Trinity scientist becomes first Irish FENS Kavli Scholar

Tomás Ryan joins a network of 30 European neuroscientists awarded the scholarship


Tomás Ryan, assistant professor in the Trinity School of Biochemistry and Immunology, and the Trinity Institute of Neuroscience, has been chosen as Ireland’s first Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) Kavli scholar. The confirmation was made at the opening ceremony of the FENS Forum of Neuroscience in Berlin last week.

The FENS Kavli network consists of 30 outstanding early- to mid-career neuroscientists based in Europe. The aim of the network is to improve global neurosciences with emphasis on providing opportunities to young scientists, while also promoting dialogue between scientists, policy makers, and society.

Professor Ryan expressed his delight at the news, saying he was “thrilled to join such an exciting and diverse network of dynamic, young European neuroscientists. Trinity College Dublin is fundamentally a European university, and I look forward to working to represent Ireland and Trinity through neuroscience activities in Europe”.

Ryan continued: “The FENS Kavli network exists primarily to support basic neuroscience research and cross-disciplinary collaborations, but it also has an active role in outreach and public policy. Because of the current tumultuous political climate it has never been more important for scientists to actively engage with the public and with policy makers. The FENS Kavli scholars have been active in doing so since the network’s inception in 2014, and these efforts will continue at national and European levels over the coming years.”

Speaking to Trinity News, Ryan recognised the exciting future of neuroscience, explaining that “neuroscience is still a very young field. We know very little about how the brain works and we have yet to arrive at a satisfactory theory of how the brain generates mind”.

“Progress will depend on young, informed scientists asking new scientific questions and employing new experimental techniques to arrive at clear answers. The FENS-Kavli network is valuable because it enables young investigators to engage in dialogue, collaborations, and network building independently of established academic hierarchies.”

The scholarship network was created through collaboration between FENS and the Kavli Foundation. The President of FENS is Professor Barry Everitt of the University of Cambridge.

Scholarship awardees meet multiple times a year to discuss a broad range of topics which are significant in European neuroscience. These meetings often result in the production of opinion articles or white-papers which are issued to European stakeholders to gain funding on key issues. This funding is largely used to establish childcare grants and PhD thesis prizes, while also helping to engage with the public on brain research.  

According to the School of Biochemistry and Immunology, Ryan’s research seeks to address the question of how memory is stored in the brain. It does this through the study of memory encoding, storage and retrieval in mice. It also employs interdisciplinary approaches of behavioural neuroscience, optogenetics, calcium imaging and molecular genetics in this research.

Peter Kelly

Peter Kelly is the current Assistant Editor of Trinity News. He is a Junior Sophister Law student, and a former Deputy News Editor.