Introducing the Irish Research Council Early Career Researcher of the Year 2023



Posted: 20 December, 2023

From left to right: Professor Orla Muldoon (IRC board member), Peter Brown, (IRC Director), Professor Liam Barry (IRC board member), Professor Aisling McMahon, (IRC ECR Researcher of the Year 2023), Professor Daniel Carey (IRC Chair), Professor Patricia Kearney (IRC board member).

From left to right: Professor Orla Muldoon (IRC board member), Peter Brown, (IRC Director), Professor Liam Barry (IRC board member), Professor Aisling McMahon, (IRC ECR Researcher of the Year 2023), Professor Daniel Carey (IRC Chair), Professor Patricia Kearney (IRC board member).

Professor Aisling McMahon, Maynooth University, has been announced as the Irish Research Council 2023 Early Career Researcher of the Year. Professor McMahon is Professor of Law at Maynooth University. Her teaching focuses primarily on health and intellectual property (IP) law.

This award is given to an outstanding current or former IRC awardee who is at an early stage in their research career. Professor McMahon was awarded an IRC New Foundations award in 2020 for a research project investigating patient access to advanced cancer therapies in relation to ethics and equity. Professor McMahon was selected from a number of excellent entries, all of whom demonstrated an exceptional level of achievement in their field at this career stage. This is a great reflection on the current state of emerging research talent in Ireland.

Professor McMahon’s research expertise is highly interdisciplinary in nature. It bridges patent law, health law, bioethics, social policy, human rights and healthcare. Her current research focuses particularly on the impact of IP rights on access to healthcare and on the development and delivery of health-technologies. She is also interested in the regulation of emerging technologies, and in how contractual clauses in the licensing of IP rights can be used to shape the development and access to IP protected emerging technologies in an ethical manner.

When asked what drives her to do work in this area, Professor McMahon said: “Scientific research can have incredible benefits for human health. My research is driven by building understandings of the role that legal and regulatory mechanisms can play in fostering the development of cutting-edge ethically responsible health technologies; and alongside this, developing understandings of how legal tools can facilitate and ensure equitable access to such health technologies.”

Professor Aisling McMahon

Professor McMahon completed a Bachelor of Civil Law in 2008, and an LLM in Law Technology and Governance degree in 2009, graduating from both with First Class Honours at the University of Galway. She was awarded a Michael MacNamara Scholarship based on academic merit. Prior to becoming Professor of Law at Maynooth University, she was appointed as a Judicial Researcher based in the Four Courts, providing research directly to the Irish judiciary. In 2011, she was awarded the prestigious Principal’s Career Development Award by the University of Edinburgh. During this time, Professor McMahon was a Research Fellow on the Arts and Humanities Research Council Banking on the Brain Project. She was appointed as Managing Editor and then Editor in Chief of the peer reviewed SCRIPTed journal, and tutored Medical Jurisprudence and Advanced Legal Methods.

In February 2014, she was appointed to a permanent lectureship at Newcastle University leading health law and IP law modules. In 2017, she was appointed as Assistant Professor in Biolaw, Durham University, and Deputy Convenor of the Centre for Ethics, Law and the Life Sciences (CELLS). In 2018, she joined Maynooth University and established the first module on health law. Since then, she has risen up through the ranks and in 2022 was promoted to Professor. She was awarded a European Research Council Starting Grant in 2022 (€1.5 million) to lead the PatentsInHumans project. In 2022, McMahon was awarded the Early Career Research Achievement Award by the Faculty of Social Sciences, Maynooth University.

 

Highly Commended

Due to the high standard of entries this year, the independent judging panel made two commendations in this category. They were to: Dr Amanda Drury, Dublin City University and Dr Natalie McEvoy, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Dr Amanda Drury is currently an Associate Professor in General Nursing in the School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health at Dublin City University (DCU). She is also an Executive Board Member and Chair of the EONS’ Research Working Group. Her research interests span the areas of supportive and palliative care in cancer.

She has been awarded a number of high-profile awards including the Irish Association for Nurses in Oncology Presidents Prize (2018) and the Fulbright-Health Research Board Health Impact Award (2020). In 2021 Dr Drury was awarded the European Oncology Nursing Society Recognising European Cancer Nursing (RECaN) Award.

Dr Drury obtained her PhD, MSc (Cancer), PGDip (Education), and BSc (Nursing) from Trinity College Dublin. Her PhD research informed the development of a theoretical model to explain the impact of healthcare on cancer survivors’ quality of life outcomes within the Irish healthcare system. As a postdoctoral researcher (TCD), she led further work to validate this model in the United States as part of her Fulbright HRB Health Impact Award to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre.

Dr Drury has a substantial and growing reputation in research. She has generated 128 research outputs so far in her career, of which 102 have been published or presented and has published 31 peer-reviewed papers in high-impact journals, of which 18 are first/senior author publications, and seven are in the top ten per cent most-cited publications worldwide.

Commenting on her work, Dr. Drury said: “My research focuses on the interaction between experiences of care in cancer services and the well-being of people who are living with and after cancer. People who are affected by cancer live with various physical, emotional, and social effects of cancer, which can negatively impact their daily lives. Cancer care services are crucial to support people who are living with and after cancer to understand, manage and cope with the effects of cancer. I am committed to ensuring the people affected by cancer have access to appropriate information and support throughout their cancer experience, to ensure that they can live as well as possible following a cancer diagnosis.”

Dr Drury was funded by the Irish Research Council through a New Foundations award in 2020 where her research focused on, ‘Setting the Agenda for Patient and Public Involvement in Cancer Survivorship Older Adulthood: A participatory research approach’. and has recently been awarded a Ulysses networking award which will begin in 2024 examining how, ‘Exploring Evidence-Based Interventions to Support People Living with Advanced Cancer who Require End-of-Life Care in the Emergency Department’.

 

Also commended in this category was Dr Natalie McEvoy, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Dr Natalie McEvoy is an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse and StAR Lecturer in Critical Care Nursing in Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI). She also serves as Chair of the All-Ireland Critical Care Nursing Research Group.

Through her research, she focuses on the delivery of harm-free care to patients and identifying nurse-sensitive outcomes, while preventing adverse patient outcomes, particularly regarding pressure injuries in ICU patients. The focus of her PhD work was on the early identification of pressure injures in ICU patients. She assessed the correlation between biomarkers in the detection of early non-visible skin damage. In the next phase of this work, Dr McEvoy is striving to address the healthcare inequity that exists in the detection of early skin damage in dark skin tones. Research and education in this area is primarily focused on individuals with light skin tones.

Dr McEvoy has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to attend the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to work on dashboards within the ICU setting. She also has over 30 publications in peer reviewed journals and is an associate editor for two peer reviewed journals.

When asked what attracted her to her area of study, Dr McEvoy said: “I am determined to ensure that all patients in the ICU receive evidence-based care to the highest standard and, to that end, that critical care nurses are at the forefront in delivering this care. I am committed to ensuring that each critically unwell patient admitted to the ICU is afforded every possible opportunity to make a meaningful recovery. This commitment and determination are the foundations which underpin my teaching and research activity.”

Dr McEvoy was awarded an IRC Enterprise Partnership postgraduate scholarship in 2019 with her research focused on, ‘The relationship between Sub Epidermal Moisture and Inflammatory markers in the early identification of Pressure Ulcer damage, developing a new evidence based health promotion care package for at risk patients and carers’.

Dr Natalie McEvoy (L), Professor Aisling McMahon (Centre) and Dr Amanda Drury (R)

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