Irish physicist elected to prestigious US scientific organisation

27 Jan 2022

Prof JC Séamus Davis. Image: UCC

Prof JC Séamus Davis was elected as a fellow of AAAS for his work in quantum physics at UCC and the University of Oxford.

Irish scientist Prof JC Séamus Davis has been elected to the rank of fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The honour is considered among the most prestigious merits within the global scientific community.

Davis is an internationally respected physicist, specialising in the field of macroscopic quantum physics. The Skibbereen native leads a team of researchers at University College Cork (UCC) and the University of Oxford.

He has invented several new techniques that allow humans to visualise quantum phenomena directly. These techniques help to provide people with an understanding of the world of quantum physics, at the time when quantum technology is coming to play a central role in science and the economy.

Davis joins 563 other scientists from around the world elected as fellows of AAAS as part of its 2021 intake.

Founded in 1848, it is the world’s largest general scientific society and election to the group is typically reserved for those whose work is scientifically or socially distinguished. Some of the society’s fellows have included Thomas Edison, Maria Mitchell and Ellen Ochoa.

Davis said he was “thrilled and honoured” to join their ranks, adding he was “delighted by the recognition for these innovative approaches to exploring macroscopic quantum physics”.

The Cork man got his undergraduate physics degree in UCC in 1983. His international career led him to Cornell University in the US, where he was the James Gilbert White Distinguished Professor of Physical Sciences.

In 2018, he returned to his Irish alma mater to spearhead a pioneering research programme exploring quantum materials for quantum technology.

It was a joint appointment with Oxford, supported in Ireland through a Science Foundation Ireland Research Professorship and an Infrastructure Award, and in the UK by a European Research Council Advanced Grant award.

Shining a light on the abdomen

As well as Davis, another Munster scientist has been making waves recently for his research on the make-up and structure of the abdomen. University of Limerick’s Prof Calvin Coffey made a breakthrough in 2016 when a discovery he made led to the reclassification of the mesentery as a new organ.

Calvin Coffey in a surgery theatre.

Calvin Coffey. Image: University of Limerick

In a research paper published in the Nature journal Communications Biology, Coffey’s team detailed the development and structure of the mesentery. His team has recently provided a further explanation of findings in a review article published in The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

According to Coffey, his research on the mesentery is already being incorporated into references such as the most recent edition of Gray’s Anatomy.

“Better understanding of the mesentery and its functions has already led to improvements in surgery and the new research builds on those advances. There are also exciting areas for future investigation,” he said.

“Patients are already benefiting from what we now call mesenteric-based approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of most abdominal conditions. The organisational simplicity of the abdomen now immediately explains the behaviours of viral and bacterial infections, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, diabetes and many others.”

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Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.