Dear colleagues,

I am sure you will join me in welcoming the announcement that the Department of Physics has been awarded Ireland’s first Athena SWAN Silver Award. An Athena SWAN Silver award is granted in recognition of the positive impact of actions that a department or institute has undertaken to achieve gender equality amongst staff and students in higher education.

The Department highlighted a range of impact driven initiatives, including extensive outreach activity to encourage female students to take physics as a Leaving Cert subject and to consider studying physics at undergraduate level. The Department has seen an associated increase in female undergraduates from 37% to 54%, due to higher numbers of women taking up education courses, supporting their aim to increase the number of female physics teachers in Ireland.

Follow this link to watch Dr Deirdre Ní Eidhín, co-chair of the Self-Assessment Team, talk about what the Athena SWAN Silver award means to the Department and their on-going efforts to address the underrepresentation of women at all levels in physics.

In UL, we aim to provide a welcoming, supportive and inclusive working environment for everyone and to foster values, attitudes and behaviours of respect. Athena SWAN Ireland has provided ongoing recognition for our work in this area ever since we were one of the first institutions in Ireland to receive Bronze Institution Award in 2015. This year, in addition to our Silver, the Department of Nursing and Midwifery were successful in securing a bronze award, in addition to two renewals which brings the total to 13 Faculty/Schools Awards. We should be very proud that this means that 90% (27 out of 30) of our departments now have awards.

On a similar theme, I am delighted to welcome the appointment of Dr Norma Bargary and Professor Aedin Culhane to senior roles via the Higher Education Authority (HEA) Senior Academic Leadership Initiative (SALI). SALI aims to address gender under-representation in senior leadership roles in our higher education institutions.

In April, Dr Norma Bargary was appointed Professor of Data Science and Statistical Learning at the University of Limerick. Her research develops statistical models to identify patterns in large and complex datasets to help answer questions about the world around us and empower decision-making. Her passion for accurate communication around the conclusions drawn from data is particularly relevant these days for bolstering our faith in science, and confidence that we are making well-informed decisions.

Professor Aedin Culhane took up her post as Professor of Cancer Genomics at the UL School of Medicine at the start of September. Her research program in computational systems oncology develops multivariate statistical methods and machine learning approaches to integrate and analyze high dimensional genomics and single cell omics data. Having over 20 years’ experience at the forefront of cancer genomics in Ireland, the UK and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard University in Boston, she is ideally suited to creating an internationally competitive cutting edge research program in cancer genomics in the Limerick Digital Cancer Research Centre.

What is clear to me is that by embracing the SALI and Athena SWAN initiatives, we are not only helping to redress gender under-representation in the third level education, we are also enhancing the prestige of our research and teaching staff and, ultimately, the appeal of UL as a university for all.

Best wishes,

Professor Kerstin Mey

Uachtarán / President
Oifig an Uachtaráin / Office of the President

Ollscoil Luimnigh / University of Limerick

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