Eight UCD research projects awarded Science Foundation Ireland funding grants

Pictured top: from left to right: Dr Angela Feechan; Dr Antonio Benedetto; Dr Liliana Pasquale; Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, Professor Mark Ferguson; Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan TD; Dr Eoin Cummins; Dr Eoghan McGarrigle; Dr Yan Yan; and Professor Simon Kelly
  • Awards help early and mid-career researchers to develop essential skills
  • Grants will fund projects carried out by 100 researchers from seven countries
  • Gender initiative ensures maximum of six applicants at each institution were male

Research projects at University College Dublin have received eight of the 40 awards granted in the latest round of funding from Science Foundation Ireland.

The awards are allocated under the Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) and Career Development Award (CDA) Programmes.

With grants ranging from €450,000 to €877,000 over four years, the projects will support nearly 100 researchers from seven countries.  

The 40 research projects will be funded through nine research bodies: University College Dublin (8), Dublin City University (7), National University of Ireland Galway (3), National University of Ireland Maynooth (1), Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (2), Trinity College Dublin (9), Tyndall National institute (2), University College Cork (3), University of Limerick (5).  

The 40 research projects cover a diverse range of sectors, including health and medical, food and marine, energy and environment, manufacturing and materials and ICT and communications.

“This investment in the SFI SIRG and CDA Programmes allows researchers to advance their research investigations and continue developing their careers,” said Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan TD, who announced the awards.

“The nine industrial collaborations linked with these awards provides industry with access to the emerging research expertise found throughout Ireland.

“Collaborations at these early career stages will help establish relationships which will advance Ireland’s economy, society and reputation for research excellence now and in the future.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said Science Foundation Ireland places a heavy emphasis on supporting researchers at every stage of their careers.

“The SIRG and CDA awards help early and mid-career researchers develop essential skills and track records necessary to become the next generation of research leaders in Ireland.  I have high expectations for these projects and look forward to these teams contributing to the advancement of Ireland’s international reputation in areas such as energy, materials, technology, and health,” he added.

A gender initiative was employed for the 2015 SIRG awards, ensuring out of the 12 eligible applicants from a research body, a maximum of six of the applicants could be male. In 2013, 27% of applicants and 27% of awardees (six out of 22) were female.

The 2015 gender initiative can be considered a success in that of the 94 eligible applications, 44 were from female applicants (47%) and 50 were from male applicants (53%).  Of the 20 proposals awarded, 55% of awardees (11 out of 20) are female.

Health & Medical

  • Developing our understanding of how nanoparticles interact with immune system, which will open new routes for designing nanoparticles for effective vaccine delivery; (SIRG awardee) 

 PI: Dr Yan Yan, School of Chemistry

  • Investigating how certain mechanisms underpinning the effects of higher than normal levels of carbon dioxide in the blood may affect the immune system; (CDA awardee) 

PI: Dr Eoin Cummins, Assistant Professor, School of Medicine

  • Investigating how the management of sensory and reward information in the face of environmental demands is deficient in many major brain disorders; (CDA awardee) 

PI: Professor Simon Kelly, School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Food and Marine

  • Identification of the proteins used by bacteria to infect wheat, in order to re-establish immunity in wheat; (CDA awardee) 

PI: Dr Angela Feechan, Assistant Professor, School of Agriculture and Food Science

Manufacturing & Materials

  • Developing the automated processes involved in manufacturing carbohydrates, which holds promise in speeding up the development of new vaccines and medicines; (CDA awardee) 

PI: Dr Eoghan McGarrigle, Assistant Professor, School of Chemistry

ICT and Communications

  • Developing new software technology that will transform cyber and physical forensic investigations in the future; (SIRG awardee) 

PI: Dr Liliana Pasquale, Assistant Professor, School of Computer Science

  • A study of the interaction between organic biomolecules, known as room temperature ionic liquids (RTILs), and biomolecules, that could open up new opportunities for applications in biomedicine, pharmacology and food science. (SIRG awardee) 

PI: Dr Antonio Benedetto, Lecturer, School of Physics

  • Investigating the use sophisticated machine learning techniques (deep learning) for the detection of novel events in data streams, such as CCTV images or data from a wearable medical device; (CDA awardee) 

PI: Dr Brian MacNamee, Assistant Professor, School of Computer Science

By: Jamie Deasy, digital journalist, UCD University Relations