A picture of Sinéad O’Keeffe in the Foundation Building at UL
Dr Sinéad O’Keeffe, who leads a research team in the use of optical fibre sensors for cancer treatment in the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering, received the award at the (IEEE) Sensors Council Conference in Vienna
Thursday, November 2, 2023

A researcher at University of Limerick has received an award for promoting gender diversity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Research fellow Dr Sinéad O’Keeffe has been given the inaugural Outstanding Service Award for Promoting Gender Diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Sensors Council.

Dr O’Keeffe, who leads a research team in the use of optical fibre sensors for cancer treatment in the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering, received the award at the IEEE Sensors Council Conference in Vienna.

The IEEE Sensors Council is one of eight councils within the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers – a global organisation that has over 427,000 members in 190 countries.

The Sensors Council is concerned with the theory, design, fabrication, manufacturing and application of devices for sensing and transducing physical, chemical, and biological phenomena.

Dr O’Keeffe’s nomination for the award was based on her work in the area of gender diversity both in the IEEE and within her role at UL.

Dr O’Keefe said: “I am delighted to have been recognised with this award for promoting gender diversity in STEM. Through my work within the IEEE and outreach programmes at UL, I hope to increase the visibility of women within engineering.

“According to Engineers Ireland, female engineers represent just 12% of the profession and I would like to encourage more young women in Ireland to consider engineering as a viable career option.

“Within the IEEE specifically, we wanted to create a roadmap for women to get more involved in activities, to support them and to promote them and their work.”

Since Dr O’Keeffe joined IEEE Sensors Council in 2015, she has spearheaded a number of initiatives aimed at promoting the role of women within the organisation and in STEM in general. She was Chair of both the IEEE Women in Sensors and the Diversity and Inclusion Committees and continues to work within them to promote the participation of women and ethnic minority groups within the organisation.

In nominating Dr O’Keeffe for the award, Professor Anil Roy, Vice President of Technical Operations at the Sensors Council, said it was “in recognition of her strong advocacy, groundbreaking efforts and magnanimous sensitisation for gender diversity within the IEEE Sensors Council and among the wider sensors community”.

Within UL, Dr O’Keeffe also led the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering’s successful Athena Swan Bronze Award Application in 2022.

She is also actively involved in outreach programmes aimed at encouraging more female participation in engineering such as; robotics and sensors workshops for primary schools, workshops in photonic sensing—specifically aimed at Transition Year girls—and the Royal Society Research Experience for Teachers programme, a programme that brings primary school teachers into the laboratories at UL to teach them about sensor technology.