Medal awarded to Margaret Murnane, professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering at University of Colorado, and David McCourt, founder and CEO of Granahan McCourt Capital
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The Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) ‘St Patrick’s Day Science Medal’ has been awarded by an Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to Professor Margaret Murnane, professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering at University of Colorado; and David McCourt, founder and CEO of Granahan McCourt Capital, for their significant contribution to academia, research and industry.

Now in its fifth year, the SFI St Patrick’s Day Science Medal recognises the outstanding contributions of Prof Murnane and McCourt in their respective areas, as well as their role in supporting and engaging with the research ecosystem in Ireland. The medal is awarded annually to a distinguished Irish scientist, engineer or technology leader living and working in the USA.

Limerick native Prof Murnane is a visionary in her field of laser science and one of the most acclaimed research-active physicists in the US. Prof Murnane is one of only two female physicists in history to be elected to the US National Academy of Sciences.

Designing some of the fastest lasers in the world


Her many achievements include designing some of the fastest lasers in the world, with the ability to pulse in the range of the low trillionths of a second. Today she continues to develop faster and more powerful laser systems.

This work has enabled major advances by allowing researchers to image particles being studied in fields from physics and chemistry, to biology, medicine and technology. Just last year she was awarded the Optical Society of America’s Frederic Ives Medal/Quinn prize. The award recognises overall distinction in optics and is the highest award given by the OSA.

Prof Murnane also created a table-top affordable X-ray laser allowing the wider research community to harness the potentials of X-rays in their work. Prof Murnane, who was born and raised in Co Limerick, first studied physics in University College Cork before completing her PhD at the University of California at Berkeley.

Provides keen and ongoing support to the Tyndall National Institute


She continues to play a significant role in research and the promotion of science in Ireland, in her keen and ongoing support of the Tyndall National Institute in Cork.

Prof Murnane said: “My passion and love for physics first came from my father who was a teacher, and this grew when I attended University College Cork and completed my bachelor’s there. Today I am proud to say that the education I started in Ireland and continue to develop in the US has allowed me to follow my interests and create technology and systems which can be used across different areas of research in both countries today.

“In my work with the Tyndall National Institute, I have seen first-hand the fantastic research taking place in Ireland which has applications around the world. As an Irish citizen living in America, it heartens me to see the continued collaboration between the two countries to ensure the research community in both Ireland and the US can produce the very best work.”

A holder of Irish citizenship and with a home in Co Clare, McCourt has been incredibly active in Ireland’s academic ecosystem in terms of funding, employment, innovation and as part of the government’s Global Economic Forum.

Revolutionary technology that lowered cost of building cable systems by 80%


From early in his career he has been an innovator, developing a revolutionary technology that lowered the cost of building cable systems by 80 per cent, which went on to become the industry standard. His drive, expertise and experience saw him founding the network and telecommunications company Granahan McCourt Capital, of which he is CEO.

In Ireland, Granahan McCourt has been highly active in expanding access to broadband through its part-owned company, enet, which operates next-generation, open-access telecoms infrastructure. He is also pioneering technology to develop ‘Broadband in a Box’ which aims to bring internet connectivity to the most underserved technology areas in the world.

A strong supporter of Irish research, he has provided considerable support to one of SFI’s Research Centres, CONNECT, through substantial partnerships with his companies. Among his achievements McCourt can include being the first recipient in 1984 of the White House award recognising extraordinary accomplishments by private sector businesses.

He also attended the eG8 Forum at the invitation of President Nicolas Sarkozy, to advise political leaders on the digital ecosystem.

McCourt said: “I am delighted and honoured to accept the SFI St Patrick’s Day Science Medal from Science Foundation Ireland. I have long been an advocate for Ireland as a place to do business. As an employer in Ireland, and with my own interest in R&D, I greatly value the culture of innovation and collaboration that exists between Ireland and the US. I believe that collaborative research with industry will continue to produce transformative advances that will enhance both our economies and societies.”

Diaspora contributing significantly to research and innovation


An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD, said: “On behalf of the Irish government and Science Foundation Ireland, I am delighted to present the SFI St Patrick’s Day Science Medal to these two inspiring leaders from industry and academia. Prof Margaret Murnane and David McCourt are both members of the Irish diaspora who are contributing significantly to research and innovation in their respective areas.

“Project Ireland 2040, our recently launched National Development Plan, puts research, development and innovation at the heart of our economy. In recent years, we have made considerable achievements in STEM research and industry. This national strategy will continue to push that forward; benefiting our economy, bettering our society, recognising our scientific heritage and integrating it into our modern culture.

Mutually beneficial research environment


“At the core of this growth and development is the mutually beneficial research environment that has been created between the US and Ireland. In Ireland, a range of US multinationals work on shared projects with SFI Research Centres, hiring STEM talent and playing a very important role in our long-term science strategy, Innovation 2020.

“A recent study by Science Foundation Ireland has shown that more than 100 US companies are building intellectual property on basic and applied research funded by the Irish government, and that one in four of these companies employ people in Ireland. The medal winners that we honour today are excellent examples of Irish diaspora STEM talent contributing to, and being hugely impactful in the US and beyond.”

Prof Mark Ferguson, director general of Science Foundation Ireland and chief scientific adviser to the government, said: “The global reach and influence of the Irish scientific and technology diaspora plays a huge role in promoting Ireland internationally.

“The outstanding work and research carried out by Margaret and David has had a profound impact across the globe; their work has not only served Ireland extremely well, but it has also significantly enhanced our reputation as a nation of innovative and creative people. As a country, we should be immensely proud of the success and influence that they have had in their respective fields.”

http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/a-award1-1024x806.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/a-award1-300x300.jpgDavid O'RiordanNewsSFI,Tyndall National Institute,UCC
The Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) ‘St Patrick’s Day Science Medal’ has been awarded by an Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to Professor Margaret Murnane, professor of physics and electrical and computer engineering at University of Colorado; and David McCourt, founder and CEO of Granahan McCourt Capital, for their significant contribution to...