Four Irish Winners of ERC Advanced Grant Awards – €10 Million Investment in Irish Research

Posted: 31 March, 2020

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Tuesday 31st March – The Irish Research Council welcomes the European Research Council’s (ERC’s) announcement of four Advanced awards. The awards amount to a nearly €10 million investment into Irish research, from one of the most prestigious funding schemes in Europe. Three of the ERC grants were awarded to outstanding IRC-funded researchers in the Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH). The SSH researchers are based in Trinity College Dublin (TCD), University College Dublin (UCD) and the University of Limerick (UL). The fourth was awarded to an IRC Advanced Laureate in the Sciences, also from the University of Limerick, working in crystal engineering.

The ERC’s Advanced Grants scheme is a highly competitive funding opportunity for leading researchers across Europe. The scheme offers long-term funding to pursue ground-breaking, high-risk projects, with the sole selection criterion being excellence. This year, the ERC received 1,881 proposals for the scheme, with only 185 researchers selected for funding. Funding is available across all disciplines and – like the IRC in Ireland – offers a fantastic opportunity for SSH and STEM researchers alike to progress their work. For the first time there have been female winners of ERC Advanced Grants in Ireland, Professor Gerardine Meaney (UCD) and Professor Orla Muldoon (UL). The four winners also include a double ERC grant winner, Professor Dan Bradley (TCD) and a current holder of an Irish Research Council Laureate award, Professor Mike Zaworotko (UL).

Speaking on the announcement of the awards, Chair of the Irish Research Council, Prof. Jane Ohlmeyer, said: “I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to the four Advanced ERC Grant awardees, and I am particularly pleased to note the amazing success this year for the humanities and social sciences. This success is once again testament to the critical role the IRC plays in supporting the development of outstanding individual researchers, capable of competing internationally at the highest level. I am also delighted to see that the IRC’s Laureate Awards continue to support Irish researchers as they bid for European funding. Today’s announcement represents the fourth success in ERC funding for Laureate awardees since the awards began in 2017 – long may it continue.”

Below are the names and profiles of the four successful candidates with a brief introduction to their outstanding research:

How can something as ubiquitous as gases have such a profound effect on our world?  Simply put, we are now in the “Age of Gas” – from global warming, to biofuels to plastics to air quality, gases impact our lives daily. Researching new means of gas storage, transportation and delivery is University of Limerick Professor, and Bernal Chair of Crystal Engineering, Prof. Mike Zaworotko. His work aims to develop novel layered porous materials (sorbents) as a cheap and efficient means of trapping and releasing gases. These sorbents work like sponges and will result in greener technologies for gases that reduce their energy footprints by 50-90%. Prof. Zaworotko’s ERC award, SYNergistic SORBents, looks to use several sorbents at once, including those discovered through his IRC Laureate Award, to enable 1-step purification of industrial gases that collectively use 15-20% of global energy production. These gases include propylene, the raw ingredient of N95 masks.

Head of Trinity College Dublin’s School of Genetics and Microbiology, Prof. Daniel Bradley’s ambitious research agenda has himself and his team looking into ancient animal and human DNA as well as a range of methodologies and topics within the field of population genetics. He has been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant for his project, 1,000 Ancient Genomes: Gene-economy Innovation in Cattle, Sheep and Goats. In this five-year programme Prof. Bradley aims to examine how farmers and their animals went through different cycles of gene-economy evolution that profoundly changed human society. Using ancient genomics, he hopes to untangle the key threads of innovation, tracing the weave of genetic ancestry in cattle, sheep and goats.

Prof. Orla Muldoon, founding Head of the University of Limerick’s Department of Psychology, has dedicated her research to applied social and developmental psychology. Prof. Muldoon’s work is driven by her conviction that “theoretically grounded and methodologically sound psychological research can be a powerful and positive force for social change.” Accordingly, she and current and former early career researchers under her guidance have partnered with relevant charities and civil society organisations to work together towards solving real-world problems. Prof. Muldoon’s new Advanced ERC project, A Social Identity Model of Trauma and Identity Change: A Novel Theory of Post-Traumatic Stress, Resilience and Growth, offers a sea change in thinking about trauma.  This breakthrough research will search for the social contexts and conditions that facilitate successful adaptation to trauma. A wide range of proposed studies will offer a breadth of vision to transform the conceptualization of trauma.  To deepen understanding of its wide-ranging implications, divergent consequences of trauma on physiological and psychological health as well as wider social and political relations will be examined and used to inform future policy and treatment approaches to trauma.

How much have British perceptions of European migrants changed, and how have migrants been represented in British literature over the past 180 years? More broadly, how does migration impact on the cultural identity of both migrant and host communities in the historical long-term? Prof. Gerardine Meaney, Professor of Cultural Theory in the School of English, Drama and Film at University College Dublin, has been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant to use big data to answer these questions. Her project, European Migrants in the British Imagination: Victorian and Neo-Victorian Culture (VICTEUR) will combine data analytics with literary criticism of nearly 36,000 books in digital format in the British Library Nineteenth Century Corpus. The project’s aim is to develop a new transhistorical and intra-national model for understanding migration as a key driver of cultural development at the interface of gender, ethnicity and demography. As such, it will build on Prof. Meaney’s wide-ranging expertise on questions of nation, migration, gender, and the impact of cultural memory, established during her series of previous PI-led awards from the IRC on these topics.

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