8 researchers in Ireland doing amazing work

21 Jul 2023

Image: © Mascha Tace/Stock.adobe.com

We took a quick snapshot of some of the incredible work being done on the island of Ireland across a wide range of research areas.

Click here to view the full Research Week series.

Ireland excels in several areas of research, punching well above its weight on the global stage and collaborating with many international partners.

Whether it’s quantum, medtech or space exploration, Ireland boasts an impressive cohort of research professionals innovating in phenomenal ways.

Throughout Research Week, we’ve taken a closer look at some of the most exciting trends in the research community, as well as exploring the good, the bad and the ugly sides of working in research.

But while the vocation can bring both challenges and joy, we also wanted to celebrate the actual work that these amazing researchers are doing. This list is by no means exhaustive, but instead just offers a snapshot of some of the incredible work being done in the many areas of research across the island of Ireland.

Dr Ted Vaughan

Dr Ted Vaughan, an associate professor in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Galway, is one of the Irish leaders of a €4.17m European research project that aims to develop biodegradable medical implants.

Implants made to be biodegradable can gradually degrade when they are implanted in the body. The team thinks there is potential for these materials to reduce long-term complications associated with existing stent devices.

In 2020, Vaughan was also part of a group of academics that developed a drone to sterilise a room using UV light for use in hospitals.

Dr Orla O’Sullivan

Dr Orla O’Sullivan is a leading authority in microbiome research, a senior computational biologist in Teagasc Food Research Centre, and a principal investigator with SFI research centres VistaMilk and APC Microbiome Ireland.

Her work focuses on the microbiome and how it affects everything from the food we eat and the soil we walk on to the water we drink and the air we breathe. Ann O’Dea recently interviewed O’Sullivan as part of our Creating the Future Series.

In 2019, she was the recipient of the SFI Early Career Researcher of the Year, having been awarded an SFI Starting Investigator Research Grant and the APC Junior Scientist of the Year in 2014.  She appeared on the highly cited researcher list in 2018.

Prof Ed Lavelle

Prof Ed Lavelle works in Trinity College Dublin’s School of Biochemistry and Immunology. His research is primarily focused on developing injectable and mucosal vaccines for infectious diseases.

He also leads a research group that is developing therapeutic vaccines for cancer and investigating vaccine strategies that promote “immunogenic cell death”, with the goal of enhancing protective immunity.

Earlier this year, Lavelle was recognised by the Irish Society for Immunology for his contributions to immunology research and education.

Prof Frances Lucy

Prof Frances Lucy is an environmental scientist and head of the Department of Environmental Science at Atlantic Technological University. She is also director of CERIS, the Centre for Environmental Research Innovation and Sustainability at the university.

Lucy is an internationally recognised researcher in the field of invasive species, non-native organisms, that begin to spread or expand from the site of their original introduction and can cause harm to the environment.

Last month, Lucy was announced as co-ordinator of ATU’s EU Green Alliance, a multimillion-euro programme which aims to build strategic alliances between universities in the EU.

Prof Peter Coles

A professor in theoretical physics at Maynooth University, Peter Coles is the only academic working in Ireland to be involved in the Euclid mission, Europe’s powerful telescope that was blasted into space at the beginning of this month.

Coles studies the large-scale structure of our universe and, with Euclid, he is working with the galaxy clustering working group that is studying how clustering evolves with redshift through measurements and statistical analyses.

“By looking again at galaxies at different distances and how they cluster, we can actually measure whether the amount of dark energy there is what is predicted,” he said in an interview with SiliconRepublic.com.

Dr Lara McManus

Dr Lara McManus is a research assistant professor at the Academic Unit of Neurology in Trinity College Dublin. There, she is working on methods that help with the diagnosis and treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the most common form of motor neurone disease.

Her research aims to develop new markers of disrupted neuroelectric signalling that can detect early signs of motor unit dysfunction and provide a quantitative measure of both different subtypes of the disease and of disease progression within subgroups of those with ALS.

A recent recipient of a Royal Society University Research Fellowship, McManus told SiliconRepublic.com about the work she does in more detail in an interview earlier this year.

Joe Carroll

While Joe Carroll is currently a PhD student in University College Cork, he has already been making waves in the Irish research scene.

Working with Prof Séamus Davis, a leading expert in quantum physics, Carroll was the lead author of a recent study highlighting a discovery that could have “significant consequences” for the future of quantum computing.

Using one of the world’s most powerful quantum microscopes, Carroll and the team at the Macroscopic Quantum Matter Group laboratory discovered a spatially modulating superconducting state in a new and unusual superconductor called Uranium Ditelluride (UTe2).

Dr Kerry Thompson

Dr Kerry Thompson is an imaging scientist fellow at the University of Galway and currently leads development at the Anatomy Imaging and Microscopy facility.

Earlier this year, Thompson was awarded €3.6m in funding from Science Foundation Ireland and the University of Galway to develop a Centre of Excellence in Multimodal Imaging. As part of the project, three new high-end systems will be brought to campus later this year.

Speaking to SiliconRepublic.com, she said imaging scientists play a vital role in many high-impact publications. “As professional microscopists, we assist with the collection of temporally and spatially resolved data to place function in a structural context. We provide dynamic and kinetic information that can be correlated with high resolution and high magnification.”

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Jenny Darmody is the editor of Silicon Republic