News and Views

UCC research centres put their stamp on An Post series

7 Sep 2018
Former president and climate justice campaigner Mary Robinson, Professor Luke O'Neill, TCD, and the Director General of SFI, Professor Mark Ferguson unveiled the stamps. Photo: Maxwell Photography.

An Post has unveiled a series of four new stamps celebrating scientific discoveries in Ireland, two of which feature the UCC research centres APC Microbiome Ireland and the INFANT Centre.

Created by An Post in partnership with Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the Irish Scientific Discovery stamps highlight recent discoveries made by scientists who work in pioneering research and development in Ireland, namely in the areas of new forms of light, fighting superbugs, emissions adsorption and predicting neonatal seizures.

The Fighting Superbugs stamp hails the discovery of a new antimicrobial called formicin by PhD student Fergus Collins in a team led by Professor Paul Ross and Professor Colin Hill at the APC Microbiome Ireland SFI Research Centre based at UCC and Teagasc Moorepark Food Research Centre.  

The World Health Organisation has described antibiotic resistance as a global crisis and alternatives to traditional antibiotics are desperately needed. A bacterium found in the intestine of mackerel is the source of formicin, which can kill a wide range of harmful bacteria. 

The research is part of a wider APC programme which has uncovered an arsenal of antimicrobials, which may have important applications for human and animal health.


The Predicting Neonatal Seizures stamp features the work of the INFANT Centre team to prevent brain injury in new-born babies. One in every 500 babies are at risk of developing seizures when they are born, which need urgent treatment. Unlike adults, new-born infants often show no visible signs that they are having a seizure. As a result, the only way to reliably detect seizures in new-borns is to use an EEG monitor, but the equipment and expert knowledge needed to interpret EEG signals are not available in many hospitals.

INFANT’s director Professor Geraldine Boylan — the only female scientist honoured in the series and the only female director in the SFI centres — and her team Professor Liam Marnane, Dr Andrey Temko and Dr Gordon Lighbody used artificial intelligence to develop algorithms that can monitor and interpret brain signals. The algorithm can then alert medical staff if there is a problem. By detecting seizures quickly, babies are treated faster, improving the long-term health outcomes. The technology has recently been licensed and will be extended to maternity units worldwide as an early alarm system to help medical staff interpret EEGs and respond immediately. 

“Inclusion of exciting research outcomes from researchers in INFANT and APC on these collectors’ stamps is a novel, effective and lasting mechanism to ensure the public are aware of the impact of groundbreaking research underway within these SFI-funded Research Centres at University College Cork,” said Professor Anita Maguire, Vice President for Research and Innovation, UCC.

The final two stamps in the series are:

New forms of light: Doctor Kyle Ballantine, Professor John Donegan and Professor Paul Eastham at the School of Physics and AMBER SFI Research Centre, Trinity College Dublin (TCD), have discovered a new form of light that doesn’t follow our existing rules of angular momentum. This finding could change our understanding of electromagnetic radiation and help to improve speed and security along fibre-optic cables, leading to faster, safer internet connections.

CRANN Institute, TCD: Dr Kyle Ballantine, Professor John Donegan, Professor Paul Eastham

Emissions Absorption: Professor Mike Zaworotko, Director of the SSPC SFI research Centre and Bernal Chair.  At the Bernal Institute, in the University of Limerick has crystal engineering as the focus of his research. This involves the design of new materials by treating molecules like LEGO® blocks so that they can perform a specific function based on a specific need including the absorption of harmful gases.

Bernal Institute, University of Limerick: Professor Mike Zaworotko, Director of the SSPC SFI research Centre and Bernal Chair At the Bernal Institute, UL.

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said the collection aims to showcase the excellent science and technology research ongoing across the country and encourages people to engage with it. The selected case studies represent just one small facet of the superb and wide-ranging contributions that Irish scientists are making to international advancements in STEM.”

For more on this story contact:

Catherine Buckley, Communications and Outreach Manager, APC Microbiome Ireland: 086 855 4744.

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