Caitriona Jackman becomes first woman senior physics professor at DIAS

11 Oct 2021

Prof Caitriona Jackman. Image: Peter Varga/Humans of Dublin

In her new role, Caitriona Jackman will lead a research group on the magnetic bubbles that surround magnetised planets.

Hitting a major milestone in its 81-year history, the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) has appointed its first woman senior professor of physics.

Prof Caitriona Jackman is taking up the role of senior professor at DIAS’s School of Cosmic Physics and will lead a research group on planetary magnetospheres – the magnetic bubbles that surround magnetised planets.

Jackman’s position is one of a number of posts, specifically for women, funded under the Senior Academic Leadership Initiative (SALI), which aims to address the gender imbalance at senior academic level in higher education in Ireland.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD, said there is work to be done in ensuring gender equality within the research and higher education sector.

“It is important for the country that our leadership – including in the higher education sector – is reflective of the values of modern Ireland and our commitment to gender equality.”

Jackman studied and worked in the UK for 17 years. She completed her PhD in space physics at the University of Leicester and held research positions at Imperial College London, University College London and the University of Southampton.

She returned to Ireland in 2019 and was one of 10 researchers to be awarded significant funding as part of Science Foundation Ireland’s President of Ireland Future Research Leaders Award in 2020.

“It is a privilege to take up the position of senior professor at the DIAS School of Cosmic Physics, and to be the first ever female senior professor in the institute,” said Jackman.

“My research has brought me all around the world, and I am delighted to be based now at a leading institution in Ireland and continue my work here.”

Dr Eucharia Meehan, CEO and registrar of DIAS, said this is a “historic appointment” for the institute and hoped that many other women will follow in Jackman’s footsteps.

“We know that women are not sufficiently represented in senior academic roles, so initiatives like SALI are of vital importance to ensure that this changes,” she said.

“We are delighted that DIAS was selected to receive SALI funding and be in a position to appoint a new female senior professor, like Prof Jackman, who is at the forefront of research in her field.”

Shattering glass ceilings

In another historic appointment, Prof Kerstin Mey has officially been named president of the University of Limerick (UL).

Mey had been serving as interim president since 2020, making her the first woman university president in Ireland.

Since then, Prof Maggie Cusack has been appointed president of the new Munster Technological University and, as of the beginning of October 2021, Prof Eeva Leinonen has taken the reigns from Prof Philip Nolan as president of Maynooth University.

Another notable appointment is Prof Linda Doyle, who recently made history as the first woman provost of Trinity College Dublin in its 429 years.

Mey’s appointment was ratified by the governing authority of UL last week, formally making her the president of the university.

Harris said Mey shattered a glass ceiling when she first became interim president of UL.

“Today the interim title is gone as she is formally appointed president. It is an exciting time for higher education in Ireland and in Europe, and there are many opportunities to harness in the mid-west region of our country. I look forward to working with Kerstin to seize these opportunities.”

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Jenny Darmody is the deputy editor of Silicon Republic