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News 2016

Royal Irish Academy to unveil Dr Maria McNamara’s portrait

7 Dec 2016
The portrait of Dr Maria McNamara, Palaeobiologist, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UCC, is among the first of female subjects to be featured on the Royal Irish Academy’s walls in its 230-year history.

UCC’s Dr Maria McNamara is one of 12 female academic leaders whose portraits will be the first to hang on the walls of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin. 

The Accenture Women on Walls campaign features individual portraits of the first four women to be admitted to the Academy: Françoise Henry, Phyllis Clinch, Eleanor Knott and Sheila Tinney; alongside a group painting of eight of today’s leading female scientists.

The finished artworks by Vera Klute and Blaise Smith are the first portraits of female subjects to be featured on the Academy’s walls in its 230-year history.

The group portrait featuring Dr Maria McNamara, Palaeobiologist, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UCC, will be unveiled by Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD at an event this evening (December 7).

Dr McNamara was involved in the discovery of the first ever example of a primitive plant-eating dinosaur with feathers and scales, named Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus.

Group Portrait: Recipients of the European Research Council Starter Grants 2012 – 2015

Dr Maria McNamara (UCC)

Professor Sarah McCormack (TCD): Professor McCormack’s research explores photovoltaic panels which convert solar energy into direct current electricity.

Professor Aoife McLysaght (TCD): Professor McLysaght is one of Ireland’s leading geneticists and was on the team that analysed the initial sequence of the human genome in 2001. She was also involved in a major discovery about how genes are formed.

Dr Aoife Gowen (UCD): Dr Gowen investigates how contact with water contributes to fouling or degradation of various synthetic materials, including medical sutures, pacemakers and water filters.

Professor Lydia Lynch (Harvard Medical School moving to TCD): Professor Lynch’s research has found that a type of anti-tumour immune cell protects against obesity and the metabolic syndrome that leads to diabetes.

Professor Debra Laefer (UCD): Professor Laefer’s research aims to prevent damage to buildings above tunnel excavation, by developing a 3D modelling system that can predict what buildings are most likely to sustain damage during tunnelling.

Professor Emma Teeling (UCD): Professor Teeling is a world authority on bat genetics. She studies bats for insights into human diseases such as blindness and deafness as well as aging.

Professor Catríona Lally (TCD): Professor Lally is the principal investigator on a project focusing on developing a means of early diagnosis of degenerative cardiovascular diseases. These studies are highly relevant to stroke patients and those with vascular disease.

The campaign originated after Accenture executives who had been attending a meeting in the Royal Irish Academy to discuss addressing the gender gap in STEM asked: “Where are the women?” as they surveyed the hall dominated by male portraits.  

“The Accenture Women on Walls campaign was born at that moment,” said Alastair Blair, Country Managing Director, Accenture in Ireland. “As part of Accenture’s commitment to supporting and making female leaders visible, we partnered with the Academy to commission these portraits. We have long been committed to tackling gender inequality and increasing the profile of women within Accenture and throughout the business community. In this centenary year, this initiative was a natural extension of that work. After all, you can’t be what you can’t see.”

Laura Mahony, Chief Executive of the Royal Irish Academy said: “The Academy wants to create role models to inspire our future generations. The people of Ireland should know of, and be proud of the twelve extraordinary women whose portraits will hang on the walls of Academy House for years to come. We hope that people will come into Academy house to see these portraits and find out about these women and their work.”

The portraits are available to view by the public at Academy House, 19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2, or they can be viewed online at, with the full story of the campaign and background on the academics, scientists and artists.      

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