The UA Blog

Astronomers Produce Largest Map of the Universe

An international team of astronomers – co-led by Dr. Rita Tojeiro from the University of St Andrews – have produced the largest-ever three-dimensional map of the universe. The creation of the map was done as a collaboration between hundreds of scientists from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III). It was then used to make one of the most precise measurements of the dark energy currently driving the accelerated expansion of the Universe.

The study took place over the course of a decade, measuring the positions of 1.2 million galaxies. It resulted in mapping the three-dimensional structure of the universe over a volume of 650 cubic billion light years. The measurements were carried out by the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey program of the SDSS-III.

The record-breaking map allows astronomers to measure the expansion rate of the universe, and determine the amount of it made up of matter and dark energy. These measurements are made by determining the size of the baryonic acoustic oscillations (BAO) in the three-dimensional distributions of galaxies. The original BAO size is determined by pressure waves that travelled through the young universe up to when it was only 400,000 years old (the universe is now 13.8 billion years old), at which point they became frozen in the matter distribution of the universe. The end result is that galaxies are preferentially separated by a characteristic distance that astronomers call the acoustic scale. Measuring the distribution of galaxies from the time when pressure waves became frozen allows astronomers to reflect how dark matter and dark energy have competed to govern the rate of expansion of the universe.  

To measure the precise size of ancient waves, BOSS had to create an ambitious galaxy map. The map reveals the coherent movement of galaxies towards regions of the universe with more matter due to gravity. This supports the idea that the acceleration of the expansion rate is driven by a cosmic phenomenon such as dark energy.

WORK/S: ‘Optiprism’ by Sinead Purcell

Sinead Purcell submitted her project entitled ‘Optiprism’ to the Undergraduate Awards from the National College of Art and Design. The aim of this piece is to emphasise the changing nature of art, and how it is subject to fluctuating exterior conditions. As Sinead puts it, “artwork is not closed or static, it is a temporal situation requiring attention to the changeability of our surroundings”.

Her aim was to formalise the relationship between viewer and viewed in order to emphasise “a critical attitude towards normative processes of perception”. Sinead is interested in how people perceive a wide range of colours versus seeing things in monochrome which is unusual for the brain. She plays with the concept of the viewer interacting with colour in a space and how it impacts the perception of the situation. Sinead uses the two main colour systems of daily life – RGB and CMYK – to look at what happens between these colour systems, and the spectrum of colours that occur when the two systems intertwine.

She is also fascinated by how lines are “the epitome of movement and fluidity” with the straight line representing the most concise form of the potential for endless movement. Along with colour, lines make a strong impact on the human eye and her piece brings these two elements together. The project’s main aim is to emphasise that the fleeting moment must be experienced in order to be captured within the eye. The webs of colour combined generate new colours, changing the space and “creating chromatic variations that could endlessly repeat themselves without ever being exactly the same”.

Optiprism, Installation View 2

Optiprism, Installation View 2

Sinead is a Dublin based artist and designer. She graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Fine Art, Sculpture from NCAD in 2015. She is currently working in theatre, having recently completed a nationwide tour as a design assistant, and lighting and sound operator for Zac Entertainment Group. Find out more and see her work here.

WORK/S: ‘Liberetto’ by Emily Copeland

Today’s artist in focus is Emily Copeland, looking at her work entitled ‘Libretto’ for the UA WORK/S Exhibition. Emily submitted to the Undergraduate Awards from Western University where she completed her Honors Specialization in a Bachelors of Fine Arts. As a visual artist from Canada, she focuses on realism and mainly works with charcoal to recreate objects on a larger scale.

Emily used digital photography and Photoshop to generate her images as she says that photos are always her first step for inspiration when creating new work. She then draws the images on a large scale in charcoal. For this piece, the objects used include poker chips, books, wood, clothing, and teacups. Emily cites several influences on her own work from Baroque era artists such as Caravaggio, La Tour, and Velazquez to modern creators like CJ Hendry, DiegoKoi, and Karel Funk.





Emily Copeland is now represented by the prestigious Bernarducci Meisel Gallery in New York City which focuses on contemporary realist art. Find out more about her submission and see her work in detail here.

Western Researchers Examine Unique Needs of Youth in Mental Health Treatment

Researchers from Western University and the Lawson Health Research Institute have been looking into the importance of youth-focused mental health programmes. They have become increasingly aware that adolescents with mental health concerns can often require different forms of treatment to those used with adults.

This has emerged partially after a study examined the experiences of youth at London Health Sciences Centre in Ontario. They were attending London’s First Episode Mood and Anxiety Program (FEMAP), an innovative program with an open door model for young people affected by mood and anxiety concerns. It’s set up in such a way that they can get the right care without a doctor referral.

The team of researchers at Western were led by Dr. Elizabeth Osuch, Associate Professor in the department of Psychiatry at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. They looked at the needs of young adults in treatment, and what is difficult or challenging for them with the view to tailoring the FEMAP program. The basic principle is finding out from the people being treated what they find helpful for their mental health.

The results showed that young adults identified therapy or talking and medication as both the most beneficial and most challenging aspects. Dr. Osuch said that it’s a rich finding to see that the most difficult thing “is also where your power is”. The team also discovered that females and males discussed the treatment process differently. Females identified “talking” as most helpful while males referred to “therapy” as the most beneficial contributor towards recovery. The feedback from the researchers is that the language used could be tailored towards the needs of the person. “Personal accountability” was consistently identified as one of the most challenging elements. The first author of the study, Carolyn Summerhurst believes this is important as it helps clinicians know that they must prepare young people to “play a big role in their own recovery” rather than taking a more passive approach.

The Undergraduate Awards:

The needs of young people is always important to the team here at UA, and it’s wonderful to see important research like this coming out of Partner universities like Western. We’re looking forward to meeting the 2016 entrants to our awards who are creating interesting research of their own, many of them at a relatively young age in their academic careers. Congratulations to everyone who got their submissions in before the deadline. The judging process is now underway and we look forward to contacting those with successful entries to the competition at the end of the summer!

KAU Students Win International Prizes for Scientific Breakthrough

Students from King Abdulaziz University who made an international scientific breakthrough and won several prizes and medals at the Geneva International Creation Exhibition 2016 visited the Emir of Makkah Region last week. The successful students were accompanied by KAU President, Prof. Abdulrahman Al Youbi. They visited HRH Prince Khalid Al Faysal, the Advisory to the Custodian of two mosques, who gave out certificates to the winning students of the awards.

KAU participated in the Geneva International Creation Exhibition 2016 with five student teams who were all awarded international prizes and medals at the awards ceremony in April 2016. Among the awarded were three gold medals, a silver and a bronze medal, along with two special prizes.

KAU views these scientific breakthroughs as a result of their efforts in focusing on international competition orientation, and the promotion of the creative capabilities of students in scientific research. This has been done through their Dean of Students Affairs along with promotion by individual Faculties.

Prof. Al Youbi expressed his gratitude for the fact that resources are made available to support the talents of young students nationwide, along with thanking HRH Prince Khalid Al Faysal for his support for KAU educational programs and initiatives. In return, he praised the breakthrough achieved by KAU students and their excellence in research.

The Undergraduate Awards

It’s always terrific to see groundbreaking research being completed and recognised at our Partner and Affiliate universities. We know that many students have their own papers or projects which deserves to be rewarded. If you have coursework from your undergraduate degree, submit today! The deadline closes at 11.59pm tonight so it’s your final chance to award your work in the 2016 programme.


UA for Penultimate & Final Year Students and 2015 Graduates

Most of you are likely aware by now that The Undergraduate Awards initiative is open to penultimate and final year students. We recognise that while there are many awards competitions for students who are further along in their academic careers, very few consider the achievements that are taking place in undergraduate degree programme across the world.

We have encountered many graduates who are proud of work they did over the course of their undergraduate degree. Whether it be final year projects or a particularly compelling research paper, some have expressed regret at not having entered The Undergraduate Awards when they had the opportunity.

Due to this, we would like to remind all students and academics that UA is also open to 2015 graduates. We know the pressure of final year can lead to complete focus on getting good grades. That is why we like to give graduate students an extra year to reflect on what they’re proud of from their time as an undergrad. So if you finished up in 2015, there’s still time for you to submit your coursework and potentially win an academic award for it!

Koh Chee Siang and Xin Ouyang (HC, NTU)

Past Entrants

Are you now thinking ‘well I’ve submitted to The Undergraduate Awards before’? Not a problem! As long as you continue to be eligible, you can submit across multiple years. We strongly encourage 2015 graduates to submit again this year, it’s your last opportunity and the process is fairly simple. If you’ve entered the competition before, you’ll know that all we ask for is coursework you’ve already completed as part of your degree. You can submit up to three papers or projects into one, two or three of our 25 categories. The only criteria are the word count which can be found for each category here and that the paper received a II.1/A-Grade or higher.


What are the perks?

As a winner, you are recognised as one of the most impressive students in your field; you become part of our alumni network; your winning paper is published in our academic journal; and you receive a ticket to the UA Global Summit in Dublin. Shortlisted students who are in the top 10% are also recognised for their excellence. They will receive a certificate for their research and are eligible to purchase a ticket for the summit, along with becoming members of the UA Alumni network.

You might be working now and feel like your academic career is behind you or maybe you’ve moved on to a new academic programme. Nevertheless, you have nothing to lose by entering your work to UA and it could open up new postgraduate opportunities you were never aware of. You put in a lot of work during all those years of your degree, now why not potentially have that effort recognised by academics in your field? There’s two weeks left before the June 14th deadline so get those submissions ready!


DIT & Purdue sign new Memorandum of Understanding

Dublin Institute of Technology’s President, Professor Brian Norton, visited Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana along with a DIT delegation and signed an agreement with Purdue President Mitch Daniels. This agreement will expand on collaborative efforts between Purdue and DIT for more than ten years.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) has begun the process of setting up many new benefits of the ongoing relationship between the two institutions. These include the exchange of students, staff and faculty; collaborative research projects between Purdue and DIT; the exchange of publications, reports and other academic information; collaborative personal development; and a system where DIT and Purdue entrepreneurs would switch desks for a set period of time.

Professor Norton was invited to speak on two different topics over the course of the visit. Firstly, he talked about the transformation of higher education in Europe to faculty and associate deans for academic affairs. He went on to give a research presentation on “Optimized Harnessing of Heat, Clearness and Spectrum in Solar Energy Devices”.

Professor Norton also announced that the Marriott Foundation has decided to fund five DIT Hospitality students every four years for a semester-long exchange at Purdue’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Through Study Abroad scholarships, undergraduate students at Purdue who participate in semester-long programs qualify for up to $3000 towards travel and living expenses.

Following the visit to Purdue University, Professor Norton will attend a reception for DIT graduates in the IDA offices in Chicago. Over seventy graduates will attend the event where Irish Consul General, Orla McBreen, will be guest of honour.

Deadline Extended to June 14th!

We know it’s a busy time of year for many of you. With exams and assignments all due at once, it might be hard to consider doing anything else right now. That’s why we’re announcing that the Deadline for The Undergraduate Awards 2016 programme has been extended to Tuesday 14th of June 2016. You have four weeks remaining to submit your best coursework to the UA programme. Submit work you have already done and make your coursework go further.

WHY Should I submit?

As a winner, you are recognised as one of the most impressive students in your field; you become part of a network of outstanding Winners of The Undergraduate Award from around the world; your winning paper is published in our academic journal, and you receive a ticket to the exclusive UA Global Summit in Dublin. Shortlisted students who are in the top 10% of all submissions are also recognised for their excellence, which can be a significant catalyst when pursuing further studies or your chosen career.

HOW do I apply?

If you would like to submit your work to The Undergraduate Awards you can do so here on the UA Form. If you are not ready to submit your work just yet, you can simply register your details on the UA Form and upload your paper at a later date. Once registered, your place will be saved until June 14th 2016.


WHO is UA for?

UA is open to all  graduates of 2015, 2016 and 2017 – that is all penultimate and final year students, as well as 2015 graduates, of all disciplines.

WHAT do I apply with?

Individual undergraduate coursework which received a II.1 or higher (A-grade).

You have a little more time but since you’ll be entering coursework you’ve already completed, why not submit it now? If you have up to three papers ready to go, submit today to create some new opportunities for yourself!

Ghostly molecules lead to scientific advancements at UC Berkeley

Chemists at University of California, Berkeley have been surprised recently as their new technique for taking snapshots of molecules with atomic precision showed up chemicals that shouldn’t be visible. Due to reactions taking place often within a trillionth of a second, the steps in these reactions are expected to happen much too quickly for scientists to observe.

However, in the process of taking snapshots of two molecules reacting on the surface of a catalyst, the team at UC Berkeley managed to find intermediate structures lasting for the time required to take the photo. Usually, only lasers firing in femtosecond bursts (every one quadrillionth of a second) can capture the molecular structures which form when a chemical reaction is taking place.

The visibility of these “ghostly molecules” means that there are new possibilities for chemists to make their reactions faster or more efficient. It could also lead to the building of new molecules which have never been seen before. These developments could impact many fields of the science world, especially if chemists can use them to improve catalytic reactions.

Attempts are currently being made at UC Berkeley to do just this. An Assistant Professor in their Department of Chemistry, Felix Fischer, has used this newfound knowledge to make a molecule that has long been predicted but was never able to be realised until now. He has also begun the process of building a toolbox to help design or improve catalytic reactions which are integral to the chemical industry.

Fischer cites this kind of progress as an advancement for scientists, saying, “This is an example of why it is important to understand what is happening on these surfaces, and how you can use this understanding to access structures and reactivities that are not accessible with the standard tools we have right now.”

The Undergraduate Awards:
UA is proud to be partnered with universities who have groundbreaking research occurring on their campuses. We believe it is important to also recognise the achievements happening at an undergraduate level in universities and colleges across the world. Submit today for the opportunity to make your work go further and potentially win an academic award.

Other co-authors of the Nature Chemistry paper are Alexander Riss, Sebastian Wickenburg, Hsin-Zon Tsai, Aaron Bradley, Miguel Ugeda, Han Sae Jung and Patrick Gorman of UC Berkeley, Alejandro Pérez Paz of the Universidad del País Vasco in Spain and Dimas G. De Oteyza of the Donostia International Physics Center in San Sebastián, Spain.

The work was funded by the Department of Energy, Office of Naval Research, European Research Council and Grupos Consolidados UPV/EHU del Gobierno Vasco.


Alumni Questionnaire: Organising Your Study Space

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s the end of another week and that means more results from our alumni questionnaire. Since a lot of students are in the middle of exams right now, this week’s topic is organising your study space. The alumni came back to us with many different options for the perfect study session along with some reliable favourites.

  1. Find good lighting: Being in a dark corner isn’t likely to make you feel positive towards your studies. Find somewhere that will get at least a little sun or has bright lighting. Natural light is always better but anything that prevents you sitting in a drab environment is beneficial.
  2. Make it tidy and spacious: For a lot of us, it’s difficult to work in a cramped or messy area. Take a few minutes to clean up your space so it’s a pleasant location to work in. Make it somewhere that you’re relatively happy to sit for several hours of your day.
  3. Choose the perfect chair: Ideally, your study chair should be as comfortable and supportive as possible. During exam and essay season, you’re going to spending a lot of time sitting in that seat so make it the right one for you.
  4. Check you have all the right stationary: The last thing you need when you’re in the swing of studying is for it to come to a halt because you’re missing something small but crucial. Do a quick check that you’re prepared with whatever stationary you’ll require and if you’re using a laptop, keep the charger close to your desk.
  5. Bring textbooks: Take a moment and think about any research you might have to do. Getting up every few minutes to go in search of the book that has just the right quote isn’t the most productive academic style. Pile up all the books you could need for the topics you’re focusing on somewhere close to your study space so you can keep your mind focused.


6. Music: Not everyone works best with music but if you like a bit of background noise, consider what type of music is going to be the least distracting. For many it’s instrumental or classical but it could be acoustic songs or simply a playlist of very familiar music. Anything that will keep you concentrating is a good choice.

7. Clear the space: The unnecessary things around you are going to be what distract you when you’re working. Before you start, remove whatever you don’t need. You’ll likely have enough study materials piled up so get rid of that unnecessary clutter. Even better, get an app to block social media and other time consuming website while you’re working.

8. Search for silence: Well, maybe not quite silence but do try to find somewhere with as little disturbance as possible. Particularly keep away from places that you’re likely to be interrupted or distracted by other people.

9. Prepare drinks: You need to keep hydrated to maintain that focus. Some people need the caffeine boost to keep going but coffee is not the best for positive concentration. Herbal teas or water are preferable options for a calm study session.

10. Choose wherever works for you: From people who like the classic desk environment to the students who sit on their bed and the ones who need to move from place to place, everyone has their own opinion about where the ideal study location is. The most important thing is deciding what works best for you!


The Undergraduate Awards:

As you’re getting those final assignments in or even receiving the results, why not also enter them to the Undergraduate Awards? Remember you can submit up to three papers or projects!

Tips for 2016 UA Submissions

We’ve already given you the tips from our alumni about how to finalise your UA submissions. Now we’re going to give you a few pointers from the UA team!

  1. Remember you can submit up to three papers – Many people will have one paper that they think is the best work they’ve produced, particularly if they have just finished a final year project. That’s wonderful and we always encourage you to submit the work you’re proud of but why not take advantage of being able to submit three papers? All it can do is increase your chances.
  2. Recommend UA to a friend – If you’re not submitting to the same category, you won’t be in competition with each other. Plus you could end up attending our annual summit in Dublin with a friend if you’re both successful.
  3. Don’t necessarily wait until the deadline – This can be a busy time of year for people so we recommend for people to get their submissions in as soon as possible. If you’re submitting final projects or getting results of papers at the moment, why not submit them to UA at the same time? Then it’s one less thing to have on your mind.
  4. Look at our past journals and art exhibition if you’re stuck on deciding what to submit – Your submission doesn’t always have to be your highest graded project, it can be the one you’re most proud of or one that you feel has that little something different. Get some inspiration from our past journals or last year’s Aligned art exhibition.
  5. Try not to stress too much about choosing a category – From what we’ve seen, you know your papers the best so your instincts are most likely the right choice. Consider who you’ll be competing against, who will be judging the category and what department is awarding your degree. After that, commit to the most suitable of our 25 categories and trust your selection.
  6. Make sure you’re anonymous – Take a quick look at our anonymity requirements and consider our tips for ensuring your submission doesn’t give you away. You don’t want something like forgetting to remove your name to be the thing that prevents you from winning.
  7. Graduates can also submit – Remember you can submit if you graduated in 2015 along with penultimate and final year students. Don’t rule yourself out automatically just because you’re a graduate.
  8. Make sure you’re within the word count – Yes, footnotes do count but abstract, bibliography and appendices do not. Do check what the word count for your category is because it is taken into consideration by the UA team.
  9. Check the type of document that you’re submitting – Submit in PDF (.pdf) or Word Document (.docx) format – we need to be able to check your document for anonymity, word count, etc. Please don’t scan up a copy of your paper.
  10. It’s easy to submit – Don’t build it up or get too stressed about it, just upload your paper and we’ll take care of the rest!

Alumni Questionnaire: Beating Procrastination

It’s week two of our alumni questionnaire results and this week we’re tackling procrastination. At this time of year, procrastination is the last thing students need and the alumni came back to us with their tips for getting through it to finish those assignments.

  1. Breaks are necessary – Trying to power through and get everything done might work for a small number of people but for most of us, it’ll lead to being burnt out. That just means more procrastination down the line as you try to get the energy to study. Make sure to take regular breaks away from your workspace, stay hydrated and go back to it when you’re refreshed.
  2. Reward yourself – Commit to getting your work done with the knowledge you can do something you enjoy guilt-free at the end of it.
  3. To-do lists – Ticking something off a list as finished can be incredibly rewarding, and it gives you a plan of how to get all of your assignments done. Even better if you can set rough times or dates as guidelines for yourself.
  4. Location, location, location – Study at a place which allows you to concentrate as much as possible. For some people that could be the library but it could also be the local coffee shop, your bedroom or even outdoors if the weather is good enough.
  5. Do anything – Sometimes it’s all about getting started. One respondent recommended telling yourself that you’re only going to work for 25 minutes and then reevaluating. A lot of the time you’ll find you’re already settled into the zone of being productive.
  6. Turn your phone off – This applies to phone distractions but also to social media. There are apps out there to block certain websites for a set amount of time. If you find yourself endlessly scrolling through social media or checking your messages, this might be a good tip for you.
  7. Set manageable goals – There’s no point in setting yourself three days work to be done in an afternoon. You’ll end up disappointed and potentially uninspired to get more completed the next day. Make sure you’re only setting yourself what you can actually do and taking a break after that.
  8. Don’t guilt yourself for procrastinating – Sometimes it’s just one of those days or you need a couple of hours before you can get around to studying. Don’t make yourself feel bad, just make sure you commit to it when you can focus.
  9. Get fresh air – Even a short stroll down the street can make all the difference in refreshing your mind with a new perspective and helping you get back to it after your break.
  10. Enjoy your work space – Set up a designated area to get your assignments done. Try to make it a tidy, pleasant place to be but also have it be a space you can step away from when you’re done if possible.

Despite these great tips from our alumni, sometimes you just can’t get in the zone. If you are taking a break or trying to avoid studying, make it productive procrastination by entering the coursework you’ve already completed to The Undergraduate Awards right here. You never know, maybe that bit of inescapable procrastination will win you an academic award!

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