Trinity College Dublin: Three Trinity teams awarded funding in US-Ireland Research Programme

Three Trinity researchers are the lead applicants on US-Ireland Research Programme projects that will be delivered through a tripartite research development partnership between Ireland, Northern Ireland and the USA.

These three projects – led by Professors Marco Ruffini, Paula Murphy and Graham Cross – are among the seven announced, which together will support more than 14 research positions in Ireland and 10 in Northern Ireland for three to five years.

Marco Ruffini, Associate Professor in Trinity’s School of Computer Science & Statistics and CONNECT, the SFI Research Centre for Future Networks, will work with colleagues in Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), the University of Arizona and Harvard University.

The team’s project area is at the intersection between classical and quantum networks and aims to develop a foundation for research for the coexistence of these two domains in existing telecommunications infrastructure.

Professor Ruffini said:

“The ability to overlay quantum communications over today’s ubiquitous optical fibre networks is key to enabling worldwide, cost-effective deployment of the future quantum Internet as we are entering the new era of quantum computing and communications.

“We aim to build intelligent algorithms and methods for controlling the network, that can predict and decide under which conditions a quantum channel can be transmitted adjacent to other, much stronger, classical communications channels. This will enable adding the quantum Internet as an additional feature in today’s networks, with the aim of minimising disruption to existing telecommunications fibre infrastructure.”

Paula Murphy, Professor in Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences, will work with colleagues in Dublin City University, QUB and Pennsylvania State University.

The team aims to identify the structural changes and biological mechanisms that drive normal embryonic tendon development and to use this knowledge to enhance the maturation of tissue-engineered tendon constructs via a nanoparticle-hydrogel gene delivery system.

Torn ligaments and tendons are the bane of athletes and runners, and traditional scaffold-based approaches hinder cell self-assembly and do not replicate normal embryonic tendon development. This work therefore aims to develop better solutions.

Professor Paula Murphy said:

“This project is truly interdisciplinary, integrating international expertise in biomechanics, mechanobiology, developmental biology and materials science. We are particularly enthusiastic to bring a developmental perspective to understanding tendon biomechanics and to addressing the critical barriers that have – to date – prevented the development of functional load-bearing tendon and ligament replacements.”

Graham Cross, Associate Professor in Trinity’s School of Physics and AMBER, the SFI Centre for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research, will work with colleagues in Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Pennsylvania.

Their project is in the area of materials science and aims to establish a deep understanding of the mechanics underlying the spontaneous formation of long, folded pleats of 2D materials such as graphene approaching macroscopic size.

The team hopes to couple mechanical and optoelectronic properties for a new class of nanomechanical actuators, valves, optical shutters, switches, oscillators, antennae, and plasmonic metamaterials with new abilities.

Welcoming the awards, Professor Philip Nolan, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland, said:

“I am delighted to congratulate all of the award recipients and their collaborators. These are world-class research projects, driving innovation with the potential to greatly benefit our collective societies and economies. The US-Ireland R&D Partnership Programme demonstrates the strong collaborative relationship between our countries, encouraging globally-relevant scientific discovery across borders.”

The overall goal of the US-Ireland Research and Development Partnership, launched in July 2006, is to increase the level of collaborative R&D among researchers and industry professionals across the three jurisdictions.

This unique collaboration aims to generate valuable discoveries and innovations which are transferable to the marketplace, or will lead to enhancements in health, disease prevention or healthcare.

The funding agencies involved in the awards being announced today are Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) in Ireland; the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the USA, and the Department for the Economy (DfE) in Northern Ireland. The Health Research Board (Ireland), the Health & Social Care R&D Division (NI) and National Institutes of Health (USA) have also been cofounding partners in the programme.