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Obituary Anton Walsh

23 Feb 2024

On 9 February 2024 Dr Anton J. Walsh passed away very unexpectedly at the age of 43. He worked as a Senior Post-Doctoral Fellow and Principal Investigator in the Centre for Advanced Photonics and Process Analysis (CAPPA) at MTU, with well-established collaborations with research groups at UCC and the Tyndall National Institute.

Anton’s academic career started in UCC, where he graduated with a single honours BSc in Physics in 2003 followed by an MSc in March 2005 on nonlinear optical properties of Platinum-Octaethyl Porphyrins, which he studied using the so-called “z-scan method”. During this time in the Laser Spectroscopy Group at UCC Anton discovered his passion for research and developed an interest in the science of light-matter interactions leading him to do a PhD under the supervision of Prof. Andy Ruth in the same group. He defended his thesis on “the time-dependent broadband extinction of naphthalene-buffer gas mixture following UV photolysis” in June 2010, leading to two publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics.

Anton subsequently moved to the Laboratory for Astrophysics at the Leiden University Observatory in the Netherlands, where he worked under the supervision of Prof. Harold Linnartz on the absorption spectroscopy of plasmas in free supersonic jets. His investigations and instrumental developments lead to 5 high-quality research publications. In 2013, Anton moved on to the Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER) where he entered the world of surface science and encountered ultra-high vacuum technologies for the first time. He exceled in the development of a system to detect carbon monoxide on platinum surfaces. Several publications, one notably in Science, resulted from these endeavours. 

In 2018 Anton returned to Cork, where he joined CAPPA at MTU, bringing with him his extensive research experience and expertise. At CAPPA Anton fitted in from the very start, working initially on industry-guided projects where he showed great insight, and going on to develop an optical inspection system for a local multi-national. His research prompted one of the senior engineers in the company at the time to remark on how impressive it was that Anton had made so much progress on the issue: this was to be a hallmark of all the research that Anton would carry out in the centre. He continued in the same vein on a variety of different projects and in 2022 was awarded a prestigious SFI-IRC PATHWAY fellowship for his own research on “InfraRed Laser Sensing for Irish Agricultural Emissions”. His goal was to improve the detection of methane and ammonia emissions in an agricultural setting using state-of-the-art techniques based on quartz-enhanced photoacoustic spectroscopy, as well as mid-IR cavity enhanced absorption spectroscopy in collaboration with UCC’s School of Physics and Teagasc. He was also continuing to develop an upgraded iteration of the optical system for the industrial partner.

Throughout this time, Anton also found time to supervise Masters and PhD students, both in MTU and UCC, and to support many students in other areas of their research in which he had experience. Those students will feel his loss acutely, as will his many friends and colleagues in Prof. Andy Ruth’s lab in UCC, where Anton was carrying out part of his SFI-IRC research. In addition to his research and supervision work, he supported CAPPA’s many outreach activities, including various events and initiatives at local schools to help illustrate the power and usefulness of science to the researchers of the future.

Anton had a “no-nonsense”, “can-do” attitude which he brought to all his endeavours. His wonderful, dry sense of humour was well-known and greatly appreciated by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. He was a proud Cork man and GAA enthusiast, and never allowed people from neighbouring counties to forget that. Anton approached his work with determination and an open mind and was widely respected for his opinion and input. His contribution will be remembered for many, many years to come and the School of Physics will be forever grateful to him for the significant role he played in the success of our research. It is a privilege to have known Anton. His friendship and presence in CAPPA and at UCC will be sorely missed. May he rest in peace.

School of Physics

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Room 213 (Physics Office), 2nd floor, Kane Science Building, University College Cork, Ireland.,