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Minister Halligan announces €13.7 million investment in next generation of research talent

Science Foundation Ireland supports 22 early career researchers in Ireland

Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan TD, today announced an investment of €13.7 million in funding for 22 early career researchers. The awards will be funded through Science Foundation Ireland’s Career Development Award Programme, which supports Ireland’s research talent pipeline by funding excellent researchers still in the early stages of their scientific career. Two of this year’s awards are co-funded with Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland. The awards will contribute to the advancing research in areas such as energy, materials, environment, technology, and health.

Announcing the awards, Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan TD said, “The awards announced today demonstrate the impressive cutting-edge research taking place in the universities across Ireland. The Science Foundation Ireland’s Career Development Awardees are the future leaders of research and innovation in Ireland. Through their promising work, they will continue to shape our research community, and generate positive impacts at a national and global scale. I believe that the important projects receiving funding today will advance Ireland’s economy and society, and further solidify its reputation as a world-leader in scientific advancements.” 

Commenting on the awards Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, stated, “Science Foundation Ireland supports researchers at every stage of their careers. The Career Development Awards are a superb reflection of our investment in early-career researchers who display great potential and lead projects of major impact. This Programme helps those researchers develop the skills and experience necessary to lead Ireland’s future research in areas such as health, energy, materials and technology. The projects have been selected following a rigorous competitive international merit review process. I look forward to witnessing the positive impacts that these projects will have for Ireland and wish each awardee every success in their continued scientific research and careers.”

The research projects funded are in a range of key strategic areas including:

  • Potential to identify new ways of preventing and treating breast and prostate cancer (Dr Sharon Glynn, NUI Galway)
  • Improving prediction of treatment outcomes of ulcerative colitis in children (Dr Marcus Claesson, University College Cork)
  • Development of intelligent magnetic systems to create safer and more reliable surgical approaches (Dr Padraig Cantillon Murphy, Tyndall National Institute)
  • Enhancing epilepsy diagnosis, prediction and treatment (Dr Tobias Engel, Royal College of Surgeons Ireland)
  • Development of seasonal forecasting approaches to inform strategic water management in Ireland (Dr Conor Murphy, NUI Maynooth)
  • Designing a strategy for sustainable management of mine processing waste through soil remediation and vegetation (Dr Ronan Courtney, University of Limerick)
  • The effect of climate change and pesticide on pollinators and the sustainability of our crops (Dr Dara Stanley, NUI Galway)
  • Collaboration with NASA to advance gamma-ray observations and improve our understanding of gravitational waves (Prof. Sheila McBreen, University College Dublin)
  • Enhancing energy storage capacity to improve battery life for smart phones, electric cars and more (Prof. Brian Rodriguez, University College Dublin)
  • Enabling mobile operators and service providers to deliver high-quality communication to users economically and efficiently (Prof. Giorgios Iosifidis, Trinity College Dublin)

The 22 research projects range in value from €443,653 to €504,729 undertaken in nine research bodies, as follows: National University of Ireland Galway (3), National University of Ireland Maynooth (1), Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (3), Trinity College Dublin (3), Tyndall National institute (3), University College Cork (1), University College Dublin (4), University of Limerick (2), Teagasc (2). 


For further information contact Press Office, Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation: Phone: 01- 6312200; email:

Full list of awards attached.

For further information, please contact:

Science Foundation Ireland

Alva O’Cleirigh

01 607 3249/087-9152553

About the Science Foundation Ireland Career Development Award Programme

The SFI Career Development Award (CDA) Programme supports excellent investigators in the earlier stages of their research career who are already in an independent academic research position. The award allows researchers to expand their research activities by providing funding to procure required equipment or consumable materials. During the four-year duration of the award, the award can be used to support other researchers by allowing the creation or expansion of a research team to perform novel research.


About Science Foundation Ireland

Science Foundation Ireland funds oriented basic and applied research in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) which promotes and assists the development and competitiveness of industry, enterprise and employment in Ireland. The Foundation also promotes and supports the study of and engagement with STEM and promotes an awareness and understanding of the value of STEM to society and, in particular, to the growth of the economy.  See

Science Foundation Ireland has launched the #BelieveInScience campaign to promote the potential that science and discovery offer Ireland, today and in tomorrow’s world. The #BelieveInScience campaign will see Science Foundation Ireland work in partnership with the Irish research community to share a mutual passion for science with the public; to promote an understanding of the ability of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) to create positive change in the world and to drive a sustainable economy in Ireland.


Full list of 2018 SFI Career Development Awards


Awardee Name

Research Body

Project Title

Lay Abstract


Award Amount

Brian Rodriguez


Electrochemical force   microscopy and quantum sensing of the solid-liquid interface: improving   batteries through nanoscale electrochemical imaging

Critical to the   operation of batteries is a thorough understanding of the role of local   electric charge. To measure this electric charge, we will develop   highly-sensitive imaging techniques with a resolution 10,000 times smaller   than a human hair. These techniques will help improve how much energy a   battery can store with knock-on implications for extending the battery life   of smart phones and increasing the driving range of electric cars.

SEAI co-funded


Sharon Glynn


A New Dimension to   Ancient Enemies: Targeting Nitrosative Stress and Human Endogenous Retrovirus   K Improved Diagnosis, Chemoprevention and Treatment of High Grade Breast and   Prostate Cancer

This project proposal   focuses on how ancient HERV-K viruses in our DNA interact with iNOS, an   enzyme that controls wound healing, and lead to development of aggressive   breast and prostate cancer. These cancers are difficult to treat and cause   1100 Irish deaths yearly. By better understanding how HERV-K drives cancer,   we will have the potential to identify new ways to prevent and treat these   cancers. Also we will investigate if HERV-K blood tests are better at   indicating which men need to be tested for prostate cancer. Currently only   40% of men with elevated PSA are found to have prostate cancer.



Annie Curtis


MacroCLOCK - Circadian   Control of Macrophage Mitochondria: A New Approach in the treatment of Chronic Inflammatory Disease

Inflammation is a key   target in the treatment of chronic inflammatory disease (including heart   disease, diabetes and cancer). Within our cells we have a daily timekeeping   system called the molecular clock or body clock. MacroCLOCK will determine if   the clock within a key inflammatory immune cell called “the macrophage” is   affecting the inflammatory response. Specific biological pathways will be   investigated in macrophages and across human data and will provide unique   opportunities to manage inflammation. MacroCLOCK will inform us as to WHO we   treat, HOW we treat and the TIME-OF-DAY we treat individuals with chronic   inflammatory conditions.



Andrew Parnell


Industrial supervised learning

The twin disciplines of   statistical and machine learning have led the ‘big data’ revolution. With   only the basics of programming knowledge, anyone can take a large data set   and create a predictive model. However, these standard prediction models   perform poorly for many common problems faced by industry. In this project I   propose to develop four different extensions of the standard toolkit for   specific situations, each of which is a PhD project, and includes backing   from several industry partners. The outputs of each project will be licensed   to these partners to enable them to compete better on the international   stage.




Oran Kennedy


Subchondral Bone   Microdamage in Post Traumatic OA: Novel Subchondral-Specific Therapies

A common injury among young   active people is a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in the knee. This   can be fixed quite successfully in most cases by a surgical procedure.   However whether it is fixed or not, about 60% of patients develop   post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA) within 10 years. So, a 20-year old ACL   patient can develop PTOA by age 30. We think that by looking more closely at   other injured tissues in the joint (particularly the bone) we can target   specific areas with simple drugs and thus can prevent PTOA. We will then   develop exciting new treatments to prevent PTOA.



Matthias Moebius


2D nanosuspensions for   printed electronics – how small can you go?

In recent years printed   electronics has emerged as a game changing technology that enables low-cost, scalable   manufacturing of electronic circuits by conventional industrial printing   methods such as inkjet printing. Possible applications are numerous and range   from flexible displays to sensors for the Internet of Things. Even though   inkjet printing is a well-established technology, the use of it in the   context of printed electronics poses new challenges such as nozzle clogging   and poor control of the film structure. The aim is to optimise this process   for nanosheet suspensions, which are promising candidates for conducting inks   due to their low cost.



Georgios Iosifidis


SoftEdge: Architectures   and Algorithms for Software-Defined Edge Systems

From augmented reality   applications to the Internet-of-Things and mobile data analytics, a plethora   of services today change fundamentally the way we communicate with each other   and interact with our surroundings. These developments, albeit exciting for   the users, raise unprecedented challenges for wireless networks, hence   calling for a paradigm shift in their design. SoftEdge proposes a new class   of system architectures, aiming to harness resources at the edge, i.e. close   to demand. Therefore, it will enable mobile operators and service providers   to deliver high-quality communication and computing services to the users in   an economically efficient and environmentally-friendly fashion.



Le Nam Tran


Green and Secure   Transmission Techniques for Future Wireless Networks

In this project we will   develop holistic approaches to solve the energy crisis and security concerns   in wireless networks. Nowadays, the global ICT industry consumes more than   10% of the world’s energy. Data transmitted wirelessly can be easily   intercepted by eavesdroppers. Today’s wireless systems are far from   addressing these timely problems. In this project we will apply advanced   mathematical tools to derive efficient algorithms to reduce energy   consumption, and to secure data privacy. The research team will draw on   large-scale deployment of low-power nodes equipped with some decentralised   mechanism and unique fading characteristic of wireless channels to provide   data security.



Gavin Collins


Next-generation trace   elements exploitation (TEX) in microbial communities at the scales of   genomes, cells, biofilms and new biotechnology

Anaerobic digestion (AD)   is applied in biotechnologies to convert wastes to biogas. Trace elements   (TE) are actively dosed into AD systems to improve microbial activity and   biogas production, but little is known about the microbiology of TE-microbe   interactions, or whether dosing is even very effective. In this project, we   will explore the influence of TE dosing on the activity of individual   species, and on more complex groups of species. We will work with industrial   partners to develop diagnostic tools, which may be used by operators to   determine TE deficiency – or efficient TE dosing – at their at AD plants.



Tobias Engel


The ATP-gated purinergic   P2X7 receptor as a novel target for the treatment of drug-refractory epilepsy

Epilepsy affects ~50   million people worldwide. Major challenges in epilepsy treatment include ~30%   of patients who remain unresponsive to medication, difficulties in correctly   diagnosing seizures and predicting the emergence of epilepsy. Current treatment,   even where effective in suppressing seizures, has no impact on disease   progression and can cause severe adverse effects. Research by the applicant   has identified a receptor (P2X7) found in the brain to be involved in the   generation of seizures and progression of epilepsy. This project will further   advance treatment based on P2X7 and identify specific biomarkers to diagnose   seizures, predict epilepsy and inform treatment choice.



Kieran Meade


The Bovine Epigenome and   Susceptibility to Mycobacterial Disease

Despite costly national   eradication schemes mycobacterial infections are proving difficult to   eliminate resulting in reduced profitability of already low-margin farm   enterprises. These diseases threaten our brand image on international markets   and are also linked to human infection. Based on my novel results, I believe   that epigenetic mechanisms (chemical switches) suppress the activation of   genes which prevents the ability of cattle to fight infection, and also the   detection of diseased cattle. Profiling these changes in live cattle will   identify the marks associated with disease and in conjunction with a novel   nanosensor will contribute to improved detection of TB.



Marcus Claesson


A translational ‘omics’   approach for predicting treatment outcome in newly-diagnosed children with   ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis is   increasing globally and cause bloody diarrhoea and abdominal pain in children.   Half of the children diagnosed will relapse within six months, requiring   immuno-suppressant drugs. To avoid giving every child immuno-suppressants at   diagnosis relapse-prediction is key. We hypothesize that intestinal bacteria,   combined with expressed human genes and local modifications of intestinal   DNA, possibly for children with a certain genetic makeup, can determine from   the outset which children will relapse. We will examine these molecular data   from three biopsies each of 50 newly-diagnosed children, and develop a   predictive tool. Important bacterial genes will be further examined in a   mouse model.



Tomasz Piwonski

Tyndall National   Institute

Novel widely tunable   swept sources, based on synchronized multi-section slotted semiconductor lasers   for Optical Coherence Tomography

Optical coherence   tomography (OCT) is an imaging technique which enables the acquisition of   real-time, high-resolution cross sections of scattering media. It is best   known for delivering images of biological tissues however its areas of   applications is growing and now includes e.g. nondestructive material   testing. The core element of this technique is a light source whose   properties directly affect quality of acquired images. The aim of this   project it to utilize advanced optical techniques to develop and improve   performance of semiconductor lasers source used in OCT thus allowing new   application areas to be realised on the back of improved device performance.



Brijesh Tiwari


Novel technological interventions   for biofilm

The World Health   Organization has identified antimicrobial resistance as one of the greatest   threats to human health and endorsed a global action plan for tackling this   challenge, which includes encouraging research and development of new   antimicrobial agents. Biofilms present a major global challenge in the fight   against product contamination due to significant resistance to current   antimicrobial treatments and developing antimicrobial resistance against key   antimicrobial agents. To address this challenge the Ultrafilm project aims to   deliver a novel technological solution for the eradication of biofilms via   the application of low temperature atmospheric pressure plasmas in   combination with airborne acoustic technology.



Dara Stanley


Food in the future;   sustainable crop pollination in a changing world

Bees, and other   pollinators, are crucial for the production of at least 30% of our food.   Global bee declines have led to concerns over the sustained crop production,   with a number of potential causes highlighted. However, little research has   connected these causes of decline with the delivery of pollination services to   crops. In this project I will combine field observations, lab manipulations   and predictive modelling to address key knowledge gaps in how climate change   and pesticide use can affect crop pollination, and predict how climate change   and pesticide use may affect the sustainable pollination of our crops in the   future.



Sheila McBreen

University College   Dublin (UCD)

Gamma-ray Investigation   of the Full Transient Sky (GIFTS)

Gravitational waves (GW)   were detected time in 2015 opening up an uncharted realm of astrophysics.   There is an urgent need for gamma-ray space missions to aid the search for   counterparts of the GW sources. The current fleet of missions is reaching the   end of it’s lifecycle but the need can be met quickly by a coordinated fleet   of small satellites called `CubeSats’. We propose to fly a UCD detector in a   high-altitude balloon flight to verify its performance and subsequently   design and construct a larger detector for a CubeSat. We will collaborate   with NASA and the University of New Hampshire.



Ning Liu

University of Limerick   (UL)

Electrically pumped   all-inorganic LEDs and lasers by colloidal nanorod heterogeneous assembly

The goal of this project   is to develop a novel technology based on solution synthesized semiconductor   nanorod assembly for the fabrication of low cost, high performance LEDs and   lasers that can be easily integrated with regular electronic devices. Once the   new technology is successfully developed, it will substantially advance the   development of nanocrystal based LEDs: a promising paradigm for the next   generation thin-film display technology. With the global flat-panel display   market expected to reach a value of US$155.4 billion by 2020, the economic   and social impact of this technology will be huge.



Russell McLaughlin

Trinity College Dublin   (TCD)

Detecting the dark   matter of neurodegeneration: repeat expansions in amyotrophic lateral   sclerosis

Amyotrophic lateral   sclerosis (ALS) is an incurable, rapidly fatal neurodegenerative disease. For   effective treatments to be developed for ALS, there is urgent need to better   understand its underlying genetic causes. The most significant causative gene   identified to date is called C9orf72, in which an unconventional mutation   known as a repeat expansion (RE) causes neurodegeneration. Several lines of   evidence strongly implicate undiscovered REs as potentially the most   important class of mutation in ALS; however, this has remained unexplored due   to technological constraints. This study will exploit recent advances in   genomic science to find new REs in ALS to better understand   neurodegeneration.



Ronan Courtney

University of Limerick   (UL)

Ecological engineering   solutions for the long-term and sustainable management of mine processing   wastes

Significant amounts of   wastes are produced during the lifetime of a mine and pose environmental risk   once the mining company closes. Establishing vegetation covers on the wastes   can improve the visual impact and prevent erosion risk. However, properties   of the wastes can be inhibitory to vegetation and soil biota; this is   problematic as long-term effectiveness of vegetation covers depends on   healthy soil. This project will design a strategy for rehabilitating mine   wastes that will promote healthy soil populations with sustainable   vegetation. In this work, new methods will be developed to demonstrate that   metal toxicity does not pose an environmental risk.



Conor Murphy

National University of   Ireland, Maynooth (NUIM)

HydroCast: Seasonal   Hydrological Forecasting for Ireland

Widespread floods in   December 2015 and November 2009, together with growing pressures on water   resources highlight the need to invest in developing seasonal forecasting   approaches to inform strategic management of water in Ireland. This research   will leverage and advance significant recent developments made in this area   internationally by benchmarking approaches to seasonal hydrological forecasting   for Irish catchments. Predictive skill from approaches of varying complexity   ranging from lagged relationships of river flows with large scale climate   drivers, to use of the latest seasonal forecasting models will be assessed.   Ensemble techniques that combine the information content of different   approaches will be developed.



Stefan Schulz

Tyndall National   Institute (TNI)

Nitride-based light   emitters: From carrier localization and non-radiative recombination processes   to quantum transport and device design

Due to their unique   potential for energy efficient solid-state lighting, this proposal focuses on   the semiconductor family gallium nitride and indium nitride and their   respective alloys. Despite their great success already and extensive research   activities around the world on gallium nitride-based systems, we are just   beginning to understand their fundamental properties and the impact they have   on device performance. This proposal aims, accompanied by collaborations with   leading national and international partners, both from academia and industry,   to provide theoretical guidance for the design of energy efficient next   generation optoelectronic devices for solid state lighting, e.g.   light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

SEAI co-funded


Padraig Cantillon Murphy

Tyndall National   Institute (TNI)

Intelligent Magnets for   Surgery 4.0

Surgery 4.0 is the   future of surgery, where better clinical results are achieved with less   external incisions. Magnets present tremendous potential for Surgery 4.0 due   to their ability to move and anchor devices during surgery. Magnets can also   have therapeutic applications when coupled magnets are used to re-connect   organs after surgery. To date, this potential has been unfulfilled due to   concerns for the safety and control of magnetic devices. This project aims to   address the need for intelligent magnetic systems in Surgery 4.0, leading to   safer and more reliable surgical technology for better patient outcomes.





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