Trinity’s Prof Tomás Ryan awarded prestigious 2020 Lister Institue Research Prize

The funds will be used to further research into infantile amnesia

Prof Tomás Ryan, of the School of Biochemistry and the Trinity Institute of Neurosciences, is one of four awardees of the 2020 Lister Institue Research Prize. Prof Ryan is the first scientist in an Irish higher education institution to receive the Lister Institute Preventive Medicine Prize Fellowship, worth €277,000. 

The prizes from the Lister Institue are awarded to early-career biomedical scientists in the UK and Ireland who show significant potential in their field. This year 114 scientists applied for the award, with eleven shortlisted and four final recipients. 

Prof Ryan will use the prize to further his research into memory “engrams” and amnesia in infants. In particular, Prof Ryan’s research aims to examine if and how lost childhood memories can be rediscovered in adulthood. 

Ryan stated that it was an “honour and privilege” to receive the award. 

“The freedom to pursue blue skies, fundamental research is at the core of the scientific enterprise, and is the starting point for all societal benefits in medicine, education, and industry”, he continued.

“The support of the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine will directly enhance the autonomy and impact of my research team. I look forward to working with the Lister Institute to contribute to the scientific community in Ireland and the UK.”

Infantile amnesia, or loss of memories from the ages two-four, is thought to be the payoff for rapid cognitive development processes children undergo in this period. However, it does slow the process of learning during early life, and if reduced we could see interesting changes in infantile learning. Prof Ryan’s work looks at the neurobiological background to this phenomenon. 

The Hon Rory Guinness, a senior member of the Lister Institute’s Governing Body said that the award of a Fellowship to Dr Ryan “is an immense and historic moment in the life of science in these islands”.

“The original bequest to Joseph Lister was made by Edward Cecil Guinness. He understood the problems of unsanitary conditions in the brewing process. He also had immense concern for the well-being of his fellow citizens. With amazing vision, he invested a large part of his fortune to pioneer medical research through the Lister Institute and in social housing through the Guinness Trust in the UK, and the Iveagh Trust in Dublin.” 

Edward Cecil Guinness was the chancellor of Trinity between 1908 and 1927, so the prize has its roots within College walls.  

“It is superb to see Dr Ryan’s laboratory supported in an institution that has long been supported by us. It is recognition that there are some world-class scientists in Ireland, and we look forward to welcoming Tomás into the fabled Lister fellowship.”





Lucy Fitzsimmons

Lucy Fitzsimmons is the SciTech co-Editor of Trinity News, and a Junior Sophister student of Chemical Sciences.