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Dr William McCarthy wins the 2024 Kathleen Lonsdale RIA Chemistry Prize

Recent graduate of TU Dublin has been recognised for his innovative work addressing the presence of chlorate in dairy products

Dr William McCarthy has been announced as the winner of the Kathleen Lonsdale RIA Chemistry Prize 2024 sponsored by Henkel. The prestigious prize is awarded for outstanding doctoral research in the chemical sciences carried out on the island of Ireland. The award is named in honour of the famous Irish x-ray crystallographer, Kathleen Lonsdale, who was born on 28 January 1903.

Dr William McCarthy completed his BSc in Chemistry of Pharmaceutical Compounds at University College Cork before pursuing further study with the School of Food Science and Environmental Health at Technological University Dublin. Dr McCarthy was awarded a Teagasc Walsh Scholarship to carry out his PhD on ‘Understanding the Entry, Partition, and Fate of Chlorates in Dairy Processes’.

His winning PhD thesis presents a detailed exploration of chlorate dynamics in dairy processing and proposes a novel solution for chlorate management. Chlorate is a contaminant that can find its way into dairy products through chlorinated water and products used during the cleaning of processing equipment. Due to its adverse health effects the presence of chlorate in dairy products is strictly regulated. Understanding chlorate’s entry, partition, and fate in dairy production is vital to ensuring the safety and quality of dairy products across a global industry.

A key aspect of Dr McCarthy’s study involved developing an industrially feasible approach to chlorate removal from milk using membrane filtration, which had not been performed before this research. At Teagasc Moorepark, using this filtration method, Dr McCarthy demonstrated a significant reduction in chlorate levels of ~60% per unit of dry matter at an industrial scale. The results of this study make a strong case for the potential of membrane filtration as a critical control step for chlorate management that will enhance the safety and quality of dairy products globally.

Upon hearing the news of the award Dr McCarthy said:

“Receiving the Kathleen Lonsdale RIA Chemistry Prize is an absolute dream come true. I am humbled and incredibly honoured to be selected as this year’s recipient. Receiving this award is an incredible validation of my research accomplishments and a source of immense pride. The Royal Irish Academy is a renowned institution; its recognition is a humbling experience. I am deeply grateful for this opportunity and for the support of my mentors and colleagues. This award will undoubtedly serve as a driving force as I continue to pursue my research ambitions and my career in chemistry.”

In their judges’ commendation, the assessment panel for the prize, which is made up of members of the Academy’s Physical, Chemical and Mathematical Sciences Committee, said of Dr McCarthy’s entry:

“Dr William McCarthy’s impressive PhD thesis tackles a significant food safety challenge faced by the dairy industry. This is an important piece of research that is likely to have a substantial impact on the Irish dairy sector.”

The prize includes an award of €2,000 which is generously supported by Henkel. Dr Hugh Fay of Henkel Ireland commented:

“Henkel is again delighted to sponsor the Kathleen Lonsdale Prize. Many congratulations to Dr. McCarthy, whose research is both technically excellent and has great applicability.”

The winner of the Kathleen Lonsdale Chemistry Prize will be honoured at an awards ceremony in the Royal Irish Academy later in the year.