Bovine Respiratory Disease is responsible for in the region of 30% of deaths in stock under one-year old in Ireland and costs Irish farmers millions of euros each year in treatment and lost time to market. Affecting both beef and dairy herds, it is also a major source of lost revenue to the global agri-food industry. We need innovative ways of tackling this scourge and I am delighted that Tyndall has been chosen as a lead partner to lend its expertise in sensor technology to revolutionise farm-side testing.”

Dr Alan O’Riordan, Nanotechnology Group, Tyndall National Institute said: “The AgriSense project will explore the application of nano and sensor technology to provide a low-cost yet extremely precise and quick method of testing for use in animal health and disease diagnostics. The international team will work across Ireland, the US and Northern Ireland to explore how this technology can help in the fight against BRD, with livestock testing planned within the next three years.”

The sensors will be fabricated on disposable plastic testers to keep costs down and could reduce diagnosis time by up to four weeks. It is hoped that early detection and diagnosis will enable infected cattle to be isolated and could also facilitate more tailored treatment programmes eradicating the current practice of costly indiscriminate dosing to stop the spread of infection.

For more, click here

 

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The 2013 winners of the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, Kinsale Community College  students, Ciara Judge, Emer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow, have been awarded First prize in Biology at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists in Prague today.

Representing Ireland (North and South) the girls beat off intense competition from over 120 students from 38 countries, ranging in ages from 14-20 to win the award worth €7,000 as well as an honorary award of an all expenses paid trip to the London International Youth Science Forum.

Each year the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition winner receives the honour of representing Ireland in the annual EU competition. Colm O’Neill, Chief Executive, BT Ireland said, “In 25 years of competing at the EU competition, Ireland has now taken home the top honours 15 times, out-performing all other countries. We believe this major award will add to the future career prospects for Ciara, Emer and Sophie, raise the profile of their school and teachers, and further boost the impressive international credentials of the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition. The girls have done us proud.”

Ciara, Emer and Sophie from Kinsale Community College won the coveted 2013 BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition prize for their project entitled, ‘A statistical investigation of the effects of diazotroph bacteria on plant germination.’  Their project investigated the benefits of diazotrophs during the germination stage of plant growth. The girls statistically analysed the results of their investigations using the student T-test.

Congratulations from The Science Squad!!

For further information about the students’ project, check out this video

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ReelLife Science, a novel Science video competition, was recently launched in 316 primary and secondary schools by a team of NUI Galway staff and students. The competition aims to involve school children in Science in a fun way, developing their analytical, creative and communication skills, while enabling NUI Galway researchers and students to engage in Outreach in an innovative manner.

The initiative was conceived by NUI Galway’s Dr Enda O’Connell, a winner of the inaugural ‘I’m a Scientist, Get me out of Here, Ireland” competition in November 2012, securing funding for a science communication project. Additional funding to expand the project was awarded by the NUI Galway Students’ Union EXPLORE Innovation Initiative and the College of Science.

Now supported by a team of NUI Galway Science communicators, ReelLife Science will award a total of €1000 in prizes, while winners will also be invited to attend the Galway Science and Technology Festival on Sunday, 24 November in NUI Galway, where their videos will be on display to the general public.

Short (1-3 min) videos may be submitted by the invited schools consisting of all primary and secondary schools in Galway, and the 28 schools which participated in ‘I’m a Scientist, get me out of here, Ireland’ 2012. Videos will be judged by a panel of internationally recognised scientists, including Professor Rhodri Ceredig, REMEDI, NUI Galway and Professor Andrea Brand of Gurdon Institute, Cambridge.

Emma Dalton, Science teacher and Transition Year Coordinator in St Enda’s College Galway, said of her students’ upcoming participation: “I am very excited, as this competition offers an opportunity for students to step away from the curriculum and engage in Science in a more fun way. It is also an opportunity for them to guide their own learning and then, even better, to practice sharing what they have learnt with others. I am really looking forward to seeing the ideas they come up with.”

The closing date for submissions is Friday, 25 October. The winning videos will be displayed on the projects website, www.reellifescience.com, Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ReelLifeScience, and Twitter feed, @ReelLifeScience, where regular updates, Science news and blog posts can be found.

For further information visit www.reellifescience.com

equilume

Equilume, a new Irish equine technology company, today announced its official launch. Equilume, a University College Dublin (UCD) spin-out company supported by Enterprise Ireland, is set to become a world leader in light therapy solutions to assist global Thoroughbred breeders to maximise the reproductive efficiency and performance in their horses.

The company has developed and is selling the Equilume Light Mask, a novel automated mobile lighting device, which fits comfortably under a horse’s head collar. The Mask has been scientifically proven to provide the optimum level of blue light to a single eye of a mare to successfully advance her breeding season.

The universal birthday for a Thoroughbred foal (born in the northern hemisphere) is January 1st in the year in which a foal is born which contrasts with the natural foaling season of the horse which is from May to October. This crucial, industry wide, date creates a demand for Thoroughbred breeders to advance the onset of their mares’ breeding season to produce early foals, to ensure mature yearlings for sales and precocious two-year olds for racing.

Horses are naturally ‘long-day’ seasonal breeders and daylight is a primary regulator of reproduction in horses. As days start to get longer in Spring, the inhibitory action of the hormone melatonin on a mare’s reproduction activity is reduced and mares come into season.

Thoroughbred breeders have known about the importance of light on a mare’s reproduction cycle for decades. In order to fool a mare’s reproductive system into activating earlier than in nature, many breeders currently maintain, at a significant cost, their non-pregnant mares indoors, under artificial lighting for 8 to 10 weeks prior to the official start of the breeding season in February.

However by using the Equilume Light Mask Thoroughbred breeders can now still meet crucial industry timelines and at the same time eliminate the requirement to maintain their non-pregnant mares indoors under artificial lighting and save at least €1,000 per mare per season.

The Equilume Light Mask has been developed as a result of ground breaking research carried out by company founder, Dr Barbara Murphy, UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science in collaboration with Professor John Sheridan, an optoelectronics researcher in UCD’s School of Electrical, Electronic and Communications Engineering.

Speaking at the official launch of Equilume, Dr Barbara Murphy said, “Our research at University College Dublin found that very low intensities of blue light are required to inhibit circulating concentrations of melatonin in the horse and that it is sufficient to deliver blue light to a single eye of a mare and still inhibit melatonin levels to daylight levels.”

“We developed the Equilume Light Mask to provide a safe and cost-effective method of administering an automated, low-level light to a single eye of a mare and it has been designed and tested to deliver sufficient light stimulus to inhibit melatonin production in the mare and thus advance the mare’s reproductively active season.”

She added, “An important advantage of the Equilume Light Mask is that it also allows horses be horses, and live outdoors in their natural environment where they are happier and healthier.”

It is currently not standard industry practice to maintain pregnant mares indoors under artificial lighting prior to foaling. The consequences of the lack of sufficient natural or artificial light for early foaling mares during late pregnancy are longer gestation periods, lower foal birth weights and post-foaling reproductive problems.

The Equilume Light Mask can also be used to provide pregnant mares with the light stimulus required to ensure timely gestation, increased foal birth weights and reductions in post-foaling cyclicity problems which are associated with early foaling dates outside of the natural breeding season.

Speaking at the launch, Dermot Cantillon, one of Ireland’s leading commercial Thoroughbred breeders, and owner/manager of three stud farms in Ireland and in the USA, said, “I have been excited since being introduced to this concept and having successfully used the Equilume Light Masks for the last two breeding seasons, I am confident that it will be a worldwide success for breeders.”

W.R. (Twink) Allen, Director, Paul Mellon Laboratory of Reproduction, Newmarket, UK, speaking about the new mask said, “At last, a novel and exciting advance in horse breeding which is based on sound theory and solid science. The Equilume Light Mask is sure to be of major practical benefit to the Thoroughbred breeders around the world who have the good sense to use it.”

UCD’s technology transfer team at NovaUCD facilitated the identification and protection of the intellectual property arising from Dr Murphy’s research which resulted in the development of the Equilume Light Mask. Dr Murphy was also a participant, and an award winner, on the NovaUCD 2011 Campus Company Development Programme. This Programme assists UCD academic and research entrepreneurs in bringing their innovative ideas from intellectual concepts to fully developed and sound commercial businesses.

Brendan Cremen, UCD Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation said, “Equilume, is a prime example of a UCD spin-out company established to translate an innovative idea arising from world-class research carried out in the University into a commercial entity with global potential.”

Equilume currently employs 4 people and plans to increase staff numbers to 10 by the end of 2016.

The Equilume Light Mask is entirely manufactured in Ireland.

Equilume has already won a number of other awards including Enterprise Ireland’s ‘One to Watch’ Award (2012) and overall winner Newbridge 200 Business Start-Up Competition (2012).

Equilume made the official announcement of its launch at an event held at Killashee House Hotel, Co. Kildare attended by leading Thoroughbred breeders and veterinarians in Ireland.