UCC researchers awarded prestigious postdoctoral awards

16 Nov 2023
Photo: Dr Vuslat Juska at the Kelley Laboratory in Northwestern University, Illinois.
  • A combined €443,000 awarded to tackle and find solutions to global health crises.
  • UCC researchers will develop a tool for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and develop an indoor management system to provide cleaner indoor air.
  • DOROTHY aims to position future researcher leaders at the forefront of transformative responses to global health crises.

University College Cork (UCC) early-career researchers are amongst the first cohort of fellows to be awarded funding through the DOROTHY Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) COFUND programme focused on solving public health crises.

UCC researchers will develop diagnostic tools for the rapid and accurate detection of Alzheimer’s disease and build an indoor air management system that will provide cleaner and healthier indoor air.

Launched in 2021 by Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, the DOROTHY MSCA COFUND is a postdoctoral research programme co-funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA). Three Irish funding agencies, the Irish Research Council (IRC), the Health Research Board (HRB) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have collaborated to create this interdisciplinary fellowship programme on the topic of public health crises and their legacies.

Fellowships will have an international outgoing phase of 18 months, hosted at a Higher Education Institution (HEI) or Research Performing Organisation (RPO) outside Ireland, followed by a return phase of 18 months to a HEI within Ireland. Nationally, six awardees have embarked on 36-month postdoctoral fellowships.

The UCC funded projects align with the key research thematic areas of Sustainability and Future Ageing and Brain Science in the UCC Futures framework.

Early detection of Alzheimer’s disease

ADBs-on-a-chip is the development of a silicon based electro-analytical tool for the ultrasensitive detection of multiple Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers. Led by Dr Vuslat Juska, a postdoctoral researcher at Tyndall National Institute, the project aims to make Alzheimer’s disease detection easier and faster and replace current time consuming and expensive technologies. Dr Juska will complete the outgoing phase of her €211,968 project at the Kelley Laboratory in Northwestern University, Illinois, USA, under the supervision of Professor Shana Kelley, a world leading expert on biology-driven translational engineering and chemistry.

"I would like to thank the Irish funding agencies for creating this fellowship programme and providing me with an excellent opportunity to progress my research career in world leading research facilities at Northwestern University and Tyndall National Institute. The biosensor I propose will have a significant societal and economic impact. Effecting one in ten people aged over 65 years, the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can significantly improve the quality of life of Alzheimer’s patients, their families and carers."

A healthier and cleaner indoor air environment

Male researcher working in a research areaDr Asit Kumar Mishra, postdoctoral researcher in the School of Public Health

Led by Dr Asit Kumar Mishra, postdoctoral researcher in the School of Public Health, INSIDE-AIR is an innovative and sustainable indoor-air management system that will improve indoor air quality and provide a safer environment for all. To achieve this, the €230,900 project will create a matrix of engineering solutions for the optimum design and operation of indoor air management solutions. The project will combine air quality results from a sample of school classrooms with building performance simulation results, with a view to providing a framework that can be employed in future building designs and retrofit projects. The project outcomes can also be broadened to serve alternative building types and different climatic regions. Dr Mishra will complete the outgoing phase of his project at DTU Sustain, Technical University of Denmark, one of the largest university departments specializing in environmental and resource engineering in Europe.

"The COVID-19 pandemic and our increasing knowledge on the health effects of air pollution have changed how we think about the air we breathe. There is now an opportunity to examine how clean our air is, and to ensure that we are better prepared for future challenges. Indoor environments and how they impact our health, performance and wellbeing has been a research passion of mine for some years. Through this project, I want to work towards designing indoor air quality solutions that produce healthy and sustainable building environments. With the cooperation and guidance of public health experts in UCC, I want to engage with policymakers and initiate a move towards relevant policy changes."

Director of the Irish Research Council, Peter Brown, said: "MSCA COFUND fellowships are highly prestigious postdoctoral awards that greatly help to establish the research careers of the fellows who obtain them. I have no doubt that not only will these fellows produce top class research to tackle the many public health crises that impact on us all, but that their fellowships will support them to success in further opportunities in the future."

Professor John F. Cryan, UCC Vice President for Research and Innovation said: "Congratulations to our early-career researchers on being amongst the first cohort of awardees in the DOHORTY MSCA COFUND programme. These projects align with our UCC Futures programme in the key areas of Sustainability and soon to be launched, Future Ageing and Brain Science. The programme will provide our fellows with the opportunity to work alongside world leading researchers in an outgoing international Higher Education Institute or research performing organisation and return to UCC with invaluable research knowledge and experience."

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