Top-level IRC Postgraduate and Postdoctoral Researchers win 2023 ‘Medals of Excellence’

Posted: 18 December, 2023

Left to right: Peter Brown, Aaron Maloney, Tara Ciric, Carlos Matellan, Daniel Carey

2023 Government of Ireland medal winners pictured with Peter Brown (L), Director, and Professor Daniel Carey (R), Chair of the Irish Research Council respectively. Not pictured: Medal Winner Dr Patrick Anthony, UCD.

The Irish Research Council has announced the four early-career researchers who have been awarded ‘Medals of Excellence’ this year. These awards were presented at an event on the 8th December where members of the Irish Research Council met with awardees to discuss their work and recognise the wonderful achievement these researchers are making to Irish society and beyond.


Each of the ‘Medals of Excellence’ have been named after previous Chairs of the Irish Research Council and recognise excellence in the 2023 Government of Ireland postgraduate and postdoctoral funding calls run by the Council in the arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS), and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Aaron Maloney pictured holding a medal

Aaron Maloney

Aaron Maloney, Technological University of the Shannon, was awarded the Jane Grimson Medal of Excellence for being the top-ranked postgraduate researcher in the STEM category. Mr Maloney’s work focuses on developing 3D printing technologies, specifically fused filament fabrication, for manufacturing high-performance polymers in space. Polymers are large molecules made of small, repeating molecular building blocks called monomers. Examples of polymers are all around us, such as plastic bags, nylon bearings and fiberglass. The research seeks to comprehend the impact of UV exposure on space-grade polymers, with the ultimate goal of enabling sustainable and on-demand manufacturing for prolonged space missions.


Explaining his motivations within the field, Aaron said: “My research focuses on utilizing 3D printing to develop high-performance polymer composites for replacing metals in aerospace applications. I’m driven by the opportunity to innovate in advanced industries and make a real-world impact. The interdisciplinary nature of this work and its potential to shape the future of aerospace continually inspire my research efforts.”



Tara Ciric pictured holding a medal

Tara Ćirić

Tara Ćirić, Maynooth University, was awarded the Eda Sagarra Medal of Excellence for being the top-ranked postgraduate researcher in the AHSS category. Ms Ćirić’s research works to illuminate the experiences and needs of care-experienced young people in school in Ireland through youth-led story telling. The research aims to develop a narrative-based understanding of ‘what it is like’ to be a care-experienced young person in school in Ireland, and explore the implications of these understandings for policy and practice developments.


Highlighting the value of this research, Tara said: “My approach to this research is committed to acknowledging children and young people in care as experts in their own lived experience, as well as in the institutions of care and education in which they live and study. It is grounded in the belief in young people’s capacity for decision making and the commitment to their right to be heard and involved in their care and education. By working with them as co-researchers and collaborators, whose voice and analysis holds as much weight as policymakers and other professionals, I believe wider society will gain valuable insights into possibilities for future practice and policy.”


Carlos Matellan pictured holding a medal

Dr Carlos Matellan

Dr Carlos Matellan, from the School of Medicine and the Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research at University College Dublin, was awarded the Thomas Mitchell Medal of Excellence for being the top-ranked postdoctoral researcher in the STEM category. Dr Matellan’s research addresses the rising mortality from chronic liver diseases in Europe, aiming to leverage mechano-modulatory drugs to re-programme immune cells called macrophages towards a restorative function.


When asked about his work in this area, Carlos said: “Chronic damage to our organs can lead to persistent inflammation and the formation of scar tissue, preventing repair and healing. We are now beginning to recognise the contribution of our immune system to this process, but we don’t yet fully understand what drives our immune cells into this harmful state. By studying the communication between our immune cells and other cells and tissues involved in these chronic diseases, we can unlock new therapies to restore them back to health.”

Picture of Dr Patrick Anthony

Dr Patrick Anthony

Dr Patrick Anthony, from the School of History at University College Dublin, was awarded the Maurice J. Bric Medal of Excellence for being the top-ranked postdoctoral researcher in the AHSS category. Dr Anthony’s work focusses on the relationship between climate science and colonial violence, offering a comprehensive study of knowledge production through conquest and land expropriation.


Discussing the importance of his research, Patrick said: “I study the history of colonialism and climate change because they aren’t just history — these are on-going processes. I am inspired by courageous young activists who say there can be no climate justice if there is no end to colonization and occupation. And by explaining their interrelation through the medium of history, I want to play a small part in making a more empathetic world.”


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