Pearse Lyons and Adrian Raftery awarded St Patrick’s Day Science Medal

15 Mar 2017

Washington DC skyline. Image: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

This year’s St Patrick’s Day Science Medal has gone to Dr Pearse Lyons and Prof Adrian E Raftery.

Just like the Taoiseach travels to the US every year to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) marks the national holiday with the St Patrick’s Day Science Medal.

Now in its fourth year, the award is given to those living and working in the US who have shown outstanding contributions to furthering Ireland’s scientific prowess and ecosystem.

Following a nomination and judging process, this year’s winners have been announced as Alltech founder Dr Pearse Lyons, and statistics and sociology professor Adrian E Raftery.

Lyons – a Dundalk-born biochemist and entrepreneur – is the first Irish scientist to have created a global business based on scientific research. Since founding Alltech in 1980, the company has grown to achieve $3bn in annual sales across 128 countries.

Of Alltech’s three bioscience centres, two are located in the US and one is in Dunboyne, Co Meath.

Meanwhile, the work of Dublin-born Raftery – now based in the University of Washington – has resulted in the development of new statistical methods, focusing particularly on the social, environmental and health sciences.

Award reaction

Focusing on the need to quantify statistical uncertainty in demographic projections, Raftery’s work fundamentally changed approaches to population forecasting.

This was demonstrated by the United Nations recently publishing a recalculation of world population projections that directly incorporated Raftery’s work.

Speaking of his award win, Lyons said: “I am so proud to accept the SFI St Patrick’s Day Medal. While my business is global, my passion for biochemistry and entrepreneurship started at home in Ireland.”

Raftery added: “Statistics is vital to science, including the social sciences, and it is progressing rapidly with the current growth in big data and data science.

“I’m proud to have contributed to the development of statistics at University College Dublin in recent years.”

Lyons and Raftery follow in the footsteps of last year’s winners, which included technologist Dr Craig Barrett and physicist Prof Séamus Davis.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic