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Faculty of Science & Health
UGSRI 20120

Undergraduate Summer Research Internship Programme 2021

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 €2,040 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: 6th April 2021

 

E: science@dcu.ie   T: 01 700 8975 

 

The project designed for the summer research internship aims to improve the knowledge in cancer therapy treatments. In the last few years, nanotechnology has significantly impacted cancer therapy due to the development of drug delivery systems consisting of nanocarriers able to release a drug at a specific site in a controlled manner, overcoming the typical toxic side effects of the standard chemotherapeutic treatments. In this context, the aim is to improve the research in cancer therapy treatments with particular attention to the potential use of carbon nano-onions (CNOs) as drug carriers through the blood-brain barrier and as a promising alternative to chemo treatment for brain tumours. The PI’s previous research showed that carbon nano-onions are ideal candidates for biomedical applications due to their low toxicity and surface functionalization flexibility. Since this is a remote placement, we will focus on a deep and critical research of the literature and then isolate specific areas that could be translated into lab-based research. I'm positive that the summer project will provide significant improvements to our carbon nano-onions research, and it will be beneficial for my research team and the School of Chemical Sciences at DCU. With this programme, the undergraduate student will develop research skills and it will give the basis for an application to the IRC postgraduate scholarship.

For more information on this project contact the project lead:

Silvia Giordani  silivia.giordani@dcu.ie

School of Chemical Sciences 

The Ladies Gaelic football Association (LGFA) is the largest Irish female sporting organisation and promotes women’s sport at all levels in the community. While the physical, mental and social benefits of partaking in community sports is clear, there is an inherent risk of injury. Injuries or fear of injury account for up to 8% of drop out from sporting activities annually. Worryingly, injury prevention strategies are rarely incorporated into sporting activities and drop-out is frequent in females. Thus, injury prevention programmes that can tangibly minimise injury risk are required. Best practice indicates that to design effective injury prevention programmes, a thorough understanding of injury prevalence and injury profile is required. However, there is a dearth of injury research in Ladies Gaelic footballers (LGF).

This projects aims to examine the LGFA injury fund to identify injury risk in LGF. Dr O’Connor will gain ethical approval and the intern, under the supervision of Dr O’Connor, will develop a report on the injury incidence and profile of Irish LGF. Weekly meetings will be held with a LGFA representative, teaching essential skills on stakeholder management. The intern will analyse the injury results and the PI will provide training in data management, research methods and statistics (Excel/SPSS). The intern’s scientific writing, presentation and communication skills will be enhanced through development of a written report and design of an infographic for dissemination of key findings to LGF and the wider community over social media, LGFA/DCU SHHP website, and the LGFA research podcast. The intern will be named on any published peer-reviewed paper/international conference submissions, enhancing prospects of future research funding applications. The intern will also be encouraged to network with the research students/researchers in the Centre for Injury Prevention and Performance and School of Health and Human Performance to identify their interest and suitability to research.

For more information on this project contact the project lead:

Siobhán O'Connor  siobhan.oconnor@dcu.ie

School of Health and Human Performance

Infectious bacteria cause a large disease burden and possess an increasingly extensive array of antibiotic resistance genes. These genes let the bacteria trigger worse infections and survive in new environments. Such antibiotic resistance genes exist mainly on genetic parcels known as plasmids. These DNA plasmids jump from one bacterial cell to another, and then further, including across species boundaries. This process of plasmid conjugation catalyses the adaptive potential of pathogenic bacteria and drives their evolution into new hosts and environments. Antibiotic treatment failure and chronic infections need to be informed by an evolutionary genomics perspective to identify threats before they emerge.
When a plasmid with antibiotic resistance genes enters a bacteria, it will only survive and spread if it is beneficial. So these plasmid genes must work well with the existing cell’s chromosomal genes. The Infection Genomics Lab has collated protein-protein interaction data for all (4,423) well-studied bacteria to see if specific plasmid’s sets of proteins bind (or not) to the proteins encoded by different bacterial chromosomes (see Decano et al 2020, doi: 10.1099/acmi.0.000179). The intern will use our existing computer code to test specific well-studied plasmids’ compatibility against this dataset. This bioinformatics project is not limited by being remote: the intern will use our high-performance computer server to implement their work.
The intern will develop their scientific skills by testing specific hypotheses about plasmid-chromosome synergies from published papers. The intern will improve their understanding of bacterial genomes, data visualisation and coding. The intern will liaise with collaborator Prof. Alexander Rahm (University of French Polynesia). We will meet with the intern daily to ensure smooth progress and will share file using the computer server and Google Drive. This will improve the intern’s skills in bioinformatics and provide valuable research experience that will open up future funding and career opportunities. 

For more information on this project contact the project lead:

Tim Downing  tim.downing@dcu.ie

School of Biotechnology

Coastal zones are threatened by forces such as climate change and sea-level rise that combine to drive increasingly intense storms, flooding, and erosion. Assessment and prediction of coastal vulnerability can only be achieved by systematic and sustained monitoring of physical, chemical and biological processes that occur in coastal zones. The overall objective of this project is a coordinated program of coastal observations that will be used to validate, calibrate and extract as much information as possible from satellite environmental data. We will integrate these datasets to generate forecasting models that can be used to predict environmental change and inform future planning. The project aims to provide experimental proof-of-concept in Dublin Bay that can be extrapolated to a range of environments.
This summer internship will contribute to the project by assisting with sample collection, analysis and interpretation. You will be required to accompany researchers on surveys, sample collection, and data buoy maintenance in Dublin Bay on research vessels. This is an exciting opportunity to work with scientists from many backgrounds and contribute to future coastal protection.

For more information on this project contact the project lead:

Brian Kelleher  brian.kelleher@dcu.ie

School of Chemical Sciences

Transparent conducting materials (TCMs) combine good electrical conductivity with high optical transparency and are primarily used in displays but have other applications in solar cells, OLEDs and other optoelectronic devices. It is common to assess a given TCM's properties by a so called figure of merit to allow for a better comparison of films with different composition and stoichiometry. For an individual single sample this procedure is straight forward. If one however wants to assess the homogeneity of a film and its figure of merit one has to compare maps of sheet resistance measurements with maps of transmission data taken on different instruments and with different spatial resolution. The summer project aims to write python programs to automate these calculations to create spatial figure of merit maps from measured resistance maps and sets of individual transmission measurements. This will require the conversion of various data formats from the manufactures of the individual instruments, optical modelling of the measured transmission to extract thickness information, data interpolation to consistent spatial coordinates and finally graphical representation of the 2D colour maps to visualise the samples inhomogeneities.

For more information on this project contact the project lead:

Karsten Fleischer  karsten.fleischer@dcu.ie

School of Physical Sciences

This UG Summer Research Internship will support an on-going mixed methods study which aims to examine rates of missed infection control practices by nurses, and to look at the reasons why nurses may not adhere to protocols around infection control practices in hospitals. Ethical approval has been obtained from the DCU REC to conduct the study using an online nurse survey and follow-up focus groups, in two Dublin hospitals. The intern will have an opportunity to develop important and transferable research skills around ethics applications, questionnaire development and piloting, and will be supervised directly by the named PI. 
The Covid19 pandemic has increased public focus on infection control measures in communities and in healthcare facilities, and nurses are seen to be integral to maintaining patient safety. Recently there has been a growing research focus on nursing care that is ‘missed’, often due to staffing or workload concerns, with resultant adverse outcomes for patients and nurses. When infection prevention and control care is missed by nurses in a hospital setting, this can result in increased incidences of health care associated infections. In the context of the pandemic, such omissions may contribute to in-hospital acquired Covid-19 for patients, and may also contribute to the high numbers of healthcare staff presenting with the virus.
The objectives of the internship are as follows:

  • To assist in the completion of forms for ethical approval to the RECs at two hospital sites, under the supervision of the PI
  • To contribute to the finalisation of the content of the online questionnaire, to include an instrument developed by a team of researchers at Flinders University for measuring missed infection control care and other measures to reflect the current healthcare context
  • To set up the survey using Qualtrics and to pilot it with a small group of nurses.

For more information on this project contact the project lead:

Marcia Kirwan  marcia.kirwan@dcu.ie

School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health

The rise of the 21st centrury technology "Web3.0" blockchain is currently finding increasing mainstream adoption. This project should investigate existing and possibly develop new compoenents in a blockchain technology stack supporting crowdfunding of research in academia and corporate sector. A keen interest in blockchain technology and computer programming would be essential, capability in smart-contract programming, e.g., in Solidity, very welcome.

For more information on this project contact the project lead:

Jens Ducrée  jens.ducree@dcu.ie

School of Physical Sciences

It has been estimated that every year 5.5 million tonnes of single-use plastic products are disposed of by life-science laboratories world-wide. This research project is tackling the challenge of reducing these laboratory’s reliance on single-use plastics and doing so in a sustainable and financially viable way. Our approach is to investigate a viable, compostable and recyclable alternative to traditional single-use plastics that will significantly reduce laboratories’ carbon footprint. Our benchmarking plan will ensure that current laboratory standards will be maintained. To create a true circular bioeconomy, we are using Irish waste streams while utilising cutting edge bioprocessing, materials production and characterisation, and data analytical techniques. Finally, with the support of our societal partners, we are conducting behavioural change studies to develop a rigorous, evidence-based implementation plan to inspire the adoption of sustainable solutions in laboratories. To achieve these goals, we need to develop a rigorous testing plan to evaluate bioplastic components constructed in-house in DCU using 3D printing. This project will involve data analysis and reporting of experimental data to determine whether our new material can meet chemical, biological, mechanical, and regulatory applicability as laboratory consumables products. SOP development and publication contributions will also be a key aspect of this project. The candidate would be reporting to Dr. Jennifer Gaughran in School of Physical Sciences who has experience in material science and polymer technologies and would be joining a dynamic and inter-disciplinary team. The successful candidate will be helping to develop STEM-led solutions to the reduction of plastic waste.

For more information on this project contact the project lead:

Jennifer Gaughran  jennifer.gaughran@dcu.ie

School of Physical Sciences

Overall research: Public and patient involvement (PPI) in research is where the public and patients are actively and meaningfully involved in every step of research (1). A key component of the international and national research agenda (2), PPI is at the centre of the Health Research Board (HRB) Strategy 2025 and a goal of DCU strategy (3). DCU is a leader of PPI through DCU PPI Ignite (2018-2021) (4) and the PPI Ignite Network (2021-2026) (5) which creates a shared voice for PPI in Ireland, improves the quality of PPI and facilitates learning. 
Intern research: The intern will join the PPI Ignite Network contributing to meetings, events and work. For example, organising PPI support clinics and seminars and the development of PPI training. The intern will work on a qualitative exploration of the impact of Covid-19 on PPI in DCU research focusing on what we can learn. This will include a literature review, qualitative interviews conducted remotely under PI supervision, analysis and write up. Participants will include members of research teams including researchers, public contributors and patient organisations. Findings will inform PPI training and support, feed in to PPI best practice and the patient experience.
Reporting and mentorship: Weekly meetings with the PI. PPI Ignite Network and DCU research team and steering committee meetings will be attended. Reporting will include a PPI case study report, submission of a paper to a peer reviewed journal and presentation to PPI Ignite Network at DCU. 
Skills and development: Training on conducting a literature review, qualitative data collection and analysis, research dissemination and PPI in research. Exposure to an internationally novel approach to developing PPI, research in an academic and an industry setting and the development of grant applications. Skills developed will include teamwork, communication with a variety of stakeholder groups and research skills.

For more information on this project contact the project lead:

Lucy Whiston  lucy.whiston@dcu.ie

School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health

One finding of my PhD study is a lack of clarity for intellectual disability nursing students in relation to clear attributes of the intellectual disability nurse. I completed my PhD study in July 2020 and in this study I developed an approach to data analysis which involves both critical discourse analysis (Gee, 2014) and legitimation code theory (Maton, 2014). Legitimation code theory and critical discourse analysis offer a structured approach to examining knowledge practice in higher education programmes and have been used previously in practice based disciplines to address challenges in students’ access to knowledge. In this summer internship programme I would like to work with an undergraduate nursing student to research this PhD finding. Shedding light on the attributes of the intellectual disability nurse is essential to enhance undergraduate intellectual disability nursing students’ access to knowledge and knowing. These insights will build understanding of the rules of the game that underlie intellectual disability nursing practice and education and the dispositions students need to cultivate to succeed in their programme of study and in their future nursing career.

For more information on this project contact the project lead:

Liz Hartnett  liz.hartnett@dcu.ie

School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health

Modern telescopes revealed that Universe is full of sources able to accelerate particles up to very high energies (GeV, TeV) in an extremely efficient way. Detailed studies of these sources should explain the details of physical processes governing the observed acceleration. FERMI telescope has been launched in 2009 and is observing the sky at GeV energies at unprecedented details for more than 10 years. All data collected by the telescope are publicly available. The student interested in this project will have a chance to learn FERMI data analysis and to analyze the behaviour of one or more high energy sources that are of prime interest to our high energy group. In particular, one of the most interesting sources in our Galaxy is the very central source, Sgr A* associated with the supermassive black hole. Previous studies of this source allowed to put forward several models that can explain the observed multi-wavelength behaviour. Analysis of the available data will give a chance to search for the variability of the emission on the years time scale, and favour or disfavour some of the models that have been proposed previously. Another very peculiar type of high energy sources are gamma-ray binary systems. In these systems observed high energy emission is a result of the collision of the relativistic wind from the compact object (neutron star or a black hole) with a stellar outflow from the young massive star. Less then 10 systems of this type are currently known, so it is highly important to find out what makes them so special. Systematical analysis of all the available GeV data would give a chance to check the existing models and contribute to the deeper understanding of these unique systems. This work should hopefully lead to a publication.

For more information on this project contact the project lead:

Masha Chernyakova  masha.chernyakova@dcu.ie

School of Physics

Introduction: The PANO trial is a single centre pilot RCT comparing a multi-modal prehabilitation programme against usual care in people with peritoneal malignancy (PM) scheduled for cytoreductive surgery (CRS) and heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) (n=50-70). The prehabilitation programme includes Physical Activity and Nutrition Optimisation (PANO) and will commence following diagnosis and continue up until the point of surgery, and resume following surgery for 6 weeks. Participants will be randomised to a prehabilitation group (physical activity and nutritional optimisation) or a usual care control group (standard care).
Methods: Primary aims are to investigate the effects of PANO compared to usual care on physical fitness pre-operatively measured using the 6 minute walk test (6MWT). Secondary endpoints include measures of strength, activity behaviour monitoring, Psychological Stress and Wellbeing (PSW), health-related Quality of Life (HQoL), self-efficacy, nutrition and also biomarkers associated with change in physical fitness and PSW post-operatively. Exploratory endpoints include assessment of clinical health by post-operative morbidity, hospital length of stay and a health economics analysis. 
Impact: We propose to integrate prehabilitation from the point of cancer diagnosis  to optimise patients health as part of cancer survivorship care. The PANO trial will inform the prescription of prehabilitation as well as the design of a larger definitive trial to improve post-operative outcomes.

For more information on this project contact the project lead:

Dr. Lorraine Boran (co-supervisor Dr. Lisa Loughney, Ex Well Medical Ltd.)  lorraine.boran@dcu.ie

School of Psychology

The cell's lipid membrane acts as a barrier that protects the cell from the external environment, understanding how nanomaterials interact with the cell membrane and cross it would help with drug delivery problem. This short project will focus on studying how the charge and size of a nanomaterial affect the interaction with a lipid membrane using computational chemistry calculations. The project will introduce the student to state-of-the-art computational chemistry software. The intern would learn how to prepare, visualize, run the simulations and analyze the output data. All the software required for the study is already installed in one of the servers the PI's group has. This server would be assigned to the intern for use during the duration of the project. The server can be accessed remotely, and the tutorials and meetings would take place over ZOOM so that the whole project will take place remotely. 
The project is designed to engage the intern quickly and effectively in the research, starting with a hand-on tutorial covering how to access the server and use the different software. Also, the PI would provide relevant reading material. The intern would participate in the weekly PI's group meetings, where she/he would have the chance to interact with the other group members. The intern will write a short report about the research project, including high-quality graphs and tables. The intern will also prepare and practice a short presentation about the project that she/he would present in the group meetings' friendly environment. The PI would guide the intern through all these processes. These skills learned by the intern in this project would significantly increase her/his competitiveness to win postgraduate funding. 

For more information on this project contact the project lead:

Joaquin Klug  joaquin.klug@duc.ie

School of Chemical Sciences

The Irish government has committed to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 51% by the year 2030 and attaining net zero emissions by 2050. A large contributor to this reduction will be waste management and sustainable end-of-life plans for waste produced from all public bodies including public sector labs, including the HSE, Irish Water and university research and education labs. The cost of disposal of waste from these institutions is vast. For example hospitals produce approximately 2,000 tonnes of healthcare waste/year with an estimated cost of  €1.3M yearly, a large component of this is plastic based. Within Europe, approximately 31% of all plastic waste is incinerated. It is estimated that plastic production and incineration of plastic waste contributes 400 million tonnes of CO2 a year globally. There are upwards of 20k institutions worldwide involved in life-science. 
We are looking to address this problem by creating  a circular bioeconomy, to valorise local untapped waste-streams while utilising advanced bioprocessing methodology to produce a viable bioplastic that could be composted at its end of life. This project will examine the potential of local brewing & distilling waste products as a viable feedstock for bioconversion to a compostable bioplastic.  The intern will work within a team composed of 2 PIs, 1 post-doc researcher, MSc students and other undergraduate student researchers, helping to compile reports to examine the viability of the bioprocess.

For more information on this project contact the project lead:

Brian Freeland  brian.freeland@dcu.ie

School of Biotechnology

This project will advance a collaboration between DKIT's NetwellCASALA and DCU's School of Psychology. The Living Lab at NetwellCASALA has conducted a community needs survey regarding older adult's barriers and facilitators to using technology within the pandemic. This project will utilise the outcomes from this survey to conduct a systematic review of the literature in order to identify potential solutions for community-based older adults and key stakeholders. 

For more information on this project contact the project lead:

Darragh McCashin  darragh.mccashin@dcu.ie

School of Psychology