Prof Paul Ross of UCC declared Ireland’s Researcher of the Year

20 Nov 2023

Prof Paul Ross of APC Microbiome Ireland. Image: Clare Keogh

Awards across nine other categories were announced today by Science Foundation Ireland for contributions to STEM-related research and innovation.

Prof Paul Ross of University College Cork (UCC) has been named Researcher of the Year 2023 by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) for significant contributions to food and gut health research.

Ross, who has been the director of SFI research centre APC Microbiome Ireland since 2019, is an Irish researcher who has received international acclaim for his research on antibacterial compounds.

“I have always been fascinated by the microbial world in which we live and depend on so much. Most of this world is inhabited by diverse communities of microorganisms or microbiomes, as exemplified by the trillions of bacteria that live in our gut,” Ross said.

Based in UCC, APC Microbiome is a research centre focused on uncovering the mysteries of gastrointestinal health.

“Our research strives to find microbiome-based solutions to address some of the grand challenges society is facing right now,” Ross said.

“One example is the build-up of antimicrobial resistance in harmful bacteria; to this end, our lab has had some success in finding antibiotic alternatives.”

Close-up of an eye in blue with green spots.

The image titled ‘I C U’ which displays the eye of a five-day-old zebrafish larva won SFI Research Image of the Year. Image: Elin Strachan

APC Microbiome is currently working on a €2.5m European Research Council project exploring the potential for naturally occurring antimicrobial peptide, specifically bacteriocins, for the development of new therapies to tackle infectious disease.

“There is huge excitement in our ranks, as we can see that we are at the precipice for what microbes and microbiomes can offer in this huge challenge.”

Prof Orla Hardiman of Trinity College Dublin (TCD) was last year’s SFI Researcher of the Year for her “outstanding contribution” to our understanding of motor neurone disease and treatments.

Here are some of the other winners across nine other categories at this year’s awards.

Early Career Researcher of the Year: Dr Sarah Guerin of University of Limerick won for her research focused on modelling and growing crystals for use in areas such as ecofriendly sensing and pharmaceuticals.

Commercialisation Award: Prof Steve Kerrigan of RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences won for founding Inthelia Therapeutics, a clinical-stage pharmaceutical spin-out company which aims to develop personalised therapeutic approaches to treat patients with sepsis.

Best International Engagement Award: Prof Edward Curry of University of Galway won for his data science research and his leadership in developing the European data and AI ecosystem.

Outstanding Contribution to STEM Communication: Blackrock Castle Observatory, based under Munster Technological University, won for championing scientific literacy and communicating astronomy and space topics for 16 years.

Award for Supporting Green Transition: Dr Una Fitzgerald of University of Galway won for being a “leading voice” in the national movement of “greening” research laboratories. Her laboratory was the first in Europe to be Green Lab-certified.

Industry Partnership Award: Prof Frank Peters of IPIC, the SFI Centre for photonics, won for more than three decades of contributions to photonics research, including 12 years in industry where he filed more than 80 patents.

Mentorship Award: Prof Anne Marie Healy of Trinity College Dublin School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and co-director of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Transformative Pharmaceutical Technologies. She has graduated 20 PhD students and mentored 25 postdoctoral researchers.

Engaged Research of the Year: Prof Andy Way, deputy director of Adapt, won for the SignON project he leads, which aims to help people who are deaf or hard of hearing to communicate more easily.

Research Image of the Year: Elin Strachan, a PhD candidate at University College Dublin, won for the image titled ‘I C U’ which displays the eye of a five-day-old zebrafish larva.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic