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Equality and Diversity

Athena Swan Bronze Award for the Dept. of Physics

The School of Education and the Physics Department at University of Limerick have been awarded Athena SWAN (Scientific Women’s Academic Network) Bronze Department Awards this week.    The award recognises and celebrates good practice towards the advancement of gender equality and specifically representation, progression and success for all. In particular, the charter was set up to encourage the advancement of careers for women in STEM, and higher education and research.

The School of Education will be the first School of Education to receive an award in the higher education sector in Ireland.

Science Foundation Ireland, the Irish Research Council and the Health Research Board require Irish HEIs to secure Athena SWAN Bronze awards by the end of 2019 to ensure they are eligible to compete for research funding allocated by any of the three agencies. By the end of 2023 HEIs will be required to hold Athena SWAN Silver awards to be eligible for research funding.

University of Limerick was one of the first Irish institutions to receive the prestigious Athena SWAN Institution award in 2015.  Since then The Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences (PESS), the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and Department of Biological Sciences at UL have all achieved Bronze Athena Swan awards.

“About three times more young men than women take physics in the Leaving Certificate. The Department of Physics at UL are working with schools to reduce this imbalance through initiatives such as the SOPHia project which encourages female students to take physics as a Leaving Certificate subject, through provision of practical and theory revision to Leaving Certificate students, through outreach to primary and secondary schools, and through collaborations with the Institute of Physics.”  Dr Deirdre Ni Eidhin, Co-chair of the Self-Assessment Team, UL Department of Physics. 

Speaking about the award for the UL School of Education Marie Parker Jenkins, Professor of Education at UL said: “This 18 month process has resulted in an achievement which is important for the school, the faculty and the entire institution. 67% of our professors and senior lecturers are women and we have appointed the only female chair of STEM Education in Ireland.”

“Gender has been central to the School's teaching, research and development for many years and the School has prioritised gender as an area of expertise in several modules.  There is a commitment to gender in research, for example, the WiSTEM2d programme funded by Johnson & Johnson is a scholarship and mentoring programme for female undergraduate STEM students at UL, which raises awareness about gender equity and empowers young women in STEM programmes in higher education by matching them with senior female STEM mentors in industry.”


Women in Physics

UL Department of Physics is committed to promoting, supporting and advancing women’s careers in physics. We aim to create a friendly, inclusive, welcoming work environment for all staff and students. There are women at various career stages from undergraduate though to professor in the department. Female staff and students get together for regular lunches to connect with one another.

The department has achieved an Athena SWAN Bronze award in April 2018 and has become an Institute of Physics Juno Supporter since March 2018

We encourage and support women in physics through:

  • Outreach activities to encourage second-level students to take physics for the Leaving Certificate.
  • Promotion of scholarships for incoming and current undergraduate students.
  • Encouraging staff and student participation in professional development and career progression opportunities.
  • Supporting staff in career progression.
  • Highlighting the roles of our female staff and students.


IOP Rosse Medal Winner 2017

Mr. Cian McKeown, who is pursuing a PhD degree supervised by Dr. Fernando Rhen, won the IOP Rosse medal at the Spring Meeting over the weekend with presentation entitled “How strain Enhances Fuel Cell Catalysts”. The research supported by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) shows how strain in Pt films controls adsorption of methanol molecules leading to better fuel cells electrodes. The findings of the research have recently been published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C and show the high impact research being carried out in the Physics Department and Bernal Institute at the University of Limerick.

The Institute of Physics in Ireland held their Spring Meeting in the Gibson Hotel, Dublin on the 11th of March. The meeting had the theme Physics and Life. Fifty-six postgraduate students from ten high education institutions in Ireland competed for the Rosse medal, which commemorates the 3rd Earl of Rosse (Sir William Parsons KP, FRS) and is awarded for the best communication of research by a postgraduate student. After two rounds consisting of posters and oral presentations, the winner was elected.  The Rosse medal is one of the most prestigious awards for physics postgraduates in Ireland.