Posted: 06 December 2006
SFI President of Ireland Young Researcher Awards for UCD researchers
In recognition of their exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of knowledge and research, two UCD researchers have been awarded SFI President of Ireland Young Researcher Awards (PIYRA). The awards, valued at €1 million each over 5 years, are Science Foundation Ireland’s most prestigious honour for outstanding engineers and scientists.
Dr Emma Teeling, UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science, and Dr Oliver Blacque, UCD School of Bimolecular and Biomedical Science, scooped two of the three PIYRA awards presented by the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese at Áras an Uachtaráin at the end of November 2006.
President Mary McAleese with Dr Emma Teeling, UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science and Dr Oliver Blacque, UCD School of Bimolecular and Biomedical Science
“Attracting the best international scientific talent to Ireland and harnessing the cream of Irish researchers is essential to establishing Ireland at the forefront of science and engineering research,” said President of Ireland, Mary McAleese.
Dr Teeling’s PIYRA-winning research examines the molecular evolution of sensory perception in mammals using bats as a highly specialised model. The key sensory areas under investigation are vision, smell and hearing. Her research aims to identify which genetic mutations and genes are most likely to cause deafness and blindness in mammals and humans. By examining how sight, hearing and smell evolve in animals that use them in different ways, she will also investigate which parts of the genome control how we see, hear and smell.
“With the PIYRA award, I can establish an internationally renowned research lab at UCD capable of addressing the fundamental questions in evolutionary biology and sensory perception. It means I can build the required research team including three full-time PhD students, one postdoctoral fellow, and a research assistant,” explained Dr Teeling.
Dr Blacque’s PIYRA award goes towards the investigation of cilia biology; primary cilia are short hair-like structures on the surface of cells which play important sensory roles in the body. Defects in primary cilia cause cystic kidneys, retinal dystrophy, bone abnormalities, organ laterality defects and Bardet-Biedl Syndrome (a condition that includes symptoms such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure). Using tiny microscopic worms as an animal model, Dr Blacque will examine the genetic basis of cilia function, regulation and development.
“The PIYRA award means that I can set up an experimental laboratory in the UCD Conway Institute of Bimolecular and Biomedical Research expediting research using tiny microscopic worms to answer fundamental questions of human cell biology,” Dr Blacque said.The PIYRA was launched three years ago by Science Foundation Ireland with the support of the President of Ireland to highlight the critical roles played by innovative young investigators in developing contemporary research and education programmes for Ireland.