Five Trinity Researchers Win Starting Investigator or Development Awards

Posted on: 28 July 2014

Five young researchers from Trinity College Dublin have been awarded Starting Investigator Research Grants or Career Development Awards from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) to help support their transition to becoming fully independent researchers.

The funding for the Trinity researchers, which amounts to around €2.85 million in total, is also meant to ensure that Ireland’s most talented young researchers can be encouraged to remain in Ireland, while also helping to attract excellent young researchers from other countries to base themselves here.

SFI provided a total of €23 million in funding to help support 40 of Ireland’s most promising young individuals to become fully independent researchers. Trinity and the National University of Ireland Galway were the only Irish institutions to secure five different awards.

The Trinity award winners were: Ussher Assistant Professor in Cancer Biology, Dr David Finlay, Research Fellow in Biochemistry, Dr Annie Curtis, and Research Fellow in Immunology, Dr Frederick Sheedy, (all three from the School of Biochemistry and Immunology), Assistant Professor in Chemistry, Dr Paula Colavita (School of Chemistry), and Ussher Assistant Professor in Creative Technologies, Dr Rachel McDonnell (School of Computer Science and Statistics).

Dr Finlay will investigate the role of Natural Killer (NK) cell metabolism in resisting tumour development, Dr Curtis will research how biological molecular clocks control inflammation, Dr Sheedy will attempt to engineer a better vaccine for TB, Dr Colavita will design novel carbon materials to efficiently transfer charge, and Dr McDonnell will try to optimise real-time facial animation in computer games. 

Dr Finlay said: “I am delighted to have won this award from Science Foundation Ireland, which will allow me to further establish my research laboratory within the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute. My research will study the interactions between tumours and Natural Killer (NK) cells, a key lymphocyte subset with cancer cell-killing capabilities, and will hopefully lead to improved NK cell-based therapeutic strategies.”

Minister for Research and Innovation, Mr Seán Sherlock TD said: “Funding for researchers at the outset of their careers is an important element of the Government’s strategy for job creation in research and innovation under our Action Plan for Jobs. SFI’s funding schemes for early career researchers help ensure that excellent research with the potential for real economic and societal impact is properly supported in Ireland. Investment like this is important for Ireland’s developing international reputation for excellent research with impact. The 40 research projects being awarded by SFI today demonstrate the enormous talent and potential that exists among Ireland’s young researchers.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of SFI and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, said: “Both of the programmes under which funding is being announced will help promising young researchers to create and develop impactful careers here in Ireland and in turn enable the pursuit of scientific research that has potential economic and societal impact. These programmes are also an important factor in ensuring that Ireland can succeed in persuading top young scientific talent from abroad to base their research efforts here in Ireland.”

SFI’s Starting Investigator Research Grant (SIRG) provides support for excellent postdoctoral researchers who wish to take steps towards a fully independent research career, while the Career Development Award (CDA) aims to support early and mid-career researchers who already hold a salaried, independent research post and who are looking to expand their research activities.

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