Claire Lillis hails from Kingston, Galway. A keen interest in biology, a love for mathematics and a creative flair for design were the deciding factors in choosing Biomedical Engineering in NUI Galway as her undergraduate degree. Lillis graduated in 2005 and has been working with Aerogen Ltd. [Company Website: https://www.aerogen.com ] in its global headquarters in Galway for the past 15 years. Aerogen is a world leader in aerosol drug delivery, its products being used to deliver aerosolised drugs to the lungs of patients ranging from neonates to adults in 75 countries across the world. Since joining the company in 2006, Claire has worked in mechanical design, project management and programme management roles within the R&D department, across a variety of commercial and clinical projects.
Claire acted as the mechanical design engineer on the first generation of Aerogen’s flagship product, ‘Aerogen Solo’. Since its launch in 2007, the product has been used to treat 14 million patients worldwide. The first major project that Claire managed was in collaboration with Dance Biopharm, a San Francisco-based company which focused exclusively on designing and manufacturing a small, patient-friendly, pain-free, breath-actuated, low-cost insulin inhaler for the world diabetes market. Claire successfully project managed the device from product concept through to two rounds of clinical trials (2011-2014).
In 2015, Aerogen set up a sister company in San Mateo, California called Aerogen Pharma. Its ambition is to develop superior aerosolised drug treatment options for hospitalised patients undergoing mechanical ventilation. Together, Aerogen and Aerogen Pharma are developing high-end drug delivery combination products. Claire was assigned as programme manager on the R&D device development projects.
The main focus of her work for the past six years has been on a programme intended to treat preterm infants with Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS), caused by surfactant deficiency. Since the first successful trial of surfactant replacement for RDS was reported in 1980, the standard of care is to intubate the neonate and deliver a bolus of bovine, porcine or synthetic surfactant to the lungs. This procedure has dramatically improved survival rates in this population, but is often delayed to avoid the harmful effect of invasive intubation and ventilation, with the delay itself causing further clinical complications. The non-invasive delivery of aerosolised surfactant via nasal Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (nCPAP) has been considered the ‘holy grail’ of surfactant delivery for the last 30 years, but with little success clearing the barriers such as aerosol particle size, breath synchronization and neonatal device placement to effectively deliver aerosol to such small patients (600 – 1500 gm). The team in Aerogen have overcome these obstacles and have developed a device to deliver aerosolised surfactant to this delicate patient population, with phase 2b clinical trial well underway in the US. This device will change the face of neonatal care worldwide.
With a keen interest in usability, human factors engineering and user experience, Lillis completed a MSc. Design Innovation in Maynooth University in 2019, graduating top of her class. Her masters focused on human-centred design for product, software, and service design.
More recently, Claire was awarded the prestigious Chartered Engineer of the Year Award 2021 by Engineers Ireland, the professional membership body for engineers. Claire was honoured with the accolade, having been shortlisted from nearly 400 members of Engineers Ireland who attained the Registered Professional Title of Chartered Engineer between June 2020 and June 2021 and following a rigorous interview and presentation to a panel of expert judges.
Is maith is cuimhin liom an tráthnóna ar bhronn an Dr Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh, Uachtarán na hOllscoile, Dioplóma sa Ghaeilge orm in Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh sa bhliain 2002. Chuaigh an searmanas bronnta, an Laidin, agus na fallaingí i bhfeidhm go mór orm agus thuig mé nuair a ghlac mé m’áit sa mhórshiúl go raibh mé mar bhall de phobal nua – pobal ollmhór léinn. Ní dhéanfaidh mé dearmad go brách ar an oíche úd agus ar chomh tógtha agus a bhí mé leis an Ollscoil agus leis an saol acadúil i gcoitinne.
Gné thábhachtach den chúrsa Dioplóma sin ab ea an tréimhse ar thaithí oibre agus bhain mé an-sult agus an-tairbhe as mo shealanna le RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta agus le TG4. Bhí ríméad an domhain orm nuair thairg TG4 post dom tar éis na tréimhse sin agus chaith mé trí bliana iontacha i mBaile na hAbhann sular éirigh liom post a fháil le hAcadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge ar an gCeathrú Rua in 2005. D’éirigh liom deiseanna foghlama agus forbartha a thapú le linn mo chuid blianta san Ollscoil, a d’athraigh mo shaol.
Nuair a tháinig an deis chun cinn tabhairt faoin BA (Gaeilge Fheidhmeach) go páirtaimseartha leis an Ollscoil in 2011 ní raibh dabht ar bith i m’intinn ach go gcaithfinn bualadh faoi. Fuair mé chuile thacaíocht agus mé ag tabhairt faoin mbunchéim agus cé go raibh sé dúshlánach a bheith ag staidéar agus mé obair go lánaimseartha, agus cúraimí clainne orm, b’fhiú go mór an tairbhe an trioblóid. Bhí mé chomh tugtha don fhoghlaim agus gur thug mé faoin MA san Fhoghlaim agus Forbairt d’Aosaigh go páirtaimseartha leis an Ollscoil tar éis na céime.
Thug an taighde a rinne mé don chúrsa iarchéime le mic léinn neamhthraidisiúnta Gaeltachta a d’fhill ar an oideachas tríú leibhéal, a bhuíochas do na cosáin oideachasúla a chuir OÉ Gaillimh ar fáil sna hIonaid Ghaeltachta, tuiscint i bhfad ní ba dhoimhne dom ar na dúshláin, na deiseanna agus na féidearthachtaí a bhaineann leis an soláthar oideachais a chuirtear ar fáil trí mheán na Gaeilge san Ollscoil. Tá luí ar leith agam leis an nGaeilge mar gur cainteoir dúchais as Conamara mé a bhfuil an Ghaeilge lárnach i chuile ghné de mo shaol ón lá ar rugadh mé. Dá bhrí sin, is pribhléid dom a bheith ceaptha mar Oifigeach na Gaeilge san Ollscoil anois agus deis agam tionchar a imirt ar thodhchaí na Gaeilge, ar shaol na Gaeltachta, ar phobal na hOllscoile, agus ar rath na hOllscoile sna blianta romhainn.
Léiríonn mo thaithí an tábhacht a bhaineann leis an oideachas tríú leibhéal agus leis na deiseanna oideachasúla atá dírithe ar phobal na Gaeilge ach go háirithe. Ní hé amháin gur fhorbair mise go hacadúil mar mhac léinn de chuid na hOllscoile ach tháinig fás agus forás orm mar dhuine. D’éirigh liom dul chun cinn a dhéanamh i mo shaol gairmiúil chomh maith. Tá lúcháir an domhain orm a bheith ag obair in OÉ Gaillimh, ollscoil atá uathúil ó thaobh suímh, saineolais agus tiomantais don Ghaeilge de.
Professor Gregg Hallinan, a native of Castleconnor Co. Sligo, completed a B.Sc. in Physics in 2002 and subsequently a Ph.D. in Astronomy at the School of Physics, NUI Galway in 2009. He is currently Professor of Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology and Director, Owens Valley Radio Observatory.
Dr Hallinan was awarded the Breakthrough 2022 New Horizons in Physics prize earlier this year for his leading role in the study of the cosmic origin of gravitational waves.
“I am a very proud alumnus of NUI Galway and am honoured and grateful to receive this prize and continue to represent the university on the international stage. My time at the university, for both my B.Sc (2002). and Ph.D. (2009), was incredibly enriching and I am glad to know that NUI Galway continues to provide a uniquely well-rounded experience to its students. I can thank the School of Physics at NUIG, and the Centre for Astronomy in particular, for starting me on this journey. I am particularly grateful to my Ph.D. advisor Dr Aaron Golden, who taught me the value of creative thinking when applied to challenging scientific problems, ” said Greg.
First predicted by Albert Einstein in his Theory of General Relativity in 1915, it is only in the last decade that technology has advanced to be able to detect the subtle ripples in space and time as these gravitational distortions pass through the Universe, resulting in the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Physics to Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne, and Barry Barish in 2017.
Despite the confirmation of their actual existence, no one had any firm idea as to precisely how such gravitational waves were generated in the cosmos. Dr Hallinan, a professor of astronomy at the California Institute of Technology, played a pivotal role in confirming that it was the cataclysmic explosions resulting from the collision of neutron stars occurring in galaxies billions of light years away from our own galaxy that were the source of the gravitational wave events detected by highly specialised observatories in the United States and Italy.
Neutron stars are one of the most exotic and rarest of things in the universe. Born within the ashes of supernova signalling the death of the largest of stars, these collapsed stellar cores – with the mass of our sun compressed into incomprehensively dense spheres the size of Galway Bay – were first detected in 1967 by the Northern Irish astronomer (and Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics winner) Jocelyn Bell-Burnell.
Dr Hallinan’s ground-breaking work carries on the unique Irish connection with the study of these remarkable objects, which has its origin in the work of William Parsons, the Third Earl of Rosse, who using the giant ‘Leviathan’ telescope on the grounds of Birr Castle, Co Offaly first explored what subsequently were determined to be supernova remnants in 1842.
In 2013, I was awarded the Open Society Disability Rights Scholarship that enabled me to study towards a Masters in International and Comparative Disability Law and Policy at National University of Ireland Galway. The master’s degree set the foundation for the work I have been doing to advance and foster the formulation, implementation and domestication of disability rights in Africa.
I joined the Centre for Human Rights, an academic department in the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria in South Africa as programme coordinator for the Disability Rights Unit on my return from Ireland and subsequently became the unit’s manager. The Disability Rights Unit significantly contributed to disability rights education and scholarship in Africa through its many innovative programmatic activities in the years I lead it.
I stepped down from my role as disability rights unit manager earlier this year to pursue my PhD studies at the University of Witwatersrand and a fellowship I was awarded by the Atlantic Fellow for Health Equity at Tekano. My PhD research focuses on the rights of older persons with disabilities. It has been a concern of mine that despite a general recognition that older persons with disabilities in Africa are a particularly vulnerable group that experience aggravated forms of discrimination, there is a concealed age bias towards laws and policies that inherently favor the rights, priorities, need of younger persons with disabilities. For my social change initiative for my fellowship, I am working on finding ways to improve access to health services and information for mothers of children with albinism in South Africa – an issue that is personal to me. I am also a human rights and capacity building consultant for Africa Albinism Network; my work includes making submissions to human rights organisations at both the African Union at United Nations levels, on issues affecting persons with albinism on the continent.
Looking back, I realise how many of these innovations have been the hallmark of my career and were shaped by the in-depth and illuminating conversations with disability rights experts, activists, advocates, practitioners from across the world during my master’s programme. The conversations enabled me to see the opportunities presented by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to take disability rights forward in Africa. I left NUI Galway, ot only with a rich understanding of disability rights but with a deepened sense of commitment towards the ideal of creative inclusive societies that allow all of us to thrive.
Graduate of the HEAR Programme, and NUI Galway College of Science and Engineering Student Advisor.
“NUI Galway has had a huge impact on my life. I came to university through the HEAR scheme. Coming from a small rural town and the first in my immediate family to go on to higher education, I did not know what to expect, but the support I received from both academic and support staff allowed for a smooth transition from secondary school to university. I studied General Science for my undergraduate degree. Although challenging, I found it extremely interesting and armed me with the skills I needed pursue a career in research. I also had the opportunity to do an internship with one of my lecturers after my third year of study, which gave me a really good insight into the world of research.
After my degree, I travelled to San Diego and worked at a start company as a research associate and skills and knowledge I obtained from my studies allowed me to, not only secure a job I was interested in, and but to also thrive in it. Although I loved scientific research, I was always interested in working in the education sector. I returned home after two years, and began temporary job in the NUI Galway Access Centre, which manages the HEAR scheme… it seemed I had come full circle.
The staff also supported me in move into the education sector and I started the Professional Master of Education in NUI Galway. The staff of NUI Galway were once again able to support me and give me the education and skills I needed to pursue a different field of work. My masters allowed me to gain a greater understanding of how society works, the challenges and hardships people can face and how, as an educator, you can help to make an individual life’s better. It not only set me up for my career, it also helped me to develop as a person – socially and personally, helping me to have a greater awareness of the world around me.
When an opportunity arose to become the College of Science and Engineering Student Advisor, I felt more than qualified for the job through my education in both science and the Masters in Education – the perfect mix. I viewed this as an opportunity to give back to NUI Galway and support students like I was supported during my studies. Without studying at NUI Galway and the support from its staff, I would not have the career I have today.
NUI Galway is not only the place I obtained my education; it is where I met lifelong friends, and now have a career in the education sector. I gained skills that allowed me to become a fully functioning member of society. The knowledge, support and empathy I received as a student allowed me to become the person I am today.
“My academic journey began as a NUI Galway physics student. During that time, I met people like Aaron Golden, Gregg Hallinan and Ray Butler, who, along with the Physics Department and Center for Astronomy, would provide unwavering support and constant encouragement to a star-struck kid from Barna. My time at NUI Galway was so fulfilling that I continued in a Master’s program in astronomy (with Ray) and a doctorate program in astrophysics (with Aaron, co-supervised by Gregg and Ray). This was an exciting and academically challenging time, which no doubt prepared me for things to come. I built astronomical instruments and observed at some of the world’s largest observatories, such as Keck in Hawaii, the Palomar 200-inch in California and Arecibo in Puerto Rico. With other astronomer friends I supported public outreach, like the “3D tour of the Universe”. These experiences hold a special place in my heart, and so too do the life-long friendships and professional relationships from my NUI Galway time.
Leveraging this academic training, I got the opportunity to study under Gregg once more, now a professor at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), in Pasadena, who offered me a Postdoctoral Scholarship. Caltech, ranked #1 in the world rankings that year, was a humbling and life-changing experience, and yes – home to the Big Bang Theory TV show! From there I was hired as a Technologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
Having watched countless hours of JPL footage – missions like Explorer 1 or the Mars Exploration Rovers – JPL truly was a dream come true. I worked on challenging engineering problems, from an exoplanet-hunting space observatory, to a spectrograph aboard NASA’s ER-2 jet (formally the U2 spy plane). Every day at JPL was exhilarating, which gave me an even greater thirst for pursuing my own programs.
“This led to my next opportunity in Virginia, where I now hold a joint-faculty position as a Research Associate Professor in the Virginia Tech National Security Institute, and the Center for Space Science and Engineering Research. I am the Assistant Director of the Aerospace and Ocean Systems Division, and am the Principal Investigator for NASA-funded space programs where I lead amazing student teams in technology development and planetary and lunar exploration.
“My path from Galway has also been incredible for other parts of my life. I met my amazing wife in California and obtained my pilot’s license in the busy LA skies. Flying Galwegian friends over the Hollywood sign is a cherished memory! I serve in the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), a civilian auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, and am Commander of Roanoke Composite Squadron, Virginia Wing. CAP is responsible for over 80% of search and rescue/disaster relief in the U.S. and I find it humbling to put my aviation skills to use serving the community, especially during a pandemic. I attribute a great deal of this success to my NUI Galway origins. And to Aaron, Gregg and Ray – thanks for taking a chance on me all those years ago.
Dr. Matt Kennedy – BA 1996; MA 1998
It is very difficult to fully foresee your career path when sitting in a lecture hall in NUI Galway. Having completed a BA in 1996 and an MA in 1998 in Community Development, I did not fully appreciate how my interest in the social and political sciences would lead me to being the EU negotiator at the 2015 Climate Change meeting that led to establishing the Paris Agreement.
A background in humanities and environment has shaped a 20-year career in delivering national and international carbon, climate and sustainable development initiatives across government, industry and academia. Diversity features across my work from me chairing Ireland’s wind energy guidelines for government, to working with industry within the International Energy Research Centre to engaging with the European Commission on its research and innovation initiatives.
Working across small teams while at university awakened an interest in collaboration and negotiation that has presented opportunities in the The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and United Nations. Here I, have worked across Africa, Asia and the Middle East across sustainable energy, transportation and sustainable development initiatives.
My interest in academia flourished as I completed a part-time PhD and, in the last few years, I have worked closely with UNEP’s Climate Technology Centre in providing technical assistance to developing countries and small island nations, putting into practice some of the development theory I was first introduced to at NUI Galway.
I am constantly seeking more sustainable development outcomes form my work that I hope results in enhancing peoples’ livelihoods, providing access to more healthy environments and enabling more access to sustainable energies. In 2020, looking for new adventures I joined Arup, the professional services engineering company. Here I have established its Carbon and Climate Change Team in Ireland and this now provides me with an opportunity to apply my knowledge to Europe’s infrastructure, buildings and cities.
WEB ONLY (I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Samantha Washington, live on Sky News at the recent COP26 – UN Climate Change Conference climate action area and media zone, exploring the significant areas of tension and the potential for progress as we try to find compromise text to frame a Glasgow agreement.
Michaela O’Shaughnessy – BSc Biomedical Science, 2013; Post Grad. Business Studies, 2015
Social Media Lead at Instagram
My journey at NUI Galway started back in 2009 when I studied Biomedical Science with the hopes of going on to study postgraduate Medicine. By the time I graduated from Biomed, I had a change of heart and decided that I wanted to pursue a career in marketing and embarked on a Postgraduate Diploma in Business Studies.
Three days after my final exams I hopped on a plane and moved to New York for an adventure that was supposed to be for one year, but has turned into nearly seven. After a couple of weeks of waitressing and endless job interviews, I could hardly believe my luck when I landed my first proper job, working as a social media manager for MTV. At this point, careers in social media were still quite unheard of but, because I had developed my own personal love of platforms like Instagram and Twitter, along with the marketing fundamentals I picked up when studying business, I was able to quickly make an impact by developing and implementing strategies to reach new audiences for the brand.
After a couple of months, an opportunity came up to work at Teen Vogue, a magazine and brand that I grew up loving. I worked there for two years managing their presence on Instagram and emerging channels and successfully turned the account into a valuable traffic source for the brand. It was truly a dream job in that I had the chance to work with some incredibly talented people from the fashion and entertainment industry, as well as get to work at the Met Gala three times. During my time at Conde Nast, I also had the pleasure of working at Glamour Magazine, under fellow Irish woman Samantha Barry.
Today, my career has come full circle. After years of managing Instagram accounts for some of the top media brands, I now work at Instagram leading editorial for the Creator Marketing team. In my day to day, I’m charged with educating creators around the world on the latest product launches and best practices they can use to be successful in building their brands and business on Instagram.
When I think back to my 20-year-old self, back in NUI Galway, I remember my biggest worry was where my career path would lead me. I wasn’t confident that I wanted to work in the science field but was unsure what my other options were. I’m so thankful that there was a possibility for me to switch career paths by pursuing the post-grad in business which gave me the opportunity to learn about topics like marketing, economics and accounting without needing a commerce degree. If it wasn’t for that year where I got to learn and explore all of the different fields in business, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today.
Philip Trill – BA 2018: PME 2020
Post Primary (Secondary) Level Teacher; Youth Development Manager within Galway Women’s Football Club & Centre of Excellence Coach at Football Association of Ireland
As an admittedly underachieving and disengaged post-primary student, I was embedded in the mindset of third level education not being for me – so much so, I didn’t apply for the C.A.O. during my Leaving Certificate year. Entering NUI Galway in 2013 as an access course student was a significantly positive step on my personal and professional journey. It changed my mindset from a previously fixed outlook on education to a tremendously positive growth mindset based on constant development and engagement.
Learning sociology, philosophy and English through a totally different lens really excited and enhanced my learning. The access course also allowed me to engage with peers who had experienced previous hardship. Collectively, our educational journey has allowed us to support each other from day one to post college. Moving from access into the BA Connect with Performing Arts was another leap into the unknown, but the familiarity and friendliness of the campus really aided this transition, along with the fantastic nature of collaboration.
During my undergraduate journey, I was fortunate enough to be involved in some fantastic theatrical productions which, again, opened my eyes to different methods of teaching and learning. During my time spent studying, I also coached soccer with many local community and national league clubs. This passion for coaching and willingness to help is something I pride myself on, constantly looking for the next 1% improvement. I actually wrote my undergraduate geography thesis based on the interrelationships of soccer clubs within the community. Towards the end of my undergraduate degree, this infatuation with teaching and learning resulted in an application for a Professional Masters in Education (PME).
The PME allowed me to really sink my teeth into pedagogy, the importance of planning and the resonation of feedback. It was within this time my real passion for daily education ignited. Learning about the diverse nature of teaching really spoke to me; understanding that I didn’t have to fit a mould as a teacher eliminated many of the previously construed misconceptions I held during my adolescent years. A major skill taught on this course is the ability to reflect. Reflection as an educator is your most powerful tool. Actively learning from your actions will lead to constant evolution – again back to that 1%.
Currently, I am a very engaged post primary teacher in a local secondary school. I also fulfil the role of Youth Development Manager within Galway Women’s Football Club. Within both my roles, I take tremendous pride in applying the skills learned whilst in NUI Galway. The subject knowledge from my undergrad is a given, however, the skills learned from the Performing Arts element of the BA whilst teaching is something I lean on daily. From setting creative and imaginative tasks for my students, to offering a motivational team-talk, my time in NUI Galway shines through. I am incredibly passionate about education and being a source of help for my students. I thoroughly believe this has been fostered subconsciously by the educators I met in NUI Galway from my time in the access course, throughout my undergraduate degree to my PME. Instead of being a shy and disengaged student, I now take tremendous pride within leadership roles.