October 2012

Celebrating Excellence in Student Research: SSRA 2012

Mon, 15 October 12 09:00

SSRA 2012

Congratulations to Elisa D'Arcangelo, winner of the UCD Student Summer Research Awards (SSRA) Gold medal. Elisa fought off intense competition from nearly 50 exceptional young researchers to take the much-coveted title. Now in its sixth year, the Student Summer Research programme encourages, supports and rewards excellence in student research. The initiative, which enables students of medicine, radiography and biomedical health and life sciences to undertake structured, voluntary research during the summer months, brings to life the School's commitment to foster in our students a passion for enquiry and discovery and investigative research.

Students undertake eight-week supervised laboratory or clinical-based projects in Ireland or overseas at one of our partner institutions. Participation provides students with invaluable experience in the area of investigative medical science, and is consistent with the School's ambition to produce not just exceptional healthcare practitioners, but also life-long learners and world-class medical researchers.

As in previous years, the 2012 programme also offered students the opportunity to undertake a supervised project in conjunction with one of our partner charities/NGOs. This aspect of the programme is an important feature of the School’s Patient and Advocate Centred Education (PACE) Initiative.

The Student Summer Research Awards 2012 took place over two evenings:

  • Tuesday 25th September - Adjudication evening
  • Thursday 4th October - SSRA 2012 final & awards ceremony

Adjudication Evening

On 25th September, 53 students gathered in front of their poster boards at UCD Charles Institute of Dermatology. Each student presented their methodology, research journey and findings to a group of judges that included senior professors, clinicians, researchers and health professionals from every part of the School's extensive teaching and clinical network.

Student Summer Research Awards 2012

Clockwise [L-R]: Sara Mohan & Dr Hugh Brady, UCD President | Christian Cawley & Professor Niall Tubridy | Prof Gerry Bury & Simon Craven | Ann Rowan, Prof Carel Le Roux & Prof Des Higgins

This intensive session, overseen by Professor Michael Keane and Dr Amanda McCann, demands of our students the ability to communicate both the process and the context of their chosen research project. Our judging panel was provided with a clear brief: identify eight exceptional young researchers to go forward to the final on 4th October. Speaking at the event, Professor Bill Powderly, Dean of Medicine at UCD and Head of School, said:

The hard work, commitment and dedication that is so clearly evident here this evening is a source of deep pride to the School and is a credit to you all as individuals, but also as future practitioners of medicine, health care and medical science. I want to commend all of you for a truly exceptional effort. Your work over the summer months will stand to each and every one of you as your proceed further in your studies.

The panel selected the following students as SSRA 2012 finalists:

Carol Chan
Conquering 'Neurophobia' - Interactive animation for neuroanatomy teaching
Brendan Cummings
Confinement of cancer cells by controlling cellular micro environment
Aoife McTiernan
Prenatal detection of structural cardiac defects and presence of associated anomalies: A prospective study of 1244 fetal echocardiograms
Sean Owens
Targeting of IGF1R induces a mesenchymal response in epithelial triple negative breast cancer cells
Mark Savage
Development of a new method for stereological quantification of vascular structures in the mouse lung using frozen tissue sections
Alanna Byrne
Characterisation of matrix metallopronteinases 2 and 9 in breast and ovarian cancers 
Elisa D'Arcangelo
Bioinformatic analysis of MYC-N binding sites in MYC-N overexpressing neuroblastoma SH-SY5Y cells
Christian Cawley
CD63 confirmed exosome isolation from the human epithelial ovarian cancer cell lines A2780

SSRA Final 2012

The Student Summer Research Awards 2012 culminated in an eagerly anticipated competitive final, which took place on Thursday 4th October in the debating chamber of the new UCD Student Centre. Co-hosted by Dr Amanda McCann and Professor Cormac Taylor, the SSRA final represents one of the highlights of School's calendar - bringing together students, academics and patient advocate groups from across our clinical and academic network.

Student Summer Research Awards 2012

Clockwise [L-R]: Mark Savage, SSRA finalists, Carol Chan

In her opening remarks to a packed chamber, Dr McCann said:

I want to congratulate not just our eight finalists, but all of the students who gave up their time to participate in the student summer research programme 2012. As well as the invaluable hands-on experience that each student gained, many of these projects will now be submitted to peer reviewed publications, to be read and referenced by like-minded investigators in the future.

Dr Denise Connolly, a recent graduate of the UCD medicine programme and a past participant in the SSRA programme, addressed the audience and had the following words of wisdom for the eight finalists:

I have no doubt that this summer will mark the beginning of your own personal research journey, in which you will realise your ability to develop the evidence base on which we develop our clinical practice. Through this programme, you have been given an incredible opportunity to develop a lifelong skill set that will resonate throughout the rest of your career

Each of the eight finalists was then invited to present their research to the adjudication panel and assembled guests. Each finalist had six minutes to present, before fielding questions from the panel and from the floor. This intense, dynamic session tested and interrogated the depth of students' understanding, as well as descriptive skills and communications prowess. 

Student Summer Research Awards 2012

Clockwise [L-R]: Brendan Cummings, Aoife McTiernan, Sean Owens, Alanna Byrne, Elisa D'Arcangelo, Christian Cawley 

Following a break, during which the adjudication panel made their deliberations and agreed on the medallists - tired finalists, proud families and assembled guests gathered for the results. Professor Bill Powderly, who announced the winners, reminded students of the context and relevance of the SSRA programme:

Medicine is a science. Much of the teaching that we impart during your time with us will be improved upon, developed and ultimately replaced by advances in the body of medical knowledge, to which you all - as practitioners and medical scientists - will be expected to contribute. We are a research intensive university: the SSRA is such an exceptional and valuable demonstration of that ideal. It is almost a shame, in a sense, that we need to speak about winners, because there are no losers here tonight. You should all be proud of what you've achieved - it bodes well for kind of professionals that you will become.

With that, Professor Powderly announced the SSRA 2012 medallists:

Gold Medal Elisa D'Arcangelo
Silver Medal Mark Savage
Bronze Medal Sean Owens

Student Summer Research Awards 2012

[L-R]: Professor Bill Powderly and SSRA gold medallist Elisa D'Archangelo | Sean Owens (bronze), Elisa D'Archangelo (Gold), Mark Savage (Silver)

Thanks and Acknowledgments

The School is deeply grateful for the support of SSRA sponsors:

The School wishes to thank sincerely the panel of judges for their time and insight:


A full stock of free-to-use imagery from SSRA 2012 is available from the School Flickr account.