Top-ranked IRC postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers awarded the 2021 ‘Medals of Excellence’

Posted: 3 December, 2021

Every year, in addition to the Researcher of the Year awards, the Council presents ‘Medals of Excellence’ to four early-career researchers.

Each of the ‘Medals of Excellence’ have been named after previous Chairs of the Irish Research Council and recognise excellence in the 2021 postgraduate and postdoctoral funding calls run by the Council in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and the arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS).

Here are this year’s 2021 medal-winners (from left to right):

Connor McCabe, Trinity College Dublin, was awarded the ‘Eda Sagarra Medal of Excellence’ for being the top-ranked postgraduate researcher in the AHSS category. Mr McCabe’s research focuses on the relationships between intonation, speech rhythm, and word stress.

Commenting on what attracted him to his areas of specialism, Connor said:What attracted me to phonetics during my early studies in general linguistics was its data-driven character. At the end of the day, there’s always something hard to fall back on and report, even if it doesn’t necessarily match your hypotheses or theories: physical data in the form of, e.g., the acoustic speech signal or articulatory measurements. I’m motivated by the requirement to evaluate theoretical claims experimentally, instrumentally, and systematically about language. For Irish in particular – in all its forms – there’s still so much work to be done in terms of verifying descriptions, studying changes in progress, and testing the limits of previous work, which leaves a range of exciting opportunities before the researcher.”

Michelle O’Driscoll, University College Cork, was awarded the ‘Jane Grimson Medal of Excellence’ for being the top-ranked postgraduate researcher in the STEM category. The objective of Ms. O’Driscoll’s research is to tackle antimicrobial resistance by interfering with bacterial communication.

When asked about what motivates her to work in this area, Michelle said: “Although people are understandably concerned about Covid-19, there is another major threat on the horizon. Bacteria which are resistant to antibiotics currently result in 33,000 deaths per annum in Europe alone. By 2050, 10 million people are expected to die each year as a result of antimicrobial resistance related infections. Antimicrobial resistance is estimated to cost Europeans an estimated €1.5 billion annually in healthcare expenses and productivity losses. Our healthcare systems are highly dependent on antibiotics, so these figures are worrying. They emphasise to me how new strategies are urgently required to deal with this growing crisis. I am taking on the challenge of discovering new solutions to antimicrobial resistance for sick patients, enabling them to live healthy and fulfilling lives.”

Dr. Sara Delmedico, University College Dublin, was awarded the ‘Maurice J Bric Medal of Excellence’ for being the top-ranked postdoctoral researcher in the AHSS category. Dr. Delmedico’s research examines a history of violence against women in Italy between 1861 and 1930, through a social, cultural, and legal context.

Commenting on her work, Dr. Delmedico said: “The still shocking frequency of violent crimes against women, not only in Italy but worldwide, and the persistence of comparable rhetorical descriptions in today’s press makes this project very timely, giving it a strong ethical value. This investigation into the past is also an investigation into the present through the promotion of a better understanding of centuries-old prejudices on women. Indeed, this study is also crucial beyond academia: paying attention to the use of words and to explicit and implicit stereotypes in everyday life will help with implementing best practices and avoiding biases, and will therefore improve working environments and society.”

Dr. Marco Timpanella, University College Dublin was awarded the ‘Thomas Mitchell Medal of Excellence’ for being the top-ranked postdoctoral researcher in the STEM category. Dr. Timpanella’s research investigates the foundation of the theory of algebraic curves.

Commenting on what drives him to work in this area, Dr. Timpanella said: “My passion for numbers and logical reasoning has shown itself ever since I was little. A simple thing like the computation of a square root by hand, looked like magic. Growing up, I learned that there is no space for speculation in mathematics, that everything has a reason and can be explained in a precise, clear, and unambiguous way. During my studies I have always had a predilection for pure mathematics and its beauty, rather than for the (many) real-life applications of mathematics. As Bertrand Russell wrote: “Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty”.”

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