President of the RIA presents 2021 Royal Irish Academy Gold Medals

06 April 2022

On Monday, 4 April Mary Canning, PRIA presented Ruth Byrne, Professor of Cognitive Science, Trinity College Dublin with the 2021 Royal Irish Academy Gold Medal in the Social Sciences and Jennifer McElwain, Professor of Botany, Trinity College Dublin with the 2021 Royal Irish Academy Gold Medal in the Environmental Sciences and Geosciences.

An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, T.D. gave the keynote address stressing the importance of research and innovation and acknowledging the value of the contribution of higher education to policymakers and the public.

Dr Linda Doyle, Provost, Trinity College Dublin welcomed the President to the Provost’s House for the awarding ceremony attended by fellow members of the Academy, colleagues in academia, family and friends.

Each year, the Royal Irish Academy awards Gold Medals to two world-class researchers in Ireland whose work has made and continues to make a global impact. The awards celebrate the achievements of higher education in Ireland and serve to inspire future generations of high-achieving researchers.  

Dr Mary Canning, President of the Royal Irish Academy said

‘Public recognition of excellence demonstrates the Academy’s core purpose to promote awareness of how science and the humanities enrich our lives and benefit society. Our two Gold Medal award recipients today have, through the rigour and global impact of their work, illustrated those values perfect and their achievements will inspire early career researchers after all, you cannot be what you cannot see.’

An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, said

‘I am delighted to help celebrate the outstanding work of Professor Ruth Byrne and Professor Jennifer McElwain as they are awarded the Royal Irish Academy Gold Medals. The global pandemic highlighted how important research and innovation and the contribution of the Higher Education sector is for policymakers and citizens alike. We want to further improve that flow of ideas into the future. The Royal Irish Academy Gold Medals demonstrate the value, range and quality of research in Higher Education Institutes that is making a global impact.’

Professor Ruth Byrne said,

This award is a welcome recognition of the value of the scientific study of the human mind, especially the importance of discoveries in cognitive science about the human imagination, for understanding how people think, reason, and make decisions in their daily lives.’ 

Professor Jennifer McElwain said

‘The award of the RIA Gold Medal in the Environmental Sciences and Geosciences is a huge personal honour. For me it highlights how studies of landscapes, fossils and atmospheres of a past Earth from millions of years ago are valued because they provide a long-term context to contemporary issues of climate change and biodiversity loss. An understanding of the deep geological past allow us to document baselines of past climate change, the sensitivity of global climate to changes in atmospheric composition and the tipping points which have negative consequences for biodiversity.’

The 2021 Royal Irish Academy Gold Medal in the Environmental Sciences and Geosciences is sponsored by the Geological Survey of Ireland and the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland.

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