On 14th July 2016, the Faculty of Science and Engineering’s newest institute, the Bernal Institute, hosted its inaugural research day in the Analog Devices Building, University of Limerick (UL). It was a lively affair with 176 researchers from across the Materials and Surface Science Institute (MSSI), Stokes Laboratories, and Bernal Project, incumbents for the Bernal Institute, as well as delegates from UL’s Research Support Services and Technology Transfer Office being treated to an energetic programme of talks and presentations which showcased the rich and broad diversity of research activities that are currently being undertaken by this institute across UL’s Faculty of Science & Engineering.
Opening proceedings, Prof. Edmond Magner, Dean of the Faculty of Science & Engineering, set the scene, with multiple examples of just how good UL is as at leading national initiatives in science and engineering. He challenged the audience to continue to attack modern problems with science and engineering and strive for global domination in their research field. Then, it was the turn of the researchers to display their communication skills in the first of a two-part Thesis-in-3 style competition.
With research talks as diverse as “Tiny Little Connection” and “Spray Drying of Biopharmaceutical”, the audience navigated, guided by these researchers, some of whom were presenting their research to a large audience for the first time, through the abundant and rich landscape of research projects from across the institute.
Next up was Prof. Paul Weaver, the newly appointed Bernal Chair in Composite Materials. In his plenary lecture, “VARICOMP: Variable Composites for a Certain Future”, Paul not only explained the intricacies and wonders of variable composite materials but also how this emerging research field is set to make for an exciting future at the Bernal Institute.
After a brief recess, and another peruse of the Thesis-in-3 styled landscape, it was then the turn of Dr. Kai-Jie Chen to present his research on controlling the pore size of molecular sieves or “HUMs for gas separation” which was recently published in the world-leading “Science” publication. Dr. Pat Kiely in his presentation about “Scaffolding at the Biological Interface” explained the positive and beneficial outcomes that can impact research that transcends disciplines, departments and research institutes.
The event closed with a number of awards, presented by Prof. Noel O’Dowd, Director of MSSI. The MSSI award for Best Postgraduate Web of Science Journal Publication in 2015 was presented to Shi-Yuan Zhang for his paper “Synthesis of a Chiral Crystal Form of MOF-5, CMOF-5, by Chiral Induction” published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (DOI: 10.1021/jacs.5b11150) with co-author from MSSI, Prof. Michael Zaworotko (CES) and international co-authors from China (Dan Li, Dong Guo, Hui Zhang, Wei Shi and Peng Cheng) and the US (Lukasz Wojtas).
The MSSI award for Best Undergraduate Final Year Project in the academic year 2015-16 went to Eileen Courtney a student in the Department of Physics and Energy. Her project supervisor was Prof. Ursel Bangert (P&E) with co-supervisor Dr Andy Stewart (P&E) with a project title “Is Seeing Believing? Simulation of Atomic Resolution Electron Microscopy Images”.
The MSSI Research Award for most Web of Science journal papers with MSSI affiliation published in 2015 with impact factor greater than 1.5 was presented to Dr Kevin Ryan, who published 10 Web of Science papers with MSSI affiliation in journals with impact factor greater than 1.5.
The final award was then presented for the hotly contested Thesis-in-3 competition with Sarah Guerin emerging victorious with her presentation “Piezoelectricity in the Human Body”. Runners up were Martin Sheehan with his presentation of “Solution synthesis of transition metal silicide and germanide nanowires” and Andrew Sexton who presented “An internet minute”.
This drew the first Research Day of the Bernal Institute to a close but the discussions and conversations merely paused at that point. The group retired to the Castletroy Park Hotel for a tasty, albeit wet BBQ where planning for future challenges was already beginning.