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Honour for Skibbereen scientist with award of medal in Washington

March 29th, 2016 7:15 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Professor Séamus Davis received his medal this week from Deputy Kenny

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FOREIGN Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan was in Washington DC this week to present a prestigious medal for science to Professor Séamus Davis of Skibbereen.

Both Professor Davis and Dr Craig Barrett, a leading advocate for improving education in the US, received the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) St Patrick’s Day Science Medal to the 2016 medal.

It is the first time that the accolade is being presented to two recipients, each leading figures in their respective industry and academic communities.

The SFI St Patrick’s Day Science Medal recognises the extraordinary contribution made by US-based scientists, engineers or technology leaders with Irish connections. 

Professor Séamus Davis was selected because his research has been at the forefront of modern physics for more than 30 years.  He is most notable for his inventive and wide-ranging contributions to the physics of quantum materials. 

His work focuses on the exploration and visualisation of electronic structure and behaviour at the atomic level, and the exotic new forms of quantum matter found in these advanced materials. 

Séamus was born in Skibbereen in 1961 into the well known Davis family – more renowned for football than science. His uncle Séamus was a locally celebrated, poet and musician and thespian. 

He attended St Fachtna’s De La Salle where Liam O’Donovan nurtured his lifelong fascination for mathematics and physics, and Patricia Boland his academic and rhetorical skills. 

In 1978, Séamus was admitted to UCC to study for a BSc in Physics. After graduation from Cork in 1983, he went to the University of California at Berkeley to read for a PhD, which he received in 1989.

He was appointed Professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley in 1993; Professor of Physics at Cornell University in 2003; and finally JG White Distinguished Professor of Physical Sciences at Cornell University in 2008. He was also Director of the Centre for Emergent Superconductivity of the US Department of Energy.

To date, he has delivered more than 500 invited lectures at the world’s leading scientific institutions and has been the recipient of many awards, including the world’s premier prizes in two physics fields: the Fritz London Memorial Prize in 2005 for his research on superfluids and the Kamerlingh-Onnes Memorial Prize in 2009 for his research on high temperature superconductivity. 

Séamus also holds an Honorary Doctorate from the National University of Ireland and is a Member of the US National Academy of Sciences.

Professor Davis told The Southern Star: ‘This is a wonderful honour, not only for me but also for all the scientists at institutions worldwide that form our collaborative research network. The award also highlights exciting opportunities now emerging from networking the scientific research communities in Ireland and here in the United States because both countries benefit from this positive relationship, with cross-Atlantic collaboration now playing a vital role in the success of many of the most advanced scientific projects. 

‘The science medal is also a testament to the world-leading quality of scientific education in Ireland, and to the deep commitment to promote and enhance Ireland’s educational standards today,’ he added.

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