May Outreach Activities

In May Karolina participated in two outreach events, talking about science to both adults and children alike! Pint of Science was held on the 11th of May in Massimo’s Bar in Galway. The first Pint of Science Festival to be held in person in two years was a sold-out event and over 50 people of all different backgrounds enjoyed Karol’s talk about antimicrobial resistance and how we can fight it using sugars, over a pint. 

The second event was the annual START Competition, held in NUI Galway on the 20th of May. An event geared towards primary school children in 4th, 5th and 6th class to mark the anniversary of the first documented randomised clinical trial in 1747, and learn more about all the different disciplines of science that make clinical trials possible. Karol along with her colleagues volunteered as part of Kitchen Chemistry to chat to students from three different schools and show them fun and safe experiments they can easily do in their kitchen. After lunch she also put on a show demonstrating how to make “elephant toothpaste” and the freezing power of liquid nitrogen with help from Darragh, Lamis and Hanka. 

Joe gives seminar to MIT Glycobiology Club

Joe was invited by the GlycoBio club at Massachusetts Institute of Technology about his recent article in RSC Advances, along with other work from the group. Carbohydrate researchers from MIT and other institutes in the Cambridge area tuned in to watch the talk and ask questions. Dr Adele Gabba hosted the seminar.

Joe gives seminar at Maynooth University

Joe was invited to give a seminar in his alma mater Maynooth University on 6th December 2019. He spoke about his research into luminescence and carbohydrates and how his current project is bringing these together. The presentation was titled: “Sweetness and light: a journey towards diagnostic tools”.

There was some good discussion afterwards with staff and students of the Department of Chemistry, and a lunch with Dr Diego Montagner and Dr Elisa Fadda, to further continue the conversation.

Thanks to Maynooth for their hospitality!

Walk for Cystic Fibrosis Ireland

Joe raised funds for Cystic Fibrosis Ireland by taking part in their annual Head2Head walk around Dublin Bay. Our research aims to develop diagnostic tools that could speed up diagnosis of P. aeruginosa infections, a widespread problem for people with CF – it seemed only right to try to raise some funds for organisations supporting people with the disease. Thanks to everyone who donated!

Joe in Sandymount starting his walk. The destination is at the end of the headland just next to his left ear!

Joe awarded Starting Investigator Research Grant by Science Foundation Ireland

Joe, pictured with James Lawless TD (Fianna Fáil Science and Technology Spokesperson) and Minister Pat Breen TD (Minister of State with special responsibility for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection) outside the Irish Parliament

Joe was awarded a Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) by Science Foundation Ireland at a ceremony today with Minister Pat Breen. This SIRG award will allow him to begin a programme of independent research in NUI Galway in the coming months and begin to build his own research group.

The new research will develop novel devices that will indicate the presence of specific bacteria through colour changes (modulating luminescence), using interactions of their proteins with sugar-based chemical compounds on the surface of newly-designed materials. This will provide a convenient visual strategy to identify disease-causing bacteria. 3D-Printing will be used to create these compact diagnostic devices, which will benefit patient outcomes and quality of life.

Asked about the purpose of SIRG on RTÉ’s Drivetime programme, Prof. Mark Ferguson (Director General of SFI) said:

“it’s about launching the careers of very bright, young scientists in Ireland”, and indeed it’s a very important programme to allow people like me to return home and start independent research.

Speaking about the planned research, Joe said:

I got interested in fluorescent sensor materials and the chemistry of sugars during my PhD research in Trinity College Dublin with Prof Gunnlaugsson (Irish Research Council Scholarship, 2010-15). Over the last few years in University of Bern, Switzerland, I have been further exploring the role of sugars in catalysis as part of my Marie Curie Fellowship with Prof Albrecht (European Commission H2020, 2017-19). I also gained experience in studying sugar-protein interactions in University of Nottingham, during a 3-month placement there. These interactions are very relevant to a lot of diseases. My new project aims to bring together the skills I have learned through my research training to address practical problems that affect people’s’ lives.

Repro Free: Dublin, 15th January 2019 – Minister for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen, T.D., today launched Science Foundation Ireland’s Plan for 2019 and announced a research investment of €10.8 million in funding for 20 projects in the areas of health, energy, environment, materials and technology. He is pictured with Prof Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and SFI Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) Awardees. The projects, which will be funded for four years, will support 20 researchers and a further 20 PhD students. (Picture Jason Clarke)

By providing a new methodology for rapid diagnosis of bacterial infection, this work will facilitate quicker decision-making on targeted medical treatment strategies for patients. In Ireland this would be particularly valuable for rapid diagnosis of Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections, a significant risk factor for cystic fibrosis patients (as well as others with compromised immune systems). More generally, helping clinicians avoid the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics would help combat the global challenge of increased antibiotic resistance.
This new technology could also be deployed in other scenarios such as detecting bacterial contamination of water supplies.

This award allows me to return to Ireland and make a contribution to Irish society through scientific research, building upon my experience abroad (in Switzerland and the UK). The Starting Investigator Research Grant scheme has given me a fantastic opportunity to begin my independent research programme at a relatively young age in NUI Galway School of Chemistry, and also to work closely with the CÚRAM SFI Centre for Medical Device Research, a hub of expertise in this sector.

The grant also funds recruitment of a PhD student to be part of this interdisciplinary research programme. Interested parties are welcome to get in touch: Contact Joe.


Press releases: NUI Galway, and Science Foundation Ireland [lay abstracts].

Media: KFM interview, article in the Leinster Leader (“€420,000 grant a 30th birthday present for Kildare’s Dr Joe Byrne”), article on Galway Daily, launch coverage in the Irish Times, article and footage from launch on Silicon Republic.