News and Views

UCC’s next generation of research talent awarded funding

16 Jan 2019
The 20 research projects supported by the SFI SIRG programmes include a study by UCC’s Dr Fiona McDonald (pictured, centre) into the health of premature babies.

Three UCC and Tyndall researchers will be supported through Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG), it has been announced.

Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen TD, announced a government investment of €10.8 million in research funding for 20 projects, with awards ranging from €376,000 to €425,000 over four years. The projects funded will support 20 researchers and a further 20 PhD students.

The 20 research projects supported by the SFI SIRG programmes include a study by UCC’s Dr Fiona McDonald into the health of premature babies, exploring the development of therapies using a novel protective dietary antioxidant intervention.

UCC’s Dr Aine Hennessy is exploring the suitability of thyroid hormones in measuring iodine deficiency during pregnancy and its impact on infant brain development, while Tyndall’s Dr Gediminas Juska is developing a solution to simplify the processes underpinning the calculation power of quantum computers. 

Minister Breen said: “I am delighted to announce these SFI Starting Investigator Awards which allow researchers to advance their work and further develop their careers as the next research leaders in Ireland and internationally.

Welcoming the announcement, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland said: “Science Foundation Ireland supports researchers at every stage of their careers. The SIRG awards help early-career researchers develop the essential skills and experience necessary to lead Ireland’s future research in areas such as health, energy, materials and technology.

Below is a summary of the other projects receiving funding:

Health and Medical

  • Development of lower cost 3D-printed biomaterials for bone tissue regeneration (Dr Meadhbh Brennan, TCD).
  • Developing new cancer drugs to trick cancer cells into eliminating proteins, ultimately killing the cancer (Dr Gerard Brien, TCD).
  • Investigation of cancer resistance to current treatments to inform the development of new therapies (Dr Maria Prencipe, UCD).
  • Study of how gene regulation and protein generation could inform new treatments of epilepsy (Dr Gary Brennan, RCSI).
  • Development of new sensor materials with diagnostic and environmental monitoring applications (Dr Joseph Byrne, NUIG).
  • Using novel computational methods in a highly efficient procedure to obtain pharmaceutical compounds for initial chemical design (Dr Cristina Trujillo, TCD).
  • Identification of genes that could inform treatment approaches for patients of Ulcerative Colitis (Dr Sudipto Das, RCSI).


  • Development of tools to identify the most efficient cows in the national herd leading to benefits for producers, processors, and consumers nationally and internationally (Dr Sinead McParland, Teagasc).

Energy and Environment

  • Investigating transformation of agri-waste into high value, low carbon products, potentially improving waste management and benefiting the Irish bioeconomy (Dr Amanda Sosa-Avendano, UCD).
  • Development of novel thermoelectric nanomaterials for manufacturing small wearable energy scavengers that can convert body heat into electricity, allowing for continuous portable charging (Dr Amir Pakdel, TCD).
  • The investigation of key geological questions, including melting ice-caps and formation of gold deposits, using a novel mineral-dating approach (Dr Chris Mark, UCD).
  • Testing new ideas about how temperature regulates species distribution by revisiting the core principles of thermal ecology (Dr Nicholas Payne, TCD).
  • Assessment of impacts of pollutants and novel materials in freshwater ecosystems to better understand them before they reach precarious levels (Dr Konstantinos Gkrintzalis, DCU).

Manufacturing and Materials

  • Development of next-generation batteries that can enable electric vehicles to travel further on a single charge (Dr Hugh Geaney, UL).

ICT and Communications

  • A statistical imaging reconstruction method implemented in a new software tool for precision imaging of GEO satellites in Space, to enable tracking and viewing of objects orbiting the Earth (Dr Rebeca Garcia Lopez, DIAS).
  • Use of new optical technologies to help sustain the growth of the internet, contributing to the delivery of services such as ultra-high definition video and virtual reality (Dr Colm Browning, DCU).
  • Development of a new paradigm for the coherent manipulation of quantum systems that will help generate energetically efficient quantum devices (Dr Steve Campbell, TCD).

For more on this story contact:

Science Foundation Ireland: Donna McCabe - 01 607 3042/

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