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20 March 2015

2015 €15 Coin Honours Nobel Laureate Ernest Walton

A €15 limited edition silver proof commemorative coin to honour Nobel Laureate Ernest Walton, former graduate and professor at Trinity College Dublin, and his ground-breaking achievements in the field of physics has been launched by the Central Bank of Ireland.

It is the second in the Central Bank of Ireland’s Science and Invention series. Ernest Walton, with John Cockcroft, shared the 1951 Nobel Prize in Physics for their pioneering work on the transmutation of a nucleus by artificially accelerated atomic particles. The coin, designed by Rory Breslin, gives an artist’s impression and explanation to the equation E=mc2.

Ernest Walton graduated with joint honours in mathematics and physics in 1926 and obtained his Masters degree at Trinity in 1927 after which he went to Cambridge to do his PhD. It was in Cambridge that the momentous collaboration between Walton and his fellow physicist, John Cockcroft, began which exploited linear acceleration methods to induce nuclear disintegration by artificial means, as observed by Ernest Walton, on April 14th, 1932. It was the first time that Einstein's E=mc2 was verified directly in a nuclear reaction. His and Cockcroft's success, using artificially accelerated particles for experimenting on the atom, meant the research into the nature and structure of the atom was no longer restricted by having to rely on natural sources of radiation. In 1934 Walton returned to Trinity College and was the Erasmus Smith's Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy from 1946 until his retirement in 1974.

2015 €15 Coin Honours Nobel Laureate Ernest Walton

The coin launch took place in Trinity in the Fitzgerald Building named in honour of another great Trinity physicist, George Francis Fitzgerald, who in 1889 made an important contribution to what became the theory of relativity. Walton worked and researched in this building when he returned from Cambridge.

Just outside the Fitzgerald building is the sculpture ‘Apples and Atoms’ by Eilís O’Connell, RHA, commemorating the experiment for which Walton won the Nobel Prize. The sculpture was commissioned in 2012 to mark the 80th anniversary of the experiment and to commemorate Walton as a significant figure in the history of the College and in the development of science globally. It reinforces Trinity's special connection with him and is an opportunity to honour him as a scientist as well as a champion of science education, an academic and an Irishman. The sculpture, like the coin, is a way of honouring Walton, and making him a household name.

Ernest Walton generously presented his papers to the college library in 1993 and his family subsequently donated his Nobel medal. This has helped make Trinity a centre for Walton research - Professor Emeritus in Physics, Vincent McBrierty, has written and lectured extensively on Walton’s life and work.

11 March 2015

Prof Michael Coey wins prestigious Gutenberg prize, bringing to €300k total funding for his novel “Lab on a chip” technology

At a ceremony at the University of Strasbourg in late January 2015, Prof Michael Coey, Investigator in AMBER and Trinity’s School of Physics, was named one of three winners of the 2015 Gutenberg prizes. He will use €50k of the total €60k award to help support a project on ‘Microfluidics without walls’ in collaboration with Bernard Doudin of IPCMS, Strasbourg and Thomas Heremans of ISIS, Strasbourg.

Together with his French colleagues, Michael Coey has secured a further €250k from the University of Strasbourg Institute of Advanced Study for the project which aims to revolutionize microfluidics, an emerging technology that handles minute quantities of liquid reagents in channels about 100 microns wide for applications like in vitro diagnostics and new drug discovery. By using magnetic liquid confinement instead of solid walls to define the fluid channels he expects to overcome the main drawbacks of the technology – clogging, sluggish mixing and inflexible operation, thereby giving birth to a novel transformation of the ‘Lab on a Chip’.

The president of the Cercle Gutenberg, Professor Pierre Braunstein, announced the winners at the University of Strasbourg. The Cercle Gutenberg, consisting of Nobel Laureates and Members of the French and other Academies of Science based in Alsace, has selected three Laureates every year since 2007. The two other awardees were Veronique Dimier of Université Libre de Bruxelles whose project is on the ‘Influence of former British and French colonial administrators on the EU’s development policy in Africa’ and Giovanna Guidobon of the University of Indiana, whose project is on ‘Mathematical modeling of the circulation of blood in the brain’.

12 Feb 2015

AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science goes to Irish Scientist - Shane Bergin

American Association for the Advancement of Science awards Dr Shane Bergin the first non-American Award recipient.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has honoured Dr Shane Bergin, Lecturer at the School of Physics and CRANN, Trinity College, with the AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science.  The award recognises Dr. Bergin’s contribution to communicating science in an engaging and attractive way with the public and promoting meaningful dialogue between science and society.

The award will be presented today to Dr. Bergin, the first non-American Award recipient during the AAAS 2015 Annual Meeting in San Jose, California. 

Jeanne Braha, Public Engagement Manager, American Association for the Advancement of Science, said: “The AAAS Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science was established in 2010 to recognise early-career scientists and engineers who demonstrate excellence in their contribution to public engagement with science activities.  Bergin’s work on the “DARTofPhysics”, the Pitch Drop, radio programming, and public programming serves as an example and inspiration to other early career scientists to share with – and learn from  - members of the public.”

‘Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science’ was awarded to Dr Shane Bergin, who led an eye-catching poster campaign about physics called "DARTofPhysics" in the Dublin metro. Shane’s physics posters zapped commuters’ curiosities with statements like ‘The Spire is shorter when the weather is cool’ or ‘Everyone on this train is attracted to you….Gravitationally’.  Having zinged commuters’ interests, they were encouraged to continue their physics journey on the campaign website – For his campaign, Bergin enlisted the support of some 200 undergraduate physics students, 50 Ph.D. candidates, and 50 staff members from the physics and education departments of Trinity College Dublin.

On receipt of the award Dr. Bergin said: “I’m delighted. I invented DARTofPhysics to spark physics conversations across Dublin.  Irish people love to chat and I wanted to encourage them to chat, argue, debate and laugh about physics.”

Prof. James Lunney who nominated Dr. Bergin for the award said: “DARTofPhysics is a fantastic vehicle to bring the beauty of physics to an entire city.  Shane is connecting an entire university department with the public, confronting them with beautiful physics, appealing to the natural curiosity to resolve the leading physics ads, and sparking a city-wide conversation about physics.”

Though still at an early stage of his career, Bergin has developed many other educational and communication-focused activities, including the Trinity College Pitch Drop. In 2013, he used a video camera to capture a rare physical event: a drop of pitch (tar) falling from an antique funnel. The resulting video, which dramatically illustrates the effects of viscosity, has been viewed more than 2 million times.

DARTofPhysics has won a number of awards over the last year and in addition, recently received funding from Science Foundation Ireland to run a second campaign in Dublin this year.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world’s largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journal, Science ( as well as Science Translational Medicine (, Science Signaling (, and Science Advances (, a new digital, open access journal. AAAS was founded in 1848, and includes more than 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million. The nonprofit AAAS ( is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!,, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS.

For more information on AAAS awards, see

05 Feb 2015

Prof. Valeria Nicolosi has been awarded €150,000 in funding through the ERC’s Proof of Concept grant

Prof. Nicolosi has won top-up funding for her project entitled 'Ink-Jet printed supercapacitors based on 2D nanomaterials'. This is the third grant that Prof. Nicolosi has received from the ERC to date. Prof. Nicolosi’s nanotechnology project will hone in on enabling new 2D-based nanomaterials to one day potentially pioneer ultra-thin, flexible supercapacitors manufacturing for the aerospace and automotive industry. Prof. Nicolosi is one of two successful Principal Investigators in the AMBER project to receive in Proof of Concept grant. Prof Fergal O’Brien (Deputy Director of AMBER and Deputy Director of Research and Head of Tissue Engineering Research Group in the Royal College of Surgeons) also received funding through the Proof of Concept grant.

Prof. Valeria Nicolosi, Professor at the School of Physics and the School of Chemistry, Trinity College Dublin and Principal Investigator at AMBER, said “At the moment there is huge societal need to move towards sustainable and renewable energy resources. As a result, we are seeing an increase in renewable energy production from sun and wind, as well as the development of electric vehicles or hybrid electric vehicles. Energy storage systems like batteries and super capacitors are starting to play a larger part in our lives. Unfortunately, accidents can occur due to the high corrosion, toxicity and flammability of the electrolytes used, coupled with the high instability of lithium under normal conditions. We expect the development of high performing, ultra-thin, ultra-light, non-hazardous and chemically stable energy storage devices will have huge societal and economic impact in all these sectors.”

“The aim of this project is to determine the economic and technical feasibility of using readily scalable technologies for the development of inexpensive and high performance ultra-thin, flexible films of two dimensional nanosheets for supercapacitors manufacturing for the aerospace and automotive industry. Through this funding, our hope is to be able to license this technology or to open a spin-out very soon. We are exploring both possibilities at present, as a direct result of the ERC funding.”

Prof. Stefano Sanvito, Acting Director of AMBER, commented on the announcement, saying “Since its launch, AMBER has grown significantly, this European funding will allow us to bring these projects to the next level, from fundamental to more applied horizons. I’d like to congratulate Professor Nicolosi and Professor O’Brien on successfully securing ERC awards. The awards demonstrates both the excellence and also the quality of the research team that has been built in AMBER.”

16 JAN 2015

TCD Physicists Lead European Space Weather Forecasting Project

Astrophysicists from Trinity College Dublin are among a group of leading scientists awarded €2.5 million by the European Commission to study the origins of solar storms and build a highly accurate solar storm forecasting service for Europe. This service, called FLARECAST, launches today.

The Flare Likelihood and Region Eruption Forecasting (FLARECAST) consortium also comprises teams based at the Academy of Athens in Greece, the Universita degli Studi di Genova and Consiglio Nazionale delle Recerche in Italy, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and the Universite Paris-Sud in France, the Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz in Switzerland, and the Met Office in the UK. Solar storms are huge explosions of hot gas from the Sun that, when they impact the Earth, can damage satellite electronics, interrupt radio communications and navigation systems, and even cause instability in electrical power distribution systems.

FLARECAST project scientist, Dr Shaun Bloomfield, who is based at Trinity, said: “The project brings together European expertise in fundamental solar physics, artificial intelligence and neural networks, and state-of-the-art data-mining techniques to characterize the sources of solar storms – sunspots – and to upgrade flare forecasting to unprecedented levels of precision.”

Associate Professor in Physics in Trinity's School of Physics, and fellow FLARECAST scientist, Dr Peter Gallagher, added: “The project, which will also use state-of-the-art image-processing techniques, will provide a highly accurate, near real-time flare-forecasting service, which is the first of its kind in the world.”

The FLARECAST service will give, for end-users, the ability to choose from a range of flare-forecasting techniques and to fuse single techniques or combinations of techniques with selected artificial intelligence algorithms to improve the skill scores of solar flare prediction. An integral part of the project is exploratory research that will push the envelope of current knowledge and even the development of new and promising forecasting techniques. As such, FLARECAST will form the basis of the first quantitative, physically motivated and autonomous active region and flare forecasting system, accessible to European and international space weather researchers.

Last updated 25 March 2015 (Email).