October 26th 2023: Two outstanding researchers from University College Dublin have today been recognised as world leaders in their respective fields, each receiving the award of European Research Council (ERC) Synergy grant funding.
Together, the awards of over €5.9 M will fund research to unlock the answers to some of the world’s most challenging scientific questions. With these two awards, ERC funding for Ireland-based research has reached a provisional total of €104 M under the Horizon Europe framework (2021-2027).
Prof. Emma Teeling (School of Biology and Environmental Science), Full Professor at and Founding Director of the Centre for Irish Bat Research at UCD, recipient of a SFI President of Ireland Award, IRC-Laureate, SFI Frontiers for the Future and ERC Starting grant, is coordinating BATPROTECT with research partners based in Singapore and Germany. An integrative project combining several scientific fields including genomics, zoology and computer modelling, BATPROTECT aims to investigate do bats hold the secret of health and longevity?
Dr Claire Harnett (School of Earth Sciences), UCD Assistant Professor and Ad Astra Fellow at UCD and SFI Research Centre in Applied Geosciences (iCRAG)-funded investigator, is partnering with researchers based in Germany, Sweden and France through research conducted on ROTTnROCK. ROTTnROCK seeks to use frontier methods at the interface of scientific disciplines such as computer modelling and rock mechanics to forecast unexpected volcanic events and to ultimately answer is it possible to mitigate the risk of surprise volcanic disasters?

Prof. Emma Teeling
Prof. Emma Teeling said: “We are so thrilled! With this ERC SYNERGY project, we will bring together the diverse fields of bat biology, immunology, genomics and gerontology and research teams across Europe and Asia, to learn from bats and uncover new ways to slow down ageing and resist disease. It is a game-changer!”
Dr Claire Harnett
Dr Claire Harnett commented: “We are really excited to get started on this project, which builds on our growing momentum to understand currently unforeseen volcanic hazards. One of the exciting aspects about the Synergy award is the capacity to build expert teams that will integrate information across four key disciplines (rock physics, geochemistry, remote sensing, and computational modelling) to provide a step-change in our knowledge around volcanic eruptions that are driven by processes other than magma ascent.”
As ERC National Delegate and National Contact Point for the STEM domains, SFI congratulates both awardees – the first female Synergy awardees based in Ireland and only the 3rd and 4th Ireland-based winners since the call inception – and wishes them the very best on their scientific path of discovery and revelation.
Dr Ciarán Seoighe, Deputy Director General, SFI, said: “Congratulations to Prof. Emma Teeling and Dr Claire Harnett on each winning a prestigious ERC Synergy award. These awards are targeted at ambitious research problems and awarded on the basis of excellence. Aside from the tremendous achievement of winning a Synergy award, this announcement also breaks new ground in Ireland being the first Synergy award here in Life Sciences and the first time the award has been won by a woman (let alone two) in Ireland. It’s a good day for Irish research.”

Kevin Burke, National Director for Horizon Europe at Enterprise Ireland, stated: “Congratulations to Prof. Teeling, Dr Harnett and UCD on these ERC Synergy awards. Their success continues Ireland’s strong overall performance in the ERC programme in Horizon Europe to date, which is testament to the research talent within the system in Ireland and the supports and advice provided by both the Research Offices within the Higher Education Institutes and the ERC NCPs within the Horizon Europe National Support Network. The ERC Synergy projects, in particular, are very ambitious in scale and address complex problems requiring multi-disciplinary, collaborative approaches – I expect that these two awards – both in STEM – will provide inspiration to other ERC applicants from Ireland, which we welcome.”