Dec 06 2019 Posted: 09:57 GMT

/media/researchcentres/curam/latestnews/J0286151113.jpgThe winners of the prestigious 2019 Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Awards were revealed recently at the annual SFI Science Summit. NUI Galway academics Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director of CÚRAM received the ‘SFI Best International Engagement Award’ and Dr Muriel Grenon, lecturer in Biochemistry from the School of Natural Sciences received the ‘SFI Outstanding Contribution to STEM Communication’ award.

Over 300 leading members of Ireland’s research community came together to celebrate the significant contributions made over the past year to Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) in Ireland. This year there were eight categories in total, with ten award winners.

The SFI Best International Engagement Award recognised the accomplishments of Professor Abhay Pandit for his research-led international activities at CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices based at NUI Galway.

Speaking about his award, Professor Abhay Pandit, CÚRAM, NUI Galway, said: “I am honoured to receive this award from SFI. This honour recognises the trust, hard work, dedication and excellence of the entire team of advisors, researchers, industry partners and staff at CÚRAM who I have the privilege to work and collaborate with. It is through our international research collaborations that we are driving the development of new understandings and the advancement of real solutions to develop affordable, innovative and transformative device-based solutions to treat global chronic diseases. By striving to be outward facing we are not only training to empower future leaders but also work hard to champion stakeholders in the community (artists, filmmakers, teachers) to engage them with the STEM message.”

The SFI Outstanding Contribution to STEM Communication award recognised the accomplishments of Dr Muriel Grenon for her outstanding contribution to the popularisation of science and raising public awareness of the value of science to human progress.

Speaking about her award, Dr Muriel Grenon, NUI Galway, said: “I would like to share this award with all past and present Cell EXPLORERS coordinators, volunteers, and supporters. Our programme is based on the simple idea of sending local science role models with a passion for Science to meet the general public locally. We meet young people at an age when they decide if they like science and if they would consider it as a career. Due to its hands-on aspect, the programme has achieved great popularity within schools and contributes to changing stereotypes about science and scientists. This is only possible through the amazing work that our coordinators do behind the scenes and the dedication of our volunteer scientists. I am very proud of what we have achieved together – the delivery of a programme with a high standard of public engagement, a high education value, inspiring many young children all over Ireland.”

Professor Pandit is an Established Professor of Biomaterials at NUI Galway and Scientific Director of CÚRAM. He has been an elected member on the Council for both the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society and European Society for Biomaterials Society. He was the first Irish academic to be inducted as an International Fellow in Biomaterials Science and Engineering by the International Union of Societies for Biomaterials Science and Engineering and elected as a Fellow of the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative International Society. He was also elected to the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) College of Fellows.

Professor Pandit has published more than 250 papers in peer-reviewed journals, filed numerous patent applications and has licensed four technologies to medical device companies. He has coordinated four EU grants to date and has generated research contracts from industry and government funding agencies totalling €90 million. Throughout his career, his work has been outward facing, from engaging in international collaborations and hosting international conferences, to supporting trade missions and championing residency programs for leaders in the community (artists, filmmakers, teachers) to empower them with the STEM message.

Dr Grenon is a lecturer in Biochemistry at the School of Natural Sciences in NUI Galway and the founding Director of the Cell EXPLORERS science outreach programme. Dr Grenon started out the programme in 2012 with a team of 10 undergraduate science students in NUI Galway and has built Cell EXPLORERS into a national network comprising 13 partner teams with members from 15 Higher Education Institutions in Ireland. Between 2012 and 2018 Cell EXPLORERS involved 1,187 team members, visited 471 classrooms in 280 schools and reached 32,000 members of the public. Cell EXPLORERS has also successfully integrated science outreach projects into the final year of the Biochemistry undergraduate course at NUI Galway allowing the creation of potential novel science outreach resources each semester.

Dr Grenon is also involved in driving science communication internationally: Cell EXPLORERS is part of Scientix, the community for Science Education in Europe. The programme has also started a collaboration with the University of Kwatzulu-Natal in South Africa, where a team is currently piloting the ‘Fantastic DNA school’ visits.

Dr Grenon’s contribution and dedication to the popularisation of STEM has been recognised by the ‘Outstanding Contribution to STEM’ award at the 2013 Galway Science and Technology Festival, the 2017 ‘NUI Galway President Award for Societal Impact’ and been made Knight of the Order of the Palmes Académiques by the French Ministry of Education in 2019./media/researchcentres/curam/latestnews/J0286151113.jpg/media/researchcentres/curam/latestnews/J0286151113.jpg

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