NUI Galway biostatistician among recipients of new health research awards

A biostatistician at NUI Galway is among the first recipients of a new research awards scheme announced this week by the Health Research Board.

The new HRB Emerging Investigator Awards will enable researchers at the mid stage of their career to shift gear to become independent investigators. The HRB is investing €8.3 million through this scheme to support researchers who have demonstrated real promise as they take their first step to research independence.

Award recipients include Dr John Ferguson, a senior research fellow in biostatistics at the HRB Clinical Research Facility at NUI Galway, for his research in the area of population health research and public health. Dr Ferguson studies determinants of health and disease with the goal of identifying interventions to promote health and reduce the burden of disease.

Dr Ferguson’s research will initially target interventions to prevent stroke, and will later be extended to include several other diseases.

“My research methods will allow more accurate predictions of the effect of population health interventions — for instance how a successful promotion of daily exercise might affect the prevalence and incidence of heart disease and stroke, as well as better estimate risk factor burden,” Dr Ferguson explained. “The HRB Emerging Investigator Award will help to develop my career as a researcher working on the joint interface between statistics, medicine, and population health.”

According to Mairead O Driscoll, Interim CEO at the Health Research Board: “What set these successful individuals apart was their diversity and ability to multitask. Their challenge now is to build their research team, advance their research programmes, foster collaborations, and leverage funding to build a sustainable research programme. Everyone is well qualified for the challenge.”

The HRB will support these investigators for four years with a maximum of €800,000 including the investigators’ salaries and support for research staff. The awards are available for research in a number of areas, namely health economics, biostatistics, immunology, respiratory medicine, pharmacology, neurology and neuroscience, psychology, molecular and cellular biology, and health services research.

Successful individuals will be recognised as principle investigators in their institutions, As well as doing research that would ultimately improve people’s health, or positively influence policy or practice, they will also be expected to act as mentors and work well in collaboration with other disciplines.

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