The South East Technological University (SETU) Research Excellence Awards took place Friday 14 October 2022 with a public ceremony at the Cork Road campus, Waterford.

The annual awards recognise the outstanding contributions of SETU academic and research staff to high quality, innovative research that enhances the reputation of the Institution both locally and internationally.

Awardees were nominated by their colleagues and peers across a number of categories: Early Career Researcher, Established Researcher, Research Impact, and Research Supervisor. This year saw 27 nominees across a variety of disciplines from engineering and chemistry to business management and health sciences.

During the ceremony, the five winners were each presented with a plaque commemorating the occasion by SETU President Prof Veronica Campbell. SETU was also honoured to have Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, Prof Philip Nolan, in attendance to congratulate the awardees.

Acknowledging the significance of the awards to SETU and its researchers, Prof Veronica Campbell said, “I warmly congratulate all recipients of this year’s Research Excellence Awards. It is important that SETU recognises the achievements of our vibrant research community and I look forward to this event being a regular part of our calendar. We are fortunate to have such enthusiastic research staff who are engaged in innovative and impactful research, and I wish them the very best as they continue to push the boundaries of their disciplines.”

Dr Rebecca Power, Marie Sklodowska Curie Action Research Fellow, and Postdoctoral Researcher at SETU Waterford, was presented with the Early Career Researcher award. Dr Power is primarily interested in the role of dietary patterns and specific nutrients in maintaining brain health, improving cognitive performance, and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Established Researcher award was presented to Dr Lee Coffey. Dr Coffey is a Lecturer and Researcher in Molecular Biology with Biopharmaceutical Science at the Department of Science, SETU Waterford and is a Principal Investigator at the PMBRC where he is leading the Molecular Biotechnology and Biopharmaceutical Research Group.

Due to the variety of nominations received for the Research Impact Award, the decision was made to split it into two categories 1) Industry and Commercialisation and 2) Policy and Practice.

The winner of the Research Impact award for Industry and Commercialisation was Dr Pat Lynch, Director of RIKON, a business innovation research centre in SETU Waterford. Patrick manages a team of researchers who are recognised for making real transformational change in business and re-imaging how companies can identify tactical market opportunities to grow business volume and develop breakthrough strategies and innovative business models to transform their organisation.

Dr Noel Richardson was presented with the Research Impact Policy and Practice award. Dr Richardson is Lecturer and Director of healthCORE at SETU Carlow. He has extensive experience in the area of men’s health at a research and policy level.  His current research interests include men, masculinities, and mental health; and health promotion interventions targeted at ‘hard to reach’ groups of men in community and workplace settings. He is also a passionate advocate for men's health.

Finally, Prof Gillian Gardiner was honoured to be presented with the Research Supervisor award.  Prof Gardiner leads a successful multi-disciplinary agri-food research group within the Eco-Innovation Research Centre at SETU Waterford.  She has supervised 13 PhD students to completion and is currently supervising four and one Masters student. Prof Gardiner has obtained >€7.2 million in research funding since joining SETU and is Principal Investigator/Co-Investigator on a number of projects, many with industrial partners.

Speaking at the awards, Prof Philip Nolan, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland said, “I am delighted I can be here today to acknowledge the high calibre of researchers at SETU. The winners demonstrate SETU’s range of impactful, multi-disciplinary research activity to the region and economy, which is intrinsic to innovation and progress in our society.”

The design of the awards and evaluation process had been conducted by Dr Canny for the 2021 WIT awards, a largely identical process was followed this year.  Jo Holohan, Projects Manager, Research Support Unit administered the awards. Nomination rules, processes and strict evaluation criteria for each category were distributed to all researchers and nominations for award categories 1-3 were evaluated by external experts. The Research supervision category was evaluated by a panel comprised of staff from both Carlow and Waterford campuses: the Head of Research Dr Geraldine Canny; Senior lecturer and researcher Dr Greg Doyle; Head of Postgraduate Studies Dr Brian Jackson; and Assistant Heads of Graduate Studies Dr Sinead O’Halloran and Dr Lawrence Siry. Final decisions were reviewed and the process overseen by an external representative Dr Conor O'Carroll who commended the rigorous process SETU had put in place.

Dr Geraldine Canny, and Dr Mark White, Vice President of Research, Innovation and Graduate Studies at SETU Waterford, would like to congratulate all the nominees and winners of this year’s awards and look forward to another year of research excellence.