NUI Galway commended for research excellence at the Education Awards

NUI Galway’s College of Medicine, Nursing, and Health Sciences was recently awarded Gold, Silver, and Bronze Awards at the national Education Awards 2021. The Education Awards recognise, encourage and celebrate excellence in the third level education sector on the island of Ireland from both State and privately funded institutions.

Dr Barry McDermott, representing the Translational Medical Device Lab at NUI Galway, was the winner of the Best Research Project category for his research, ‘BrainBox: Electrical Impedance Tomography with Machine Leaning for Stroke Diagnosis’. This project, which represented part of Dr McDermott’s PhD research, was focused on the design, development, and implementation of a new medical device to be used to image and diagnose stroke with the assistance of artificial intelligence (AI ).

Stroke is the second most common cause of death globally and a significant cause of morbidity with survivors often left with permanent neurological damage. A crucial part of the patient pathway for stroke sufferers is rapid and definitive diagnosis of the cause as being a bleed or a clot as only then can treatment start. This diagnosis requires CT or MRI scanning, with delays leading to irreversible loss of brain function.

“Our approach was to use impedance image – based on the idea that the electrical impedance patterns of the brain differ between normal, bleed, and clot cases," Dr McDermott explained. "However, these patterns are often subtle and hard to tease out so the incorporation of AI was key. A prototype device has been developed, using a novel algorithm and testing on real human stroke patients has showed a diagnostic accuracy of 85 per cent.

“The device has been packaged as a low-cost, portable, and robust unit suitable for use by first responders to allow rapid commencement of treatment. This means it is particularly useful for use in remote locations which might be some distance from main hospitals. The project has been a huge success with a number of international collaborations starting as a result of the work, and the commencement of an allied project based on the same technology, a surgical margin assessment in lung cancer patients.”

This project is one of a large number of medical device design projects that are ongoing at the Translational Medical Device Lab at NUI Galway.

The Translational Medical Device Lab and the Adrenal Research Group from the College of Medicine, Nursing, and Health Sciences, were shortlisted and won second prize for the Best International Collaboration Award, for their ongoing collaboration with the Kansas State University.

Dr Laura Farina, postdoctoral researcher on the programme, said: “This research programme brings together clinicians, veterinarians, scientists, engineers, physicists, chemists, and data scientists in a truly cross-disciplinary, multi-institutional collaboration. This collaboration is one of the only of its kind internationally. The group looks at the development of novel solutions and treatments for high blood pressure, which have been caused by excessive hormone production by the adrenal gland. Using a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach, the research team will build the necessary knowledge and innovation to develop medical devices, nanotechnology, and drug treatments for patients with a hormonal form of high blood pressure, known as primary aldosteronism. This form of hypertension occurs in 7.5 per cent of all patients with high blood pressure and is potentially curable with the right knowledge and treatments."

The value of such a collaboration has been recognised and granted with prestigious research funding through the Science Foundation Ireland/The National Institutes of Health US-Ireland Research and Development Award, awarded to Dr Conall Dennedy (NUI Galway ), Professor Martin O’Halloran (NUI Galway ), Punit Prakash (Kansas State University ), and Liam McDain (University of Ulster )

In congratulating the awardees Professor Tim O’Brien, Dean of the College of Medicine, Nursing, and Health Sciences at NUI Galway, said: “The research at this college is of impeccable standard. To have two projects acknowledged at national level shows the impact of the work being carried out in addressing some of the most common health challenges. Novel approaches are key to new discovery and this ethos is central to our research breakthroughs. I congratulate both teams sincerely for their successes.”

A third short-listed application, for Best Covid Response Award, was awarded third place in the highly competitive category.

More information about NUI Galway’s awards can be found at


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