Research News

Strong recognition for UCD research effort in 2021 IRC Awards

  • 03 December, 2021


Academics and research staff at UCD have been recognised with several accolades from the Irish Research Council, as part of the state funder’s 2021 Researcher of the Year Awards scheme. Announced online this morning, Professor of Zoology at Trinity College Dublin, Yvonne Buckley was named ‘Researcher of the Year’ for her work focused on the growth, reproduction and survival of plant and animal species.

Receiving one of the top awards, UCD’s Professor of Social Policy Michelle Norris was awarded the Impact Award for her proven record of research impact ‘beyond academia’ in the field of social housing policy.

UCD Chair of Critical Care Medicine, Professor Alistair Nichol received a special commendation for his ‘exceptional contribution’ in the field of medical research, specifically in critical care clinical trials and especially in the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Professor of Environmental History, Poul Holm from Trinity College Dublin was also 'Highly Commended' in the ‘Researcher of the Year’ category.

Postdoctoral researcher Dr Sara DelmedicoUCD School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics, was awarded the IRC Maurice J Bric Medal of Excellence, as the top-ranked Postdoctoral Fellow of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences under the Council’s 2021 Government of Ireland funding programme. 

Postdoctoral researcher Dr Marco Timpanella, UCD School of Mathematics and Statistics, was awarded the IRC Thomas Mitchell Medal of Excellence, as the top-ranked Postdoctoral Fellow in the domain of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in the Government of Ireland scheme.

Lastly, 15 supervisors, mentors and research officers were awarded the IRC’s new ‘Research Ally’ prize, out of a total of 72 such awards given, in recognition of the often unsung work of supervising academics and research support staff behind the scenes.

Postdoctoral researcher in the School of Psychology and Institute of Neuroscience at Trinity College Dublin, Dr Kathy Ruddy won the ‘Early Career Researcher of the Year’ award for her work using brain-computer interfaces to improve brain function. Dr Susan Bullman, Munster Technological University, and Dr Jean O’Dwyer, University College Cork, were 'Highly Commended' in this category.

Commenting on the awards announcement, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact, Professor Orla Feely said: "We wish many congratulations to all our recipients in this year's Irish Research Council 'Researcher of the Year' awards, particularly Professor Michelle Norris on winning the IRC Impact Award for her far-reaching work in the field of housing finance and policy. Her work on social housing, welfare states and counterbalancing housing market cycles has important implications for housing policy in Ireland and internationally.

"We join the Council in also recognising the work of Professor Alistair Nichol through special commendation, which acknowledgement is thoroughly deserved. His contribution to critical care medicine over the last two decades has been outstanding, especially during the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Congratulations also to Dr Sara Delmedico, who was awarded the Maurice J Bric Medal of Excellence as the top-ranked postdoctoral researcher in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences under the IRC’s Government of Ireland funding programme, and to Dr Marco Timpanella, who received the Thomas Mitchell Medal of Excellence as the top-ranked postdoctoral researcher in STEM. These awards to Marco and Sara reflect the outstanding postdoctoral talent that is a vital element of our research community in UCD.

"Lastly, it is a great pleasure to congratulate and celebrate our IRC ‘Research Ally’ awardees, the supervisors and research support staff without whose work much of our proposal success and academic impact would not be possible."       

Director of the Irish Research Council, Peter Brown said: “I would like to congratulate the awardees on their awards. The standard of nominations this year was extremely high and each of the winners should be immensely proud of their achievements. It is great to see this year’s winners representing a diverse range of research interests, which reflects the creativity and dynamism of the research community here in Ireland. The Irish Research Council is equally proud to have supported the development of the work of these researchers through our funding.

“This year’s winners demonstrate how research helps society answer some of the big questions of our time and can make a significant and lasting impact. We look forward to continuing to cultivate a vibrant research community in which there are world-class researchers across disciplines.”


IRC Awardees


Professor Michelle Norris is Director of UCD Geary Institute for Public Policy. Her research interests focus on housing policy and urban regeneration. She has led over 20 research projects on housing policy since 2000 and produced over 170 publications on the results.

Professor Norris is a policy adviser – domestically and internationally – on housing policy. She is currently a member of the National Economic and Social Council and chairperson of the Housing Finance Agency. In 2020, she was appointed as an expert advisor to #Housing2030 – a joint international initiative which aims to improve the capacity of national and local governments to formulate policies that improve housing affordability and sustainability.

The research impact case study ‘Funding social housing for low-income households after Ireland's economic crisis,’ outlines the impact record of Professor Norris’ research. She said: “I am honoured to receive this award in recognition of the policy impact of my work on financing and providing social housing. I would like to thank the IRC for their support for my research and for acknowledging the importance of research impact.


Professor Alistair Nichol is Director of the Irish Critical Care-Clinical Trials Network (ICC-CTN), which runs, and builds capacity for running, clinical trials in Irish Intensive Care Units (ICUs). Funded by the Health Research Board, the ICC-CTN has also become a world-leading coordination centre for major global clinical trials, including the Covid-related REMAP-CAP.

He said: “I am honoured that the IRC has recognised my work and that of my team over the last decade and particularly during the Covid pandemic, with their special commendation today. This represents many years’ work by a large team in Ireland and beyond. I am very grateful to my colleagues within UCD, the Irish Critical Care Community and our global network collaborators.

“Ireland’s Intensive Care Units continue to be the front line in our ongoing war against Covid. Our research collaborations have allowed us to understand the Covid waves during the pandemic – allowing us clinicians to identify patients at the highest risk of death, and the genetic factors associated with death in the ICU, so we can identify novel therapies.” 


Dr Sara Delmedico was granted an IRC Government of Ireland postdoctoral award for ‘‘Bad Luck’ and ‘Irresistible Force’: Framing Violence against Women in Italy (1861-1930)', a research project on the representation of violence against women in the Italian press in the years from mid-nineteenth century up to the first decades of the twentieth century.

She said: “I am extremely honoured to receive such a prestigious award. This and the Government of Ireland award recognises the importance of investigating into such a crucial topic. Studying the representation of violence against women in the press is much more than a cold analysis into the past, it is of profound concern to our society, our world and our present. I hope that my project will contribute to understanding what has led to harmful stereotypes and prejudices, and will help to find ways to remove violence, both physical and psychological, from our lives in order to make our society a better place to live and fulfil ourselves.” 


Dr Marco Timpanella was awarded an IRC Government of Ireland postdoctoral award for his project 'Algebraic curves over finite fields and their applications to coding theory and cryptography,' a pure mathematics research project with particular focus on exploiting the rich geometrical and combinatorial structure of algebraic curves to address important problems in contemporary coding theory and cryptography.

He said: “I'm honoured to receive this prestigious prize in recognition of my work. It is not easy for a project in pure mathematics to compete with those in the other disciplines in the STEM category, so this result makes me very proud. I would like to acknowledge UCD, in particular Professor Gary McGuire for supporting me throughout this process, and the IRC, for their effort in promoting the research in major contemporary challenges and for allowing me to undertake this research.”


The 15 ‘Research Ally’ prize recipients are:


Associate Professor Elva Johnston (Supervisor), UCD School of History

Professor Fengzhou Fang (Supervisor), UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering

Assistant Professor Gráinne O’Donoghue (Supervisor), UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science

Assistant Professor Jennifer Keenahan (Supervisor), UCD School of Civil Engineering

Professor Joe   Carthy (Supervisor), UCD School of Computer Science

Professor Judith Harford (Supervisor), UCD School of Education

Professor Keith Murphy (Supervisor), UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science

Assistant Professor Madhusanka Liyanage (Supervisor), UCD School of Computer Science

Associate Professor Philip Cottrell (Supervisor), UCD School of Art History & Cultural Policy

Assistant Professor Ross D Neville (Supervisor), UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science

Professor Aoife Gowen (Mentor), UCD School of Biosystems and Food Engineering

Professor William Gallagher (Mentor), UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science

Ms Hilary McDonald (Research Programme Manager), UCD School of Computer Science

Ms Máire Coyle, (Research Programmes Manager), UCD Research  


Further information on all of the awardees is available at: