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Professor Helen Roche appointed interim UCD Vice-President for Research, Impact and Innovation

Posted 28 April, 2023

UCD announces the appointment by the Governing Authority of (opens in a new window)Professor Helen Roche to the position of Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact on an interim basis.

Professor Roche takes up her new position on 1 May and joins the University Management Team. 

Professor Roche is currently the Director of the UCD Conway Institute, and Full Professor Nutrigenomics (Nutrition & Omics) at the UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science.

Welcoming her appointment, incoming President of UCD, (opens in a new window)Professor Orla Feely said: “Research and innovation are central to our university. They add to the bank of knowledge that leads to discovery. They disrupt current tenets and make a difference to society through the application of new thinking and the development of talent. And they inform our teaching so that we pass on the principle of critical thinking to the next generation of creators.

"I am very proud of the achievements UCD has made in research, impact and innovation.  And I am delighted to have Professor Helen Roche take up the role of interim Vice-President for this portfolio. Helen has all of the attributes we seek in research leadership. She is a scholar and principal investigator of international renown in an area of global need. She understands the research arena and places a strong emphasis on supporting early career academics.  And she connects with society so that her own expertise is shared for the wider good.”

Professor Roche assumes the role from 1 May and takes over from Professor Feely as she begins her term as President of University College Dublin. 

Professor Helen Roche looks forward to the new role, saying: “Excellence is my key vision and mission – consolidating the existing strength and dept of research excellence within UCD is of key importance. Within this role, I am very much looking forward to supporting the UCD Research Community, building upon UCDs success to date. 

"As a passionate clinical research scientist, I am under no illusion as to the challenges relating to the Irish research sector, both nationally and internationally. Nevertheless, I am firmly committed to advocating for vital basic research excellence that translates into advanced scientific and technological discovery, progressive societies and sustainable innovation. 

Adding: "Mentorship has always been close to my heart. To this end, it is now time to return those valuable insights I received, in order to support our exceptionally talented Ad Astra and Emerging Investigator researchers in UCD. My end goal, attaining a dynamic research environment that spans STEM and the Humanities and Social Sciences, wherein UCD provides international exemplars of cutting-edge and inter-disciplinary research that address our societal grand challenges. 

"Our future success is completely dependent upon the very vibrant UCD Research Community to achieve excellence – whom I will tirelessly represent.”

Professor Helen Roche: background

Professor Helen Roche trained initially in Human Nutrition and Dietetics, then in Molecular Medicine at TCD. She was a Wellcome Fellow in Clinical Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge (UK) and returned to Ireland in 2001 to take up a Wellcome Trust Fellowship at TCD.

In 2007 she was appointed Associate Professor Nutrigenomics at the UCD Conway Institute and the UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science and since then has held a number of roles including VP of Research, Innovation and Impact for the College of Health and Agricultural Sciences. In 2017 she became Full Professor of Nutrition and Omics and in 2021 was appointed Director of the UCD Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research.

Her Nutrigenomics team focuses on Precision Nutrition – specifically the impact of diet on metabolism and inflammation, in obesity related type 2 diabetes (T2D), non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and more recently cancer. Her recent SFI Investigator Award determines the impact of diet and metabolism on Innate Immune responses in NAFLD. 
Professor Roche has published in excess of 200 peer-reviewed publications, her research is highly-citated in the field of nutrition and health.

She is PI and co-PI in several multidisciplinary programmes, funded by almost all Irish and EU Research Agencies over her career.  

In Europe, she led several initiatives relating to food, nutrition and health. She chaired the Scientific Advisory Board of the European Healthy Life Healthy Diet Joint Programming Initiative (2015-2019). Advises UK, Netherlands and US grant agencies, including Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, ZonMw and UK Nutrition Research Partnership.  She was a board member of the RCSI Hospital Group.

Professor Roche has trained more than 30 PhD scientists and a similar number of post-doctoral researchers. As Conway Director a key personal remit for her has been to foster Emerging Investigator success. In 2022 she won the SFI Mentorship Award.

By Eilis O'Brien, UCD University Relations