The Irish Research Council held its Researcher of the Year awards for 2019 in December to commend the very best of the council’s awardees and alumni working in academia, industry, civic society and the public sector.

Presented by President Michael D Higgins, the top award of the night went to Prof Laoise McNamara of NUI Galway for her research in bone mechanobiology and osteoporosis. McNamara is a professor in biomedical engineering at NUI Galway and the vice-dean for recruitment and internationalisation for the College of Engineering and Informatics.

Dr Jeremy J Piggott, an assistant professor in aquatic biology at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), was awarded Early-Career Researcher of the Year for research in fundamental and applied ecology. This included the management and conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the face of global change.

Prof David Farrell of University College Dublin (UCD) was named winner of the Impact Award for his significant contribution in his field beyond academia. Alongside his role as a professor of politics at UCD, Farrell is also chair of the finance sub-committee of the European Consortium for Political Research and a member of the international advisory boards of the Electoral Integrity project and Making Electoral Democracy Work project.

Deep impact
“Prof Laoise McNamara, Dr Jeremy Piggott and Prof David Farrell’s work demonstrate the breadth of excellent research that is being carried out in Ireland – the impact of which ripples through multiple aspects of Irish life,” said Prof Jane Ohlmeyer, chair of the Irish Research Council.
“I warmly congratulate them on their outstanding track records to date, and on receiving their Irish Research Council Researcher of the Year awards.”

A special award was also presented to academic and activist Prof emeritus Kathleen Lynch of UCD for her contribution over many decades to equality and participation. Lynch played a lead role in establishing the UCD Equality Studies Centre in 1990 and the UCD School of Social Justice in 2005.

Medals of Excellence
In addition to the Researcher of the Year awards, the council presented Medals of Excellence to four early-stage researchers.

Shirley Howe of Maynooth University was awarded the Eda Sagarra Medal of Excellence for being the top-ranked postgraduate researcher in the arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS) category. Her work focuses on the culture and climate on Ireland’s islands.

Michael Craig of TCD was awarded the Jane Grimson Medal of Excellence for being the top-ranked postgraduate researcher in the STEM category. Craig’s research focuses on discovering of hybrid materials for water splitting technologies.

Dr Se├ín Hewitt of University College Cork was awarded the Maurice J Bric Medal of Excellence for being the top-ranked postdoctoral researcher in the AHSS category. Hewitts’s research explores natural history in British and Irish writing.

And finally, Dr Harold Berjamin of NUI Galway was awarded the Thomas Mitchell Medal of Excellence for being the top-ranked postdoctoral researcher in the STEM category. Berjamin’s research is in the mechanical modelling of brain matter.

Colm Gorey
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