Dr Vincent Casey, Vincent to us, was the first Head of the Department of Physics, and together with a small number of very determined colleagues he drove the formation of our department, starting with the introduction of the BSc Applied Physics programme in 1992, and forming the actual department in 1994. Our existence as a department, the programmes that we teach, and the hundreds of physics graduates it has produced all stem from Vincent’s drive, enthusiasm and passion for physics.
Vincent was an enormous contributor to the department over the following years. He always provided his time generously, giving sage advice and direction to his colleagues when needed. He continually adapted and innovated his teaching approach to keep up with new developments and the needs of his students. Students and their education were always core to Vincent and what he valued. As a longstanding member of the Institute of Physics, he served as its Chair providing direction in the teaching and research of physics at a national level. At the University of Limerick, he served as the Director of the Science Learning Centre, supporting the wider body of science students who needed help, and supporting new initiatives such as the highly successful outreach project, SOPHia, aimed at encouraging female participation in physics.
Vincent was a renaissance man, and his interests were not only focussed on physics, but chemistry, biology, electronics, medical diagnosis, and even equine science in which he dovetailed his love of horses with his love of science. He even loved working with bees. One of his key interests and developments was a pressure sensor which he researched, designed and implemented. To do so he worked with his colleagues in electronics, life sciences, manufacturing engineering and product design, amongst others. He explored this approach to help patients with dysphasia, its use in exoskeletons, and even its use in the nose bands on horses. In this we see Vincent’s incredible talent for free thinking, and his ability to work with others. His ideas and judgement were highly valued, as were his abilities to adapt and span multiple disciplines with ease. He was a true inventor and innovator as anyone who ever had the privilege to enter his office could vouch for. Vincent would be there, almost universally in good humour among bits of circuity, parts of computers, animal bones, glue, soldering irons, books on everything and anything, and lots of pairs of glasses.
Sadly in 2020 Vincent stepped back from teaching due to ill health. Even then, he continued with his passion for research, his inquiring mind continually working on new projects. He continued to write research papers and indulge another passion of his, the life and work of J.D. Bernal, a local man from Tipperary born in 1901, a polymath who pioneered the use of X-ray crystallography and who was supervised by the famous physicist William Bragg. Bernal like Vincent also had a deep passion for education and put his students first. It is that scientist who lends his name to the premiere University of Limerick Science and Engineering research institute, the Bernal Institute. It is therefore fitting that after leaving the University of Limerick, with the help of colleagues he penned in 2021 an article on Bernal for the International Union of Crystallography newsletter. In May of 2022 he delivered a plenary talk on Bernal in the institute named for him, at the European Association on Applications of Surface and Interface Analysis conference to an audience of international research scientists, and most importantly to his family and friends. This presentation on Bernal marked the end of his time at the University of Limerick and it meant the world to Vincent. It was a fitting honour for a man who always gave so generously to those around him and who was liked, loved and respected by all.
Vincent is dearly missed by his colleagues. May he rest in peace.
- Dr David Corcoran (the former head of the Department of Physics)