21st November 2022 (Limerick) - The winners of the prestigious 2022 Science Foundation Ireland Awards were revealed at the annual SFI Science Summit, held in person for the first time in two years. Joined by over 500 leading members of the Irish research community, SFI is celebrating the contribution researchers have made to our society and economy.

Acknowledging the award winners Prof Philip Nolan, Director General, Science Foundation Ireland, said:

“I want to congratulate all the award recipients. The SFI Awards recognise exceptional achievements within our research community, and the ways in which research contributes to our wellbeing and our environmental, social and economic development and sustainability. These awards reflect the dedication and determination of our researchers as they work to discover new knowledge, to innovate, and to make the world a better place. The awardees are truly inspiring."

“I would like to congratulate Prof Orla Hardiman as the 2022 SFI Researcher of the Year. She has made an outstanding contribution to our understanding of, and the treatment and care of people with motor neurone disease. It is wonderful to acknowledge her achievements and the achievements of researchers across all in our Higher Education Institutions and the wider research ecosystem.”

This year there are nine categories in total, with Engaged Research being acknowledged for the very first time:

Recipient: Professor Orla Hardiman, Trinity College Dublin

Prof Hardiman is a clinician scientist and a world authority on the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)/ Motor Neuron Disease (MND). ALS/MND. Prof. Hardiman is a professor of neurology and the Head of the Academic Unit of Neurology at Trinity College Dublin and leads the SFI Precision ALS Spoke. She is a researcher at the FutureNeuro and ADAPT SFI Research Centres. She is the founder and director of the National Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)/ Motor Neuron Disease (MND) Clinical and Research Programme, and the HSE National Clinical Lead for Neurology

Commenting on receiving the Award Professor Hardiman stated: “I am greatly honoured to receive this prestigious award, which is a reflection of the hugely talented individuals with whom I have had the privilege of supervising, mentoring and collaborating over the years. I am also aware of the enormous benefits of being in a position to engage in international collaborations with like-minded clinician scientists. Understanding the processes that drive neurodegeneration is the “final frontier” in neuroscience. As clinician scientists, we seek to unravel the complexity of neurodegenerative disease in humans, and our work in Ireland has focussed on how best to enable the successful translation of laboratory discoveries to new drugs for those with different subtypes of disease."  

“Our ultimate collective objective is to ensure that we provide the right drug for the right patient at the right time. I am particularly conscious of my privileged position as a female leader in science, and of the importance of mentoring from experience other younger women as they juggle careers, family life and research. I am enormously grateful to both SFI and the HRB in enabling my scientific career over the years, and of course to my husband Gerry and my children for their ongoing love and support.” 

Recipient: Dr Claire Gillan, Trinity College Dublin

Dr Gillan is an internationally renowned expert on mental illnesses, and was the first to show that patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have tendencies to form habits, a ground-breaking discovery in OCD that features in several undergraduate textbooks today.

Recipient: Dr Alison Liddy, University of Galway

Dr Liddy and her team are developing a novel, disruptive, treatment for chronic pain without the usual addictive side-effects current treatments possess. This advancement has the potential not only for a transformative impact on the lives of those suffering from chronic pain but also has the potential to reduce the significant negative societal impact associated with prescription drug addiction.

Recipient: Prof. Michael Morris, Trinity College Dublin, AMBER, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research

In recognition of his long-standing association and engagement with international companies, researchers, and policy makers, Prof. Morris is the winner of the 2022 SFI Best International Engagement Award.

Prof Morris is a professor of Surface and Interface Chemistry at Trinity College Dublin and the director of AMBER, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research, who has spearheaded the facility for the last 7 years. Prof. Morris is the first European scientist to be awarded three or more awards from the Semiconductor Research Council in the United States He has promoted the circular economy internationally and has engaged with researchers and policy makers in the United States, Turkey, Switzerland and the UK and is a member of the European Materials Characterisation. He is the lead PI on DeMANS, an MSCA programme on developing printable biopolymers which involve companies and universities across Europe as well as New Zealand and Australia.

Recipient: Ms. Jackie Gorman, CEO, Midlands Science

Ms. Gorman has been engaging and educating young people, parents, youth groups and leaders, schools, industry representatives, local government and key stakeholders since 2008. Jackie has been steering Midlands Science, through impactful, creative and innovative work in promoting STEM and impacts over 16,000 people directly every year and with specific efforts to engage with those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Recipient: NexSys led by Prof. Andrew Keane, University College Dublin

The core mission of NexSys, is to decarbonise our energy system. Importantly, NexSys brings together researchers from across the island, with key industry partners, policy-makers and communities to resolve the challenges of a just transition to a decarbonised system. EirGrid and ESB have partnered with NexSys with a commitment to research and innovation for over 15 years.

Recipient: Prof. Walter Kolch, Director of the Systems Biology Group, University College Dublin

Through Systems Biology Ireland (SBI), Prof Walter Kolch has built a highly interdisciplinary and multinational research environment. Ever since its inception in 2009, SBI has hosted over 260 team members including 105 researchers, 63 postgraduate students, 12 clinician scientists, 36 management and admin staff, and 46 research support staff from over 35 countries. Prof. Kolch has supervised over 50 postdocs and over 40 doctoral students providing his team with the tools and infrastructure to develop their independence at early in their careers several of whom have secured various positions in academia and industry, some even starting their own companies.

Recipients: Ms Aoife Deane, Public Engagement Manager and Prof. Brian Ó Gallachóir, Director, MaREI the SFI Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine Research, UCC and the Dingle Peninsula 2030 team

MaREI’s transdisciplinary research group at the University College Cork is harnessing the community spirit on the Dingle Peninsula to advance a groundbreaking engaged research initiative called Dingle Peninsula 2030. This initiative is co-producing solutions with the community to address critical energy and climate challenges while also building societal resilience and capacity. MaREI has established a diverse multi-disciplinary research team combining expertise from energy engineering (Prof. Brian Ó Gallachóir, Dr Connor McGookin), sociology (Dr Clare Watson, Dr Evan Boyle), and community engagement (MaREI Public Engagement Manager, Aoife Deane), who work in a deeply embedded way with the community partners in the Dingle Peninsula 2030 team.

Recipient: Mariana Oliveira Diniz, PhD student, SSPC, SFI Research Centre for Pharmaceuticals, University of Limerick

Image title: A spring garden of griseoflowers

Description: Griseofulvin is a drug with wide interest in the pharmaceutical field as it is used as an antifungal antibiotic to treat skin infections. Griseofulvin was first isolated from Penicillium griseofulvum in 1939 and became the first clinical oral antifungal approved to be used in 1950. For its relevance, griseofulvin is listed on the List of Essential Medicines of the World Health Organization (WHO). In my PhD research, I investigate the nucleation kinetics of griseofulvin in different solvents and different scales. These crystals were formed when a solution of griseofulvin in acetonitrile was left to evaporate at room temperature on a fume hood for 3 days. This image was captured by a phone camera without any further treatment.