An innovative citizen science study in which pupils study air quality around their school is amongst the University College Cork projects funded under the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Frontiers of the Future programme. Air pollution is a serious public health problem and is responsible for 400,000 premature deaths in European annually. The LOCOMOSHUN project, led by Dr Dean Venables, aims to develop a low-cost novel optical sensor for a priority air pollutant, nitrogen dioxide. The developed sensors will also be demonstrated in a vehicle emissions study.
The SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme provides opportunities for independent investigators to conduct highly innovative, collaborative research in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with the potential to deliver impact, whilst also providing opportunities for high-risk, high-reward research projects.
The programme seeks to provide opportunities to address gender imbalance, in line with SFI’s Gender Strategy, and to provide support to emerging investigators who may be returning from a period of leave. 31% of the Awards and 33% of the Projects funded are from women lead applicants. 33% of the projects funded are from emerging investigators. Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, TD, has today announced 62 grants valued at €42 million to support research across 13 Higher Education Institutions. This programme was funded in collaboration with the Children’s Health Foundation (CHF) and Geological Survey Ireland (GSI).
Among the new research projects totalling €5,464,481 that will be funded at UCC, are three projects led by ERI Academics:
Led by Dr Marguerite Nyhan (School of Engineering & Architecture, Environmental Research Institute and MaREI Centre for Energy, Climate & Marine, College of Science Engineering and Food Science).
The Environmental Intelligence frontier research project will significantly advance the science of sustainable, healthy and liveable cities of the future. This ground-breaking research will harness sensors, largescale Information Communications Technologies (ICT) datasets, artificial intelligence and machine learning to understand urban dynamics, air pollution and greenspace in unprecedented accuracy and scale in several cities in Ireland and the United States. Importantly, Dr Nyhan will examine associations between human exposures, behaviour change and health outcomes with a view towards informing the planning and design of cities as well as urban environmental health policies.
Led by Dr Dean Venables (School of Chemistry and Environmental Research Institute, College of Science Engineering and Food Science).
Air pollution is a serious public health problem, prematurely killing 400,000 Europeans every year. The LOCOMOSHUN project aims to develop a novel optical sensor for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a priority air pollutant. Sensors developed in this project will be accurate and affordable, allowing them to be used to expand city air quality monitoring and extend it to towns and low-income countries. The sensors will be demonstrated in a vehicle emissions study and in an innovative citizen science study in which pupils study air quality around their schools.
Led by Professor Astrid Wingler (School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences and Environmental Research Institute, College of Science Engineering and Food Science).This project investigates the biological basis of growth and seed formation in wild oat, a common weed in cereal fields. It also determines the competition with barley to aid selection of more competitive crop varieties for sustainable production with reduced herbicide use.
Professor Philip Nolan, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, said: "I am delighted that we are funding 62 new research grants through the SFI Frontiers for the Future programme. A key action of SFI’s strategy is to deliver 140 investigator grants every year to support excellent research and to attract top talent. The Frontiers for the Future programme is the primary mechanism to achieve this goal. It is vital that we invest in excellent and innovative research in Ireland. I would like to thank the Children’s Health Foundation and Geological Survey Ireland for collaborating on this programme with SFI, allowing us to fund projects which will have a significant impact in key areas."
Congratulating the award recipients from University College Cork on their awards, Professor John F. Cryan, UCC Vice President for Research and Innovation said: "I would like to congratulate the UCC researchers on their awards under the SFI Frontiers for the Future programme. These awards are of vital importance in providing opportunities to address gender imbalance and to support emerging researchers returning from leave. Inclusion and diversity are at the heart of what UCC represents and incorporating these principles into research areas across the UCC Futures areas of Sustainability, Medicines, and Food, Microbiome and Health aligns with the strategic plan for the University."
Photo: Dr Marguerite Nyhan (School of Engineering & Architecture, Environmental Research Institute and MaREI Centre for Energy, Climate & Marine, College of Science Engineering and Food Science), recipient of an SFI Frontiers for the Future Programme award. Photo: Claire Keogh