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DCU President's Office

February Ezine 2019

An Taoiseach visits 'DCU in the Community'


I was delighted to welcome An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD and DCU Alumnus Noel Rock TD to our ‘DCU in the Community’ outreach facility in Ballymun recently.

Founded in 2008 by DCU, in partnership Dublin City Council, ‘DCU in the Community’ acts as a bridge between the university and the local and regional community. Led by Joanna Ozarowska, Manager of ‘DCU in the Community’, and Ruth Lynam coordinator of DCU Volunteer, the facility’s activities focus on lifelong learning, adult education, equity of access to third level education (among groups underrepresented in higher and further education), student volunteering, community-based learning, and community-engaged research.

The mission of ‘DCU in the Community’ is to promote social regeneration through education and to enhance local community development and community resilience through the provision of flexible educational and lifelong learning opportunities. It also seeks to provide meaningful volunteering options for DCU students.

An Taoiseach met graduates of our ‘Bridge to Education’ Programme (a preparatory course designed to build capacity and confidence, as well as the necessary skills to return to education), student volunteers and student social enterprises (Raising & Giving Society, HeadstARTS), staff from DCU Recovery College and recent recipients of the President’s Award for Engagement, Dr Briege Casey, Dr Mary Rose Sweeney, and Prof Deirdre Butler.

We recently had the honour of welcoming Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, to our St. Patrick’s campus to discuss the issue of bullying and online safety.

Sheryl Sandberg visits Anti-Bullying Training at DCU and confirms Facebook’s commitment to tackling online bullying

Her visit coincided with Facebook’s announcement that it was tripling its investment in online safety programmes run by the National Anti-Bullying Centre (ABC) at DCU, bringing the company’s total investment in online safety programmes in Ireland to €1 million. This will have a profound impact on the lives of thousands of students and their families.

This investment will go towards supporting important research conducted by the ABC, expanding the nationwide online safety training programme for teachers and parents of secondary school students, and creating online safety resources for teens in partnership with the youth organisation, SpunOut.ie.

At a workshop in our Institute of Education, Ms Sandberg met with a group of teachers to discuss the issue of bullying in schools and to hear first-hand experiences from those dealing with bullying both on and offline. She reaffirmed the company's commitment to tackling online bullying.

Following the meeting, Ms Sandberg addressed over 100 teachers attending the first anti-bullying training session as part of this programme. In her remarks, she highlighted how Facebook was hiring more people to review content reports, and is investing in Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems for finding and preventing abuse across all their platforms - Facebook, Instagram and Messenger.

To mark her visit, I was pleased to present Ms. Sandberg with a copy of ‘100 Poems’ by Seamus Heaney.

Research funding successes for DCU!

In the days leading up to Christmas and in the early weeks of 2019, we were delighted to receive some very good news regarding research, innovation and mobility funding successes for DCU staff across many sectors of the University.

A DCU- led project “DCU Global Online Learning Accelerator”, was awarded funding of €1.36m under the HEA Innovation and Transformation Programme 2018. This project will align strongly with our NIDL expertise and will build on our engagement with FutureLearn. Congratulations to Prof. Eithne Guilfoyle, who leads on this project, and colleagues in NIDL. DCU is also part of a successful bid under an IUA-led project “Enabling Change: Enhancing Digital Capacity in Teaching and Learning in Irish Universities” that was awarded funding of €2.96m.

Six DCU staff members (Aisling Twohill; Cathal Gurrin; John Gallagher; Brien Nolan; Sithara Sreenilayam Pavithran; Greg Hughes) were successful in their applications for support under the Government of Ireland International Academic Mobility Programme 2019. DCU received more than 20% of the funding allocated and was also the most successful HEI in terms of the number of grants awarded for the second year running. Congrats to all!

In January, two early-stage DCU researchers had significant successes under Science Foundation Ireland’s ‘Starting Investigator Research Grant’ (SIRG) Programme. The largest award of €425k was made to Dr Konstantinos Gkrintzalis  (School of Biotechnology), while €421k was awarded to Dr Colm Browning (School of Electronic Engineering). Congrats to Konstantinos and Colm!

Good news on Sustainability developments at DCU

Our Strategic Plan (‘Talent, Discovery and Transformation’) places Sustainability at the core of the University. Recent announcements have brought good news regarding the impact of our commitment and initiatives in this regard. Just before Christmas, Minister Richard Bruton T.D. commended DCU for its leadership in achieving significant energy savings and reaching 35.3% reduction since 2010, exceeding the 33% energy efficiency target set for 2020. This achievement was highlighted in the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) annual report on the energy efficiency performance of public bodies in Ireland.

Also in December, we were pleased to learn that DCU has been ranked 12th in the world for Sustainability in the latest Green University league table. The Universitas Indonesia (UI) GreenMetric World University Rankings compares the performance of 719 universities across the globe by measuring their commitment and action towards environmental sustainability. The rankings assess 6 indicators (setting and infrastructure, energy and climate change, waste management, water management, transportation and education).  This new ranking for DCU represents an increase of 3 places on its ranking in 2017.

DCU researchers central to solving cosmic riddle on massive black holes

January 2019 was a milestone month for researchers from our Centre for Astrophysics and Relativity (CfAR) with a Nature publication describing their central involvement in a major breakthrough that explains the existence of massive black holes in the universe and that predicts a greater number than previously thought.

The light from the most distant black holes (or quasars) has been travelling towards earth for more than 13 billion light years, allowing us to look back in time to the early universe. However, how these monster black holes formed has remained unknown; until now.

Dr. John Regan and Prof. Turlough Downes, both from the School of Mathematical Sciences in DCU, collaborated with colleagues from Georgia Institute of Technology, Michigan State University, the University of California at San Diego, the San Diego Supercomputer Center and IBM, in the discovery of a new and extremely promising avenue for solving this cosmic riddle.

The team showed that when galaxies assemble extremely rapidly, and sometimes violently, this can lead to the formation of a massive black hole.

The rapid assembly of gas means that instead of normal star formation proceeding, embryonic stars become puffed up by hot gas. This leads to the formation of what is called a “supermassive” star, which only survives for a short time before quickly collapsing into a massive black hole.

 The new study turns upside down the long-accepted belief that massive black hole formation could only happen in regions bombarded by powerful radiation from nearby galaxies. This research shifts that paradigm and opens up a whole new area of research.

Congratulations to John and Turlough!

Sign of the Times as Minister launches B.Ed. (Irish Sign Language)

We were delighted to be joined by Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD, for the launch of a new entry route into the B.Ed. undergraduate programme. This new route enables deaf people who use Irish Sign Language (ISL) to enter primary teaching.

The first pathway of this nature in the history of the State, the new B.Ed. (Irish Sign Language) is being provided in our Institute of Education from this September - initially on a pilot basis.

The new pathway sees the existing prerequisite for Leaving Certificate higher-level Irish being replaced with an entry requirement at a similar level in Irish Sign Language.

While entry to the course is exclusively for members of the Deaf Community who wish to become primary school teachers working in the deaf education sector, core modules will be delivered along with hearing peers in the B.Ed. programme, while modules specific to deaf education will be delivered as a specialism. The four-year, full-time undergraduate course also includes a 30-week school placement.

Sincere thanks to everyone involved in this important initiative and, in particular, to Dr Elizabeth Mathews from our School of Inclusive and Special Education, who has been unwavering in her commitment over the past eight years towards establishing this pathway.

Prof. Donal O’Gorman appointed to Medical Board of the European Space Agency

Congratulations to Prof. Donal O’Gorman of our School of Health and Human Performance, who has been appointed by the European Space Agency (ESA) to its Medical Board.

The Board is responsible for guaranteeing the safety and well-being of humans in spaceflight and for ensuring the ethical conduct of research studies. The Board also establishes and approves the medical and psychological criteria for astronaut selection.

An exercise physiologist specialising in whole-body and skeletal muscle metabolism, Donal is the current Director of the National Institute of Cellular Biotechnology (NICB). Healso leads the 3U Diabetes Consortium, and is chair of the DCU Research Ethics Committee.

His appointment is a reflection of the sterling work carried out by Donal and his outstanding research contributions in the discipline of exercise physiology over a long number of years.

It is also noteworthy that this is the first time that Ireland has been represented at this level and it is a powerful endorsement of the international significance of Donal’s research.

In his work with the ESA, Donal has been investigating the changes that take place due to inactivity. During spaceflight, astronauts experience changes in their bodies that are similar to accelerated ageing. This work is helping us understand how metabolism can be regulated in the microgravity of space and this information is also being used to learn about ageing and age-related diseases on Earth.

Dublin Airport Central and DCU Brexit Institute Announce Partnership

The DCU Brexit Institute and Dublin Airport Central recently announced a new partnership that will see the airport's new and expanding commercial quarter sponsor the Institute.

Dublin Airport Central joins Arthur Cox, AIB and Grant Thornton as an official sponsor of the Institute.

At every stage of negotiations on the UK's withdrawal from the EU, the DCU Brexit Institute has been very active in analysing developments, in providing a platform for international speakers and sectoral experts, and in serving as a key resource for objective and informed commentary. I am confident that, with this new partnership, the Institute's influence will continue to grow through the critical journey ahead.

New Institute for Digital Business at DCU


A new research institute focussing on digital technologies and their transformation of business has been launched at DCU. The Irish Institute for Digital Business (IIDB) takes over from the Irish Centre for Cloud Computing & Commerce (IC4), a national technology centre funded by Enterprise Ireland and the IDA since 2011.

A core part of the new centre will be DOTLAB, a dedicated space in DCU Business School for applied digital optimisation and transformation research. DOTLAB will host Irish and international researchers from industry and academia to pursue research on six key themes: The Future of Finance; The Future of Work; The Future of Sales and Marketing; The Future of Information Systems; The Future of Operations & Logistics; and The Future of Governance.

The IIDB comprises over 28 faculty members and full-time researchers, making it the largest concentration of digital business researchers in Ireland.  Led by Professor Theo Lynn (DCUBS), the institute aims to transfer research insights and outcomes to multiple audiences, to accelerate the adoption of digital technologies, optimise digital processes and, as a result, to transform those businesses.

The launch of IIDB marks the beginning of the next chapter in better understanding digital technologies within a business environment. A natural successor to IC4, the IIDB will comprise theoretical and applied research on the critical tools and trends that are shaping business today. I look forward to seeing the valuable outputs from the IIDB over the coming years as digital technologies and their role within the workplace continue their rapid and relentless evolution.

Dr Garrick Allen wins prestigious international honour

Congratulations to Dr Garrick Allen, Lecturer in New Testament at our School of Theology, Philosophy, and Music! Last month, Garrick was announced as a winner of a Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise, in recognition of his book, ‘The Book of Revelation and Early Jewish Textual Culture’ (Cambridge University Press, 2017).

Winners are selected by the Research Centre for International and Interdisciplinary Theology (FIIT) of the University of Heidelberg and awards are given to the ten top dissertations or first books in biblical or theological studies written by scholars under the age of 35.

Commenting on the announcement, Garrick said: “I'm very proud to have received this prestigious award and I am very grateful from the support I received from my colleagues at DCU. The School of Theology, Philosophy, and Music is an excellent context to undertake ambitious and interdisciplinary research."

Garrick will receive his award on 17 May 2019 in Heidelberg.

Professor Maura McAdam honoured at inaugural Irish Women’s Awards 2019

A big congrats to Professor Maura McAdam, Director of Entrepreneurship in DCUBS, who was recently recognised at the inaugural Irish Women’s Awards 2019 for her service to education.

Maura is an internationally-recognised educator and scholar within the area of entrepreneurship, and her expertise is focused in particular on gender, incubation, technology entrepreneurship and family business.

These awards showcase the contribution of women to various industries and professions such as Law, Medicine, Technology, Arts, Education and others. It also provides a platform to thank and recognize meritorious women for their contributions to society as well as for the exceptional work they carry out on a daily basis.

DCU Refugee Week highlights achievements of DCU's University of Sanctuary

I was pleased to participate recently at the launch of our annual Refugee Week and our new University of Sanctuary (UoS) website. Refugee Week 2019, which ran until Friday 1st February, celebrated a number of activities and developments associated with our UoS initiative since DCU’s designation in 2016, including:

- A total of 42 students enrolled in programmes to date across DCU Connected, Future Learn and campus-based programmes.

- A further 70 completed programmes through MELLIE (Migrant English Language, Literacy and Intercultural Education), a project which runs for 11 weeks with group sessions taking place weekly at DCU. 

As Ireland’s first designated UoS, Refugee Week is one of a number of initiatives that DCU is committed to annually. Our aim is to welcome asylum seekers and refugees into the university community and promote a culture of inclusion for all.

Each year, Refugee Week aims to the DCU community together to build new links with our refugee and immigrant communities, especially those in direct provision.

Ray Walshe contributes to World Economic Forum report

Ray Walshe, Assistant Professor in our School of Computing and a ‘Digital Leader with the World Economic Forum’, has contributed to a significant report that was officially launched at the recent World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos.

Against the backdrop of Europe trying to catch up in innovation with other regions such as the US and China, the Innovate Europe: Competing for Global Innovation report provides insights into a new model for innovation, highlighting ways for Europe to change the game and address its lack of scale in digitisation and Artificial Intelligence. It also discusses the fundamental building blocks for European innovation competitiveness, including the status quo and concrete ideas in how to move forward.

Perspectives and scalable examples were collected and developed with a community of leading founders, investors, incubators, corporate and public figures from across Europe.