Rachel McCarthy and Dr Liam Morris awarded 2019 GMIT President’s Award for Teaching Excellence

Monday, November 25, 2019 Press Office
Press Release

GMIT lecturers Rachel McCarthy, School of Science & Computing, and Dr Liam Morris, School of Engineering, have been awarded the 2019 GMIT President’s Award for Teaching Excellence, presented by Acting President of GMIT Dr Michael Hannon at the recent annual conferrings in the Galmont Hotel, Galway.

Dr Liam Morris from Renmore is co-founder and Principal Investigator within GMIT’s GMedTech Centre and the Medical Engineering Technologies (MET) Gateway at the Dublin Road (Galway) campus. He also lectures on degree programmes in mechanical engineering, energy engineering, and biomedical engineering in the Dept of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering and is supervisor to numerous postgraduate students.

Speaking at the conferring ceremony, Dr Paul O’Dowd, who was co-proposer along with Dr John Lohan, School of Engineering, paid tribute to their colleague Liam for his outstanding academic, research and athletic achievements, stating: “Liam is a Renmore man. He studied in Galway Community College, or what in those days was called “The Tech”, before coming up the road to our B. Tech Engineering degree in GMIT and progressing to a Masters under Patrick Delassus, with whom Liam has gone on to build our world-class GMedTech research facility.”

“A talented athlete, like his father before him, Liam has always been on the fast track, and in 2003 was selected to represent the Irish universities internationally in athletics. These days, he represents GMIT internationally through his research in medical device technology – hugely important for the West of Ireland, developing physiologically relevant bio-simulators for cardiovascular diseases.  He has supervised nine PhD students, including Helen O’Grady, who is graduating today.  He has over 80 conference papers and 30 peer-reviewed journal papers and has secured over €3 million in funding. This year alone, his research has won prizes from the Institution of Engineering and Technology and the International Electrotechnical Commission.   But, impressive as all that is, it’s not the reason that he’s getting this  teaching award. What Liam has done is to take that cutting-edge research and bring it into the classroom”. 

“About one third of the fourth year Mechanical Eng students work on projects that derive, directly or indirectly, from his work. Projects like “The Design and Manufacture of an endovascular catheter, which mimics the locomotion of an Inchworm”. They get to work in his lab and with his Post-Graduate researchers.”

“Liam has also developed an innovative third year project, where teams of students develop a working life-size model of the human heart, that replicates the flow generated by the heart function.  He also created a Biomedical Engineering stream of subjects, so that our final year Mechanicals can specialise and prepare for jobs in the local Biomedical sector.  And building on Liam’s expertise, the Department has introduced a new degree in Biomedical Engineering to GMIT.”

“Liam’s own lectures are full of real-life examples straight from his research. He’ll casually whip out props and sample devices, saying “Here’s a lovely brain scan" or "Here's a really interesting aneurism we were working on the other day.”  He uses the flipped classroom approach, where students do their own research, guest speakers are invited, and there is plenty of class interaction, group discussion and debate”.  

“And, though he has won international recognition, the praise that he’d appreciate most comes from his students. They speak of his passion, expertise and hard work. One former student, now working in the world-renowned Johns Hopkins University, says of Liam that “He has an uncanny ability to translate engineering discoveries to a clinical setting."  And "In spite of his extraordinary gifts, he is a humble and very approachable person who loves to share his extensive knowledge with his students and colleagues." 

“Liam excels is in his dynamic ability to deliver “research informed teaching”  And, Liam is still running. Often he’ll sprint past you in the corridor to get yet another research proposal in before the deadline. After all these years, Liam is still setting the pace."

Rachel Mc Carthy from Oranmore lectures on the Bachelor of Science in Quality for Industry programme and on Springboard courses such as the Certificate in Science in Quality Management and the Certificate in Science in Medical Device Technology within the Dept of Biopharmaceutical and Medical Science at the Dublin Road (Galway) campus.

Rachel is a positive, motivated professional with a passion for mentoring and training individuals and large groups. Rachel completed a BSc in Microbiology and a Postgraduate Diploma in Quality Assurance in NUIG before starting her career with Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals in New Jersey as a Validation Engineer. Rachel subsequently moved to Schering Plough in Cork and then joined Boston Scientific, Galway as a Quality Engineer in 1996 where she trained as a Six Sigma Black Belt, gaining the American Society for Quality (ASQ) Six Sigma Black Belt certification in 2008. To further inform and develop her teaching, Rachel is currently completing a Masters in teaching and Learning in GMIT.

Dr Eugene McCarthy, Head of the Department of Biopharmaceutical and Medical Science, paid tribute to Rachel at the conferring ceremony, outlining her work with full and part-time students, many of whom are employed in industry who return to college to upskill: “Rachel’s  teaching extends to lectures, tutorials, work-based learning supervision, problem-based learning and facilitating workshops. She is also co-ordinator for the final year of the Bachelor of Science Honours in Quality for Industry and lectures on modulus including Maths, Statistics, Quality Management and Medical Device Technology.”

Prior to joining GMIT, Rachel developed an extensive industry track record in the Medical Device and Pharmaceutical industries where she delivered courses to industry colleagues in the areas of; Six Sigma, Quality Engineering, Statistics & Process Improvement. It is very clear from the material I have read that Rachel translates her industry experience into the various teaching and learning methods she applies, ensuring that she brings the subject matter to life for her students. What stands out is Rachel’s passion and motivation for teaching and her dedication to be a knowledgeable, inspiring student-centred lecturer, striving for the best results for her students and always ensuring the students are at the centre of her considerations by applying the philosophy ‘if it benefits the students then we should do it!”

This student centred focus has been recognized both internally in GMIT but also externally, a number of Rachel’s students over the last five years have gained the highest result in the country in Quality Management, winning the Excellence Ireland Quality Association (EIQA) national “Student of the Year” award for Quality Management 1 at the National Q Mark Awards.

“Students describe her approach to teaching as one of continual encouragement which builds their self-belief and confidence, with one student noting how Rachel at the beginning of each academic year brings to class acorns fallen from the Oak tree in her garden to remind her students of their huge potential for learning and growth.  As head of department, I have had the privilege of receiving some of these communications:

- “Rachel's mix of experience, preparation, inspiration, and communication were simply incredible, this led to classes that were always interesting, interactive and well received by the whole class.

-“At times, the course content was very challenging but Rachel went that extra mile to ensure our understanding of the topic.... drawing on her experiences from within the Medical Device industry as well as beyond”

- and the level of class participation was always a fantastic element to the learning”.

“There are numerous other samples I could cite if time allowed which acknowledge Rachels innovative and student centred approach to teaching, all of which confirm why she is a worthy winner of this ‘years President’s award for teaching Excellence.”

Rachel is a founder of and a lecturer on the BSc in Quality for Industry programme in GMIT and was delighted that, on the same day that she received the President’s Award for Teaching Excellence she shared the stage with thirty one of her students who were the first (level 8), honours graduates of this programme.

For further information about programmes in the Dept of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, see:

For further information about programmes in Dept of Biopharmaceutical and Medical Science, see:

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Issued by Regina Daly, GMIT Communications Officer, GMIT (Dublin Road) Galway.
Tel. 0035391742826 / 087-9618355 (m) regina.daly@gmit.ie