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ERI academics recognised for excellence in research and innovation

Climate scientists, the developers of the medicines of tomorrow, and budding entrepreneurs were among the researchers to have their contributions to research and innovation honoured at the 2022 UCC Research Awards, held at Devere Hall on Thursday, June 1.

The UCC Research Awards embrace this excellence in research, innovation and entrepreneurial activity, across the entire university research community and from all disciplines.

The quality and recognition of research success across the University, including outputs from individuals and UCC Research Institutes and Centres, is measured by key research metrics such as publications, citations, collaborative interactions, patents and spin-out companies. Researchers were awarded across 20 categories, five of which recognise specific achievements in entrepreneurship and innovation.

The ERI award winners for 2022 were as follows:

  • UCC’s Researcher Communicator of the Year 2022 – Professor Hannah Daly.

Prof Hannah Daly of the ERI, MaREI and School of Engineering and Architecture is a regular columnist for The Irish Times and has contributed over 100 media pieces in 2022 to explain and contextualise sustainable energy trends and policies, and climate change. Prof Daly actively engages with stakeholders on the topic of sustainable pathways for the energy system, encompassing energy access, climate change and air pollution. Professor Daly is a trusted point of contact for many journalists who seek to explain and contextualise sustainable energy trends and policies, and climate change as evidenced by her substantial and ongoing track record of being interviewed for TV and Radio. She is a regular columnist for the Irish Times, which was established in 2022. In her columns she translates research into actionable and relevant information for the public and decision-makers. With a social media following of over 15,000 followers, Prof Daly actively engages with stakeholders on the topic of sustainable pathways for the energy system, encompassing energy access, climate change and air pollution. In 2022 Prof Daly contributed over 100 tracked media pieces as an ambassador for UCC, promoting the Universities focus on sustainability, reputation and performance. 

  • UCC’s Early-Stage Researcher of the Year 2022 – Dr Jean O’Dwyer.

Dr Jean O'Dwyer is Deputy Head of Environmental Science in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Science and Deputy Director of the iCRAG SFI Centre for Research in Applied Geoscience. In 2022 Jean was appointed to the Climate Change and Environmental Sciences Committee by the Royal Irish Academy. Dr O’Dwyer currently leads the Environment and Health Research Lab in the ERI , which hosts several funded projects assessing environmentally associated infectious diseases, groundwater quality, antimicrobial resistance and the impact of climate change on human health. 

  •  UCC’s Research Award for Open Science 2022 – Professor Colm O’Dwyer.

Prof O’Dwyer is Professor in Chemical Energy at the School of Chemistry, UCC and an academic member at Tyndall National Institute and the ERI. He leads the Applied Nanoscience Group in UCC  and recently published their development of a fully recyclable 3D- printed  aqueous Li-ion batteries which was a fully open access publication.  In the last 5 years at UCC, Prof. O'Dwyer has published over 160 publications. He has made one of the largest scholarly contributions to the Cork Open Access Repository, with over 200 publications (from UCC and prior appointments) listed in the last couple of years with >133,00 downloads in total that are fully open access. Prof. O'Dwyer is an advocate for open access in all forms, including openness in peer review not just as an author, but as editor, reviewer and policy maker.

  •  UCC Consultancy Project of the Year 2022- Dr Marguerite Nyhan.

Dr. Marguerite Nyhan is a Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Environmental Engineering & Future Sustainability at UCC and a Visiting Scientist at Harvard University in Boston. Dr. Nyhan is also a Principal Investigator at the ERI and a Funded Investigator at the MaREI Centre. Dr Nyhan founded and directs the Future Sustainability Research Group, which pursues frontier research focused on the development of intelligent solutions for sustainable, zero carbon, healthy, liveable and equitable cities of the future. This award is recognising a project conducted for Microsoft, is aimed at assessing how prepared Irish businesses are for the sustainability transformation that all organisations must urgently undergo to achieve net zero by 2050.

  •  UCC Research Team of the Year 2022 - UCC Palaeontology.

Led by Prof Maria McNamara of the ERI and School of BEES, the UCC Palaeontology Group studies the preservation and palaeobiology of exceptionally preserved fossils. Their research is highly interdisciplinary and lies at the interface of the geological, biological and physical sciences. In particular their work encompasses the fields of taphonomy, anatomy, sedimentology, evolutionary biology, organic geochemistry, inorganic geochemistry and applied optics. Public outreach is also significant activity for the group, who lead Ireland’s Fossil Heritage project.  In 2022 the team were awarded 14 new research grants and new income of over €1 million. In 2022, the group had 10 publications, including a first-author paper in Nature on pterosaur feathers. UCC Palaeontology had 47 separate in-person public engagement activities, including 34 school workshops delivered to over 600 children and created a new website as the public face of Irish palaeontology.

  •  The President's Award for Research Impacting SDGs 2022- Dr Alicia Mateos Cárdenas

Dr Alicia Mateos Cárdenas is an Environmental Scientist in the School of BEES and the ERI with an expertise and passion for plastic pollution, particularly the impacts of microplastics in the freshwater environment and in the deep seas. In 2022, Dr Mateos-Cárdenas managed several projects aligned with multiple SDGs and UCC's sustainability agenda. Her research in the School of BEES and the Environmental Research Institute directly impacts several UN SDGs, such as research on water quality (SDG-6 Clean Water and Sanitation), research on marine conservation by understanding and reducing marine pollution in coral habitats (SDG-14 Life Below Water), research-led sustainable industry innovations regarding bioplastics (SDG-9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) and providing data for better industry practices to promote more sustainable options for single-use plastics (SDG-12 Responsible Consumption and Production) which also impacts terrestrial biodiversity (SDG-15 Life on Land). Her publications on microplastics (7 Scopus-listed articles so far, 3 of them in 2022 and one EPA Research report) have attracted considerable scientific and wider attention through citation and media reporting.

Professor John F. Cryan, UCC Vice President for Research and Innovation at UCC said: “Congratulations to all awards recipients. This year, the standard of nominations across all award categories was indicative of the exceptional level of research and innovation throughout the University. UCC is a research-intensive University, and the annual Research Awards recognise and celebrate those UCC researchers who have made exceptional and influential research and innovation contributions, pushing boundaries, enhancing knowledge and raising the national and international research profile of our institution.”

Photo Credit: Ger McCarthy