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You are here Awards > Trinity Research Doctorate PI-Based Awards > Joint Student - PI Award Winners 2023-24

Winners of the Trinity Research Doctorate Awards supporting joint student and PI research projects have been announced!

The Trinity Research Doctorate Awards support staff appointed in or since 2020-21 to recruit doctoral students in the academic year 2023-24.

Dr Daniel Johnston

Assistant Professor of Anatomy, School of Medicine

Jay Mayatra

Doctoral Student, School of Medicine

Project Title: Hidradenitis Suppurative Hair Follicles

This project seeks to explore the cause of the devasting skin condition hidradenitis suppurativa (HS). People with HS suffer recurring inflamed lesions in areas where skin touches skin, such as under the arms or the groin, causing great unseen pain and wounds with embarrassing odorous discharge which can lead to social reclusion and mental health difficulties. HS disproportionally affects people with lower socioeconomic status, and often exacerbates this problem by causing missed workdays through physical and psychological illness. This disease has a great unmet clinical and social need and is an ideal starting point for our new laboratory, which seeks to perform excellent science that benefits society locally and globally in an inclusive and environmentally sustainable way.

Biologically, HS is thought to originate in hair follicles – critical skin appendages with many roles in regulating bodily function. Hair follicles in HS appear to become blocked, and then rupture triggering the immune system to cause sustained inflammation and scarring. However, the chain of events is poorly understood despite consensus that hair follicles are the site of disease origin.

In this work, we seek to understand how hair follicles in people with HS become so badly disrupted, and whether this information can be used to design a tissue culture model of HS hair follicle breakdown to better understand the disease, and trial potential disease treatments as a first step towards clinical use.

To do this, we will take advantage of several collaborations established in recent years to gain access to cutting edge omics data and rare tissue samples to build a picture of hair follicle vulnerability and model it in a laboratory setting. Firstly, using hair follicle biopsies, the student will be trained in their culture in the lab and learn to employ an existing model of hair follicle disruption used to study alopecia areata. The student will then undertake a systematic review of the HS literature and a computational biology analysis integrating data from collaborators to compare follicles from HS to other skin diseases. In the third aim of the project, we bring together data from our tissue culture model and ‘omics analysis, with data from the HS literature, with the aim of identifying factors that can cause hair follicle collapse, and determining if hair follicles from HS patients are more vulnerable to stresses. We will seek to reverse any disruption using pharmacological treatment which may inform future HS treatment strategies.


Dr Meg Ryan

Assistant Professor, Trinity Centre for Global Health

Nicole Maiorano

Research Assistant, Trinity Centre for Global Health

Project Title: Trauma-aware Care

Background: Psychological trauma involves a range of experiences (e.g. abuse, sexual violence) that impact an individual’s health and wellbeing. While most people experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, trauma exposure is more common among specific groups of people. For example, people who go through both the prison and health systems frequently have experiences of trauma.  These systems can also be re-traumatising, leading to poorer experiences for both those accessing and those working within these services. Trauma-aware care (TAC) is an increasingly popular framework that heightens organisations’ awareness of the causes and effects of trauma; reducing the potential for re-traumatisation. Existing research and guidelines for implementing TAC, however, commonly originate from the Global North, and little is known of their transferability to other settings.

Aims/Rationale: The project aims to advance our understanding of implementing TAC in diverse settings with high rates of trauma. To achieve this aim, we will collaborate with three international organisations: the Correctional Ministry of Malawi; Rafic Hariri University Hospital, Beirut, Lebanon; and the Rotunda Maternity Hospital in Dublin. We will evaluate current policies and practices in each setting to (i) assess their alignment with TAC principles, and (ii) uncover current barriers and facilitators to implementing TAC services. These results will then be used to (iii) co-create a Cultural Adaption Toolkit detailing key considerations for implementing TAC across cultural contexts.

Methodology: The current study will utilise Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) approaches. CBPR is an approach that carries out research ‘with’ or ‘by’ the members of the community, with the assumption that they hold the knowledge most relevant to the issue and context. In this approach, feedback from organisational stakeholders and people with lived experiences of trauma (PWLE) will be sought throughout the project.

A systematic scoping review will be conducted to synthesise the current evidence for whom, and how, cross-cultural adaptations have taken place for TAC. Second, an analysis of each organisations’ policies alignment to trauma-aware principles will be conducted. Phase three will solicit service-providers’ and PWLEs’ experiences to evaluate current practices. Finally, data will be synthesised to co-create the Cultural Adaption Toolkit.

Impact: Participatory methods ensure that the diverse voices often absent in trauma research are incorporated into the Cultural Adaption Toolkit. The production of the toolkit detailing clear, actionable steps for cultural-adaptation of TAC will enable future organisations to appropriately evaluate and consider how to implement TAC within their service.


Dr Giorgos Papantoniou

Assistant Professor, Department of Classics

Elena Loizou

Doctoral Student, Department of Classics

Project Title: Unlocking Sacred Landscapes: Ritual Architecture and Practice in Ancient Cyprus

Contemporary historians and archaeologists have usually treated ritual and religion as a sub-system of society, describing its material manifestations (such as sanctuary architecture or votive assemblages), while often also focusing on one particular chronological period. Thus, the active role of ritual and religion in the continuous constructions and transformations of social identities in the long term, as well as its relationship with internal and external influences and power, has been undervalued. Changes in ritual and religion did not take place overnight. In order to understand ritual and religion as a transcultural phenomenon through time, and particularly through the transitional stages from one period to another, it is essential to grasp both continuities and discontinuities or change. This is the context which formed the basis for the establishment of the international ‘Unlocking Sacred Landscapes’ (UnSaLa) which the PI co-ordinates.

In the context of this broader, long-term UnSaLa project, this doctoral thesis examines architectural remains from sanctuaries in the island of Cyprus (such as altars, cultic rooms, sacrificial areas, etc) considering them in tandem with portable material finds ranging from ca. 1700 BC to ca. 330 AD. Thus, the project employs a diachronic approach to the study of the evolution of both ritual architecture and its associated material assemblages, by focusing primarily on an intra-insular, macro-historic perspective, and by adopting a Cypro-centric approach (which shifts equal perspective to endogenous insular transformations rather than primarily to external impositions). The expansion of this approach both chronologically and methodologically is of vital importance. Beyond the traditional methods used in archaeology, the project utilises advanced tools derived from the fields of computer and social sciences, such as Geographic Information Systems, Social Network Analysis, and New Materialism theory to achieve a holistic approach to the study of ancient Cypriot religious practice.


Dr Declan O Loughlin

Assistant Professor, Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering

Xiaoru Liu

Doctoral Student, Department of Electronic Engineering

Project Title: Microwave Hydration Monitoring

For most people, feeling thirsty is the only sign of dehydration and the only prompt that a person may be dehydrated. However, for many people including athletes, patients in hospital or older people, there may be issues with hydration without any feelings of thirst or other signs. In some cases, this can result in illness, lengthen hospital stays, increase hospital costs, or reduce quality of life. Despite these ill effects, there are few accurate and effective methods to measure hydration status in practice.

The proposed project examines a promising method to measure hydration status using a wearable medical device based on microwaves. Worn on the arm, this device transmits safe and low power microwave through the arm and records the received signals. Initial results suggest that these devices can measure hydration from the electrical properties of the arm, however, there are several unanswered questions regarding the natural variation in human arms regarding both the anatomy and electrical properties. This project will help determine the minimum standards and performance of microwave hydration monitors and how they may be useful for determining hydration.


Dr Christiane Ahlborn

Assistant Professor, Department of Law

Naphtali Ukamwa

Doctoral Candidate in Public International Law

Project Title: Non-Appearance Before International Courts and Tribunals

International courts and tribunals (IC/Ts), such as the International Court of Justice or the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, have multiplied over the past decades. They signify the success of the rule-based international order that the founders of the United Nations (UN) aimed to establish after World War II. IC/Ts are central to promoting the international rule of law as a target of the UN Sustainable Development Agenda. IC/Ts are also important avenues for developing States to participate in institutions of global governance, thus creating an equal playing field with more powerful (developed) States. This has been illustrated by two recent requests for advisory opinions on the legal obligations relating to climate change, which were brought before IC/Ts at the initiative of Small Developing Island States. However, the increasing number of and resort to IC/Ts have been accompanied by a worrisome trend: State non-appearance, i.e. the respondent State refusing to appear or failing to defend its case before these courts/tribunals.

The aim of this project is to explore the implications of State non-appearance on the effectiveness of IC/Ts as key actors in creating a sustainable and just world order. Based on an empirical study of the relevant case law since the World War I period, the project examines the causes and consequences of non-appearance of States before IC/Ts at the global and regional levels. Comparing the practice of different IC/Ts, it cuts across various international law branches, such as investment law, human rights, boundary/maritime delimitation, environmental law, and non-proliferation. The project uses doctrinal legal methods and critical approaches to international law, and it engages in inter- and multidisciplinary research with political sciences, history, and law and economics.

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