Annual Report 2001 - School of Biotechnology

annual report 2001

school of biotechnology

Unit Report
Head: Professor Richard O'Kennedy

  • Major successes in obtaining research grants.
  • ILAB accreditation for City Biologic.
  • Development of new School Strategic Plan.

Members of the School were very successful in attracting major new grant support. This included grants from HRB (North-South Initiatve) (Prof J Dalton); Enterprise Ireland Basic Schemes (Prof R O'Kennedy/Dr J Quinn, Prof P Cahill/Dr D Walls, Prof J Dalton); Food Safety Promotion Board (Prof R O'Kennedy); Enterprise Ireland Travel Grants (Prof R O'Kennedy); British Council Travel Grants (Prof R O'Kennedy); Health Research Board (Prof P Cahill, Dr D Walls, Dr D O'Shea); DAFF (Dr R Devery, Prof R O'Kennedy); Teagasc Walsh Fellowship (Prof R O'Kennedy); EPA (Dr B Quilty); DCU Education Trust (Dr S McDonnell/Dr R Devery).

The involvement of members of the School in the National Centre for Sensor Research (NCSR) was very successful with Dr B O'Connor, Dr T Ryan, Dr M O'Connell, Dr D Walls, Dr C Fagan, Prof P Cahill and Prof R O'Kennedy receiving funding. Dr R Devery, Dr B Quilty, Dr S McDonnell, Dr P Walsh, Dr D O'Shea and Dr D Walls are also very involved with ongoing developments in the National Centre for Cellular Biotechnology (NICB) under the overall direction of Prof M Clynes. The NICB was recognised as a university designated research centre and was selected to represent DCU in the latest HEA PRTL1 research application round. Both NCSR and NICB involve major collaborations both between School members and with other Schools, including Chemical and Physical Sciences, Engineering and Computing. A major new centre involving Prof J Dalton and Prof P Cahill and other members of the School and Faculty is also being developed.

Dr G Foley and Prof J Dalton were on sabbatical for part of this year. Prof J Dalton was also awarded an Albert College Fellowship.

Dr T Ryan was Chairperson of the Board of the Biotechnology Degree programme and Dr D Walls was Chairperson on the M.Sc. in Biological Sciences Programme Board. Both programmes continue to develop very successfully. Dr T Ryan and Prof O'Kennedy and other staff members played a major part in the development of modules of the programmes in Sports Science & Health, Common Entry for Science, Science Education and Medical Mechanical Engineering. Dr C Fagan also made substantial contributions to Fiontar. Dr T Ryan gave courses for Applied Languages and Prof R O'Kennedy gave lectures for the M.Sc. in Science Communication. Dr Susan McDonnell had particular responsibility for the Analytical Science programme. The high number of students choosing the Biology Option is a clear indication of the success of her efforts. This year there was a very successful Science Faculty Open Day for Schools run during Science Week. Dr D O'Shea was the main coordinator in Biotechnology with major inputs from S McKenna from the Faculty Office and many academic and postgratuate school members. The use of a range of displays and interactive exhibits were a highlight and it was attended by over 600 second level students. There was a very extensive programme for Schools Liaison. As part of the DCU Open Day, there were lectures involving academic staff members and laboratory presentations involving Mr B Austen and Dr P Carty. There were visits to schools, work experience placement aimed at transition year students and access programmes. Mr P Dillon and Mr S Daly, postgraduate students, made a very major contribution to the Schools Liaison Programme coordinated by Student Support & Development. Prof R O'Kennedy gave a main lecture and the Vote of Thanks to the London International Youth Science Forum. Dr B Quilty was also involved in Biology Today for school students through her work for the Institute of Biology. She was also a judge at the ESAT Young Scientists Exhibition. Four courses, Biology, Biotechnology, Medicine in the Laboratory and Pharmacology were run as part of the Centre for Talented Youth Summer Programme and were very successful. The enthusiasm of the course leaders, Ms J Fitzpatrick, Ms T McCormack, Ms E O'Donovan and Mr N Carolan and their many assistants and the technical staff (Dr P Carty, Ms D Curtin, M McLaughlin, Mr N Foley, Ms K Banahan, Ms J Cunningham, Mr G Dodrill and Ms T Cooney) made this programme such a success.

Dr B Quilty became President of the Institute of Biology of Ireland and developed a very active programme while being Chairperson.

Dr P Carty ran the Access Programme on behalf of the School with assistance from Ms T Cooney.

The running of The International Biology Olympiad, and the selection of the Irish Biology Olympiad team again took place. This process required considerable inputs from Ms D Gleeson and Prof R O'Kennedy. The final panel was trained by Ms D Gleeson and collaborators with excellent coordination by Mr M Cotter (Educational Studies). The Olympiad was held in Brussels and the team was led by Prof R O'Kennedy.

Dr S McDonnell was a member of the National Committee for Biology, Dr M O'Connell, a member of the National Committee for Microbiology, Dr R Devery, a member of the National Committee of Nutrition and Prof R O'Kennedy was a member of the National Committee for Biochemistry of the Royal Irish Academy. Dr D Fagan was also a member of the latter committee representing the Irish Area Section of the Biochemical Society.

The School continued to develop its industrial interactions. There was 100% placement on the INTRA programme due particularly to the efforts of Dr C Fagan and all staff members.

We wish to congratulate the following: Prof J Dalton and Dr J Tobin on the birth of their babies. We were very sorry to lose Mr N Foley, who made a major contribution to the School. He will continue his studies full-time for a higher degree.

Dr P Walsh was appointed Director of Quality Promotion for the University. We congratulate him on his appointment, wish him well for the future and thank him for his major contributions to the School over the last 17 years.

City Biologic had a particularly successful year and was awarded ILAB accreditation. This was the first such award to a university and is a tribute to the input of Dr B Quilty, Mr R Lawson and all the staff of City Biologic.

We wish to thank all the post-doctoral fellows and post-graduate students for their inputs to so many of the School's activities. Their patience, endurance, hard work and will power played a key role in ensuring success in research, teaching and public relations activities. The Biological Research Society has been particularly active organising an excellent set of lectures and other scientific activities, culminating in a research scientific visit to Prague, Czech Republic.

A very significant development was the involvement of all members in the formulation of a new School Strategic Plan. This was coordinated by Dr M O'Connell who put in a huge amount of work for its successful completion. This is in line with the development of a new University Strategic Plan and many members of the School were also active in its development.

The BioConnect meeting was held on 27 September , 2001 at DCU. The topic for this meeting related to the different forms of financing available to start-up biotechnology / life sciences companies and the criteria required for these companies to be successful.

The 11th Irish Environmental Researchers' Colloquium, Water and our Environment, took place at Dublin City University on 26 - 27 January 2001. DCU researchers have a strong track record in studying a broad range of environmental issues and in particular issues relating to water quality and water treatment. For this reason 'Water' was chosen as the theme for the meeting. The opening talk was given by the President of DCU, Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski following which two keynote speakers addressed the delegates. Professor Paul Worsfold, Professor of Analytical Science and Director of the Plymouth Environmental Research Centre at the University of Plymouth gave a talk on 'Analytical Techniques for the in situ monitoring of environmental processes'. Dr Padraic Larkin, Director of the Irish Environmental Protection Agency spoke about 'Environmental Challenges for the New Millennium'.

Very special thanks are due to Ms B Drew, Mr K Griffin, Ms G Barry, Ms S McKenna and Ms V Wade for their many constructive ideas, inputs and work on behalf of the School.

The colloquium has a broad remit to encourage interaction among environmentalists from all disciplines. Delegates came from all parts of Ireland and some from abroad. There were representatives from practically all the third level institutions both North and South. In addition there was a good representation from both the private and public sector involved with Environmental Science. A broad range of contributions for both paper and poster presentations was received. More than 60 posters were displayed and up to 50 oral presentations were given on all aspects of environmental science.