Cork professors named joint winners of researcher of the year award

Profs Geraldine Boylan and Louise Kenny are directors of UCC’s Infant Centre


Two researchers based in Cork who study mother and newborn health are joint recipients of the Science Foundation Ireland Researcher of the Year Award 2015.

Profs Geraldine Boylan and Louise Kenny are directors of University College Cork’s Infant Centre, a large-scale research facility that focuses on health threats in late pregnancy and the early weeks after birth.

Their award was announced at the annual meeting of researchers funded under the various programmes run by the foundation. The meeting also heard that Matthew Gleeson, a postgraduate researcher at University of Limerick won the Foundation’s Research Image of the Year award for his picture, Lightning Wires.

Profs Boylan and Kenny expressed their delight at receiving the award. More than 800 women die every day worldwide as a result of pregnancy or childbirth, they said. And more than 15,000 babies will be stillborn or will die within days.

“It is hugely satisfying to see the results of our work making a difference to real women and babies’ lives on a daily basis,” they said.

The two researchers were “leading the way in perinatal care and research”, said Minister of State for Skills, Research and Innovation Damien English when making the award.

Infant was unique in being led by two women and they have built a cohesive team of researchers, said Prof Mark Ferguson, director general of the Foundation.

Infant, the Irish Centre for Foetal and Neonatal Translational Research, is based in Cork University Maternity Hospital. It is involved in a wide range of studies into conditions such as pre-eclampsia, pre-term birth and foetal growth restriction.

One goal is to discover biomarkers, early warning signs that a woman might be at risk of pre-eclampsia which is a danger to mother and child.

The Lightning Wires image was one of 40 submitted for the annual competition. It shows a collection of “nanowires” measuring a fraction of the diameter of a human hair.