First Irish winner named for prestigious international psychology award

9 Sep 2020

Dr Hannah Durand, post-doctoral researcher at NUI Galway. Image: NUI Galway

An NUI Galway researcher is the first Irish recipient of the Herman Schaalma Award from the European Health Psychology Society.

International success for researchers in Ireland continues with news that Dr Hannah Durand, a postdoctoral researcher at NUI Galway’s School of Psychology, was named winner of the Herman Schaalma Award from the European Health Psychology Society (EHPS).

She is the first Irish recipient of the award, which is presented to authors of PhD dissertations that advance our scientific understanding in the field of psychology. The award ceremony, which was due to take place at the EHPS annual conference in Bratislava, Slovakia, was recently held online due to ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.

Durand’s research – supervised by Dr Gerry Molloy and Prof Andrew Murphy – explored reasons why people with hard-to-control blood pressure do or do not take their medications as prescribed.

She is also currently one of several researchers at NUI Galway working with the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to understand why people do or do not adhere to physical distancing guidelines.

“We are using insights from health psychology to understand what motivates individuals’ behavioural responses to the pandemic,” Durand said. “Our aim is to utilise our research findings to inform and refine future Government communications about physical distancing.”

‘Well-deserved success’

Commenting on Durand’s award win, EHPS president Prof Evangelos Karademas said: “The Herman Schaalma Award aims to highlight excellence in PhD-level research and to reinforce early-career researchers to address key challenges in health psychology and adopt novel and rigorous theory and methodology.

“I offer my sincere congratulations to Dr Durand on her well-deserved success.”

Last month, Dr Tomás Ryan of Trinity College Dublin was named as the first scientist in an Irish institution to win a research prize from the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine for his work that includes better understanding infantile amnesia.

Speaking after the award win, Ryan said it was an “honour and privilege” for him. “The freedom to pursue blue skies, fundamental research is at the core of the scientific enterprise and is the starting point for all societal benefits in medicine, education and industry.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic