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The Future is Bio, the Future is (Ful)bright

38 Students, Scholars & Professionals win Fulbright Awards to go to America

The Future is Bio, the Future is (Ful)bright

Thirty Eight new Fulbright Irish Awardees were announced by Minister Charlie Flanagan of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Mr Reece Smyth, Chargé d’affaires of the US Embassy in Ireland, last week. The Recipients, from 15 HEIs across Ireland and Europe, will go to top US institutions to study and collaborate with experts in their field. In addition to completing study or research, Awardees are tasked with being cultural Ambassadors in America before returning to Ireland to share their new knowledge. The rigorous application process ensures that the successful candidates are those who have conveyed how their work can have a positive impact on society.

The Fulbright-Teagasc Awardee is Ms Jaswinder Kaur, a PhD candidate with the Shannon Applied Biotechnology Centre at Limerick Institute of Technology. As a Fulbright-Teagasc Awardee, she will be based at Michigan State University, investigating the use of genome sequences of fungi and identifying crucial genes responsible for the production of putative enzymes for industrial applications.

Another successful candidate, and recipient of the prestigious Fulbright Scholar Award sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was Dr Laura Devaney, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Agrifood Business and Spatial Analysis in Teagasc. In her work in Teagasc, Dr Devaney examines development pathways for the Irish and European bioeconomy working as part of the widely publicised Department of Agriculture Food and Marine funded BioÉire project and, most recently, the EU-funded CASA project. Using renewable biological resources to meet future food, feed, fuel and fibre needs, development of the bioeconomy holds potential to reduce societal reliance on fossil fuels and mitigate environmental impact whilst still achieving economic growth. Promising value chains identified for Ireland include the use of agricultural crops for biochemical production; marine discard for functional food and feed purposes; forestry residues for decentralised heat generation; and agricultural and food waste for bioenergy creation.

Previous to her time in Teagasc, Laura was awarded a PhD from the Department of Geography, Trinity College Dublin, where she also worked and lectured for two years in the area of environmental geography and sustainable consumption. She will travel to UC Berkeley for her Fulbright-EPA scholarship to research the development and governance of the US bioeconomy.

Speaking of the award, Dr. Devaney commented: “I am honoured to have received this prestigious Fulbright scholarship to progress my work on the bioeconomy and share international learnings in this important and burgeoning arena. My research has always concerned the transition to, and governance of, a more sustainable future for society, making the Fulbright sponsorship by the EPA for this bioeconomy work all the more special and appropriate. Developing the global bioeconomy will require international learning, exchange and partnership, in keeping with the ethos and founding intentions of the Fulbright Awards. I look forward to my visit to the US to share international bioeconomy best practice on both sides of the Atlantic”.

Commenting on Dr. Devaney’s scholarship, Dr. Maeve Henchion, Teagasc, remarked: “We are delighted that one of our researchers has secured this prestigious international scholarship to progress the fundamental bioeconomy research undertaken in Teagasc. Laura’s work on BioÉire has fed directly into the development of the national bioeconomy policy statement for Ireland and I look forward to her return from the US to share her experience and learnings. This research visit is particularly timely given the increase in national bioeconomy policy development worldwide. Given the potential for vested and competing interests in the bioeconomy, mitigating any power and politics in this policy process is crucial, as Laura’s research will explore.”

This year the Fulbright Program celebrates 60 years of educational and cultural exchange between Ireland and the US. The Program is now established in over 160 countries globally, providing a fantastic international network for Fulbright Awardees and Alumni. Ms. Kaur’s and Dr. Devaney’s travel to the US thus represents only the first step in establishing fruitful, professional collaborations between Teagasc and the US that will benefit global bioeconomy development for many decades to come.