AIMS-RN Summer Fellowship Projects 2024

Our 2024 All Ireland Multiple Sclerosis Research Network (AIMS-RN) summer fellowship programme is now open for applications. The project descriptions are given below.


Project 1.

Title. Assessing the perceived importance of lifestyle modification in people with multiple sclerosis (MS); a survey of patients and healthcare professionals.

Location: Belfast HSC Trust.

Supervisors: Dr Stella Hughes and Dr Orla Gray.

Project type: survey, patient interaction, healthcare staff interaction.

Suitable for students studying the following subjects: Medicine, Psychology, Neuroscience.

Project description:


Managing MS is becoming more complex given the focus on disease-modifying therapies and their risk management. However, addressing lifestyle factors could also have a positive impact on multiple sclerosis (MS). This could include factors such as diet, exercise, supplements, gut health, smoking, alcohol, weight management and cardiovascular risk factors (BP, cholesterol).


  • To understand how people with MS view modification of their lifestyle factors as a strategy to help with self-management of MS.

  • To understand the role of the MS team in promoting healthy lifestyle factors when educating people with MS about self-management.


  • Survey of people with MS regarding their attitude to lifestyle factors and their impact on MS.

  • Survey of MS neurologists and nurses within Northern Ireland regarding the role of healthy lifestyle counselling for people with MS.


Project 2.

Title. Perspectives on cannabinoid-based medicine use in MS and other conditions.

Location: Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute & St James Hospital Dublin.

Supervisors: Dr Eric Downer and Dr Hugh Kearney.

Project type: questionnaire, survey, data analysis.

Suitable for students studying the following subjects: Medicine, Neuroscience.

Project description: Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune condition of the central nervous system (CNS) characterised by inflammatory episodes that damage CNS myelin. A body of literature indicates that cannabinoids, the components of the cannabis plant, have therapeutic efficacy in neuroinflammatory disorders, including MS. Indeed, cannabinoids reduce the symptoms associated with murine MS, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis, and a novel oromucosal spray (Sativex) has been shown to palliate symptoms associated with MS. Sativex contains a 1:1 mixture of components of the cannabis plant, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), and despite its clinical development, access to such therapeutics in Ireland via the Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP) has been limited. In addition to Sativex, further cannabinoid-based therapies have been approved in many countries for use in the clinic for a range of disorders, including Epidiolex, Marinol and Cesamet. A goal of the MCAP is to make it possible for a medical consultant to prescribe a cannabis-based treatment for a patient under their care for conditions such as spasticity associated with MS, nausea/vomiting associated with chemotherapy and severe, treatment-resistant epilepsy, where the patient has failed to respond to standard treatments. This study aims to conduct a survey of Consultant Neurologists, trainee Neurologists and Clinical Neuroscientists in the Republic and Northern Ireland to determine the incidence of prescriptions made under the MCAP and the ministerial licence scheme to provide cannabinoid-based medicines to individuals impacted by MS and other conditions. Secondly, this study aims to gain the perspectives of medical professionals on cannabinoid-based medicines and their potential use for the management of the symptoms of MS and other conditions. This will be conducted via the Irish Institute of Clinical Neuroscience.


Project 3.

Title. A Scoping Review of the Impact of Parenting with Multiple Sclerosis.

Location: UCC.

Supervisors: Dr Fiadhnait O’Keeffe.

Project type: literature review, synthesising evidence, reporting and dissemination.

Suitable for students studying the following subjects: Psychology or other HSCP disciplines (e.g. occupational therapy).

Project description: The average age of onset of MS is between 20 and 40 years. Many people living with MS also become parents during this period of life. The experience of being a parent can be significantly impacted physically, socially, emotionally and functionally by a complex interaction of varied and unpredictable MS symptoms (de Ceuninck van Capelle et al, 2016). Potentially modifiable factors including low mood and anxiety, fatigue, energy management and maladaptive coping strategies have been associated with perceived poor parental competence when living with MS (Uccelli et al, 2022). However, despite both its valued role and identified challenges for people with MS, research on the experience of parenting with MS and the development of appropriate supports has been neglected (Packenham et al, 2012).

This project aims to comprehensively summarize the existing literature adopting a scoping review methodology to begin to answer some of the following questions:

    • Does having MS affect the parenting role?

    • If so, how is parenting affected by MS?

    • How can parents with MS be best supported in their parenting role?

Key Outputs:

  • Learning outcomes: The AIMS-RN Fellow will be supported by the supervisor in developing key research skills, specifically in the design and implementation of a scoping review in relation to parenting when living with MS. This will play a role in training future MS researchers.

  • MS-specific outcomes: The proposed project will contribute to summarizing the existing literature and developing identified supports and information for people with MS in their parenting role.


Project 4.

Title Exploring the Dynamics of Volunteering in the MS Community: Motivations, Sustained Involvement, and Opportunities for Improvement – A Study of MS Ireland’s Volunteer Programmes.

Location: MS Ireland/ flexible.

Supervisors: Prof Susan Coote, Dr Rebecca Maguire.

Project type: literature review, qualitative methods, thematic analysis.

Suitable for students studying the following subjects: Very multidisciplinary, Sociology, Psychology, Public Health, Community Development, Social Work, Health Communication, Fundraising.

Project description: Volunteers play a pivotal role in almost all operations at MS Ireland. The primary objective of this project is to investigate the motivations that attract individuals with MS to volunteer, the factors that contribute to their sustained involvement, and areas where improvements can be made. The focus will encompass various aspects of volunteering, including positions on the Board, within Branches, as Spokespeople, and as Bloggers, among others. The project will involve (a) a review of literature in the area of volunteering, (b) the development of a suitable methodology to address the research objectives, and (c) a compilation of a report on the volunteering experience across MS Ireland.

This project is of particular importance in an era where volunteer engagement faces challenges across charitable organisations, understanding the motivations of individuals with MS to volunteer is crucial for tailoring programs that resonate with their unique needs and addressing potential barriers to recruitment.

By delving into the dynamics of volunteering within the MS community, this research addresses the growing importance of creating meaningful and sustainable volunteer opportunities, ensuring the continued vibrancy of the charitable sector in supporting individuals with chronic conditions.

The research will also shed light on the significant participation of newly diagnosed individuals in fundraising activities. By understanding the dynamics of volunteering within the MS community, the project aims to provide valuable insights into fostering a supportive and engaging environment. The findings may guide MS Ireland in enhancing its volunteer programmes, ensuring that they align with the needs and aspirations of those living with MS. This fellowship not only serves as a platform for academic exploration but also contributes to the broader mission of advancing understanding and support for individuals affected by MS.


Project 5.

Title. Analysis of trace elements in hair samples of people with MS: development of non-invasive prognostic biomarker tests.

Location: University of Galway.

Supervisors: Dr Una FitzGerald, Ms Bianca Castelli and Dr Jill McMahon.

Project type: wet lab research, assays, sample analysis, data analysis.

Suitable for students studying the following subjects: Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Medicine etc.

Project description: As many as 2.9 million people worldwide are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). Clinical management and treatment of MS, specifically for those affected by progressive MS, is hindered by less-than-optimal diagnostic methods, which, as of today, are limited to MRI imaging and disability evaluation, frequently backed up by detection of oligoclonal bands in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). However, other body fluids or tissues, that can be collected non-invasively, may provide additional relevant information, leading to a more detailed picture of ongoing disease.

A number of studies have suggested a link between the presence and accumulation of trace elements (TE), in different biological compartments, and the etiology of MS. Furthermore, disturbances in metal homeostasis have been linked with mitochondrial dysfunction, a phenomenon intricately associated with MS pathogenesis.

In this study, we hope to measure the levels of different TE in hair samples that have been collected previously from a cohort of people with MS and healthy controls. Additionally, we intend to analyse markers of mitochondrial dysfunction in serum samples obtained from the same cohort.

By delving into metal homeostasis and mitochondrial function within the context of MS, we hope that our findings will contribute to the understanding of underlying mechanisms of the disease.

Melody Cui Sun tells us about her experience as an AIMS Research Network Summer Studentship Awardee in 2021.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPkKg2phN0EPearse Hillis shares his experience as an AIMS Research Network Summer Studentship Awardee 2021.

AIMS-RN Summer Fellowship Projects 2023

The All Ireland Multiple Sclerosis Research Network (AIMS-RN) summer fellowship programme is now open for applications!
We will provide talented undergraduate students with the opportunity to acquire experience in multiple sclerosis (MS) research during the summer of 2023. The aim of the award is to encourage promising undergraduates to consider a research career focused on MS and make discoveries that can ultimately halt disease.
Career stage: Undergraduate level (must be enrolled in a programme).
Host organisations: Research teams that will host the scholarships in the summer of 2022 will be members of AIMS-RN. Collaboration with at least one other AIMS-RN research team is expected, with the possibility of collaborative visit(s).
Stipend: €300/week in Republic of Ireland or £250/week in Northern Ireland.
Start Date: mid-June for a duration of 6 weeks.

  • Must have a strong interest in MS research.
  • Must be studying for an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject (e.g. science, medicine, occupational therapy, psychology, bioengineering or similar).
  • Must currently be enrolled in an undergraduate course in either the Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland.
  • Must have completed at least one year of undergraduate study by summer 2023.

How to apply:
Send your CV and a 1-page motivation letter combined in a pdf document to info@aims-rn.org.
Deadline for applications: 5pm on March 24th 2023.
Suitable applicants will be shortlisted for interview in April and notified of outcome by the beginning of May 2023.
Students will be required to present their work at the annual AIMS-RN Symposium and help disseminate their work on our website and social media.
For information on previous AIMS-RN summer students, visit https://aims-rn.org.

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