Reception for new Trinity MRIAs

Saloon, Provost's House

03 October 2018

Good evening everyone,

And welcome to the Provost’s House.

On 25th May this year, twenty-eight new members were admitted to the Royal Irish Academy, including four Trinity professors:

  • Alan Kramer,
  • Graeme Watson,
  • Padraig Carmody, and
  • Balz Kamber.

This year is the 233th anniversary of the Royal Irish Academy — Ireland’s leading body of experts in the sciences and humanities. Since the foundation of the Academy in 1785, membership of the RIA has been highest academic honour in Ireland. The right to place ‘MRIA’ after your name is not given out lightly. Membership is by election only and the process is rigorous and peer-reviewed. Only those involved in internationally recognised excellence are accorded this honour.

Members assist the Academy in its work by serving on its various committees and working groups, by representing the Academy nationally and internationally, and by giving of their expertise to help promote awareness of how the sciences and the humanities enrich our lives and benefit society.

The Academy has just 591 members, of whom 87 are honorary or overseas members.

These honorary members include the Nobel laureate, Professor William C Campbell, and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Louise Richardson, both Trinity graduates. And this year another Trinity graduate was elected an honorary member, Eavan Boland. She is one of Ireland’s most remarkable and best-known poets, and is also a renowned critic. She is currently a professor at Stanford University. We are sorry she could not join us this evening. We are extremely proud of her achievements. 

We are delighted to welcome the President of the RIA here this evening, Peter Kennedy is professor of Microelectronic Engineering in UCD, and was elected President of the RIA last year. Thank you for being here to share with us in honouring the new Trinity MRIAs.

Alan, Graeme, Pádraig and Balz join many other Trinity MRIAs here with us here this evening. A university in Ireland may be measured by the number of its MRIAs, and Trinity is proud to have so many. May I mention in particular Anna Davies, Professor of Geography, Environment and Society who was made MRIA last year, and whom I would also like to recognise in this evening’s event since we did not hold a reception for her last year.

Membership of the Academy is not an end-of-career honorific. Neither is it an encouragement for brilliant promise. It’s awarded to people who have already proven themselves and achieved renown, but are expected to go on and achieve more. Members of the RIA do not rest on their laurels, as can be seen from a glance round the room this evening. Our newest Academy Members are in the great tradition:

Alan Kramer is Professor of European History. He conducts research on the First World War and the cultural history of violence. He is currently working on an international project on ‘fascist warfare’ and a monograph on the global history of concentration camps. He is a recipient of the internationally prestigious Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History and a fellow – and research prize-winner — of the Humboldt Foundation.

Graeme Watson is Professor of Theoretical Chemistry. A member of CRANN, the Trinity College Dublin-based Institute for Materials Science, he develops and applies computational models to material science problems, including energy generation and storage (such as photovoltaics and fuel cells) and environmental catalysis.

Pádraig Carmody is Professor in Geography and Head of Geography. He has published extensively on African development and has received, or been the lead on, successful grants from various agencies, such as the MacArthur Foundation. He is former editor-in-chief of Geoforum and received the 2018 Kwadwo Konadu-Agyemang Distinguished Scholar Award in African Geography, Africa Specialty Group, from the Association of American Geographers.

Balz Kamber is Professor of Geology & Mineralogy. His research interests range from reconstruction of the geology of the very early Earth to present-day geological processes; from fundamental questions to applied problems of societal relevance; and from the development of new and enhanced analytical methods to modelling. Unfortunately Professor Kamber could not join us this evening.

Anna Davies is Professor of Geography, Environment & Society. Her research examines socio-political and spatial aspects of environmental policy making, including focus on issues related to environmental governance. She is on the steering committee for the Trinity Centre for Future Cities and advises the Irish Government as a member of the National Climate Change Council and the Citizen's Assembly on Climate Change.

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These new members of the Academy have achieved exceptionally in research and education. Their success is of course individual to each of them but it’s also something that enhances the university as a whole and that we all take pride in. Our new MRIAs hail from four departments, three schools and two faculties; they well demonstrate the strength of Trinity’s multidisciplinarity.

The RIA is an exceptional national academy which combines vital research projects with empowering public engagement. It’s difficult, for instance, to conceive of the current Decade of Commemorations without the RIA’s schedule of high-profile events – this included the publication of Tomás Irish’s book on Trinity in War and Revolution.

To be a member of the RIA is to embody the dual tradition of scholarship and public engagement. In Trinity we recognise the importance of participating in and contributing to the work of the Academy and to raising of the profile of research and scholarship in the country.

Our new MRIAs join a community of exceptional scholars in Ireland and overseas. Their research, scholarship and advocacy enhances this community, to the benefit of all. May I ask you to join me in congratulating them and wishing them well for future the future.

Thank you.

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