Seven researchers from four leading Irish universities were awarded Lero Director’s Prizes at an in-person ceremony today.

The Lero Director’s Prizes were presented at the annual gathering of Lero members, which was held in person this year for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the fourth year of the annual awards presented by Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software, which brings together software teams from 12 academic partner universities and institutes across Ireland.

Awards were presented to academics, researchers and students from NUI Galway, University College Dublin, University of Limerick and University College Cork. 

Speaking at the annual conference, Professor Brian Fitzgerald, Director of Lero, talked about how pleased he was at finally being able to bring members together again for the first time in two years.

“I am thrilled that we have finally been able to come back together in person to celebrate the work undertaken by our members. In the last two years, you have all shown incredible resilience and creativity in the way that you have continued to ensure to provide research-based solutions and insights to resolve problems. Lero researchers are working on and providing ground-breaking solutions to real-world problems in areas as diverse as self-driving cars to upskilling surgeons' skills in the operating theatres. Their skill, dedication and imaginative problems abilities never cease to amaze me,”

“Recent estimates suggest that the demand for software development personnel has doubled in the past three years. Thus, the efficient and effective development of software, which is a central focus for Lero, becomes even more important. As Lero continues to grow its global reputation, it is very rewarding to recognise the outstanding contributions to Lero which arise in a myriad of ways. These awards recognise some of this important work.” he added.

The Lero Director’s Prize for Research Excellence was awarded to John McCarthy of University College Cork. John’s research is concerned with understanding the influence of emerging social, personal, and work technologies on people’s lived experiences and using that understanding to inform the design of usable and enriching technologies.

Lero Director’s Prize for Education and Public Engagement was awarded to Noel Carroll of NUI Galway. Noel collaborated with Microsoft and the Project Management Institute (PMI) to develop the world's first Citizen Development educational platform to educate students on digital literacy. He also received the Innovation Vision Action Fellow Award from the i2i project funded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.

Lero Director’s Prize for Diversity and Inclusion was presented to Prof Ita Richardson, University of Limerick. Prof Richardson has advocated for diversity and inclusion throughout her career, particularly focusing on women in STEM. Ita is a role model for female early-career researchers, giving talks and meeting people in the University of Limerick, nationally and internationally. Ita is an advisor to Johnson & Johnson Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Manufacturing & Design (WiSTEM2D) project and a Principal Investigator on the project.

The Lero Director’s Prizes for Collaboration were awarded to Bashar Nuseibeh, University of Limerick, Liliana Pasquale, University College Dublin and Greg Provan, University College Cork, for their supervision of a PhD student. A three-way supervision involving researchers from three universities is a complex task but was highly successful with the student completing a PhD of high quality, with multiple publications already arising from this work.

Lero Director’s Prize for PhD / PostDoctoral Contribution was presented to PhD student Abeba Birhane of University College Dublin. Abeba’s work has focused on how ubiquitous technologies that are interwoven into our personal, social, political, and economic spheres are shaping what it means to be a person. This award recognises Abeba's incredible work in analysing an extensive image database containing millions of images used to train AI systems. Her research discovered racist, misogynistic, and other offensive content, which resulted in the database being withdrawn.

The winners were selected by a specially constituted awards committee, chaired by Lero Director, Professor Fitzgerald.