Taoiseach presents medals for major contribution to scientific research

Geographer and physicist honoured in Royal Academy Gold Medal awards

Research into how to make a city smarter and efforts to understand the impact of climate change have resulted in Royal Irish Academy Gold Medals for a geographer and for a physicist.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny presented the medals last night to Prof Rob Kitchin, of NUI Maynooth, and Prof Colin O'Dowd, of NUI Galway, in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the social and the environmental sciences, according the academy's president Prof Luke Drury.

The gold medals are given each year to two academics for their scholarly achievement in the sciences and in the social sciences. The awards are sponsored by the Higher Education Authority.

The Taoiseach congratulated the medallists and paid tribute to the academy for providing a platform for acknowledging academic research and the role it plays in Irish life. “Education and innovation are central to the Government’s ambition of achieving economic recovery and the creation of jobs,” Mr Kenny said. “The education and training system is a critical part of our recovery and growth.”


The recipients expressed their delight at receiving their awards. The award was timely given his research was about climate change, said Prof O’Dowd, “particularly in light of the extreme weather conditions encountered over the last weeks. The next step is to see some practical climate action.”

It was an honour to receive an academy gold medal, Prof Kitchin said. “The medal is certainly the high point of my career to date given that it denotes significant contributions to the social sciences in Ireland and beyond.”

Prof Kitchin is professor of geography at Maynooth who studies the relationship between technology, society and space. He received a European Research Council advanced grant for a project called Softcity, which delves into ways of making cities smarter for those living in them by using advanced computer technology.

Prof O’Dowd is professor of physics and works to understand the complex interaction between the atmosphere, the oceans and the weather. He was central to the development of the Mace Head Atmospheric Research Station in Galway.

Dick Ahlstrom

Dick Ahlstrom

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