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Episode 39: “Nothing about us, Without us” President’s Research Excellence and Impact Award 2022 Winners

How do social and cultural changes occur, and how can policy be influenced to encourage these changes, particularly in terms of aiding people who are marginalized and stigmatized in our society? The award-winning research team from the University of Limerick's Centre for Social Issues Research is collaborating with government and advocacy groups to help those who are directly affected by disability, those who care for those who are disabled, child carers, and those who are affected by domestic violence The centre has a long history of working together to address the issues that underprivileged members of our community face. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Centre for Social Issues Research recommended governments in Ireland and the United Kingdom on how to effectively help COVID-19 front-line workers, carers, and those with underlying health concerns, as well as how to encourage people to follow public health recommendations. Prof Orla Muldoon, Prof Mike Quayle, Dr Sarah Jay, Dr Stephen Gallagher and Dr Siobhan Howard join our host Prof Helena Lenihan to discuss their award-winning collaborations. 

Back pain: Treating the human - not the scan

The personal, societal and economic costs of low back pain are enormous, and the likelihood of being disabled by back pain has worsened in recent decades. Prof Helena Lenihan, Chair of the UL Research Impact Committee is joined by Dr Kieran O’Sullivan, Senior Lecturer in Physiotherapy, School of Allied Health and winner of the President’s Research Excellence and Impact Early Career Award. Dr O’Sullivan’s research has shed new light on why back pain is such an ongoing challenge and the tendency for back pain to be treated as an almost entirely ‘physical’ issue – where we rely too much on tests such as MRI scans, at the expense of treating the whole human. His research has led to the development and testing of novel solutions for the treatment of back pain.

Tackling multi-drug resistant infections through research collaboration

A 10 year partnership between UL and HSE has benefited patients dealing with multidrug-resistant infections, patients with cystic fibrosis and those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Winner of the 2020 Outstanding Research Collaboration, President’s Research Excellence and Impact Award, the collaboration involves microbiologists, designers, engineers, nurses, physiotherapists, paediatricians, respiratory specialists. Understanding infectious disease outbreaks and the microbial causes of infection leads to new prevention and control interventions, education programmes and innovations in medical device and testing technologies. Prof Colum Dunne, School of Medicine, Prof Barry Linnane, Consultant Respiratory Paediatrician, UHL, Prof Nuala O’Connell, Consultant Clinical Microbiologist, UHL, Barbara Slevin, Assistant Director of Nursing, Infection Prevention & Control, ULHG, Kevin O’Sullivan, Rapid Innovation Unit and Prof Colum Dunne, School of Medicine UL join our host Prof of Economics, Helena Lenihan to discuss their award-winning collaboration. Supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Episode 36: Zero Hours and Low Hours Work in Ireland

Zero hours work is work with no guaranteed hours. Researchers at the Kemmy Business School, have been examining the prevalence and impact of zero hours work and low hours work amongst Irish employees. Dr Lorraine Ryan, lecturer in Employment Relations & Human Resource Management in the Department of Work & Employment Studies at the KBS discusses the prevalence of these work contracts, their effect on employees and their social impact. She outlines how she and her colleagues carried out the first study in Ireland into zero hours contracts and how their findings influenced the shaping of the 2018 Protection of Employment Act.

Zero Hours and Low Hours Work in Ireland

Zero hours work is work with no guaranteed hours. Researchers at the Kemmy Business School, have been examining the prevalence and impact of zero hours work and low hours work amongst Irish employees. Dr Lorraine Ryan, lecturer in Employment Relations & Human Resource Management in the Department of Work & Employment Studies at the KBS discusses the prevalence of these work contracts, their effect on employees and their social impact. She outlines how she and her colleagues carried out the first study in Ireland into zero hours contracts and how their findings influenced the shaping of the 2018 Protection of Employment Act.

Technology in Education: Why content is key

Dr Ann Marcus-Quinn, a lecturer in Technical Communication and Instructional Design at the University of Limerick asks whether the move from book to tablet is the right one for the education system. She discusses how digital teaching and learning resources can be used, developed and shared in order to enhance teaching and learning in Irish education. She also talks about her involvement in a review of a secondary school’s digital policy and how this resulted in its decision to reintroduce books citing concerns over students screen time and recommending a blended approach to learning.

Engineering Physical Activity in Breast Cancer

Dr Michelle Norris shares how her project, ‘BREASTech’, is working to better understand how software and technology can impact the physical activity levels of breast cancer patients and survivors. She also discusses how her training as an ALECS Marie Curie COFUND fellow is helping her to share the impact of her research with a wider audience. This work was supported, in part, by Science Foundation Ireland grant 13/RC/2094 and co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund through the Southern & Eastern Regional Operational Programme to Lero - the Irish Software Research Centre ( and has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 754489.

Importance and challenges of getting the right wheelchair

Dermot Hayes, disability community activist from Ennis in conversation with Dr Rosie Gowran, School of Allied Health, UL and Leigh Gath, disability rights campaigner on the importance and challenges of getting the right wheelchair nationally and globally and the difficulties that wheelchair users face when proper supports are not available.

Personalised medicine and the pharmacy of the future

Oisín Kavanagh is a pharmacist and PhD researcher with the Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre (SSPC), the SFI Pharmaceutical Research Centre, at the University of Limerick. He discusses how advances in the distribution and production of medicines might shape the pharmacy of the future and how these could help to alleviate the financial burden on the State while in turn easing the burden on patients, making drug delivery easier and more effective. He explores how 3D printing of personalised medicines in pharmacies may bring benefits but also raises the regulatory concerns that may ensue within an industry that is highly monitored and regulated.

Research Soapbox

The Research Soapbox event highlighted how research can make a real difference. The lunchtime showcase event took place in the Fab Lab in Limerick’s city centre and involved researchers from PhD to Professor with voices from the University of Limerick Thesis in 3 Competition as well as the Research Impact Podcast Series. The event was moderated by Prof Helena Lenihan, Chair of the UL Research Impact Committee. The range of topics varied from match fixing in sport to designer medicines and from folding turbine blades to the rights of wheelchair users and a lot more besides.

Using psychology and the power of collective identities to combat adversity

Psychology has traditionally focused on biological, genetic or personality factors to explain why some people cope better or worse than others in adverse situations. However such a focus can lead to a therapeutic dead end as it is very difficult to change a person’s temperament or genetic predispositions. In the first of a series of guest host podcasts, Psychology Masters student Ilyana Keohane introduces Prof Orla Muldoon as she discusses the research carried out at the Centre for Social Issues Research at UL where they address this problem by conducting highly regarded research on the benefits and burdens of so-called ‘collective identities’, such as nationality, socio-economic groups, and ethnicity.

Creating a Positive Energy City Centre in Limerick

In 1900, only 14% percent of the world’s population lived in a city. Today, for the first time in history, more than half the planet’s population reside in urban areas. These urban centres are now racing to become the smart cities of the future. Limerick has received a major boost in the race to become a smart city through its designation as Ireland’s first ‘Lighthouse Smart City’ through the Positive City Exchange Project. Rosie Webb, Senior Architect, Limerick City & County Council and Deputy co-ordinator of the Positive City Exchange Project and Professor Merritt Bucholz, founding Professor of Architecture at the University of Limerick, who is also an investigator on the project join us to tell us more about this project to shape Limerick’s future.

Music Festivals, Inclusion and Public Spaces

Ethnomusicologist, Irish traditional musician and lecturer at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick, Dr Aileen Dillane talks about her research project FestiVersities: European Music Festivals, Public Spaces, and Cultural Diversities. This research is supported through Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA), European Commission.

Cracking the code for personalised medicine

Personalised medicine is the next great global challenge for the pharmaceutical industry. The vision of the pharmacy of the future is one which employs disruptive technologies to enable on-demand manufacture of drugs designed to individual needs. Central to this vision is the concept of continuous processing. The Bernal Chair in Pharmaceutical Powder Engineering, Prof Gavin Walker, discusses how continuous processing is a key enabler to impact on global health through delivering more tailored and targeted medicines.

Why involve the public and patients in research?

Anne MacFarlane, Professor of Primary Healthcare Research at the Graduate Entry Medical School, University of Limerick and member of UL’s Health Research Institute talks about her research in the area of Public and Patient Involvement in Research, specifically participatory health research with socially excluded communities. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

A Europe-wide approach to combatting tax fraud and evasion

Tax fraud and tax evasion affects us all. Within the European Union, huge sums of revenue for public investment are being lost due to tax evasion and avoidance with estimates in the region of 1 trillion euros. Prof Sheila Killian of the Kemmy Business School talks about her research as part of the EU funded project called COFFERS - Combatting Fiscal Fraud and Empowering Regulators. The team at the Kemmy Business School are focusing on the role of expert professional networks, tax advisers, wealth managers and the factors which can lead them to take ethical or aggressive approaches to their tax work. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

Research Week - Open Science in The Netherlands

Lecture as part of Inaugural UL’s Research Week by Prof Karel Luyben, former Rector Magnificus of TU Delft and an expert on Open Science. During his lecture Prof Luyben poses questions such as; What concrete conditions should be met first, for your organisation to embrace Open Science? What do you hope that your organisation will gain from open science? What is the number one prerequisite for you personally with respect to Open Science implementation? What role are you willing to take for the implementation of open science? Either from your personal point of view, or your professional position. What is in your opinion be the main risk of Open Science for your organisation? What should be done to prevent it? What is the main contribution of your organisation to the implementation of Open Science?

Next generation battery technology for electric vehicles

The advent of the electric car heralds a new era of environmentally friendly transport. However, battery cost could put a brake on the rollout of electric vehicles (EVs) for a mass market. Prof Kevin M Ryan, Chair in Chemical Nanotechnology, at the Bernal Institute, University of Limerick and his team are co-ordinating European research projects, Si-Drive and NEILLSBAT looking at next generation battery technology for EVs. This team are tackling the major barriers to EV uptake, which relate to driving range, cost and recharge times by completely re-imagining the lithium ion battery with new and innovative materials. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

Sepsis, a worldwide problem crying out for a solution

Dr Jakki Cooney, co-founder of UL spinout Cala Medical, based in the Nexus Innovation Centre in UL discusses her research. Cala Medical have designed and patented a unique device containing a specific immobilized enzyme which treats the excessive inflammatory response in the blood of sepsis patients. The treatment could dramatically cut the death rate from sepsis which is a highly prevalent and often fatal illness requiring intensive medical care. Jakki also discusses her experiences as a female researcher working in STEM and the challenges and rewards that this can bring. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

Maths for the Digital Factory

Digital transformation impacts many areas of our lives and has given rise to a booming digital economy. This new commodity of data is continually growing and changing. The challenge however, is how this digital transformation can be harnessed to do what we already do, but much better. Mathematics Applications Consortium for Science & Industry (MACSI) and Confirm, the SFI Research Centre for Smart Manufacturing hosted a panel of experts to tackle the topic: Chris Decubber, Technical Director at the European Factories of the Future Research Association (EFFRA), Dr Johan S Carlson, Director of the Fraunhofer-Chalmers Research Centre for Industrial Mathematics, Dr Joanna Jordan, Institute for Mathematical Innovation, University of Bath, Professor Barry O'Sullivan, Director of Insight the SFI Centre for Data Analytics, Prof James Gleeson, Co-Director of MACSI.

The good fight – breaking down barriers to create better policy and practice

Researchers at the University of Limerick are developing skills in interdisciplinary working and using this to inform policy and practice. The model involves multiple stakeholder engagement where ideas are expressed early and often, and are open to critique and contribution from other voices of interest. This model allows the group to fail faster by getting ideas tested and thrown out to find solutions quicker. Dr Annmarie Ryan, Lecturer in Business Marketing and Dr Niamh Nic Ghabhann, Course director of the MA Festive Arts Programme/Associate Dean Research Faculty of Arts, Humanities and the Social Sciences, discuss their research and experiences using this interdisciplinary approach. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

Giving a voice to victims in the Irish criminal process

Many of us will become a victim of crime at some point in our lives, yet many victims chose not to report these crimes to the police. Ultimately, a large number of victims in Ireland are not engaging in the criminal justice system. Prof Shane Kilcommins, Dr Susan Leahy & Dr Eimear Spain from the Centre for Crime, Justice and Victim Studies (CCJVS) and the School of Law have sought to better understand this phenomenon with a view to understanding how best to engage with and support victims of crime, while also informing public policy and legislative reform. By focusing their research on the place of victims within the criminal justice system, the team is giving a voice to underrepresented minorities including victims with disabilities. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

Biomaterials and Biotechnology: From the discovery of the first angiogenesis inhibitors to the development of controlled drug delivery systems and the foundation of tissue engineering

Advanced drug delivery systems are having an enormous impact on human health. new drug delivery technologies including nanoparticles and nanotechnology are now being studied for use in treating cancer. Approaches for synthesizing new biomaterials, which can be used in fighting brain cancer and new approaches for engineering tissues are being developed that may someday help in various diseases. Robert Samuel Langer, Jr. is an American chemical engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, inventor and the David H. Koch Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a widely recognized and cited researcher in biotechnology, especially in the fields of drug delivery systems and tissue engineering. His publications have been cited approximately 220,000 times and his h-index is 233.

Nutrition supports for age related muscle mass loss

In Ireland, only 30% of women and 45% of men over 65 remain disability-free for life. Dramatic changes in cells start in our 30s, while in our 40s, health and functionality are impacted by increasing weight gain, decreasing bone density and loss or weakening of muscle. People with low lean tissue or muscle mass are classified as sarcopenic. Conservative estimates predict that the incidence of sarcopenia will increase by 50% over the next 30 years, making it a major public health issue among Ireland’s increasing older population. Prof Phil Jakeman and Dr Catherine Norton discuss their research which has proven that that sarcopenia can be offset by modifications to dietary habits. Their research shows that optimising the quality and timing of protein intake decreases age-related loss of muscle mass and in turn can benefit the quality of life of those who are affected by sarcopenia. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

Mathematics and the identification of ‘superspreaders’

In the world of social networks, “superspreaders” are users whose retweets can make information travel faster than everyone else. Prof James Gleeson from the Mathematics Applications Consortium for Science and Industry (MACSI) explains how his latest SFI funded project is using mathematics to help identify these superspreaders. He outlines how a better understanding of how information spreads through social influence will help us find ways to spread important information more quickly (e.g., for health or terrorism alerts), and to control undesirable aspects of social media such as the spreading of misinformation and false rumours. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

Towards a cleaner carbon fibre future

Carbon fibre is a key material in a range of industries from automotive to wind energy. Dr Maurice Collins is leading a €4.9m EU wide project called LIBRE to create a cleaner and cheaper alternative means of carbon fibre production using lignin, a polymer found in wood and bark, rather than current petroleum based methods. He discusses the environmental and financial benefits of this enhanced production method and the future direction for his research. This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 720707. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

Fix the Fixing – Defeating match fixing in sport

More than 12% of athletes have played in a match that was fixed and nearly 15% suspect they have, according to the findings of a European survey. Dr Deirdre O’Shea and Dr Tadhg MacIntyre are two psychologists who have been involved in a pan-European Erasmus+ project called Fix the Fixing. Their research seeks to tackle this global phenomenon, and understand its impact on the athletes involved, the supporters and the overall reputation of sport. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

Growing up with domestic violence and abuse: The impact on young people

The pervasive occurrence of domestic violence and abuse poses many challenges to Irish society. Dr Catherine Naughton talks about her PhD Research which was supervised by Prof Orla Muldoon and Dr Aisling O’Donnell in the Dept. of Psychology and Centre for Social Issues Research. Catherine discusses their research which explores the negative social and emotional consequences that growing up in a home where domestic violence and abuse occurred may continue to have on young people. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

Phos"Fate": Where have all the nutrients gone?

Phosphate is a limited resource vital for global agriculture. Dr Iain Moyles and Dr John Donohue discuss their work funded by Science Foundation Ireland on mathematical modelling of nutrient flow in soil. During the podcast Iain and John describe the phosphate crisis which acknowledges that phosphorus is a limited resource and only a few countries have significant reserves of it including Morocco, China, Algeria and Syria. During their discussions on sulphur, they touch on some surprising outcomes of emissions regulations. Other talking points include the various collaborators in their research programme, the importance of mathematical modelling in science, and advice for scientists interested in collaborating with applied mathematicians or pursuing a career in the field. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

Scaling Agile Methods: improved software development

The software industry in Ireland is well established with 9 of the top 10 global software companies located in the country. Prof Brian Fitzgerald, Director of LERO the Irish Software Research Centre, discusses agile methods in software development and the exponential growth in the development of software across all industries. With €30 billion worth of exports annually, the software industry is of huge importance to Ireland. 90% of software development uses agile methods to speed up the development process. LERO’s focus is on tailoring these agile methods to suit highly regulated industries and to further the reputation of the Irish software industry. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

The untold story - understanding the Multinational Sector in Ireland

Ireland’s economy is highly dependent on multinational investment with MNC’s employing well in excess of 160,000 people. Prof Patrick Gunnigle & Dr Jonathan Lavelle, Kemmy Business School discuss the influence that multinationals have on the Irish economy and our society as a whole and how the landscape of MNC involvement in the economy may evolve in the future. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

Generating clean energy by imitating plant photosynthesis

The world needs solutions for its rapidly growing energy consumption which is projected to double by 2050. The advancement of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology is vital to achieve environmentally sustainable progress. Dr Micheál Scanlon, from UL’s Bernal Institute, UL is working on a pioneering experimental approach that seeks to imitate photosynthesis in the leaves of plants, with the goal of generating clean electricity or solar fuels. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

Autonomous cars, a game changer for the future of the motor industry

The advent of autonomous cars provides a number of challenges from a technological and design point of view and also raises interesting legal, liability and ethical questions. Dr Finbarr Murphy from the Kemmy Business School discusses his involvement as Principal Investigator in two European projects VI-DAS and Cloud-LSVA which aim to solve these challenges while contributing to reducing accidents, increasing economic growth, and stimulating more innovation in the autonomous vehicle area. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

Atomic Action Movies - Revealing the world, one atom at a time

Dr Andy Stewart is joined by PhD Students Kalani Moore and Eileen Courtney to describe the atomic action motives brought to life through microscopy. Since their discovery in 2004, 2D materials have sparked a worldwide race to discover new materials with stunning new properties. UL has been part of this drive for discovery through the Bernal Institute which is now home to one of the world’s most powerful aberration-corrected microscopes, the Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM). Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

Achieving a research led university

The Research Office was delighted to welcome Prof Ritsert Jansen, Dean of Talent Development and Head of Bioinformatics Centre, University of Groningen to the University of Limerick. Prof Jansen gave a talk entitled Achieving a research-led university, detailing the University of Groningen’s experiences in developing young research talent and maximising the potential of researchers. The University of Groningen is ranked 80th overall in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and is home to 2016 Nobel Prize Winner Professor Ben Feringa.

A nation of couch potatoes?

Low levels of physical activity are attributed to 6-10% of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast and colon cancer and over 20% risk of Alzheimer’s disease in Europe. In their research Prof Alan Donnelly & Dr Ciaran Mac Donncha seek to objectively measure the health risk behaviours of physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour (time sitting, lying down) and also understand the impact on health and why individuals make these behaviour choices. This work is helping Ireland and Europe develop policy, guidelines and identify the most effective strategies for combatting these ever-increasing threats to health, and thus to promote health for citizens of all ages. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

Improving the quality of life for people living with MS

Twenty years ago people living with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) were advised to “take it easy”. Today, there is a growing body of evidence showing that exercise is beneficial for a number of key symptoms like walking and fatigue. Prof Susan Coote and her team at the University of Limerick are making significant contributions to this U-turn, her research has had direct positive impacts on the health of thousands of people, and on clinical practice and national programmes of care. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

Research with impact, why bother?

The University of Limerick has long had a tradition of translational research, meaning research which has impact in the real world. In this podcast, Prof Helena Lenihan provides insights and tips to achieve real impact in your research and how it is achievable across all disciplines. For Prof Lenihan, there is no trade-off between doing excellent research and research that makes a real difference to society. Prof Lenihan argues that you can be the designer of your own impact. Drawing from her own experience of enterprise policy evaluation she explains the great possibilities from collaboration to ambition achievable through the research impact ethos. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

Ecology to rehabilitate mine sites

More than 30 million jobs in the EU and many key economic sectors are dependent on a sustainable supply of raw materials, such as aluminium and zinc. However, the extractive operations to process and refine such raw materials generate approximately 300 million tonnes of potentially hazardous waste per annum. In this podcast Dr Ronan Courtney, Bernal Institute, University of Limerick talks about how his research applies ecological solutions to rehabilitate mine waste and mine sites. His research has had significant impacts on the environment, standards and industry practice and sustainability. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.

Helping voters to make an informed choice

Elections are about many things, but arguably their most important function is to give voters a say in how their country is governed. In this podcast, Dr Rory Costello, Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Limerick talks about why elections often do not perform this function very well, as many voters are not sufficiently informed about the policy choices on offer. He also discusses how his research seeks to improve the quality of democratic representation, particularly for young voters. Recorded by GK Media Ltd.