October 2016 | Deireadh Fómhair 2016

Celebrating 10 Years of Undergraduate Student Research

Fri, 21 October 16 10:42

The Student Summer Research Awards (SSRA) is now firmly established as a highlight of our academic year.  However, the 2016 SSRA event was particularly noteworthy as it represented the 10th anniversary of this innovative undergraduate student research initiative.  It was, as usual, a closely fought contest with the eight students selected from over 100 competition participants to give oral presentations to assembled faculty, battling it out for the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals for excellence in research.  The oral competition was ably compared by Dr Amanda McCann, Chair of the SSRA Committee and Professor Cormac Taylor.

SSRA2016 Finalists

Our congratulations to Ms Leia Judge who was awarded the SSRA 2016 Gold Medal for her research project entitled ‘Gene and Tonic : Exploring the molecular mechanisms underlying fetal alcohol syndrome’ with Ms Ciara Giles Doran taking the silver medal ahead of Ms Niamh Crowley.  Ms Giles Doran described the development of durable user-specific 3D printed ankle foot orthoses while Ms Crowley’s research investigated targeting HIV latent reservoirs with a new class of latency reversal agents.  Our successful poster prize winners were Mr Brian Gilmartin, Mr Liam Sharkey and Mr Mark Glynn.  In addition, 2009 Gold Medal winner, Dr Niall Nelligan was awarded the inaugural SSRA Alumni award while Dr Krishna Vinnakota was awarded the inaugural International SSRA Alumni award for her ambassadorial and international roles in promoting SSRA.  Finally Matthew Ho, currently undertaking an intercalated PhD in Dana Farber and due to return to Stage 5 Medicine in 2018 reflected on his previous SSEA and intercalated MSc projects leading to his current doctoral studies in Prof Ken Anderson's group in Dana Farber. 

For SSRA 2016, 100 undergraduate students from across our programmes undertook 8-week supervised laboratory, clinical, patient-centred or medical education research projects, working with research groups in UCD, at clinical sites or with one of our international affiliates.  At the end of their projects, students presented their findings through poster presentations to our academic and clinical faculty. Eight projects were selected for oral presentation at the 2016 Summer Students Research Awards which took place in the George Moore Auditorium in the UCD O’Brien Centre for Science on the 13th October 2016.  The finalists gave 7 minute presentations to an audience comprising fellow students, staff and visitors, defending their work in subsequent questions and answers from an adjudication panel.

Faculty + Guests at the 2016 SSRA

The showcase event was honoured with several distinguished guests including former Dean, Prof Bill Powderly and his wife and the US Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin F O’Malley.  Prof Powderly oversaw the establishment of the Student Summer Research initiative and has co-sponsored several research exchange electives with the University of Washington in St Louis.  Also among the guests at the event were previous SSRA prize winners who have continued to pursue research throughout their clinical postgraduate training. 

This year’s event also saw a number of additional elements including a brief overview to an Innovation Boulevard concept introduced by Dr Deirdre Brennan and a reflection on the changing face of medical research over the past 100 years presented by Ms Rachel Toomey and Dr Michaela Davis.  The SSRA Innovation Boulevard concept aims to facilitate students from a range of degree programmes (including Medicine, Radiography, Biomedical Health & Life Sciences, and Bioengineering) working together as a multi-disciplinary team focused on a real clinical problem.

Thanking all students, staff and supporters for another great competition, the Dean of Medicine Prof Patrick Murray and former Dean Prof Bill Powderly announced the prize winners.  Our sincere thanks to Dr Amanda McCann and her organising committee and to the many faculty and staff who supported the 2016 Student Summer Research initiative.

Our SSRA programme supports the School’s strategy of early exposure of our undergraduate students to research methods. Over the past 10 years almost 900 students have engaged with the programme resulting in published conference proceedings and in many cases, full peer reviewed publications arising from these 8-week research projects.  Many students will use this research experience to present at national and international meetings. 

Thanks to the ongoing support of our alumni and as a result of our students' own initiatives, 30 students got the opportunity to undertake their research in leading medical centres around the world.  International locations for SSRA research included Texas Children's Hospital, Washington University St Louis, Sick Kids Toronto, American University Beirut Medical Centre, Penang General Hospital, Simon Fraser University (SFU) Hospital, Boston Children's Hospital, University of Buffalo NY and Rosewell Park Cancer Institute Buffalo, BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute Vancouver, Peterborough Regional Health Centre Canada, Texas Children's Hospital and the Centre for Applied Health Research St. Joseph’s Care Group Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada.

In partnership with patient advocate groups, a number of students also undertook patient-focused research including studies with the Irish Platform for Patient Organisations, Science & Industry (IPPOSI), MS Ireland and Dyspraxia Ireland.  These projects are crucial in enhancing our student’s awareness of social responsibility, and the important role of voluntary organisations in advocacy and healthcare.

SSRA 2016 Gold Medal Finalists - Oral Presentations

  1. Development of Durable User-Specific 3D-Printed Ankle Foot Orthoses presented by Ms Ciara Giles Doran (PI Supervisor – Dr Eoin O’Cearbhaill, UCD Centre for Biomedical Engineering)
  2. Characterising Biomarkers of Oocyte Quality to Improve Embryo Selection During Assisted Reproduction presented by Mr Anthony O’Riordan (PI Supervisor – Dr Lynne O’Shea)
  3. The Effect of pH on Biofilm Formation by Pseudomonas Aeruginosa presented by Ms Shauna Nic Aogáin (PI Supervisor – Dr Marguerite Clyne)
  4. Healthcare Experiences of Patients with Multiple Sclerosis in Ireland presented by Mr Matthew McCarthy (PI Supervisor – Ms Harriet Doig, MS Ireland)
  5. Retrospective Analysis of Invasive and Non-Invasive Assessment of Coronary Physiology in Patients with Diabetes Mellitus presented by Ms Rachel McPhedran (PI Supervisor – Dr Aun-Yeong Chong, University of Ottowa Heart Institute)
  6. Developing Injectable Biomimetic Collagen-Based Scaffolds as a Non-Invasive Technology for Bone Tissue Engineering presented by Mr Anas Ibrahim (PI Supervisor – Dr Ciara Murphy)
  7. Characterisation of the Impact of HTLV-1 HBZ and TAX1 Proteins on the Phosphorylation Levels of IRF3 and IRF7 presented by Mr Adam Freegrove (PI Supervisor - Dr Noreen Sheehy)
  8. Exosome-encapsulated microRNA-451a as a Circulating Biomarker for Breast Cancer presented by Ms Erin Naughton (PI Supervisor - Dr Róisín Dwyer, Surgery, Lambe Institute for Translational Research, NUIG)

SSRA 2016 Poster Winners

  1. A Robotic Hand Exoskeleton for Rehabilitation Following Stroke presented by Mr Brian Gilmartin (PI Supervisor - Dr Donal Holland)
  2. Screening for Macrosomia in Diabetic Pregnancy presented by Mr Liam Sharkey (PI Supervisor - Dr Mary Higgins)
  3. 3D Printing and Design of Fibre-Reinforced Pneumatic Artificial Muscles for Use in Surgocal and Anatomical Simulators (PI Supervisor - Dr Donal Holland).



A selection of photographs from both the 2016 SSRA Poster Presentations and the Oral Presentations are available on our flickr account.