Trinity student wins 2021 Mary Mulvihill judges’ highly commended award
Posted on: 27 May 2021
Trinity student Matthew Thomas, who is graduating this summer from the B.A. in Molecular Medicine programme, received the Mary Mulvihill judges’ €500 highly commended award for an essay entitled ‘Compromised: Lessons learned from the AIDS epidemic’. The theme of the 2021 Mary Mulvihill Award was ‘Virus’. The award is a science media competition for third-level students that commemorates the legacy of science journalist and author Mary Mulvihill (1959–2015).
Matthew’s essay traced the story of that earlier epidemic from the first cases of unusual infections and cancers in gay men to the desperate search to identify the causative agent and develop effective drug therapies against it. Thomas also describes the moving cultural and community responses to the tragic loss of so many young lives, notably the vast AIDS Memorial Quilt, in which the bereaved memorialized their loved ones by creating individual panels in their honour. He also draws parallels between AIDS and Covid-19 in terms of the denialism and prejudice that have emerged, fuelled by populist politicians and media. “Conspiracy theories proliferate in times of fear and uncertainty. With the rise of social media, they can spread faster, and to more people, than they could before,” he writes.
DCU student Eoin Murphy is the 2021 winner of the €2000 Mary Mulvihill Award for his audio documentary, ‘Black Market Oxygen – The Peru Project’, which examined the contrasting experiences of Ireland and Peru during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Now in its fifth year, the competition invited entries this year on the theme of ‘Virus’. Entrants were encouraged to consider the concept in its broadest sense – not only in terms of infectious agents, such as SARS-CoV-2, which has come to dominate our lives – but also in terms of computer viruses and other metaphorical uses, notably the media phenomenon of ‘going viral’.
“The judges were greatly impressed with the volume and variety of this year’s entries,” said Anne Mulvihill, a sister of Mary’s and a member of the judging panel from the inception of the competition. “Eoin Murphy’s excellent audio piece was a unanimous winner and, given that Mary did a lot of audio work, it’s additionally fitting that the piece is in this medium. There was also consensus amongst the judges on giving the highly commended award to Matthew Thomas’s strong essay. We congratulate both winners and send our thanks and appreciation to all the entrants who took part in this year’s competition.”