Three Case Studies from Engineering and Architecture runners-up in 2020 UCD Impact Competition

 Asst Prof Jennifer Keenahan, Dr Kevin Nolan and Assoc Prof Francesco Pilla commended

8 MARCH 2021:

Assistant Professor Jennifer Keenahan from UCD School of Civil Engineering, Dr Kevin Nolan from UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and Associate Professor Francesco Pilla from UCD School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy have been named runners-up in the 2020 UCD Research Impact Case Study Competition.

Assistant Professor Jennifer Keenahan’s case study ‘Protecting the built environment from the effects of wind’ details her research which pioneers the use of Computational Fluid Dynamics to study the effects of wind on the built environment — a potentially cheaper and

faster alternative to using wind tunnels. She is developing new policy in this area, resulting in improved infrastructure and a safer, more comfortable built environment for everyone.

Assistant Professor Keenahan said: “By protecting buildings and vehicles from wind, this research is helping to create a safer, more comfortable built environment for everyone.”

Dr Kevin Nolan’s case study ‘Reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission in hospitals’ outlines the impact of his research which looked at how to stop airborne droplets spreading across hospitals. The research led to changes in practices in the Mater hospital, protecting patients and clinicians from COVID-19. The findings also show the importance of social distancing and wearing a mask, helping slow the spread of the disease.

Dr Nolan said: “I'm delighted to be recognised by UCD for my part in the University's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This work illustrates how multidisciplinary research can have real and immediate impact, from informing clinical practise to public outreach. The versatility of engineering methodologies coupled with the drive and resourcefulness of clinicians to deliver the best care for their patients has resulted in a highly fruitful collaborate effort. This work was undertaken at a highly challenging time but illustrates the potential of engagement across the academic sphere and remains one of my proudest achievements.”

Associate Professor Francesco Pilla was recognised for his case study ‘iSCAPE: improving the smart control of air pollution in Europe.’ The iSCAPE project advanced the control of air quality and carbon emissions in European cities. Bringing together a wide range of stakeholders, it informed guidelines across Europe, raising awareness of air pollution and its impacts, and developed new low-cost sensors to empower local communities.

The annual UCD Research Impact Case Study Competition encourages researchers, of all disciplines, to write a case study that tells the story of how their work has made a positive difference.

Despite the challenges of the year, UCD Research received more entries than ever before in 2020. Commenting on the results, Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact Professor Orla Feely said: “The volume of entries we received last year is a testament to the high-impact work going on across the university and to our researchers’ dedication to making meaningful contributions to the world. Research at UCD continues to improve health and wellbeing, protect the environment, influence policy, stimulate economic growth, enrich people’s lives, and inspire the next generation.”

The winner of the UCD 2020 Research Impact Case Study Competition is Associate Professor Catherine Cox. Her case study, entitled ‘Out of sight, out of mind: changing public perceptions of the mental health crisis in Irish prisons,’ details the significant impact of her project exploring the history of prisoner health.

There six other runners-up in the 2020 competition are:

  • Diabetes Complications Research Centre (UCD DCRC)

Addressing the stigma faced by people living with obesity 

  • Professor Cal Muckley, Dr Gaurav Kumar, Linh Pham and Darragh Ryan

Protecting older adults against financial exploitation

  • Associate Professor Ainhoa González

Planning for sustainability through Environmental Sensitivity Mapping

  • Associate Professor Marie Keenan

Reimagining justice and healing after sexual violence

  • Professor Fionnuala McAuliffe

Right technology, right time: how the PEARs app is improving pregnancy outcomes

  • Dr Heidi Riley

Promoting women in peace mediation across the island of Ireland

Professor Feely added: “I would like to personally congratulate our finalists and to thank them, not only for their hard work on these case studies, but for their commitment to ensuring people benefit from their research. 

“ I encourage all researchers to consider entering this year’s competition when it launches this spring.” 

To help researchers think more deeply about their impact and write a compelling impact case study, UCD has developed a new Impact Toolkit website which will also be launched this spring, funded by the Higher Education Authority and produced by UCD Research Analytics and Impact team.