President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, has today received three recipients of the Science Foundation Ireland, President of Ireland Young Researcher Award (PIYRA) at áras an Uachtaráin. Dr. Matthew Campbell of the Smurfit Institute, Trinity College Dublin, Professor Carel le Roux of University College Dublin and Professor Valeria Nicolosi of Trinity College Dublin were presented with the prestigious accolade which acknowledges cutting-edge research in fields considered critical to Ireland's economic and social prosperity.
The President said, "This award recognises the ongoing contribution of Irish scientists to internationally respected research activity in areas of fundamental relevance to society and the economy. The work being carried out by Dr. Campbell, Professor le Roux and Professor Nicolosi is indicative of the ground-breaking research now being undertaken in Ireland. I am delighted to receive them at áras an Uachtaráin today. It is the dedication and pioneering results of these researchers which continues to position Ireland as a leader in scientific research."
PIYRA is Science Foundation Ireland's most esteemed award for researchers who have shown exceptional promise as possible future leaders in international research and are known for excellence in their fields. Awardees are selected on the basis of exceptional accomplishments in science and engineering and on the basis of creative research projects that have attracted international acclaim.
Commenting on the awards, Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: "PIYRA recognises outstanding researchers who, early in their careers, have already demonstrated or shown exceptional potential for leadership in their fields of research. Through this programme SFI is supporting a new generation of top-tier scientific researchers in Ireland."
Dr. Campbell who is being recognised for his research into eye conditions including age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and a range of other neurological disorders said: "PIYRA has allowed me to recruit some exceptionally talented individuals to work as both PhD and postdoctoral researchers at the Smurfit Institute of Genetics, where I now lead the Neurovascular Genetics Research Laboratory. In addition, I have been afforded a platform to establish a programme of research into the complexities of the blood-brain barrier, which can prevent the delivery of potentially therapeutic agents to the brain".
Professor le Roux has established a research group investigating why some people become obese and why only a smaller group of them develop obesity related diseases. A better understanding of "how the gut talks to the brain" to generate fullness will allow more effective treatments to be used in the future. To this end, the role of metabolic surgery and its effect on gut hormones, bile acids and changes in food preferences are of particular interest to the project.
Professor le Roux said: "Receiving the PIYRA has allowed me to expand our work and establish the first group in the world focusing on how changing the anatomy and physiology of the gut with surgery can be used to reverse organ damage such as diabetic kidney disease, which previously was thought of to be permanent. Improving our knowledge will facilitate health gain for patients while saving money for the health system."
Professor Nicolosi is internationally regarded as a leading expert in the field of nano and materials science where she specialises in 2D nanomaterials and high-end microscopy. She has received the PIYRA award for research into materials that can potentially form the basis for innovative new technologies.
Professor Nicolosi said: "Receiving this award is a great honour and the significant impact that I hope this research activity will have for materials science generally is a very exciting prospect. The PIYRA awards afford us the opportunity to make new discoveries, patents, impactful new science that can be used to leverage non-exchequer funding from industry and Europe. For example my work within the AMBER centre at Trinity College Dublin in processing nanomaterials for the development of more efficient energy storage devices has received global interest, both from the academic community and from a range of companies."