Five Trinity Researchers Among this Year’s Fulbright Awardees

Five Trinity researchers and graduates are among the 38 recipients of the prestigious Fulbright Irish Award and will receive funding to pursue their research in some of the best US universities.

The five Trinity awardees, who are drawn from a wide range of degrees and disciplines, include graduates and current researchers within the university, as well as former staff. All will be offered the opportunity, 60 years since the Fulbright programme began, to study in universities and colleges across the US.

Two of the five Trinity awardees are drawn from the CONNECT Centre, the Trinity-based Centre for Future Networks and Communications. Both Dr Jacek Kibilda, who is working as a research fellow in CONNECT, and Ms Fiona McDermott, who is a researcher and a PhD candidate in the centre, received the prestigious award.

Speaking to The University Times, Kibilda, who will be working in the US for three months, said that he thought ensuring diversity was quite an important part of the Fulbright process this year, whether a diversity of male and female awardees or ensuring that EU nationals living in Ireland also received recognition.

Kibilda, whose undergraduate degree is from Poznan University of Technology in Poland, will continue his research on wireless networking at the University of Texas in Austin. His work, he said, is “slowly receiving quite a bit of attention from academia”, as well industry, politicians and regulators who are “interested in seeing how the technology evolves and having the chance to influence it”. The university in Austin was an ideal choice because, he said, “the group there is probably, at the very least, one of the most influential groups in the world” involved in research into networked communication and 5G.

McDermott, who also works in CONNECT, will be working at the New School in New York, with her researching focusing on the practice of urban informatics, forms of urban intelligence and networked data infrastructures.

The application process includes writing a project proposal, a written statement linking your research to the aims of the Fulbright programme and an interview. In a press statement, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, offered his congratulations to the awardees, praising the “varying academic and professional disciplines” who will be involved in the programme. The awards, he said, “underline the breadth and depth of the Fulbright Commission’s work”.

Dr Martha Finnegan, from Trinity’s Institute of Neuroscience (TCIN), also received the award. Finnegan, who is also a research registrar at St Patrick’s University Hospital and who will attend Yale University, will focus on the use of bioethics to develop better clinical research into vulnerable populations.

The awards recognise research that contributes to society. Dr Laura Devaney, another Trinity alumnus who received the award, currently works at Teagasc, and has a PhD from Trinity’s Department of Geography where she lectured on environmental geography and sustainable consumption. She will work in the University of California, Berkeley during her time in the US and will focus on the governance of the US’s growing bioeconomy. Ms Lola Boorman, who has also moved on from Trinity, is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of York. Boorman’s undergraduate degree is from Trinity’s School of English and will take part in archival research at Stanford University into the development of grammar instruction and the teaching of writing in US universities from the 19th century to the 1990s, supplementing her current research.

The annual awards were established by Senator J William Fulbright, who died in 1995. The Chargé d’affaires in the US Embassy, Reece Smyth, described the award as a “real accomplishment” for the 38 recipients. “We are proud to have such bright minds embarking on educational and cultural exchanges to the US, and we look forward to seeing the fruits of their studies and research when they return to Ireland in 2018”, he added. Former Provost of Trinity Prof John Hegarty, who is also Chair of the Board of the Fulbright Commission in Ireland, said in a press statement that, on the 60th anniversary of the programme, it is “great to see the quality of students and scholars that it still attracts”.