Professor Brian Fitzgerald, Director of Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software, was presented with a special award in recognition of his contributions to the Centre at the Lero Summit in Athlone. 

A further nine researchers from three leading Irish universities were awarded Lero Director’s Prizes at the ceremony. 

Professor of Software Engineering at University of Limerick and Lero’s Chief Scientist Bashar Nuseibeh presented the Professor Rory O’Connor Prize for Outstanding Service to Lero to Professor Fitzgerald.

“It’s great to be able to turn the tables on Brian. He usually presents awards to others, but on this occasion we surprised him with a particularly special prize from all of us at Lero. 

“The Rory O’Connor Prize commemorates our dear Lero colleague Professor Rory O’Connor, a founding member of Lero who sadly passed away unexpectedly a few years ago. He was an outstanding researcher, leader, and colleague, and so it is particularly fitting that Brian should receive this named prize for his own outstanding contributions to the Lero centre.

“Like Rory, Brian is also a founding member of Lero, and has played an instrumental role in its ongoing success, both in terms of his own world-class research record, and his gentle and inspiring leadership of the centre over the last seven years. Under his leadership, Lero has become one of the world’s best-known and highly-regarded software research centres, drawing software research talent from all over the world to Ireland, and contributing a remarkable body of research that is impacting the software industry, education, and society more broadly.” he added.

Lero Director’s Prizes are presented annually at Lero’s annual summit where researchers from Lero’s 12 partner universities and institutes of technology come together to meet and share ideas. This was the fifth year of the honours conferred by Lero on some of its outstanding members nationwide. 

Awards were presented to nine top academics and researchers from University of Galway, University of Limerick and Trinity College Dublin. 

Speaking at the annual conference, Professor Fitzgerald, Director of Lero, said he never fails to be impressed by the calibre of work conducted by Lero’s research teams.

“Lero researchers devise innovative solutions for practical challenges spanning a wide spectrum of domains, ranging from uncovering deepfake videos generated using artificial intelligence (AI) technology to enhancing surgical skills. Their expertise, commitment, and creative approach to problem-solving consistently leave me in awe. These accolades acknowledge the best of that work,” he remarked.

Professor Fitzgerald said he was surprised but thrilled to receive the Professor Rory O’Connor Prize.

“Rory was a renowned world-class researcher whose enthusiasm and sense of fun were infectious. When his family gave their kind permission to establish the award following his untimely death in 2019, we envisioned only the very best would be recipients. I am deeply touched that my colleagues see me in that light,” he said.

The 2023 Lero Director’s Prize for Research Excellence was awarded to Prof. Ita Richardson, UL. Ita has an outstanding research record. Her work centres on software processes in a range of environments and domains, including global software engineering and connected health. She has also maintained an interest in women’s issues, particularly those of women working in computing and engineering disciplines.

The Lero Director’s Education and Public Engagement Prize was awarded to Dr Anastasia Griva of the University of Galway. Anastasia’s extensive efforts in organising educational events, delivering workshops and webinars, contributing to business journals, and actively engaging with various platforms for public discussions singled her out as deserving of recognition for her outstanding work in the field of Education and Public Engagement.

Lero Director’s Prize for Diversity and Inclusion was presented to Brian Harkin, University of Limerick and Dr Sally McHugh, University of Galway. Brian and Sally facilitate the transformative coding program, CodePlus, which provides an introduction to Computer Science for Transition Year (TY) girls.

Lero Director’s Prizes for Collaboration were awarded to Dr Martina Prendergast (UL), Lero’s International Funding Manager and Prof. Edward Jones, and Martin Glavin of University of Galway. 

Martina received the award in recognition of her collaboration with colleagues across Lero’s academic partners nationally to secure external funding while also supporting and mentoring Lero researchers through the external funding application process. Martin and Edward received the award for their outstanding record of research collaboration, in particular with industry. 

Lero Director’s Prize for PhD / Post-Doctoral Researcher Contribution was presented to Trinity College Dublin postdoctoral researcher Dr Thomas Laurent. Thomas has been extremely successful during his PhD and his Postdoc and the quality of his work and quantity of his outputs ensured he received the prestigious award which recognises Lero’s early career researchers.

2023 was the first year an award was presented for Open Source / Open Science, in recognition of Lero’s commitment to the principles and practices of Open Science. In the past year, it established an Open Source Programme Office (OSPO), published an Open Science Charter and won a Young European Research Universities Open Science Award. Dr Paddy Healy (UL), won the inaugural award.  Paddy headed up Lero's OSPO, was a member of Lero's Open Science Committee and contributing author of Lero's Open Science Charter.