UCD Researchers are awarded €1.5m ECR Grant

Two UCD lecturers have recently been awarded research grants from the European Research Council (ERC). Dr. Emma Teeling, from the UCD School of Biological and Environmental Science, and Dr. Debra Laefer from the UCD School of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering were each awarded €1.5 million as Starting Grants for their research projects.These grants will allow both the recipients a chance to compile a research team and fund the materials needed for their study. Dr. Teeling, whose research is centred on the halted ageing of bats, and has spent years in the field of comparative genomics, has expressed her excitement about the grant“I have wanted to do this for 15 or 20 years,” she says “if you want to try and understand the ageing process or halt it, as a zoologist I think you need to go and look to mother nature and see is there anything out there that doesn’t age”.Her specialised study of bats, which are the only mammals with the ability to fly, is perfectly fitted to the investigation of the ageing process on a genetic level. Bats have an exceptional longevity which is unusual for mammals of their size and metabolic rate.“There are only 19 mammals that live longer than man given their body size, and 18 of these are bats,” Dr. Teeling saysThe €1.5 million fund, which is one of the highest grants awarded by the ERC, will enable the researchers to work for 5 years on their respective projects. Dr. Teeling’s research will involve the tracking of wild bats in France, as well as sampling their blood for genetic analysis.Another project that the ERC Starting Grant has funded is the Dr. Laefer’s RETURN study, which is also titled ‘Rethinking Tunnelling in Urban Neighbourhoods’. The research will focus on the development of a geometric computer model that spans Dublin, and will help urban planners better their understanding of the city structure.“I am delighted to have been awarded this € 1.5 million grant” says Dr.Laefer “This funding will enable me to build a research team of 5 researchers to develop a process that will help civil engineering companies to better use remote sensing to reduce the damage of buildings caused by tunnelling”The research will be based on aerial laser scanning to produce a computerised model of the city. In particular, the research aims to reduce damage caused by tunnelling, which often causes the collapse of landforms.“I am honoured to have been selected for EU funding and am looking forward to beginning this project in January of 2013” Dr. Laefer says.The ERC announced 530 Starting Grants at the beginning of September, and although only four of them have been awarded to Irish scientists, it is still a life-changing achievement for those who did receive the grant.-Emily Longworth