News Archive 2017

Stephen Carter wins 2017 UCD Conway Festival gold medal

Monday, 02 October, 2017 

Dr Niamh O’Sullivan, Chair of the 2017 UCD Conway Festival organising committee pictured with PhD student, Stephen Carter and Professor William Gallagher, Director, UCD Conway Institute.

Dr Niamh O’Sullivan, Chair of the 2017 UCD Conway Festival organising committee pictured with PhD student, Stephen Carter and Professor William Gallagher, Director, UCD Conway Institute.

PhD student, Stephen Carter has won the 2017 UCD Conway Festival gold medal for his work to identify proteins involved in the formation and function of cilia, the tiny hair-like projections extending from the surfaces of most human cell types.

Stephen is part of a research team based in UCD Conway Institute under the supervision of Conway Fellows, Associate Professor Oliver Blacque and Professor Breandan Kennedy in the UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science.

Cilia serve as important antennae to relay external sensory and signalling information back to the cell. Various small enzymes known as GTPases help to regulate cilium formation and function, including intraflagellar transport (IFT). A number of small G-proteins are also associated with features of cilia disease such as retinal degeneration.

Stephen Carter described how the team used the nematode C. elegans to screen for conserved genes with expression profiles matching those of known ciliary genes. “From this analysis, we found that a protein involved in retinal degeneration (RAB28) is expressed specifically ciliated sensory neurons, where it associates with IFT. In C. elegans, RAB28 appears to regulate developmental signalling between ciliated neurons and their support cells”, he said.

Stephen was awarded the gold medal sponsored by Cruinn Diagnostics at the closing ceremony of the 2017 UCD Conway Festival of Research & Innovation on Thursday, 14 September. Professor William Gallagher, Director, UCD Conway Institute congratulated Stephen and more than one hundred other early career researchers from across UCD Conway Institute who presented their research during the three day event saying, “For the Institute, this Festival presents a really valuable opportunity for our early career researchers to showcase their own research in a friendly but challenging environment. Stephen really impressed the judging panel with his ability to articulate the findings of his research and their implications for further work.”

2017 UCD Conway Festival Gold Medal winner, Stephen CarterThe judging panel for the 2017 UCD Conway Festival gold medal comprised Professor Giovanna Mallucci, University of Cambridge, UK; Professor Jennifer McElwain, Trinity College Dublin; Dr David Gomez, Systems Biology Ireland; Dr Niamh O’Sullivan, UCD and Professor William Gallagher.

Stephen competed against five other early career researchers who were category winners in the moderated poster presentations. They are pictured below with Dr Niamh O'Sullivan and Professor William Gallagher; Dr Tapesh Santra (PI: Professor Walter Kolch, category winner, Computational & Structural Biology); Emma Kavanagh (PI: Assoc. Prof. Amanda McCann, category winner, Cancer); Robyn Breun (PI: Assoc. Prof. Orina Belton, category winner, Infection, Inflammation & Repair), Stephen Carter (PIs: Assoc. Prof. Oliver Blacque and Professor Breandan Kennedy, category winner, Cell Biology) and Adam Russell-Hallinan (PI: Associate Professor John Baugh, category winner, Mechanisms of Disease). Angela McArdle (PI: Professor Stephen Pennington, category winner, Personalised Medicine not pictured).

The event also featured an innovation session for early career researchers, a series of invited short talks from UCD academics and clinicians as well as plenary lectures from Professors Joseph Schlessinger (Yale University, USA); Andrea Califano (Columbia University, USA); Giovanna Mallucci (University of Cambridge, UK) and Kenneth Wolfe (UCD).

During the innovation session, Dr Claire O’Connell, freelance science journalist facilitated a career discussion forum on maximising the innovative potential within research with insights from UCD Professor Emmeline Hill, CSO, Plusvital; Dr Sean Mac Fhearraigh, Reagent Genie; Dr David Kavanagh, Clinical Partnerships Leader, Genomics Medicine Ireland; Francis Bates, General Manager, Allergan-Clonshaugh, Global Manufacturing.

Also within this session, six early career researchers presented a series of flash talks describing the innovative potential in their research as part of the inaugural University College Dublin (UCD) Allergan Innovation competition. Dr Alison Reynolds took first prize and a research bursary of €7000 to enable her to develop a novel compound, uncovered in zebrafish, as a dry eye disease therapeutic. Dr Reynolds is an early career researcher in the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine with close ties to the ocular pharmacology and genetics group based in the UCD Conway Institute.

A second bursary prize of €1000 was presented to Dr Simon Rowan, a postdoctoral researcher working with Professor Paul McLoughlin, UCD School of Medicine and UCD Conway Institute. Dr Rowan’s research aims to exploit a new technique to recondition organs and maintain them for a longer period outside the body prior to transplant.