Page 1


Volume 4 Number 1


Volume 4 | Number 1 | January 2012

MAKING A MARK ON WALL STREET Business graduate Brendan P. Farrell Jr was named one of the Top 100 Irish American leaders

INDUSTRY-RELEVANT RESEARCH A collaboration between AIT and a pharmacy is looking to make it easier for patients on medication

TOXICOLOGY: 500 YEARS AND COUNTING The branch of science that is 500 years old is constantly evolving with new skills demanded by industry



> 2 AITLife

Volume 4 Number 1

Table of Contents AITLife Volume 4 Number 1


Welcome from the President of AIT

AITLife Athlone Institute of Technology Dublin Road Athlone Co Westmeath Tel + 353 (0)90 646 8000 Web


Making a Mark on Wall Street


Accountancy Firms Compete for Students

AIT Accounting Student Gets Top Marks in Ireland

Editor Brian Lynch Tel + 353 (0)90 644 2595 Email


Cooking up a Storm

AIT Student Crowned Ireland’s Top Student Chef

15 Engineering Graduates Performing Well in the Workplace


Design Graduate Triumphs in the Digital Hub’s Best in Show

Cover photograph Pictured at Graduation 2011 were Gemma Leahy, goalkeeper with the All-Ireland winning Westmeath ladies footballers, former Longford Town star Seán Prunty and Buccaneers’ player David Connellan. The three graduated with business degrees from AIT. Pic: Padraig Devaney


Industry-relevant Research


Frontier Research in E-beam Technology

10 Snapshots from AIT’s 40th Anniversary 11 Working on Titanic 2012 12 Toxicology: 500 Years and Counting

13 New Developments in Sports Science and Indoor Sports Facilities 14 Pharmacy Technician Graduate Wins Retail Excellence Award Nutrition Focus of New Degree

16 Success in Innovative Student Engineer Awards

Bonus Points for Honours Maths

17 AIT Granted Delegated Authority to Award Own Doctorates 18 DARE Scheme Supports Students with Disabilities Access College

Year of Volunteering

22 AIT Students Have Opportunity to Study in Canada


Volume 4 Number 1



Welcome from the President “I have lived in important places, times when great events were decided,” was the poet Patrick Kavanagh’s cry in the last century. These too are significant times, when it seems each week brings with it some new threat and uncertainty over the future of our currency, our economy, and over our ability as a people to recover our sovereignty and restore our pride.

While there are many reasons to be despondent, there are countless more why we should – and must – be positive. Higher education institutions have a key role to play in the national recovery, in terms of educating citizens, and upskilling and retraining the workforce. Equally important is the support that colleges offer to industry, in terms of research and development, commercialisation, and access to experts and mentors across a broad range of disciplines. Stories of such engagement are to be found throughout the pages of this new edition of AIT Life. A critical part of AIT’s mission is to educate students for career success. The evidence points to our track record of achievement in this regard, with graduates from previous dark times going on to enjoy considerable success. The most recent graduate survey from 2010 indicates that just 13% of graduates were seeking employment six months after completing their studies in Athlone. Indeed, one-quarter of honours degree holders reported starting salaries in excess of €21,000. In December, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) published a report on the numbers of mature students now accessing third level, which showed that the national proportion of those going to college for the first time aged 23 or over has risen to 15%. However, the comparable figure for AIT was 27%, or more than 300 mature students. According to Tom Boland, chief executive of the HEA, the “traditional image of a student being someone who finishes their Leaving Certificate and goes on to college no longer holds true. There has been a significant growth in more mature people returning to college or entering for the first time. In addition to these full time students, there are tens of thousands of part-time and online learners who are also now in the system.”

President of AIT, Prof. Ciarán Ó Catháin pictured with President Mary McAleese at AIT’s celebratory fortieth anniversary dinner

These mature students greatly enrich the learning environment on campus. The interaction between them and the rest of the student body creates a positive learning culture. As always at this time of year, there is a major focus on the CAO and college choices. There is a lot of pressure on people to make the “right” decision. I hope people find this magazine to be a useful resource in that process, and if we can be of further assistance in answering any query, please do not hesitate to contact us. Beir bua.

Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin

> 4 AITLife

Volume 4 Number 1

Making a Mark on Wall Street AIT business graduate, Brendan P. Farrell Jr is CEO of XSP, the global financial services software firm. In 2011, he was named one of the top 100 Irish American leaders and was selected as an Ernst & Young entrepreneur of the year finalist


t’s a long way from working in a family grocery business in Longford town to heading up one of the world’s most successful financial services software firms, but that is the journey undertaken by Brendan P. Farrell Jr. The AIT business graduate (1984) has recently been named among a prestigious group of the top 100 Irish American leaders. Earlier this year, he was selected as an Ernst & Young entrepreneur of the year finalist in the international category. Brendan Farrell, a founder of XSP, has over 27 years of experience in financial services including six years at Financial Information, Inc. as Vice-President of Sales and Marketing and before that, seven years at The Bank of New York where he held various officer-level management positions in the securities operations division after his return to New York.

Established in 1996, XSP is the global leader (60% market share) in automated, end-to-end corporate actions solutions for the financial industry. The company employs over 70 full-time staff with offices in New York,

Alabama, London, and partner offices in Singapore, Sydney, Australia and other Asia Pacific locations.

Mr Farrell. “I am truly humbled to be included as a member of this most esteemed group of leaders.”

According to AIT President, Prof. Ciarán Ó Catháin: “At a time when there is so little positive news about Irish successes, Brendan Farrell is an example of an Irishman who has thrived in the global business market. His success highlights what is possible with determination and innovation. We are delighted to count him amongst the active members of our alumni community.”

While always maintaining his strong roots to his family and community in Ireland, he is also very connected to the Irish American community in North America and serves on various Irish American committees including most recently the 2010 Dinner Committee of the American Irish Historical Society; the 2011 American Ireland Fund New York Dinner Gala – Chairman’s Committee; and as Co-Chair of the Ninth Annual UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School Dinner Committee in 2011.

Patricia Harty, co-founder/Editorin-Chief of Irish America magazine, commented, “Like many of his fellow honourees, Brendan represents a new breed of Irish immigrants whose background, innovation and global experience make him an invaluable asset to corporate America. We are proud to honour him as one of the Business 100.” “I am very flattered to be awarded with this great honour of being recognised as one of the top 100 Irish American business people,” said

Brendan Farrell attended St Mel’s College and Templemichael College in Longford and is a business graduate from AIT. He was appointed as a director to the Board of the Friends of Athlone Institute of Technology foundation in 2011. He currently resides in Denville, New Jersey with his wife of 20 years, Christine and his two teenage children, Dylan and Brianna.


ACCOUNTANCY FIRMS COMPETE FOR STUDENTS Accountancy firms such as RBK, RMS FGS, KPMG, Deloitte, PWC and Ernst & Young are competing to recruit AIT final year accountancy students. These students, who are still in the final year of the BA (Hons) in Accounting or the MA in Accounting, are in the enviable position having to choose between three or four offers for trainee accountant position. Students are facing a dilemma as to which offer to choose. “Recruitment by the accountancy firms has increased significantly this year as the demand for professional services offered by these firms increases to near Celtic Tiger levels. Students are seeking the advice of the careers office and the Business School academic staff as to which offer to choose,” said Peter Melinn, Head of Department of Accounting. “As a final year accountancy student due to complete my studies in May 2012, I was delighted to receive job offers from three different accountancy firms. The hard part is now choosing which offer to accept,” says Amy Tighe, who is in the third year of the degree. “Accountancy students are in a great position whereby they have secured employed in the current economic climate even before they complete their final year examinations. In many cases their prospective employers will pay for them to undertake a Master’s in accounting including living expenses. This shows that despite the economic downturn choosing to study accounting at third level is an excellent long term career choice. I would encourage Leaving Certificate students who have an interest in accountancy to consider AIT as their college of choice. There is no requirement to have studied accountancy for the Leaving Certificate as this subject starts assuming no knowledge of accounting,” said Eoin Langan, Head of the AIT Business School.

Volume 4 Number 1



AIT ACCOUNTING STUDENT GETS TOP MARKS IN IRELAND An accounting technician student at AIT was the top student in Ireland in the recent Accounting Technicians of Ireland (ATI) national examinations. Approximately 1,700 students sat these professional examinations. Maureen Kinnarney, from Blueball, Tullamore, is a second year student on the ATI programme and achieved the highest mark in Taxation 1 (95%) and Financial Accounting (99%). “I could not believe the results when I got them, to come first in Ireland was a huge surprise. I would wish to pay tribute to the student-centred approach of the AIT lecturing staff who contributed significantly to enable me to achieve these grades,” said Maureen. “Being the best student in national examinations such as the Accounting Technicians of Ireland is an achievement that Maureen and her family should be justifiably proud and reflects positively on the academic staff of the AIT Business School delivering this programme,” said Eoin Langan Head of the AIT Business School. The ATI Technician Course prepares students for the examinations of Accounting Technicians Ireland. Students learn how to prepare financial statements and financial reports, as well as other management information. They also cover how to compute tax liabilities for companies and individuals, set-up and manage systems for budgets, stock control, cost accounting, cash reconciliation, etc. They also learn how to establish and manage credit control procedures and to use computers effectively in a business environment.

Surf directly to the web page for these programmes using the QR codes below

> AL654 ATI Technician Course

> AL852 BA (Hons) in Accounting

Luke Fannon AIT, Peter Melinn Head of Dept. of Accounting & Business Computing AIT, Paula McManus AIT, Maureen Kinnarney, Naomi McGrath Accounting Technicians Ireland and Eoin Langan, Head of Business School AIT.

> 6 AITLife

Volume 4 Number 1


Showcasing their new food product, K-chef, developed as part of their BA in Culinary Arts in AIT are Patrick Lacey, Geashill, Tullamore, Kieran Shaughnessy, Clifden, Co. Galway and Patrick Kennedy, Tullamore, Co. Offaly.


As part of his prize, Daniel won an all-expenses paid trip to Noma in Copenhagen, voted the best restaurant in the world. Originally from Slovakia, Daniel now lives in Longford and works at Viewmount House in the town.

As part of the BA in Culinary Arts students have to develop a new food product. In 2011, the new food products ranged from biscuits, muffins, chicken casserole, a sous vide beef product to health bars. Each product is subjected to rigorous testing and sampling to best practice guidelines. The students also have to organise a launch event to publicise their product, at which customers get to sample their wares.

Second year AIT culinary arts student, Daniel Skukalek, was crowned the 2011 Knorr Student Chef of the Year.

> BA in Culinary Arts

Established by Unilever Food Solutions in 1996, the Knorr Student Chef of the Year Competition is the biggest competition of its kind in Ireland. It has put many former winners on the path to professional success and aims to discover the most talented and creative chefs coming through the ranks of Ireland’s catering colleges. In the final cook-off, Daniel prepared oriental prawn bisque for starter and served up a main course of roast saddle of rabbit with risotto and a red wine jus..

Showcasing Moon Bites – healthy snacks for children, their new food product developed as part of their BA in Culinary Arts, are: Anita McGrath, Castlepollard, Majella Farrell, Roscommon and Danielle Burns, Ahascragh, Ballinasloe.

> AL660 Higher Certificate in Culinary Arts


Volume 4 Number 1


AIT DESIGN GRADUATE TRIUMPHS IN THE DIGITAL HUB’S BEST IN SHOW A digital media graduate from AIT was awarded an internship with Areaman Productions, one of Ireland’s leading production companies for his involvement in a prestigious national internship competition run by the Digital Hub Development Agency. The competition – ‘Best in Show’ – which is run on an annual basis – invites digital content and technology students to submit samples of their work to be judged by industry experts. The best submissions under five category headings win internships in relevant businesses. AIT’s Keith Bogan was selected as the winner in the film/video production category for his short film “Carousel”. Senior lecturer in design at AIT, Eddie Ryan, congratulated Keith on his success. “Keith’s short film ‘Carousel’ illustrates how a theme like the futility

of war can be interpreted through a personal design vision. This is a powerful work, as big and bold as the subject matter it tackles. Keith’s success also reflects the excellence of our honours degree in digital media, and the quality of the design education available at AIT,” he said. Dr Stephen Brennan, Director of Marketing and Strategy with the Digital Hub Development Agency, also congratulated Keith Bogan for securing an internship with Areaman Productions and commended him on the quality of his work.

Surf directly to the web pages for AIT’s design degrees using the QR codes below:

> AL763 BA in Design (Communications)

You can view “Carousel” on YouTube by scanning the QR code below:

> AL862

BA (Hons) in Design in Visual Communication


> 8 AITLife

Volume 4 Number 1

Industry-relevant Research Dr James Kennedy is Director at AIT’s Industrial Polymer Solutions and Design Centre. Anna Nolan spoke to him about his work and the support role that the IPSD Centre plays for industry. but one research partner, Molloys Lifestyle Pharmacies and Health Stores, was happy to give details on its slowrelease project.


f you have used a Shasta selfsterilising bottle lately, or swung a Cúltec composite hurley, then you have held in your hand a practical example of the work of AIT’s Industrial Polymer Solutions and Design Centre (IPSD Centre). Researchers based there helped both companies to develop their product, as part of IPSD’s services to industry. “Those are two recent examples among many,” said James Kennedy, who has been head of IPSD since early in 2010. The IPSD facility is located in AIT’s East Campus, and specialises in the testing and development of chemical and polymeric systems. Its laboratories perform rapid prototyping fabrication, polymer processing, physical and mechanical testing, surface, thermal and elemental analysis. Consultancy is an important aspect of its work. The Centre currently deals with over 100 companies, providing confidential services, which range from a quick turnaround of analyses needed because

a factory laboratory is temporarily out of action to long-term assistance with technical problems and/or the development of new products. “Our work ethic delivers a stream of solutions or potential innovative products for both academia and Irish and multinational companies by providing detailed analysis or consultation in a time frame that matches industrial needs,” said Dr Kennedy. IPSD traces its development back through the Centre for Nanotechnology and Materials Research (CNMR) to the Polymer Development Centre (PDC). Most recently, it was known as Contract Analytical Services, but the latest name change reflects the fact that its design services are growing and the polymer side of things has increased as well. As mentioned already, much of the work done by IPSD is bound by commercial confidentiality agreements,

Slow release of medicines and natural remedies In collaboration with Molloys Lifestyle Pharmacies and Health Stores, one current IPSD research project is aimed at making it easier for patients taking certain medicines. The objective is to develop specific controlled release systems using novel polymeric technologies that will deliver appropriate doses over a longer period than at present. In turn, this should eliminate some undesirable side effects of medication, improve efficacy, and make patients more inclined to stick with the regime. “We are trying to combine the latest technology in modern medical release formulation, in which AIT has significant expertise, with medicines that are already available,” explained James Molloy, the Managing Director of Molloy’s Lifestyle Pharmacies and Health Stores. “There is a slowdown in new medicines, and we want to be able to use existing medicines and get them to a specific point in the body where they release slowly.” Medicines suitable for this development include aspirin, and drugs in the antinausea and anti-emetic category. Based in the West of Ireland, with several pharmacies, Molloys sees itself as being much more than a dispenser of medicines and advice to patients, and its motto is “retailers in health”. Being on the ground, the Molloys


Pharmacies personnel see problems of side effects of medicines and also difficulties in patient compliance (taking the drug at the right time and for the full prescribed period), according to Mr Geraghty. He expects the research at AIT will be applicable both to prescribed and OTC (over the counter) drugs, and also to natural health supplements. “Conventional medicine has come a long way, but there are still problems with diet and lifestyle, so we could also produce slow-release supplementation and nutrification,” he said. The company already produces nutritional products geared to specific requirements, such as pregnancy or being in hospital. “The team at AIT has been a strong force in helping our company in both business development and academic support in developing new concepts for our specialised tailored lifestyle products,” he said. “They have proved themselves to work in a capable and professional manner, while remaining focused on the project in hand. “New opportunities have emerged from my contact with James Kennedy.” The Molloys/AIT slow release drug formulation project started early in 2010, with the assistance of the Enterprise Ireland innovation voucher scheme. “We are now in the process of getting HPSU (high potential start up) funding, and we hope to set up a subsidiary company,” said Mr Geraghty. Academic Research As well as its work for industrial companies, IPSD also does basic polymer research on its own account, with some laboratories dedicated to academic work, and others reserved for industrial problems. James Kennedy’s work at AIT has two aspects. As well as being Director of IPSD, where he links directly with industry, he has an academic role supervising Master’s and doctoral students, looking after research publication, funding and commercialisation of research findings. He is also funded by Science Foundation Ireland as a Principal Investigator, developing technology for releasing natural clays within the colon to help IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) sufferers. “We want to get the clays to the colon and then release there,” he explained.

Volume 4 Number 1



FRONTIER RESEARCH IN E-BEAM TECHNOLOGY Kieran Murray graduated from AIT with a BEng in Mechatronics in 2007 and a BEng (Honours) in Integrated Manufacturing Systems in 2008. He then secured a position as a graduate process engineer in medical device company Covidien for two years. During this period he was involved in many cost saving projects by implementing various lean manufacturing techniques while carrying out his duties as an engineer. He was appointed project engineer in 2010 in the same company before leaving to take up a postgraduate research position in the Materials Research Institute at AIT. The title of his research project is ‘exploiting the use of electron beam technology to enhance polymer properties and process efficiency’ and is a collaborative project between AIT and Isotron, Tullamore. His research is funded by Enterprise Ireland under the innovation partnership scheme. Kieran’s research is rich in innovation and is very timely as it exploits the use of Europe’s largest industrial scale e-beam facility. His research is specifically focused on the use of an industrial e-beam facility to undertake frontier research into optimising operational conditions to sterilise a variety of commercial and synthetic biopolymers, and to explore novel use of e-beam for cross-linking polymers, alternative curing of adhesives and so forth. This offers considerable benefits including shorter curing times, lower energy consumption, reduced volatile emissions and less expensive tooling materials. Specific changes in key aspects of the biopolymer synthesis process will be intensely studied in order to identify either a new more efficient process and/or a next generation biopolymer that satisfies all necessary criteria for medical device usage. A wealth of novel opportunities has emerged since Kieran commenced his research which has created immense interest for future research in this area. To date Kieran has presented his work at a number of national and international conferences where he has been recognised for his outstanding research.

> 10 AITLife

Volume 4 Number 1

honour at a special Aleese was guest of President Mary Mc rk AIT’s fortieth ma to 11 February 20 celebratory dinner in anniversary.

attoni officially Giovanni Trap 011. AIT in May 2

In March 20 11, AIT awarde d its highest ho Distinguished nour, Fello and Patrick Co wship, on former politicians the oney, and on Mary O’Rou rke Dr Donald Pa Elan, and Step noz, founder hen Grant, fo of under of Gra nt Engineerin g.

at tro-turf pitch opened the as

The new € 2m illion R esearch H Minister fo ub r Educatio n and Skill was officially opened s Rua irí Q uinn in Jun by e 2011.

ain Tarmey, was named Engineering graduate, Dw April. ployee of the Year 2011 in Em te dua Gra ’s land GradIre ed. aM Vist ices company Dwain works for medical dev

A major internationa l tourism research co nference was held in AIT’s Hospitality, Tou rism and Leisure Stu dies Building in June 2011. on laysia-Ireland Symposium The first International Ma AIT in June at held was s ines Bus Engineering, Science and 2011.

Snapshots from AIT’s 40th Anniversary

AIT was delegated the authority to make its own awards up to doctoral level in the areas of polym er engineering, toxicology and microb iology.


Working on Titanic 2012

Volume 4 Number 1



2012 marks the centenary of the sinking of the famous luxury ship, Titanic. In March, Titanic Belfast will tell its story from its conception through to its construction and launch, to its famous maiden voyage and tragic loss. The building’s nine interpretative and interactive galleries will use technology never seen before in Ireland, to retell the sights, sounds, smells and stories of Titanic, as well as the city and people which made her. One of those working on the marketing of the Titanic anniversary is AIT graduate and former president of the AIT Students’ Union, Gary Cassin. This is the story of his unconventional education.


President of the Students’ Union. It was a great experience and I encourage everybody to consider the role. It provides great experience in dealing with people, managing budgets, and implementing ideas.

As I had never completed my Leaving Certificate, I initially felt I would be inferior to the other students, and many lecturers sensed that early on and encouraged me. I believe that if I was in another college or university, I would have been left behind and eventually dropped out.

In February, the Careers Office advised me to apply for the IBEC Export Orientation Programme. After sending in the application form I was called for an interview to be placed on their shortlist. After three agonising months I received the good news that I was on the shortlist, and there was a good possibility that I will find placement with a sponsor company. I was then called for an interview with Tourism Ireland, and thankfully I was offered a two-year internship starting in August 2011.

hen I was fourteen I dropped out of school. At this stage I had no ambition to gain a formal education. Following unsuccessful attempts as a footballer and as a carpenter I realised the ‘real world’ is very difficult without a formal education. I took the decision to enrol onto a Post Leaving Cert Course, and after that I was offered a place on AIT’s Higher Certificate in Business in Sports and Recreation.

In my opinion, the key selling point of AIT is the relationship between students and staff. This is because it harnesses a great sense of community, which is unique to AIT. Many of the lecturing staff will go that extra mile for the students, and the proof of the pudding is in the calibre of students graduating each year. With the help of the lecturers and my close friends, my grades began to improve significantly. At the end of the four years and having graduated with a degree in tourism and sport, I decided to specialise in business. I applied for the Master of Business at AIT, and thankfully I was accepted. The year was a big step-up and four students crossed the divide from the School of Humanities to the Business School. The Master’s year was one of the most difficult years of my life, as the workload was very intense. But it was also the most enjoyable year for me because I grew closer to my classmates and the atmosphere in the class was fun and positive. After I completed the Master’s I served as the

The Titanic centenary is a hugely exciting project to be working on – and I love it. In addition, I am also working on promoting all other Northern Ireland 2012 activities. A further bonus, is that as part of the internship, I’m studying for a Higher Diploma in International Business. One last word of advice: Balance your social life with your academic life, and don’t lose sight of the primary reason why you are at college!

> 12 AITLife

Volume 4 Number 1

Toxicology: 500 years and counting Dr Don Faller


oxicology is the branch of science which studies the effects of drugs and chemicals on living systems. The Swiss-German physician and alchemist Paracelcus (1493-1541) is widely acclaimed as the father of toxicology for his recognition that all substances are potential poisons and it is the size of the dose of the substance that make it a poison. For example, a standard adult dose of paracetemol (1000 mg) is generally regarded as safe. However, a single dose of 5000 mg of paracetamol may be enough to cause irreversible liver failure in humans. There is an ever-increasing demand from industry for highly trained toxicologists to ensure that products are safe and that they satisfy regulatory standards. Toxicologists work to develop safer chemical products, drugs and medicines. They determine risks for chemical exposure. They play a major role in industries which are critical for the Irish economy such as food, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Toxicology can be further sub-divided into various specialisations, for example, forensic toxicology, ecotoxicology and environmental toxicology. Forensic toxicology applies toxicological principles with analytical and clinical chemistry techniques to assist medicolegal investigations into drug use and suspected poisonings. The forensic toxicologist will analyse body fluids and tissue samples such as hair, urine, blood and sometimes even the fluid within the eye (the vitreous humour) to determine the identity and quantity of drugs and chemicals that may be present. A forensic toxicologist will know the rates of absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion of drugs and chemicals along with a variety of other features about the nature of the interaction of toxins with the human body. As well as possessing specialist scientific knowledge, forensic toxicologists will possess strong communication and interpersonal skills (written and oral), IT skills, time management skills and the ability to work as part of a team.

Ecotoxiocology is a hybrid science of ecology and toxicology and involves the study of the interactions between humans and ecosystems and the potential damage human activity can inflict on the natural world. The relatively new science of ecotoxicology focuses on the toxic effects of substances on animal/plant populations and communities. Environmental toxicology which is a sub-discipline of ecotoxicology studies the harmful effects of chemicals on individual organisms of which man is just one species. As the Native American Chief Seattle after which the city of Seattle is named, eloquently said: “The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family”. Ecotoxicologists typically find employment in industries managing wastewater facilities or ensuring that companies comply with various environmental regulations . Important aspects of an ecotoxicologist/environmental toxicoloigist’s training are an appreciation of the natural world and the ability to solve “real world” environmental problems. The School of Science at AIT has offered undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in toxicology for over 30 years. In response to student demands, AIT is offering two new three year level 7 ordinary degrees through the CAO commencing in September 2012. They are the BSc in Environmental Toxicology (AL732) and the BSc in Forensic Toxicology (AL733). AIT also offers a four year level 8 honours degree in Human and Animal Toxicology (AL839). For further information see

> AL733 BSc in Forensic Toxicology

> AL732 BSc in Environmental Toxicology

> AL839 BSc (Hons) in Human & Animal Toxicology


Volume 4 Number 1



New Developments in Sports Science and Indoor Sports Facilities


Students will undertake a four-month work placement in their third year, which will provide them with experience of the working environment in the sports science and exercise physiology field.

The programme combines areas such as performance testing, nutrition, exercise therapy for recovery, analytical techniques used for screening performance-enhancing drugs, and biomechanics.

It is expected that graduates will be eligible to pursue employment in areas such as the testing and monitoring of elite performers, coaching education, sport and exercise consultancy, health promotion, research and in sports journalism.

he new BSc (Hons) in Sports Science with Exercise Physiology (AL837) at AIT is timely in terms of national ambitions for sporting success, while there is a growing awareness that the health and fitness levels of the general population requires urgent attention.

Dr Don Faller, Head of the Department of Life and Physical Sciences at AIT, said: “Sports science is a vibrant area that combines the magic of the playing field and running track with the excitement of analytical science. Students will discover how sporting performance can be enhanced though nutrition, through training programmes and an analysis of biomechanics. In order to give our students the very best educational experience, we are investing in a stateof-the-art sports science laboratory which will contain the latest performance analysis instrumentation.” “The sport industry is a growing source of employment,” Dr Faller continued. “More than 38,000 people are employed in the sports sector and sport-related spending contributes €1,830 million to the Irish economy. There is also a growing awareness of the importance of physical activity as a contributor to public health. This again creates opportunities for graduates, in addition to developments in the elite performance area,” he said. The degree also includes modules on sports psychology and coaching. Students will be facilitated in acquiring coaching qualifications in their chosen sporting activity by liaising with the relevant national governing body with training sessions being timetabled accordingly.

An artist’s impression of the new indoor sports arena at AIT

AIT has invested millions of euro in its indoor and outdoor sporting facilities. The sporting infrastructure on campus includes an IAAF-approved athletics track and a FIFA 2-star astro-turf pitch, while the new indoor sports arena will be completed in 2012. The indoor facilities will include an athletics track, a multi-sport arena (suitable for futsal, basketball, etc.), as well as comprehensive support facilities for elite athlete training. A new fully equipped sports science laboratory at AIT features treadmills, exercise bikes designed for resistance training, ergometers, Douglas bags and gas analysis systems, blood chemistry analyzers, a force dynamometer for vertical jumping and gait analysis and sphygmomanometers.

> AL837 BSc (Hons) in Sports Science with Exercise Physiology

> 14 AITLife

Volume 4 Number 1

PHARMACY TECHNICIAN GRADUATE WINS RETAIL EXCELLENCE AWARD AIT pharmacy technician graduate, Louise Treacy, began working at McLoughlin’s Pharmacy in Galway when she was 16 years old. Louise was recently named as the Rising Star of the Year Winner 2012 in the Retail Excellence Ireland Awards.

fact that you don’t have the same interaction with the public doesn’t appeal to me. I love the fact that when someone comes in with a prescription you can counsel them by telling them what they cannot take with their medication. Just being able to counsel and care for customers is a very rewarding part of the job.” Looking to the future, Louise would like to advance further up the ladder within McLoughlin Pharmacy.

“When I started at McLoughlin Pharmacy I was working part-time on the beauty counter after school,” she said. “I then progressed to the over-thecounter area, gaining knowledge in the OTC medicines, and later got an opportunity to help in the dispensary. “When I started working in the dispensary I undertook the pharmacy technician course in Athlone and now I’m a senior pharmacy technician at McLoughlin’s and the longest serving member of staff.” As part of her day-to-day duties, Louise is responsible for dispensing medicines, dealing with HSE claims, filling prescriptions and checking orders. However, her favourite parts of the job are reaching targets and meeting customers every day. “I always thought I’d like to work in a hospital pharmacy but the

“I would love to become the group manager at McLoughlin Pharmacy someday. I think I have the capability, knowledge and experience to take on that role. Some people don’t think that’s ambitious, but I like to work in a successful business and so far the dispensary has definitely been a success. My husband, who is a stay-athome dad, once asked me what I would rate my job out of 10 and I said 12,” enthuses Louise. “I thoroughly enjoy coming in to work every day and I give a 110% to my job. Just being nominated was incredible but winning Rising Star of the Year has meant my hard work has finally paid off.”


Research has shown that more than 60% of Irish adults and a quarter of five to 12-year-olds are overweight, contributing to a dramatic increase in type 2 diabetes as well as conditions like heart disease and cancer. This is not just an Irish problem, however. Obesity in infants, children and adults is a major problem worldwide. The prevalence of obesity in adults is 10% to 25% in most countries of Western Europe, 20% to 25% in some countries in the Americas, up to 40% in some countries in Eastern Europe, and more than 50% in some countries in the Western Pacific. Obesity rates, which are doubling every 5-10 years in many parts of the world, are placing significant additional financial burdens on health systems to deal with the resulting problems. Obesity will eventually lead to chronic disorders such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, hardening of arteries and some forms of cancer. Obesity also leads to acute consequences of chronic disorders including strokes and heart attacks. Reducing caloric intake and increasing physical activity help decrease the risk of obesity. Graduates from a new BSc (Hons) in Health Science and Nutrition will be well-equipped to engage in areas that can tackle this problem head on.

> AL630 Higher Certificate in Science (Pharmacy Technician)

> AL836 BSC (Hons) in Health Science and Nutrition


Volume 4 Number 1



Engineering Graduates Performing Well in the Workplace also reported that institute of technology and university graduates perform similarly in terms of meeting their employers’ expectations. Employers reported that Level 8 engineering graduates of all institutions need to be better prepared in terms of their non-technical skills, such as communication, as only 64% of respondents found graduates of the Institutes to be prepared in these nontechnical skills.

Austin Hanley, Head of School of Engineering, AIT and Dr Mike Murphy, Director and Dean, College of Engineering and Built Environment, DIT


ngineering graduates from institutes of technology are performing well in the workplace according to a study of graduates and employers. The Engineering Graduates: Preparation and Progress report is published by 13 institutes of technology and by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC). The study of honours degree engineering graduates from the institutes of technology found that 83% of respondents believe their education prepared them adequately for their first job and their career. More than 4 out of 5 respondents to the employer survey found institute of technology graduates to be either well prepared or prepared in terms of their technical skills or engineering knowledge in their field. The respondents also found the graduates similarly prepared in terms of their

practical engineering and problem solving skills. Approximately 8 out of 10 employer respondents found that institute of technology NFQ Level 8 engineering graduates are progressing at a similar rate in their careers as other graduates. The careers of the majority of institute of technology graduates are progressing well, with 65% of respondents agreeing that their engineering career and associated salary has progressed as they expected since graduating. Almost 8 out of 10 Level 8 graduate respondents believe that they have been given appropriate engineering responsibilities corresponding with their engineering qualifications. Employer respondents are also happy with the progression of institute of technology graduates with more than 9 out of 10 employers noting that these graduates either meet or exceed their employers’ expectations. Respondents

Austin Hanley, Head of the School of Engineering at AIT and chairperson of the steering group said: “The study provides a baseline against which we can benchmark how our graduates are performing. This gives us a national picture of how honours engineering graduates from institutes of technology across the country are progressing in their careers. It also enables us to capture feedback directly from employers.” The study also identifies key engineering skills that were deemed critical by graduate and employer respondents for career success, including critical thinking and analytical skills and certain non-technical skills such as oral and written communication. The number of honours degree (NFQ Level 8) engineering graduates from the institutes of technology has grown significantly since 2000. In 2000, the institutes graduated almost 470 students and this number rose to more than 1,300 by 2008, largely driven by the number of honours bachelor degree programmes offered which has more than tripled from 21 to 67 over that period.

> 16 AITLife

Volume 4 Number 1

SUCCESS IN INNOVATIVE STUDENT ENGINEER AWARDS Nigel O’Neill, from Mountmellick, Co Laois, created a computer program using Visual BASIC, a highlevel programming language, to assist the preliminary design of posttensioned concrete beams. John Power, Director General Engineers Ireland, praised all of the winners as worthy Nigel O’Neill, runner-up in the Engineers Ireland Innovative recipients of the Student Engineer of the Year competition is pictured here with awards. “I strongly Michael O’Connor, Communications Manager Siemens (left) believe that longand PJ Rudden, President of Engineers Ireland. term growth in Ireland will be An honours degree civil engineering fuelled by innovative companies, so it is student at AIT was a runner-up in the very encouraging to see such homeEngineers Ireland Level 8 Innovative grown engineering creativity among Student Engineer Awards 2011, our students today. It is imperative we sponsored by Siemens. can bring new techniques, processes

Students applying to AIT from 2012 will be awarded bonus points if they sit the higher level mathematics exam in the Leaving Certificate. Bonus points will be awarded irrespective of the year in which the exams were taken. AIT will award a standard 25 bonus points for all higher level maths grades D and above, irrespective of the grade achieved. There will be no bonus points awarded for grade E or below. Applicants to the Central Applications Office (CAO) will, as previously, count the score from their six best subjects. If higher level maths is not among these six subjects, the bonus points will not be included in the total points score. This means that the maximum cumulative Leaving Certificate points total will increase from 600 to 625.

and skills across all sectors so that we can compete on a global stage with our competitors. I would like to congratulate all of the participants in this year’s awards which embodied the creativity that will underpin Ireland’s recovery and sustainable economic success,” he said. According to Michael O’Connor, communications manager, Siemens, the supply of qualified and skilled science and technology graduates will be integral to Ireland fulfilling its potential as a knowledge economy fuelled by innovation. “A higher level of engagement of science and technology subjects at primary and secondary school level is now critical in helping to increase the level of graduates in the area. I am delighted to see that 13 years on, the standard of submissions for the Engineers Ireland Innovative Student Engineer Awards shows that there is no shortage of talent in this country,” he stated.

BONUS POINTS FOR HONOURS MATHS Leaving Cert grade A1 A2 B1 B2 B3 C1 C2 C3 D1 D2 D3 E

Points for higher level Maths 125 115 110 105 100 95 90 85 80 75 70 0

Points for other higher level subjects 100 90 85 80 75 70 65 60 55 50 45 0

Points for all ordinary level subjects 60 50 45 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0


Volume 43 Number 1

17 > 17 >

AIT Granted Delegated Authority to Award Own Doctorates


thlone Institute of Technology (AIT) has been delegated the authority to make its own awards up to doctoral level.

AIT is now able to award PhDs in the areas of polymer engineering, toxicology and microbiology. Previously, doctorates conferred by the institute were awarded by the Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC). HETAC, the national qualifications awarding body for higher education outside the university sector and DIT, made the decision at its September meeting. The Council also extended delegated authority to AIT to make awards in respect of research Master’s programmes in software engineering. AIT already held delegated authority in the specific fields of life and physical sciences, mechanical and polymer engineering, and social care. President of AIT, Prof. Ciarán Ó Catháin, said that this was a “very significant development in terms of the maturity of the institute and AIT’s capacity to award degrees at the highest level. It underlines the excellent work which has been performed by our staff in conducting research, thereby driving the knowledge economy. This is further recognition of AIT’s standing as a provider of quality assured higher education programmes and extends the range of opportunities which is available in the region.” Dr Joseph Ryan, Academic Registrar of AIT, said: “The achievement of delegated authority to make awards at the

highest doctoral level is testimony to the standing of the institute and the research capacity and commitment of the staff and students. The research focus in Athlone Institute of Technology has been specifically calibrated to support the strategic priorities of the wider Midlands region. Thus this achievement can be interpreted as a signifier of the ambition and capacity of this region to respond to the challenges that currently face us.” An evaluation group from HETAC visited AIT in January 2011, when they met with the research staff of the institute in polymer engineering, toxicology and microbiology. They also had an opportunity to examine the physical facilities available to researchers in these areas, including AIT’s new research hub. HETAC was established under the Qualifications (Education and Training) Act 1999. Its role and functions include the setting of standards for named awards, the validation of programmes, the agreement of providers’ quality assurance procedures and the review of the implementation and effectiveness of those procedures. The Council may also, as part of its function, delegate authority to make awards to recognised institutions. Under the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ), 10 different levels of awards are used to describe the Irish qualifications system and to recognise people’s learning. Doctoral degrees are classified as Level 10, while Master’s degrees are at Level 9.

> 18 AITLife

Volume 4 Number 1


YEAR OF VOLUNTEERING The EU designated 2011 as the European Year Of Volunteering, thereby raising awareness and helping to build on the 100 million people currently volunteering around Europe. The goals of the campaign were to reward and recognise volunteering activities which help our societies function in more ways than one could imagine, to also facilitate a helpful environment for those interested in becoming volunteers and to further empower the organisations already hard at work. As part of this approach, a student-inspired, collegeled campaign took place in Ireland over the course of the last year.

THE chances of entry to AIT and other colleges are boosted again this year for students with disabilities. More than 1,800 people benefited last year under the DARE (Disability Access Route to Education) and HEAR (Higher Education Access Route) schemes. More than 1,000 of them were offered places through the CAO with points below the cut-off for other applicants, as the schemes take account of the barriers that disability and disadvantage can place in the way of Leaving Certificate performance for many students. However, almost half of them had achieved the minimum CAO points requirements in their applications regardless. But as well as an improved chance of access to courses, participation in the DARE programme means additional supports on entry

to college. For example, additional help with study and adapting to third level are available, while those who are accepted into the DARE scheme may be given access to assistive technology to help ensure disability does not restrict full participation in studies and college life. The full details of both schemes are available at, but a few vital dates are important to be aware of at this stage, including a requirement to apply to CAO by the 1 February deadline. By 1 March, intending applicants must complete further details on their online CAO application. Full supporting evidence for your DARE application should be submitted by April 1. Further information is available online at:

The “We Volunteer” campaign travelled the country to highlight student volunteering and is backed by the major higher education institutions. It is an exhibition that showcases the work of students from over 20 HEIs. It is recognising the work, time and commitment given from the student volunteers who have helped lead the way in demonstrating just how much we can give back to our communities using our free time. Given the age we live in, the focus for exhibiting these volunteers has been an online endeavour. The website has given the student volunteers a platform to share their stories, post photos of their experience and bring more attention to the significant work being done across the country. There is also a printed photographic exhibition that was launched in Ireland’s National Library and is currently visiting college campuses, key conferences and events as well as locations throughout Europe. AIT student Sinead Flynn recounted her volunteering experience: “I volunteered with Outreach Moldova, an organisation that works with children and young adults who have been orphaned or abandoned, and who have special needs or terminal illnesses. I would like to think that I have made an impact on the lives of the girls in the orphanage and in some way helped them to develop as individuals.”


Volume 4 Number 1

19 > 19 >

AIT Students Have Opportunity to Study in Canada


n agreement signed towards the end of 2011 will open up opportunities for AIT students to study at Canadian colleges for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. The agreement, which was signed between Institutes of Technology Ireland (IoTI) and Colleges Ontario, will also see up to 1,000 Canadian students studying at Irish institutes of technology. The first wave of Canadian students coming to Ireland will study in the areas of electronics engineering, business, accounting, internet applications and web development, social studies, and hospitality, but further programme areas will be added over the coming months. AIT President, Prof. Ciarán Ó Catháin, welcomed the agreement. “AIT already enjoys positive relationships with a number of Canadian universities, where student exchange arrangements are supported. This agreement considerably extends this process, however, and will add to the growing internationalisation of our campus.”

Linda Franklin, President and CEO of Colleges Ontario, said: “The agreement offers tremendous mobility and flexibility to our students. Under the agreement, students will receive financial support to study abroad. For example, Ontario students going to Ireland would see their tuition fees reduced by more than 15 per cent.” Prof Ciarán Ó Catháin, President of AIT, pictured with Linda Franklin, president and CEO of Colleges Ontario Gerry Murray, Chief Executive of IoTI, said: “This agreement is unique because it is ‘system to system’, not just an agreement between individual institutions. It is a brilliant opportunity for Irish and Canadian students to substantially broaden their education experience. As well as covering undergraduate education, it also makes provision for partnerships in innovation and applied research, including potential for joint research. There is considerable interest in Canada in the Irish approach to applied research and business incubation in the institutes of technology.”

Ontario is the largest province in Canada with a population of over 13 million. Colleges Ontario represents 24 third level colleges which educate undergraduate students up to the equivalent of Level 7 on the Irish National Framework of Qualifications. The agreement with the Irish institutes will allow these students to progress to honours degrees at Level 8 and beyond in Ireland. Graduates of two-year college programmes in Ontario can secure an honours degree with two further years of study in Ireland. In some academic disciplines, graduates of three-year programmes will be able to secure an honours degree with one further year of study.

> 20 AITLife

Volume 4 Number 1

AIT: Educating for Career Success

NEW DEGREES FOR 2012 AL 836 AL 837 AL 838 AL 839 AL 732 AL 733 AL 734

BSc (Hons) in Health Science and Nutrition BSc (Hons) in Sports Science with Exercise Physiology BSc (Hons) in Biotechnology BSc (Hons) in Human and Animal Toxicology BSc in Environmental Toxicology BSc in Forensic Toxicology BSc in Pharmaceutical Science (Drug Development and Analysis)

Be part of the AIT story: visit

AIT Life Vol 4 No 1  

AIT Life magazine