Dr Anthony Maher wins SFI research photo of the year for ‘Starship Enterprise’

3 Nov 2014

Dr Anthony Maher's 'Starship Enterprise' photograph that was awarded Research Image of the Year at the SFI Summit in Athlone. Image via Dr Anthony Mayer/SFI

Dr Anthony Maher has been awarded first prize in this year’s Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Image of the Year category for his incredible photo entitled ‘Starship Enterprise’.

Dr Maher is a former researcher at the Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre (SSPC) in the University of Limerick and a member of Kerry’s senior football All-Ireland winning team and was awarded the grand prize at the SFI’s Science Summit in Athlone.

Currently working for Pfizer, Dr Maher had between 2008 and 2012 been working on his PhD in the area of polymorphism in pharmaceutical compounds and for his winning entry had created an optical micrograph image that shows a Form II piracetam crystal (rough, dissolving) undergoing a polymorphic transformation to a more stable Form III crystal (smooth, defined faces) in methanol at 25 degrees Celsius.

Dr Maher’s image was among dozens of other entries from across Ireland but his work was deemed to have that extra something that saw the judges award him the top prize.

Combination of curiosity and creativity

Speaking of his achievement, Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation Damien English TD, said the image, and the title referencing Star Trek, was a perfect example of the level of curiosity and creativity that exists within Irish scientific research currently.

“Dr Maher’s image, ‘Starship Enterprise’, captures the wonder and curiosity that science is all about,” said the minister.

“It is an instantly accessible picture that grabs the attention of the viewer, regardless of whether they are a world-class researcher or a child in a classroom. His image is such an effective way of showing the cutting edge research that takes place every day at SSPC and the other SFI research centres across the country.”

Also announced at the summit was the news that Prof Barry Smyth was named the SFI’s Researcher of the Year 2014 and was recognised by his peers for his exceptional research accomplishments with regard to personalisation technologies and recommender systems, as well as his contribution to the Irish scientific community over the past year.

Tough competition

Here are some other amazing entries that managed to make this year’s shortlist.

Na, na, na, na, na … Bat-scan! A computerised tomography (CT) volume rendered image of a lesser horseshoe bat viewed from two angles. Image via Prof William Gallagher/SFI

Cosmic. Photoresist is used to draw patterns on surfaces in the fabrication of semiconductor devices. Image via Catherine Doyle/SFI

Nano Catastrophe. Gold metal and silicon dioxide layers are blown away revealing the pure silicon substrate base which all appear frozen now after a molten state. Image via Curtis O’Kelly/SFI

Collapsed Bundle. This scanning electron microscope image shows a bundle of nickel nanowires, grown vertically using a template. Image via Allen Bellew/SFI

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic