22 April 2024

University marks Earth Day with student sustainability leaders

University of Galway has today marked Earth Day 2024 by announcing the winners of the Student Sustainability Leadership Awards 2024: Molly Hickey and Peter O’Neill.     Molly Hickey is a second year BA with human rights student from Co Laois and the Students’ Union Environmental Awareness and Sustainability Officer. They said: “I am delighted to be a sustainability leadership awardee because it gives me the opportunity to continue working on increasing the University's sustainability and getting more students involved in it.”    Peter O'Neill is a first-year history student from Ballymacward, Mountbellew, Co Galway. Peter has been involved in youth activism for four years, culminating in representing Ireland at the 13th UNESCO Youth Forum. He said: “Sustainability has become a defining feature of my work and studies, and I'm really excited to work with the University to encourage an interest in sustainability with students and to get discussion going about the SDGs and what we can do here in Galway.”    Both students receive a €4,000 prize and will take part in an 8-week internship with the University’s new Sustainability Office this summer.      The office has been launched to lead and promote sustainability in all aspects of university activities including teaching, learning, research, operations, governance, and engagement endeavours. Its aim is to empower the University’s diverse communities of staff, students and partners to work together in the development of a sustainable campus and to deliver on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).     University of Galway President Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said: “As a university that is committed to serving the public good and whose community has defined sustainability as a core value, I am delighted to announce the winners of the Student Sustainability Leadership Awards and the launch of the new Sustainability Office. We are delighted to be recognised as Sustainability Champions and are determined to do more. I hope that through this office our sustainability efforts will continue and intensify and that we will use the office to highlight the breadth of activities our students and staff are undertaking to advance sustainable solutions and to share our learning with others, playing our part in tackling climate change and preserving our precious biodiversity for generations to come.”    Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, Deputy President and Registrar and Chair of the University Sustainability Advisory Board, said: “Our sustainability progress to date is rooted in the commitment over and above the day job of academics, professional support staff and, crucially, students. Through this new Sustainability Office, we are now formalising our support for them and building on our success in this space. Accelerated by the Office, the vision is that in a few short years’ time every student graduating from University of Galway will have confronted diverse aspects of sustainability and the UN SDGs in their degrees. Galway graduates will have learned about sustainability, learned to live by it, and will go out to lead as global, responsible, and inspiring citizens. That is where our sustainability journey is taking us.”     Ends 

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22 April 2024

Seeing yourself on Zoom and Teams causes fatigue

Study of brain activity sees no difference in impact of self-view video conferencing on men or women   A study of brain activity has confirmed users’ fears that viewing your own image on video conferencing calls leads to mental fatigue.  A newly published study conducted by academics at University of Galway has found that people who took part in meetings on Zoom become more fatigued when they can see themselves on-screen.    Led by Professor Eoin Whelan, of the J.E. Cairnes School of Business and Economics at the University, the research also found that men and women become equally fatigued when viewing their own image, a finding which contradicts prior research which suggested women experience more fatigue from self-view video conferencing than men.  The research team conducted an experiment using electroencephalography (EEG) monitoring of 32 volunteers - 16 men and 16 women – all of whom participated in a live Zoom meeting, with the self-view mode both on and off at different times.  EEG non-invasively records spontaneous electrical activity in the brain using electrodes placed on the head and can detect the onset of mental fatigue.  The monitoring confirmed that fatigue levels were significantly greater during the times participants could view their own image.  Prior research, which largely relies on self-reported data gathered through surveys and interviews, has suggested that women experience more Zoom fatigue than men. Reasons offered for this gender difference centre on the increased self-awareness women have of their appearance when they view themselves in a mirror.  The University of Galway study, which measures fatigue at a neurophysiological level, questions whether gender differences actually exist for video conferencing fatigue.  The findings not only contribute to our understanding of fatigue incurred as a result of the dramatically increased use of video conferencing in the workplace but also offer practical insights for organisations aiming to protect employee well-being in the era of hybrid and remote work.   Speaking of the findings, Professor Eoin Whelan said: “The use of video conferencing platforms exploded during the lockdown. They continue to be heavily used in work and education today and offer some advantages over in-person meetings. But people often report feeling exhausted by video conference meetings. Our study shows that those feelings of fatigue you get during video calls are real, and seeing your own reflection makes it even more tiring. Simply turning off the mirror image can help offset fatigue in virtual meetings.”  Ends 

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19 April 2024

Land Development Agency announced as Patron Member of Construct Innovate

Construct Innovate, the national research centre for construction technology and innovation hosted by University of Galway, has announced the Land Development Agency (LDA) as its first Patron Member. Construct Innovate has more than 60 industry associate member organisations as it aims to provide industry-led, independent, evidence-based research through collaboration, focusing on devising solutions for key industry challenges and meeting the demands of Ireland’s major building and investment programmes. The LDA Patron Membership builds on the collaboration already underway with Construct Innovate on several projects and initiatives to support the work of the LDA and the wider Irish built environment sector. Dr Magdalena Hajdukiewicz, Director of Construct Innovate, said: “We are thrilled to welcome the Land Development Agency as Construct Innovate’s first Patron Member. LDA’s vision to provide housing that supports sustainable, inclusive, and vibrant communities aligns very closely with Construct Innovate’s focus on people-centric research and innovation. This collaboration will drive the transition towards a sustainable construction and built environment sector.” John Coleman, Chief Executive of the Land Development Agency commented: “The LDA is proud of its sustainability record and this partnership with Construct Innovate will place us at the centre of innovative design and technological research. This important collaboration will enable us to develop new building methodologies and help shape the environmental credentials of the next generation of LDA homes.” A series of projects and initiatives delivered by the LDA in collaboration with Construct Innovate partners, are underway: HEATCHECK is a platform developed through funding from the Sustainable Energy Association of Ireland (SEAI), which uses sensors to monitor CO2, humidity and temperature in about 100 LDA developed homes to understand building performance and behaviour when occupied. The data will help to inform future building standards to ensure healthy, low energy homes. INDICATE is a Carbon Life Cycle Assessment Procedure offering a standardised approach to calculating the carbon associated with the production, construction, operation and end-of-life stages of a building life cycle. It benchmarks the carbon associated with different building types in Ireland (residential, offices, hospitals etc) which the LDA uses to understand and minimise the carbon impact of their developments and support the development of policy recommendations. The LDA is partnering with the Irish Green Building Council (IGBC) on a project to mainstream biodiversity in the construction sector by developing high-quality, practical case studies on how to protect and enhance biodiversity in the most common building typologies and infrastructure found in Irish towns and cities. It is supported through the first Construct Innovate Seed Fund call from 2023. The LDA is a member of the IGBC’s Community of Practice on Biodiversity and the Built Environment, which Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcom Noonan T.D. launched in May 2023 to share and promote discussion and what is working well in Biodiversity and the Built Environment. Ends

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