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UCC researcher takes top SFI accolade

20 Nov 2023
Professor Paul Ross named as Science Foundation Ireland Researcher of the Year. Image credit: Claire Keogh
  • Professor Paul Ross is the 2023 Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Researcher of the Year.
  • Professor Frank Peters, Tyndall National Institute, receives the SFI Industry Partnership Award.
  • The SFI Awards celebrate outstanding researchers funded by SFI who have contributed greatly to scientific progress or had a highly significant scientific breakthrough.

The winners of the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Awards for 2023 were today announced at the Research Summit, a joint Summit hosted by SFI and the Irish Research Council (IRC), with Professor Paul Ross named as Researcher of the Year.

A native of Turners Cross in Cork City, Paul Ross graduated from UCC with a B.Sc. in Biochemistry and Microbiology, and a Ph.D. in Microbiology. Following postdoctoral research and an Assistant Professorship at Wake Forest University, NC, he moved to Teagasc’s Moorepark Food Research Centre to lead the Food Biotechnology programme. In 2014, Paul moved to UCC to become the Head of College of Science Engineering & Food Science in UCC and in 2016 also took up the position of Deputy Head of APC Microbiome Ireland. In 2019, Paul became the Director of APC Microbiome Ireland.

Professor Ross, a co-director of UCC Futures – Food, Microbiome & Health, has been an outstanding researcher in the field of the human microbiome for many years, with a focus on bacterial competition, physiology and genetics. Professor Ross is a current European Research Council (ERC) Advanced award holder, receiving the award in 2022 for his project entitled ‘BACtheWINNER’, an investigation of viable alternatives to antibiotics.

Professor Ross has supervised over 90 postgraduate doctoral students and 25 Masters by Research students. He is recognised in the Web of Science by Clarivate Analytics as a highly cited researcher, ranking in the top 1% by citations in his field each year since 2017. He recently ranked number 25 in the world and number 1 in Ireland in the field of Microbiology by Paul has published over 880 peer-reviewed articles with a H-index of 118 on Web of Science, a H-index of 147 on Google Scholar, over 55,000 citations on Web of Science and is an inventor on 26 patents.

Commenting on receiving the award, Professor Paul Ross said: "I am truly honoured and humbled to receive this prestigious research award, it is great acknowledgement of the significance of microbiome research as we are about to celebrate our landmark 20th year here at APC. For me it’s always about the people. I have been just so fortunate to have worked with brilliant scientists down through the years – great collaborators, researchers and students – and it is really on their behalf that I accept this award. I have always been fascinated by the microbial world in which we live and depend on so much. Our research strives to find microbiome-based solutions to address some of the grand challenges society is facing right now. Our lab is currently working on a €2.5m European Research Council project exploring the potential for naturally occurring antimicrobial peptide, specifically bacteriocins, for the development of new therapies to tackle infectious disease."

Professor Ross will receive his award at the SFI-IRC Summit 2023 – Looking to the Future Together, held on 21st and 22nd November in the Radisson Blue Hotel in Cork.

The awards ceremony will also honor Tyndall researcher, Professor Frank Peters, School of Physics UCC, and the head of the Integrated Photonics group at IPIC, the SFI Centre for Photonics. He receives the SFI Industry Partnership Award 2023 for IPIC’s partnership with Rockley Photonics.

Professor Peters has over 30 years’ experience in photonics research, including 12 years in industry, filing more than 80 patents. He has been part of three start-ups including, most recently, Rockley Photonics and the creation of the Irish research division of Rockley. Rockley’s ground-breaking short-wave infrared biosensing solution unlocks unique spectra-based biomarkers enabling insights into personal health and well-being and enables continuous monitoring of critical biomarkers through a wearable device.

The SFI Awards celebrate outstanding researchers funded by SFI who have contributed greatly to scientific progress or had a highly significant scientific breakthrough. Commending the award winners, Professor Philip Nolan, Director General, Science Foundation Ireland, said: "Through their innovation, creativity and tireless work, these researchers have striven to improve the world around them. SFI is delighted to recognise their efforts and achievements with these prestigious accolades. I want to offer my sincere congratulations to all the award recipients. I would like to congratulate Professor Paul Ross, University College Cork, for winning 2023 SFI Researcher of the Year. Paul Ross has been an outstanding researcher in the field of food health and gut health for many years, both in previous roles and in his current position as director of the SFI Research Centre APC Microbiome Ireland."

Congratulating the UCC award winners, Professor John Cryan, UCC Vice President for Research & Innovation, said: "I wish to extend the warmest congratulations to Professor Paul Ross and Professor Frank Peters on receiving these prestigious national awards from SFI. Professor Ross is a world leading researcher in the field of food, microbiome and health, a key thematic area of UCC Futures, and is a worthy recipient of the SFI Researcher of the Year award."

"For his long-term dedication to photonics research and innovative solutions relating to the design and use of photonic devices and high speed photonic integrated circuits, Professor Frank Peters is a deserving winner of the Industry Partnership award. This award will continue to drive momentum in UCC Futures – Quantum & Photonics, and further enhance UCC’s and Tyndall’s established research in this area," added Professor Cryan.

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