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Dr 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.

The Royal Irish Academy works each year with the expert members of the Physical, Chemistry and Mathematical committee to select a winner based on the most outstanding Irish PhD thesis in the general area of the chemical sciences.

The prize, kindly sponsored by Henkel, includes an award of €2,000. The winner is also nominated by the Physical, Chemical and Mathematical Sciences Committee to compete amongst the top young chemists in the world in the IUPAC-SOLVAY International Award for Young Chemists.

Pat Guiry, President of the Royal Irish Academy, moderated the prize giving ceremony
Dr Hugh Fay, Henkel Ireland, spoke on behalf of the sponsor Henkel
Dr Niamh O’Boyle, Trinity College Dublin, spoke on behalf of the judging panel
Dr Billy McCarthy, presented a talk on his PhD research