European Research Council grants for NUI Galway projects

Two researchers supported by NUI Galway have been awarded significant European Research Council (ERC ) Starting Grants for their research into bone fragility in type 2 diabetes and the roles and voices of youths in the study of minority and regional language preservation.

In total the European Research Council awarded the ERC grants to 403 talented early career researchers in the fields of physical sciences and engineering, life sciences, and social sciences and humanities. Researchers will benefit from €603 million in total and up to €1.5 million each, to create their own research teams and conduct pioneering projects. The grants are part of the ‘excellent science’ pillar of the EU’s current research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020.

Dr Ted Vaughan, a lecturer in biomedical engineering from NUI Galway’s College of Engineering and Informatics, has been awarded a €1.5 million European Research Council Starting Grant to conduct groundbreaking research into his project, Multiscale Mechanics of Bone Fragility in Type-2 Diabetes.

“Type 2 diabetes is associated with a higher risk of skeletal bone fractures and contributes to the 3.5 million bone fragility fractures that occur annually in Europe,” Dr Vaughan said. “Interestingly, the elevated risk of fracture in patients with type 2 diabetes is not accompanied with any reduction in their bone density. This is in stark contrast to osteoporosis, probably the most widely studied bone disease, where bone density is significantly reduced. Currently, there is a limited understanding of the physical changes that take place in diabetic bone disease. Also, it is not known why such changes compromise the structural integrity of bone tissue and this presents distinct clinical challenges in terms of both assessment and treatment of bone fragility in type 2 diabetes.”

Dr Vaughan and his research team are working to understand the mechanics of bone fragility in type 2 diabetes, and intend to use this information to develop an innovative clinical diagnostic strategy for this patient population. Research in this area forms a critical need with the ever-increasing worldwide prevalence of type 2 diabetes.

Dr Ríona Nic Congáil, a scholar of the Irish language and Irish culture, has been awarded €1.27 million for her project, Youth Engagement in European Language Preservation, 1900–2020 (YEELP ) with the support of the NUI Galway research office.

YEELP is the first in-depth, comparative, transnational and interdisciplinary study of the intersection between European youth and the preservation of minority or regional European languages in the period since 1900. The project focuses on three languages of differing statuses and rates of usage — Irish, Welsh, and Catalan — and it unites two growing fields of contemporary scholarship: the study of youth, and the study of language preservation.

Dr Nic Congáil said: “In the study of minority and regional language preservation, the roles and voices of youths aged between 12 and 19 years have been consistently overlooked. In order to address this fundamental gap in contemporary research, this project takes a multifaceted approach to the intersection between youth and language. It does so at a critical period for the study of endangered European languages, with several languages in decline and some facing extinction. Until youth is included in considerations of language preservation, we will not be able to answer fully the question of why some languages thrive while others die out.”

Professor Lokesh Joshi, vice president for research at NUI Galway, said: “European Research Council Starting Grants are one of the most prestigious and competitive awards for researchers in Europe. This particular award identifies excellent emerging talent and we are delighted that our university has attracted two awards. These awards also highlight our strengths and the depth of our international standing and reputation in the fields of biomedical engineering and the humanities.”

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