A Life in Research: Dr Graham Love sorts fact from myth

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The following article on research was kindly contributed by Dr Graham Love. Dr Love is the Chief Executive of the Health Research Board, an agency of the Irish Government’s Department of Health. He previously worked with Science Foundation Ireland.

What is a researcher?

When one imagines a typical scientific researcher, images of men in long white coats locked away in some laboratory shrouded in secrecy spring to mind. But the reality of research is very different. Becoming a researcher is not akin to running away to join a ‘scientific’ circus. The door to this world is permanently open. Everyone is welcome to participate, to share in its benefits and to suggest new ways of doing things.

Trial and error

Albert Einstein once said that ‘If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?’

Research is not necessarily about discovering the ‘holy grail’ of physics, biology or any other discipline. The old adage that ‘success is a journey, not a destination’ is one we should remind ourselves of. There is trial and there is error.

Thomas Edison’s persistence is inspiring. He was one of the most outstanding inventors in history. Edison conducted more than 9, 000 experiments before finally creating the world’s first light bulb.

The daily routine of a researcher is often intriguing. It may include collaboration, travel, liaising with colleagues around the world, as well as channelling your curiosity into productive processes and pushing the boundaries of your particular field.

Science and innovation underpins everything. PlayStations, laptops and iPhones, as well as the medicines we take and the energy sources powering our homes, factories and office blocks. Imagine being part of research that developed a new way of communicating? Or of delivering healthcare?

Research in Ireland

Once upon a time, Ireland followed other countries when it came to innovation. We were always playing catch-up! Times have changed. We are beginning to earn a reputation internationally as a scientific research hub. As a result, there has arguably never been a more exciting and opportune time to be a scientific researcher in Ireland. That’s true for established researchers and those just embarking on their journey of discovery.

Irish-based research is recognised globally as being of higher quality than ever before. Ireland is now in the world’s top 20 countries for research quality. In addition, the popularity of initiatives such as Ireland’s Science Gallery continue to grow. Furthermore, there has been a steady stream of multinational corporations choosing Ireland as their European headquarters. These include Google, Microsoft, Facebook, eBay, AOL, PayPal and Yahoo.

Achievements to be proud of 

The Irish Government has invested strategically and substantially in science for over a decade. But just as science in Ireland needs financial investment, it also needs a supply of young, talented minds to bring fresh thinking and vitality to research.

There are over 500 companies working with Science Foundation Ireland-funded researchers. At an international level, SFI-funded researchers are working on over 1, 700 collaborations with researchers across 58 countries. In the past few years, Irish breakthroughs in the world of medical and technological research include the treatment of thyroid disorders, diabetes, asthma and the superbug C difficile. In addition, a research team at Tyndall National Institute in Cork developed the world’s first junctionless transistor.

Researchers at UCD-based CLARITY research group are working on new sports television broadcasting capabilities in partnership with the research division of the world-renowned Walt Disney Company. Exciting times!

The President of Ireland Young Researcher Award

The most outstanding achievements by our up-and-coming researches are recognised at the highest level by Science Foundation Ireland. The President of Ireland Young Researcher Award (PIYRA) is Science Foundation Ireland’s most prestigious award. It recruits young researchers currently based around the world to carry out their research in third level institutions in Ireland. The award recognises outstanding engineers and scientists who, early in their careers, have already demonstrated or shown exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of knowledge. Whether your strengths are in physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, agricultural science, engineering, geography or technology, there is a clear path of research in front of you here in Ireland, and opportunities to establish a successful career on Irish soil.


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