Trinity College Dublin: Trinity researchers secure prestigious ERC awards

Two Trinity College researchers – Dr Emma Tomlinson and Dr Fiona Smyth – have received prestigious awards from the European Research Council (ERC) worth close to €3.5 million in the latest round of results announced.

Dr Emma Tomlinson, Associate Professor in Geology, School of Natural Sciences, has been awarded an esteemed ERC Consolidator Grant (worth up to €2 million) for the project LITH03: Quantifying the formation and evolution of the Archaean lithospheric mantle which will seek to answer the long-standing question: ‘How did the cratonic lithosphere form?’ Trinity College is the only university in Ireland to receive a Consolidator Grant from the ERC, notified in this particular round of funding.

Dr Fiona Smyth, School of Education and Trinity Long Room Hub, has been awarded a distinguished ERC Starting Grant (worth up to €1.5 million) for the project SpectresCamouflage: The Sound of Silence which links architecture and construction with music, military history and acoustics to explore how different disciplines propelled each other forward in the design and exploitation of the silent environment in the twentieth century.

The ERC Programme has been identified as an area of strategic relevance for Trinity (Funding Diversification Plan 2014) and for Ireland (Innovation 2020) and is widely supported by Science Foundation Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the Irish Research Council as the most highly regarded source of funding for “frontier research”. The ERC offers an exciting opportunity for researchers to fund their best idea, it gives them a significant amount of money over 5 years and allows them to dedicate themselves to delivering the best frontier research in their field. This will have significant impacts of the development of their careers.

Provost Linda Doyle said:

I want to congratulate Emma and Fiona on this fantastic success. ERC awards are a great recognition of research quality and it is wonderful to see the ERC supporting such a wide variety of brilliant research.

The awards demonstrate the importance of supporting ambitious curiosity-led research which produces impactful new knowledge at the frontiers of disciplines.



Dean of Research, Professor Wolfgang Schmitt, a previous winner of an ERC Consolidator Grant, extended warm congratulations to both awardees, saying:

I am delighted to see these exciting projects funded and impressed by the momentum of Trinity’s superb research community in building on significant recent ERC success in the School of Natural Sciences and the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. This is a wonderful opportunity for Emma and Fiona to build their research teams, mentor a new generation of PhDs and postdoctoral researchers and advance their ambitious scholarly research agendas.



Dr Emma Tomlinson’s Research


Emma Tomlinson, Associate Professor in Geology (School of Natural Sciences), will seek to answer the long-standing question: “how did the cratonic lithosphere form?” The formation of the Archean lithospheric mantle was a key event in Earth history, resulting in the construction of the first continents, termed cratons, and laying the foundations of our habitable planet. Understanding how the cratonic lithosphere formed and its subsequent evolution have profound implications, not only for our understanding of the origin of the continents, but also for the onset of modern plate tectonics and the thermal evolution of the Earth’s mantle.

LITHO3 is an innovative and ambitious project that will have a significant impact on our understanding of the long-term evolution of the Earth and other rocky planets in our solar system.

Dr Emma Tomlinson said:

I am hugely excited to have been awarded an ERC CoG for the project LITHO3. This provides an amazing opportunity to investigate the formation of the cratonic lithosphere, which was a key event in Earh history that led to the development of the first stable continents and so laid the foundations of our habitable planet. The funding will help me to develop new ideas and approaches and to mentor and support PhD students and postdoctoral researchers. I am grateful to the ERC for funding LITHO3 and also to co-workers for their support and input during the application stage.


Dr Fiona Smyth’s Research

Dr Fiona Smyth, School of Education and Trinity Long Room Hub.
































Silence is a rare – often beautiful, sometimes discomfiting – phenomenon. Harnessed in different manners, silence has multiple cultural, societal, scientific, psychological, artistic and military implications. In the 20th Century, the impact and exploitation of silence manifested in the technological search for the soundless environment: a search which centred upon environmental control and design. Dr Fiona Smyth’s (School of Education, Trinity Long Room Hub) Spectres & Camouflage project explores how technologies for silence and environmental design were used and reappropriated across disciplines in the 20th Century. Linking architecture and construction with music, military history, and acoustics, it looks at how these disciplines interacted and propelled each other forward in the design and exploitation of the silent environment between 1938 and 1970. Ultimately, this project offers a new concept of environmental design – with silence as a catalyst – mapped across disciplines.



Dr Fiona Smyth said:

I can’t even begin to express how delighted and honoured I am to receive this award for my project ‘Spectres & Camouflage’. It is an unprecedented opportunity to develop ideas that have been swirling around for years, and to build on the foundations of research as an MSCA Global Fellow at Harvard and Trinity College Dublin.

‘Spectres & Camouflage’ links architecture and construction with music, military history and acoustics to explore how different disciplines propelled each other forward in the design and exploitation of the silent environment in the twentieth century. It is a really exciting time to conduct this research – just as documents that were previously classified are now entering the public domain – and I am very fortunate to be surrounded by a wonderful network of brilliant friends, family, colleagues and students. I am so immensely grateful for their support, thought-provoking questions, and inspiration and especially for the insight and guidance of Trinity’s Research Development Office in bringing this proposal to where it is now.

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