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Last updated: Monday, March 30, 2020 - 14:06

Faculty of Science & Health

UGSRI 20120

Are you an undergraduate student wishing to pursue a career in research?

Applications are invited from undergraduate students studying science and health related disciplines in DCU and other higher education institutions for our Undergraduate Summer Research Internship Programme.  Applicants should be enthusiastic self-starters, typically at the end of their second or third year of study and have an interest in research. Interns will receive a stipend of €2,020 gross.  Start and end date may vary, depending on the project chosen.

Select the internship or project for which you would like to apply from those listed below; you may only apply for ONE project/internship. Complete the application form and submit together with all supporting documentation. Further information on each project is available by emailing the Principal Investigator (PI).  Shortlisted candidates may be interviewed.

Closing date: Wednesday, 15th April 2020

E: science@dcu.ie   T: 01 700 8975

 New Materials for Battery Technology


School/Research Centre 

Principal Investigator (PI) 

Project Description 

School of Physical Sciences

Robert O'Connor
robert.p.oconnor@dcu.ie

The lithium ion battery is ubiquitous in modern society and the development of the technology has led to its implementation in everything from mobile phones to electric vehicles. However, lithium is rare, expensive, and there are significant questions around the labour practices involved in its mining. Furthermore there are fire risks associated with lithium-based batteries. One proposed solution to all of these problems is a shift towards sodium-ion based batteries. In the proposed project we plan to develop, using a modern materials deposition technique and in-situ interface chemistry, sodium-ion based batteries with low cost, high-capacity and increased safety.

The atomic layer deposition (ALD) technique which we plan to employ has been widely used in the semiconductor industry to grow high quality thin films to enable continued scaling of nano-scale electronic devices. More recently is has been used in the development of thin film Li-ion batteries for the anode, cathode, and electrolyte elements. To date there is very little research on ALD processes for sodium ion batteries and our proposal involves the developing of anode, cathode, and solid-state electrolyte materials over the course of the project. Material growth will take place in a state of the art, commercial atomic layer deposition reactor which is coupled (in vacuum) to an x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy analysis station. This setup is unique in the world and will facilitate a fundamental understanding of the surface chemistry that underpins the layer growth allowing for continued optimisation of the processes, and ultimately high quality layers which will lead to batteries with excellent electrochemical properties.

Self-disclosure in Online Intersex Communities

School/Research Centre 

Principal Investigator (PI) 

Project Description 

Nursing, Psychotherapy & Community Health

Mel Duffy
mel.duffy@dcu.ie

Intersex/Variations of Sex Characteristics (I/VSC) is a general term referring to the state of being born with biological sex characteristics that vary from what is typically thought of as exclusively male or female. I/VSC is a variation in human biology which does not ordinarily impair life or physical health. However, because their bodies are different, I/VSC people often suffer from stigma and social discrimination that causes them to conceal that difference.  This can result in them deliberately not availing of healthcare services, education, sport or employment opportunities due to fear of disclosure of their I/VSC state.  Online communities offer individuals with I/VSC a forum in which they can ask questions, source information from informed members who understand their concerns and where they can receive advice that is based on other members’ experiences, whilst at the same time retaining their anonymity.  In order for these online communities to be successful, members must evaluate the community as trustworthy, be willing to move beyond passive participation and engage in community discussions.  However, the factors that generate the trust and engagement of marginalised groups in an online community context are a matter of speculation.

Aims:

(1)   Identify the antecedents of trust and engagement in I/VSC communities.

(2)   Examine the factors influencing knowledge contribution and knowledge adoption behaviours amongst these online communities. 

If we can gain insight into these factors that influence trust in online I/VSC communities, online moderators can use that information to facilitate greater engagement and create more successful platforms.   Data will be collected by an anonymous online survey that has been developed in conjunction with experts in the field of I/VSC. The survey will be disseminated using the PI’s existing I/VSC social networks including members of an I/VSC expert research group. Data will be analysed via PLS structural equation modelling techniques    

Extended Field of View Ultrasound Measures of Lower Limb Architecture
Intra- and Inter- Rater Reliability


School/Research Centre Principal Investigator (PI) Project Description 
Health and Human PerformanceFearghal Behan
fearghal.behan@dcu.ie
Muscle architecture is measured for a variety of purposes: muscle function, muscle injury risk, response to rehabilitation, and response to strength or cardiovascular interventions. Muscle architecture measures fascicle length, pennation angle and thickness of a muscle. Architecture of a muscle can reliably be measured by two-dimensional ultrasound methods.The School of Health and Human Performance has recently purchased a new ultrasound machine. This equipment could be used for a variety of research and clinical purposes. The PI has conducted numerous studies utilizing ultrasound methods for assessing muscle architecture using a static image capture and extrapolation equations to assess fascicle length, as the full fascicle is not observable in one static image with a normal probe. However, recently it has been found that extended field of view (EFOV) methods for muscle architecture are superior to static image capture and extrapolation. Establishing reliability in extended field of view methods for measuring architectural parameters in the hamstrings and quadriceps muscles would enable HHP staff to utilise optimal two-dimensional ultrasound measures for measuring prospective injury risk, response to rehabilitation, and response to interventions. These methods have also been found to be reliable for measuring cross sectional area in the quadriceps, reducing the requirement for expensive MRI, CT, or DEXA scans for clinical research studies, once reliability is established.An intern is required to run a reliability study alongside the PI, where the PI will initially train the intern on muscle architecture assessment methods. Intra- rater reliability will initially be established in EFOV of both the biceps femoris long head and vastus lateralis muscle. Finally, the inter- rater reliability of imaging both muscles will be investigated. Assessment of these two muscles utilising EFOV has not been investigated together previously and would be suitable for publication in high impact research journals.
Conductivity of Thin Ink-jet Printed Metal Layers

School/Research Centre Principal Investigator (PI) Project Description 

School of physical sciences

Karsten Fleischer
karsten.fleischer@dcu.ie

The aim of the project is to perform comparative measurements of printed metal thin layers. The samples are produced within an international collaboration between I-Form and a solar energy research centre in the US (QESST, Arizona state university). With in the summer project the focus will be on initial measurements of sheet resistance and Hall mobility of various films produced within the project using novel metal nano-particle inks in DCU (Prof. Brabazon, I-Form). Measurements have to be done on as grown films, as well as processed films by thermal annealing, plasma treatments etc. The aim is to identify films with the highest conductivity. The summer student will be trained in using the electrical measurement system but will also be introduced to the larger research project in the background which produces the NPs in the first place, prints the layers, which in turn will be used in the QESST centre as seed layers for electrodeposition of thicker Cu wires used as front contact in novel solar cells.




Prototyping of Multi-pass Optical Spectrometer System for Ultra-thin Thin Characterisation

School/Research Centre 

Principal Investigator (PI) 

Project Description 

School of Physical Sciences/NCPST

Enda McGlynn
enda.mcglynn@dcu.ie

The proposed work will prototype an existing multi-pass optical spectrometry system (~ 100 bounce configuration) to determine its suitability for in-situ use with the new SFI-funded XPS-ALD system in the NRF. The current SFI AMBER Spoke which I am a funded investigator on requires characterisation of ultra-thin (<10 nm) polymer brush films which are the starting material for the development of selective area deposition techniques based on atomic layer deposition (ALD). These layers are far too thin to be characterised by conventional FT-IR spectroscopy due to the small amount of material present, but we have developed an optical multi-pass system which bounces the beam back and forth ~ 100 times, meaning the effective optical path through the film is increased 100-fold, enabling us to measure the film’s spectral properties. These properties are very important in terms of understanding the grafting of the polymer brushes to the silicon substrates, and FT-IR measurements complement the x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) measurements available in the new SFI-funded XPS-ALD system in the NRF since FT-IR measurements yield information on vibrational properties and also bonding at the brush-silicon interface, compared to the atomic chemistry at the top of the polymer revealed by XPS data.

While we have developed a stand-along optical multi-pass system which bounces the beam back and forth ~ 100 times and is coupled to an FT-IR spectrometer, the next stage is to test this for its suitability for in-situ deployment in the XPS-ALD system in the NRF. The exact optical configuration, including the use of the sample in a glancing angle configuration needed in the XPS-ALD system will be studied. The number of bounces (and hence the sensitivity) possible is also very sensitive to the dimensions of the system, the sizes of the reflecting mirrors etc. 

Discovering New Pulsars to Measure Cosmic Magnetic Fields

School/ Research Centre 

Principal Investigator (PI) 

Project Description 

School of Physical Sciences

Shane O'Sullivan
shane.osullivan@dcu.ie

The Intern will analyse radio astronomical data from the LOFAR telescope to identify new pulsar candidates in the Milky Way galaxy. After identification of the most promising of these candidates, they can quickly be observed with I-LOFAR (on the timescale of the project) to confirm the discovery or rule it out. Pulsars are rapidly rotating neutron stars that emit short pulses of radio waves periodically in the direction of Earth. Finding new pulsars is difficult, but important because they can be used as very precise probes of cosmic magnetic fields. Through this work, the Intern will interact with the I-LOFAR team as well as with international researchers giving an excellent insight into how large teams work together to make new discoveries.

The Intern will have the opportunity to visit the I-LOFAR station in Birr, and to attend Irish National Astronomy Meeting (held in DCU from from 2-4 Sept 2020). At the INAM meeting they will present their work as a poster or talk. This will allow them to make broader links within the Irish astronomy community and observe research dissemination in action. This project also gives the Intern the potential of co-authorship on any publication coming from their work, thus making them more competitive for IRC PhD funding in the future. 

I will meet with the Intern at least twice weekly (more often at the beginning), where they will report on what they have done and discuss any problems. I will emphasise the importance of accurate note taking and documentation, through the use of a shared Evernote Notebook. The project will require the Intern to develop their coding skills (python), and to learn how to analyse data in a high-performance-computer environment. The Intern will write a report on their work, including a basic physical description of pulsars.  



Gliadins and Celiac Disease
A Detailed Examination of Indigestible Wheat Proteins on the Intestinal Barrier  


School/ Research Centre 

Principal Investigator (PI) 

Project Description 

School of Biotechnology

Keith Rochfort
keith.rochfort@dcu.ie

Celiac disease in an autoimmune disease characterised by the inflammation of the intestinal mucosa. It is triggered by wheat gliadins – difficult to digest gluten proteins that have been shown to induce stress within the digestive system.  However, the reason why they are dangerous in the intestines of celiac disease sufferers is currently unknown.

The wall of the intestine is comprised of epithelia; a compact cellular monolayer that acts as a barrier between the contents of the intestine and the underlying tissue/vascular bed. As a result, certain properties of the epithelia; such as barrier function, can be augmented by environmental cues such as dietary intake. Amongst these properties, and of particular importance to barrier function are the proteins that comprise the intercellular tight junction. These proteins strictly regulate the traffic of biomolecules from a person’s diet across the intestinal wall by maintaining adhesive forces between neighbouring cells through cell-cell contact points, and ensuring absorption is primarily directed through transport-mediated mechanisms.

Studies have shown that gliadin fractions have the ability to alter intestinal permeability in both a time- and dose-dependent manner, however, the exact mechanisms through which this is achieved have yet to be fully discerned. This project will utilise in vitro cell models of the intestinal cell wall and examine the direct effect of gliadin fractions on cell phenotype; specifically, the response of tight junction proteins and the subsequent impact on functional aspects of the representative cell models.

The successful candidate will gain experience in cell culture (across different cell types, utilising different models), and a variety of molecular (qPCR), proteomic (Western blot), and functional (cell barrier) techniques. Candidates will also gain experience in general laboratory practises such as scientific reporting, presentations, and statistical analysis.    



The “Impact” of Concussion at a Cellular Level

School/ Research Centre 

Principal Investigator (PI) 

Project Description 

School of Biotechnology

Robert Wallace
robert.wallace@dcu.ie

The blood-brain barrier is the single cellular interface between the blood and the extracellular fluids in the cerebral cavity. Comprised of the endothelium, these cells form a structural single-cell barrier that is responsible for the exchange of materials such as plasma proteins, nutrients, and metabolic waste between the cell types of the cerebral space and the micro-circulation. In short, the blood-brain barrier endothelium infers stability to cerebral environment and preserves the functionality the central nervous system.  

Concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury that can occur from a forceful impact to the head. In certain instances, concussion can result in functional neurological disturbances that are often transient, but in certain contexts may become permanent. This often manifests after repeated incidents and/or poor injury management in which the cellular structures that maintain the brain become structurally damaged, and in turn experience impaired function.

Studies have shown the blood-brain barrier endothelium’s ability to detect, transduce, and adapt to mechanical forces is due to a concerted effort of numerous receptors located on the cell surface. Owing to the damage sustained from an acute stretch, the endothelium’s ‘adaptation’ via the rapid onset of receptor-mediated signalling cascades can ultimately lead to a new cellular phenotype. This project will utilise in vitro cell models of the cerebrovasculature and examine the effect of ‘stretch’ forces on the primary cells of the vessel wall. In particular, the profile of the injured cell types will be examined with particular focus on cytokine and chemokine release, with exploration of the individual impact of such on the resultant injury using intervention strategies.  

The successful candidate will gain experience in cell culture (across different cell types, utilising different co-culture and hemodynamic modeling approaches), and a variety of molecular (qPCR), proteomic (Western blot), and functional (cell barrier) techniques. Candidates will also gain experience in clinical measurement and sampling, in addition to general laboratory practices such as scientific reporting, presentations, and statistical analysis.  

Health Focused State of the Nation Study of DCU Students

School/ Research Centre 

Principal Investigator (PI) 

Project Description 

School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health

Mary Rose Sweeney
maryrose.sweeney@dcu.ie

The PI for this internship is Dr. Mary Rose Sweeney, Head of the School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health. The internship will enable a recent graduate (Daragh McMenemy) to prepare his application for the upcoming IRC scholarship to fund a PhD project. The proposed research is to explore the health and wellbeing status of DCU students and their health behaviours, across the domains of diet, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, physical activity and sexual health by administering the Healthy Ireland questionnaire. Using data from the questionnaire, we will identify which aspects of students' health behaviours are in most need of targeting. We will design, implement and evaluate an intervention(s) to improve the health status of students in DCU. This opportunity will provide valuable time to prepare the IRC application, update the literature review to inform the study, refine the research question, refine the aims and objectives, keep developing the methodology and invite the necessary collaborators.

Students are laying the foundations for lifelong behaviours as behavioural choices maintained during university may track into adulthood and influence long term health outcomes. DCU have begun to coordinate, promote and ensure supportive environments for health and wellbeing across its three campuses since 2018, following the launch of the health and wellbeing charter. REACT group host alcohol consumption workshops to inform students about the harmful effects of alcohol and the Smoke Free Committee is working to ensure DCU becomes smoke free by 2020. Our work will increase DCU's capacity to enable supportive environments for health and lead the way for health promoting universities in Ireland as well as contribute to the Healthy Ireland agenda. DCU will strengthen its goal to develop students into 'change agents' for not only their own health but through their professions and communities they will live in, supporting a healthier Ireland. 



A Review of the Design and User Evaluation of Digital Health Technologies Providing Diet and
Lifestyle Support for Breast Cancer Survivors


School/ Research Centre 

Principal Investigator (PI) 

Project Description 

SNPCH/Centre for eIntegrated Care (CeIC)

Pamela Hussey (PI) & Claire Timon (Co-PI)
pamela.hussey@dcu.ie

Background: Improvements in treatment and early detection of cancer has contributed to the rise in the number of cancer survivors. Healthy eating and lifestyle behaviour is associated with reduced recurrence and mortality amongst survivors however there is a lack of health-related support for patients post treatment. eHealth technology is a cost-effective solution to the provision of patient-driven, evidence based health related support which can reach large numbers of cancer survivors.  The application of eHealth technology to provide support relating to physical activity and diet is still an emerging field. Interventions to date using eHealth technology to provide lifestyle support to cancer survivors has resulted in short term effects, potentially due to lack of user engagement.

Aim:The aim of this project is to review and evaluate the design and user experience of established eHealth technologies providing diet and lifestyle support to breast cancer survivors for the identification of successful design features for improved user engagement.

Method:A review of relevant studies identified by a search of databases such as Medline, EMBASE, PubMed and CINAHL will be completed. A search strategy incorporating all key search terms will be defined. Studies which describe or assess the use of an eHealth technology or strategy to provide dietary support for breast cancer survivors will be included.

Results: The results of this research will inform a narrative review which will be submitted to an international journal for peer review and publication.

Benefits for the Intern:

The intern will join a research team and be supported to conduct a literature review which will assist the PIs with the retrieval of relevant research articles to populate this proposed review.

The intern will be listed as a contributing author if the effort provided is sufficient on a peer reviewed publication. .

The intern will have the opportunity to assist with other research activities in the CeIC (e.g. The “NEX living lab” where the potential of health support technologies for older adults are being investigated. This would provide experience for the successful applicant with an interest in the application of technology to health).

Investigation of DNA Conjugation with Silicon Nanoparticles

School/ Research Centre 

Principal Investigator (PI) 

Project Description 

School of Physical Sciences

Jennifer Gaughran
jennifer.gaughran@dcu.ie

This project aims to develop a new biomedical diagnostic tool for DNA testing that can ultimately be used as a Point-of-Care system. DNA testing is an arduous process involving difficult and time-consuming sample preparation and expensive detection instrumentation. This project utilises the unique properties of Silicon nanoparticles (SiNPs) to overcome these issues. Pulsed laser ablation in liquid (PLAL) is used to produces the SiNPs by means of laser irradiation of a bulk target material submerged in an ionic liquid solution. The ability to rapidly synthesise and control the size of nanoparticles of different materials (gold, silver, zinc and silicon), is an area of research here in DCU, however possible applications of these size controllable particles have yet to be investigated. This work will be a continuation of a final year project that has been jointly run between the Schools of Physical Sciences and Biotechnology. We have already determined that we can conjugate (bind) DNA to SiNPs in an ionic solution, without the requirement of any harsh chemicals. We can do this in-situ (simultaneously during the NP laser synthesis process) and ex-situ (mixing the DNA solution with the NPs after synthesis). What we need now is to verify that this process works for both low and high concentrations of SiNPs/DNA and if there is an efficiency difference between in-situ and ex-situ conjugation. The candidate would be reporting to Dr. Jennifer Gaughran in School of Physical Sciences who has extensive experience in DNA capture and detection for Point-of-Care diagnostics and Brian Freeland in the School of Biotechnology, who developed and optimised this PLAL system for NP synthesis. The successful candidate will learn how to operate a PLAL system and synthesise NPs, will do UV-Vis absorption spectroscopy and florescence spectrometry and will develop general lab skills in physics, biology and chemistry. 



Isolating Decision Signals in the Human Brain that Mediate Financial Decision-making

School/ Research Centre 

Principal Investigator (PI) 

Project Description 

Psychology

David McGovern 
david.p.mcgovern@dcu.ie

As we go about our everyday life, we are faced with an endless stream of ‘perceptual decisions’ in which information received from the senses must be rapidly evaluated and translated into appropriate courses of action. These elementary choices rely on fundamental mechanisms in the brain that underlie a great many of our cognitive operations and are essential to our wellbeing and survival. Surprisingly, however, our understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying our capacity to make such decisions remains cloudy at best. Recent work by the PI and colleagues (McGovern et al., 2018, Nature Human Behaviour) has helped to identify decision-related signals in the human brain that can be used to interrogate a number of questions relating to how decision-making behaviour arises from neural activity which were previously infeasible. One such question relates to the role of rewards in shaping the decisions that we make. The current project aims to investigate whether the form in which rewards are provided to participants while they perform a perceptual task impacts on decision-making behaviour and the neural signals associated with these decision processes. Specifically, the project will test the hypothesis that “losses loom larger than gains” (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979), such that people respond differently in circumstances where they are perceived to be losing an established reward for completing a task as opposed to gaining a reward based on task performance. It is hypothesised that participants will make quicker but last accurate decisions in the “reward loss” condition. While participants complete the perceptual task, their brain activity will be recorded using electroencephalography (EEG), allowing us to assess whether these manipulations also impact on the neural signals that underpin these decisions. The results promise to provide exciting new insights into the neural mechanisms that give rise to financial decision-making. 

An Optimal Design for a Psychology Skills Hub

School/ Research Centre 

Principal Investigator (PI) 

Project Description 

School of Psychology

Louise Hopper (PI) and Catherine Fassbender
louise.hopper@dcu.ie

This summer project will research the value of, and optimal methods to, create a Psychology Skills Hub (the Hub) that can be used to support all DCU Psychology Students to develop key skills for success at all levels of psychological study. The Hub will be populated with formative learning and student support materials that will support our ability to be responsive to changing student needs and new programme demands, by delivering learning content using varied media and promoting student engagement at different times and in different ways.

The student researcher, under the supervision of Dr Hopper and Dr Fassbender, will: identify the support needs of current students and staff; collate an array of existing teaching, research and support information across a variety of media (textual, visual and audio); research optimal methods to present and display the information to make it easily accessible to a variety of users with differing learning styles (e.g. in Loop, through the SP webpages, etc.); assist the PIs to prioritise the creation/digitisation of new/existing content, and develop a mechanism to evaluate user satisfaction and the impact of the Hub as part of the regular monitoring of SP outcomes and KPIs.

The summer student will be exposed to a variety of critical skills salient to a variety of career paths, beyond the area of psychology: he/she will learn how to 1) effectively gather and collate data across a number of differing sources 2) design an efficacious, intuitive, applicable platform for the dissemination of information, 3) design and pilot a questionnaire to evaluate user satisfaction with the platform and 4) develop learning opportunities across different media to accommodate for individuals with a range of differing learning styles. The student will also gain experience in the arena of digital learning and website design.




Investigating the Relationship Between Ecological Concern and Mental Health
A Systematic Review


School/ Research Centre 

Principal Investigator (PI) 

Project Description 

School of Psychology

Simon Dunne
simon.dunne@dcu.ie

The proposed project will involve completing the primary empirical research phase of a substantial systematic review on the relationship between mental health and concerns over the ecology. Ecological anxiety is a response to climate change that involves feelings of helplessness and worry surrounding the future for oneself, their children and later generations (Clayton, Manning, Krygsman & Speiser, 2017). Anecdotal reports (e.g. Wolf & Salo, 2008; Moser, 2013) and dedicated individual programmes of research (e.g. Searle & Gow, 2010; Jones, Wootton, Vaccaro & Menzies, 2012) have indicated that the general public is becoming increasingly concerned about climate change and that there is a relationship between this concern and symptoms that are indicative of intense levels of anxiety, depression, stress and obsessive-compulsive symptoms. In spite of this, due to the highly politicised nature of this topic of enquiry, there have been substantial criticisms of such research and of calls to include “ecological anxiety disorder” in future editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (e.g. Robbins & Moore, 2013). In light of this, and in the absence of systematic analyses of current research on the relationship between mental health and ecological concern, there is a need to undertake a systematic review of the academic literature to establish the current state of the science in this area.

In order to conduct this review, the student applicant will systematically search multiple databases, including EMBASE, Medline, Web of Science, CINAHL and PsycINFO using relevant controlled vocabulary terms and free-text words. Studies will be included if they measure mental health outcomes in the context of concern or interest with the ecology. The student applicant will extract relevant data from included papers using a standardized data extraction template and, along with a second reviewer, will appraise the quality of included studies using an established checklist.

Is the Grass (Always) Greener on the Other Side?
Behavioural and Neurocognitive Effects and Therapeutic Properties of Cannabinoid Compounds in
Animals and Humans


School/ Research Centre Principal Investigator (PI) Project Description 

School of Psychology

Styliani (Stella) Vlachou
stella.vlachou@dcu.ie

The proposed project is in the field of neuropsychopharmacology and it aims to:

1) produce an invited review manuscript on Cannabinoids and Multiple Sclerosis for the Special Issue of the journal Molecules (IF: 3.060) "Role of Cannabinoids in Inflammation" with a deadline on the 31st of August 2020, and

2) prepare an ethics application form and relevant documents, as well as an IRC Postgraduate Fellowship application on either of the following three research projects, all focusing on cannabinoid compounds:

i) Cannabis Use in Ireland; a full behavioural and cognitive assessment in adolescence and early adulthood. Potential collaborators: Hugh Gallagher, Psychiatrist, HSE Ballymun; Ray Walley, GP; Mary Cannon, Psychiatrist, Beaumont Hospital/RCSI; Bobby Smith, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, TCD (discussions ongoing, collaborations to be confirmed);

ii) Holistic approaches to understand the cause of epilepsy and means for prevention of epileptic seizures using cannabinoids. The proposed research focuses on the use of the cannabinoid compound cannabidiol in an animal model of epilepsy to determine whether it can act protectively against epileptic seizures. Epileptic seizures will be induced in mice to study the metabolic changes in the brain which is the source and locus of epilepsy, aiming to determine the key molecular pathways which could be translated to humans for drug target development.

iii) Holistic approaches to understand the neurochemical mechanisms underlying Fragile X syndrome. The Fmr1 knock out mouse is a commonly used model for the X-linked disorder Fragile X and shows many of the behavioural and neurophysiological symptoms associated with the disorder. Using a series of interventions (i.e., ketogenic diet, cannabinoids, ganaxolone, antioxidants) we will focus on the metabolic pathways and networks that could effectively provide new knowledge over the neural mechanisms of different types of seizures.

The final selection of the project will depend on the ultimate priority of the BNL, the CV of the intern, as well as the preference of the intern, who will be considered a future PhD candidate for this purpose. 



Meanings of Human Milk Relations in Ireland

School/ Research Centre 

Principal Investigator (PI) 

Project Description 

School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health

Tanya M Cassidy
tanya.cassidy@dcu.ie

Human milk exchange is a significant issue for all those concerned with helping the single most vulnerable community within Irish society, vulnerable neonates.  This project will utilize triangulated qualitative methods and will involve training Lorraine Tham, a top third-year student, in ethical protocols and unobtrusive qualitative methods as well as how narrative interviews are conducted and the optimal gathering of ethnographic observational field notes.  The student will work with the PI for 20 hours per week for ten weeks and will begin by treating ethical considerations.  Phase 2 will involve unobtrusive data collection from newspapers and online data sources.  Phase 3 will involve training on how to conduct sensitive narrative interviews.  Phase 4 will involve both the PI and the student travelling to the donor human milk service in Northern Ireland.  Phase 5 will involve the dissemination of the results via presentations and in the form of a co-authored article submitted to a flagship journal.  The PI often presents to major community groups, and she will, therefore, offer to present these results and will also enable the student to take part in these presentations.  The PI has published in and is on the board of the major interdisciplinary journal, Maternal and Child Nutrition (Impact factor 3.305), and this will be our first choice for publication. This research will benefit the PI in expanding an important and somewhat controversial chapter in Irish donor human milk services.  It will enable a promising young scholar to continue her training and expand her work on a topic she has shown a lot of interest in while helping to prepare her for her future doctoral studies at DCU with the PI and Professor Anne Matthews

Reference

Cassidy, Tanya M. and Dykes, Fiona (2019). Banking on Milk: An ethnography of donor human milk relations. London: Routledge Press.

Are Impact Accelerations Related to Running Related Injuries?

School/ Research Centre 

Principal Investigator (PI) 

Project Description 

School of health and human Performance

Kieran Moran
kieran.moran@dcu.ie

Recreational running is extremely prevalent, with running related injuries (RRIs) being a persistent burden. While it has been hypothesized that impact loading (how hard a runner strikes the ground) is a contributing factor, there has been mixed evidence to support this, particularly with regard to the use of ground reaction forces measured with a force plate. Recently, impact accelerations have been advocated as an alternative measure of impact loading because they allow loading to be assessed on each body segment, and are highly portable and cheap.

To date, only a few studies have looked at impact acceleration and their relationship to injury. There findings have been contradictory due to low participant numbers (n=15-40) and limitations in data analytics. In the Running Injuries Surveillance Centre, we are currently conducting the largest ever biomechanical based prospective study on the relationship impact accelerations and running related injuries, with currently over 310 participants. RISC: dcuriscstudy.wixsite.com/dcuriscstudy),

The aims of the summer internship would be to (i) help process the collected data, and (ii) to collect additional data on participants to determine the repeatability of the measures taken.

The intern would meet with my myself on a weekly basis, supervised on a daily basis by the post doc (Dr Shane Gore) and work on a daily basis with two PhD students working solely on this project. This would give them a unique experience in working with state-of-the-art technologies (i.e. wearable inertial sensors, motion analysis systems); experts from diverse fields: physiotherapy, biomechanics and data analytics; and participants/patients.

Last year I took on a paid intern (and one volunteer intern), both of which applied this year for the IRC Postgraduate Scholarship Programme. The previous year, one of my summer interns was successful in this call.



An Examination into the Effects of Instrument Assisted Eccentric
Hamstring Strengthening Exercises on Hamstring Function


School/ Research Centre 

Principal Investigator (PI) 

Project Description 

Health and Human Performance

Enda Whyte
enda.whyte@dcu.ie

Hamstring strain injuries are extremely common accounting for 16% of injuries in soccer and 24% in Gaelic football. Worryingly, an injury recurrence rate of 22% and 36% has been observed in soccer and Gaelic football respectively. Therefore, primary and secondary injury prevention is of paramount importance. This is an area of research that the Injury Prevention and Performance cluster, located within the School of Health and Human Performance, has focused on in recent years with a number of publications and conference presentations. The recruitment of an intern is important for the continuation of this research.

The Nordic hamstring exercise is an eccentric strengthening exercise which has been found to reduce the incidence of hamstring injuries by up to 50% when implemented properly. These benefits have been attributed to the correction of risk factors for injury such as eccentric hamstring weakness, reduced length of hamstring muscle units and suboptimal hamstring activity. Consequently, a number of devices have been developed to assist with the Nordic Hamstring exercise. However, the effect of these devices on the hamstrings is not clear.

The aims of this study are to investigate the effects of instrument assisted eccentric hamstring strengthening on

1. hamstring force production

2. hamstring fascicle length

3. hamstring electromyographic activity

4. rating of patient comfort

An intern is required to assist with collection, collation and analysis of data collected and assist in the development of a summary of findings. The PI will provide training in data management, research methods and statistics. The intern will be integrated in the research team, which includes the principal investigator, other members of the research cluster and post-graduate students. The environment will facilitate the development of the intern as a young researcher with exposure to the interdisciplinary research experience, and the training and mentoring this group can offer.