Dr Jane Suiter named Irish Research Council Researcher of the Year

Posted: 9 December, 2020

Expert on disinformation and democracy Dr Jane Suiter, Dublin City University (DCU), has received the prestigious  Irish Research Council Researcher of the Year award for 2020.


The winners of the annual Researcher of the Year awards, which recognise the very best of the Council’s awardees and alumni working in academia, industry, civic society and the public sector, were announced today (09.12.20).


Dr. Kathryn Schoenrock, NUI Galway was awarded the Early Career Researcher of the Year award, while Dr. Colin Keogh, University College Dublin, won this year’s Impact Award.


Dr Jane Suiter, Dublin City University was awarded the 2020 Researcher of the Year award for her research on the public sphere and the information environment in referendums and elections.

Dr Suiter’s research includes analysing populist messaging and the political communication characteristics and systems that support or hinder it, as well as the impacts of citizen’s participation and deliberation and the role of citizens in renewing democracy.

Dr Suiter is an Associate Professor at the School of Communications and Director of the Institute for Future Media and Journalism at DCU. She is a senior research fellow on the Irish Citizens’ Assembly and is recognised as a national and international leader in citizen engagement and deliberation.

Highly commended by the independent panel in this category were Professor John Goold, Trinity College Dublin and Professor Orla Muldoon, University of Limerick.

Dr. Kathryn Schoenrock, NUI Galway won the Early Career Researcher of the Year award. Dr Schoenrock’s research focus is kelp forest ecology. These habitats are known to be a habitat for hundreds to thousands of marine species and recently, they have been highlighted as an important blue carbon repository that may buffer climate change impacts to marine habitats by sequestering the increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Dr Schoenrock’s ground-breaking work in this field has made her the authoritative voice on Irish kelp forest ecology, and the productivity and biodiversity of these systems in nearshore waters.

Highly commended in this category were Dr. Brynne Gilmore, University College Dublin and Dr. Joe Davies, Maynooth University.


Dr. Colin Keogh, University College Dublin, was awarded this year’s Impact Award. This award is given to a current or former IRC awardee who is making a highly significant impact outside of academia. Dr. Keogh is an engineer, working in the innovation space. His research and work focuses on applying technology and innovation to solve problems. in sectors such as healthcare, climate and business.

This year alone, he built out a team to design and develop open-source ventilators to assist with the fight against Covid-19.

He is also the cofounder of Sapien Innovation, an innovation consultancy specialising in applied innovation, creativity and design thinking services and of The Rapid Foundation, a social enterprise which aims to disperse 3D printing technology His work has included the design of 3D printed prosthetics for children with missing or ‘non-standard’ limbs.

Dr. Keogh has also previously been named as one of Forbes 30 Under 30 in Science, as Junior Chamber International’s Ten Outstanding Young People and as the 2017 IT and Tech Professional of the Year at the Irish Early Career Awards.


Director of the Irish Research Council, Peter Brown also congratulated this year’s winners: “Our annual Researcher of the Year awards are about recognising the very best and brightest of the Council’s current and former awardees. The standard this year was exceedingly high, and the judging panel found it difficult in many cases to choose a winner, which is a testament to the high calibre of researchers we have here in Ireland.

“We launched our five-year strategic plan this year and supporting excellent ideas and talent across all disciplines is at the heart of the Council’s mandate. Having a vibrant research community, and fostering public support for research is vital, as we continue to see the positive impact it has on society, the environment, and the economy. This is particularly true in the case of our three winners this year, who have all individually made an impact on society through their research.

“We are very proud of all of our awardees and I look forward to seeing what comes next for them.”

Medals of Excellence

In addition to the Researcher of the Year awards, the Council announced the four early-career researchers who had won ‘Medals of Excellence’.

Each of the ‘Medals of Excellence’ have been named after previous Chairs of the Irish Research Council and recognise excellence in the 2020 postgraduate and postdoctoral funding calls run by the Council in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and the arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS).

Edmond Gubbins, Mary Immaculate College, was awarded the ‘Eda Sagarra Medal of Excellence’ for being the top-ranked postgraduate researcher in the AHSS category. Mr Gubbins’s research focuses on music education at primary level in Ireland.

Shane Somers, University College Cork, was awarded the ‘Jane Grimson Medal of Excellence’ for being the top-ranked postgraduate researcher in the STEM category. Mr Somer’s research seeks to determine the drivers of variation in the gut microbiome of a wild bird, the great tit.

Dr. Edward Molloy, University College Cork, was awarded the ‘Maurice J Bric Medal of Excellence’ for being the top-ranked postdoctoral researcher in the AHSS category. Dr. Molloy’s research explores the nature and form of Irish separatism and the ideas that informed radical Irish nationalism in the nineteenth century.

Dr. Tara Dirilgen, University College Dublin was awarded the ‘Thomas Mitchell Medal of Excellence’ for being the top-ranked postdoctoral researcher in the STEM category. Dr. Dirilgen’s research investigates soil, plant and pollinator interactions.

Read more about the Medal winners here.

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