Big data scientist wins researcher of the year award

Science Foundation Ireland’s award scheme expands to include best early career scientist

A researcher involved in making sense of big data has been named the Science Foundation Ireland researcher of the year 2016.

Prof Barry O'Sullivan is director of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at University College Cork. He conducts research into artificial intelligence, decision analytics and related areas.

He is involved in a number of international associations related to his field of research and has made two addresses to the UN in New York on the potential for using artificial intelligence in support of sustainable development.

Prof O'Sullivan is also involved in winning investments for the centre, including a €1.5 million partnership with US company United Technologies announced last month.


The Foundation has extended the award programme for 2016, introducing five new awards that recognise excellent research and development.

The SFI early career researcher of the year award was shared jointly by Prof Valeria Nicolosi of Trinity College Dublin and by Dr Martin O'Halloran of NUI Galway.


The SFI Industry Partnership award recognises a collaboration between industry and academia, and the recipients are the Amber research centre at Trinity and Merck.

The SFI Entrepreneurship Award went to Prof Brian Glennon an Dr Mark Barrett of University College Dublin who jointly established a company spin-out APC Ltd.

Dr Sabina Brennan of Trinity received the SFI Outstanding Contribution to STEM Communication, an award that recognises a contribution to the popularisation of science and public awareness.

The Best Reported Impact Award went to Dr Emmeline Hill of UCD who showed a particular commitment to maximising the downstream impact of her research findings.

There was also an award for Research Image of the Year, which went to Andrea Zanetti, a chemistry PhD student at UCD, for the image, Organic “ChemisTree”, a Telescopic View.

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former Science Editor.