2021: Trinity research highlights

Posted on: 23 December 2021

Over the past 12 months our researchers have made some incredible contributions to their fields, and to society.

In many cases their discoveries, innovations and added knowledge will pave the way to a more sustainable, safer, future.

In this piece, we highlight 10 pieces of work that made waves and sparked discussion in 2021.


  1. Researchers from Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences, working with colleagues at Durham University and the Open University, shed light on the enigmatic “spiders from Mars”. Their work provided the first physical evidence that these unique features on the planet’s surface can be formed by the sublimation of CO2. Read the whole story here.
An image from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, acquired May 13, 2018 during winter at the South Pole of Mars, shows a carbon dioxide ice cap covering the region and as the sun returns in the spring, “spiders” begin to emerge from the landscape.
  1. Marvel Studios’ Eternals, released last month, is the first major film to feature some characters speaking in Babylonian, a language of ancient Iraq that died out over 2,000 years ago. Translations into the long-dead language were provided by a researcher from Trinity’s School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies. Read the whole story here.

  1. Scientists from Trinity’s School of Chemistry and AMBER, the SFI Research Centre for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering at Trinity, reported that they are homing in on a recipe that would enable the future production of entirely renewable, clean energy from which water would be the only waste product. Read the whole story here.

  1. In an inaugural lecture from a researcher from the School of English, we heard how Shakespeare’s position as a central figure in global culture is due in part to the efforts of some unknown, small-scale publishers, whose work helped catapult the Bard to global popularity. Read the whole story here.

  1. Scientists from Trinity’s School of Medicine, and Genetics and Microbiology, used ancient DNA extracted from human bones to rewrite early Japanese history. Their work showed that modern day populations in Japan have a tripartite genetic origin – a finding that refines previously accepted views of a dual genomic ancestry. Read the whole story here.
A human Jomon skull from which human DNA was extracted. Credit: Lead researcher, Shigeki Nakagome, Assistant Professor in Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin.
  1. The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan 2021-2025, which involves many of our researchers in the School of Natural Sciences, [see pollinators.ie] moved into its second phase. The new plan provides a five-year roadmap to help bees, other pollinating insects, and our wider biodiversity – and promises to engage more stakeholders and address more specific actions. Read the whole story here.

  1. Scientists from Trinity’s Academic Unity of Neurology made a major discovery in understanding motor neuron disease (MND). The research team found that MND has 4 distinct patterns of changes in electrical signals that can be identified using EEG, which will help identify patients for clinical trials and assist in finding new treatments for this devastating disease. Read the whole story here.

  1. As global superstar Adele released her new album, 30, millions of people wondered why it is that sad songs are so appealing to us. Step forward one of our researchers from the School of Medicine, and the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, who explained the underling biology and psychology. Read the whole story here.

  1. Researchers from Trinity’s School of Genetics and Microbiology discovered how a specific genetic mutation causes a devastating, incurable childhood cancer, known as diffuse midline glioma, and—in lab studies working with model cell types—successfully reversed its effects to slow cancer cell growth with a targeted drug. Read the whole story here.

  1. Researchers from the Trinity Centre for Environmental Humanities combined historical evidence with polar ice-core records of volcanic eruptions and discovered that eruptions may have triggered abrupt climate changes and contributed to the repeated collapse of Chinese dynasties over the past 2,000 years. Read the whole story here.
The study also illustrates how volcanic eruptions profoundly impact vulnerable or unstable regions and highlights the need to prepare for future eruptions. Image: Ming lamellar coat cavalry, Yprpyqp, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons