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Naughton Gift Fuels Research on Both Sides of the Atlantic

Nina Welding • DATE: October 30, 2014

For the past six years the Naughton Fellowship program has been encouraging transatlantic research collaborations for undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Notre Dame.

The Naughton Fellowship program allows students with a background in, or aptitude for, STEM fields to experience international research and educational opportunities through a funded exchange program involving the University of Notre Dame and four of Ireland’s leading research universities: Dublin City University, Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork, and University College Dublin. Irish undergraduates, Master’s students, and Ph.D. candidates can come to Notre Dame on the fellowship, while Notre Dame undergraduates, Master’s students, and Ph.D. candidates can travel to Ireland to study and research topics as diverse as Structural Engineering to Marine Biology and Public Health to Data Science and Analytics.

Speaking about the Naughton Fellowships, Professor Rich Taylor, Associate Vice President for Research, said, “We are so grateful for the Naughtons’ history of generosity at Notre Dame. When Dr. Martin Naughton originally launched the fellowship program he said that he knew that STEM education would be ‘essential to the prosperity of society.’ As Notre Dame continues to be a powerful force for good in the world, I am delighted that we can offer both Notre Dame students and Irish students the opportunity to conduct research and build international collaborations through the Naughton Fellowships.”

In addition to the $8 million gift for the fellowships, the Naughton Family has long-supported the University of Notre Dame, providing endowments for a professorship and faculty fellows and for the founding of the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies in South Bend, as well as the Keough-Naughton Notre Dame Centre in O’Connell House in Dublin, Ireland, which is now one of Notre Dame International’s Global Gateways.

The Naughton Fellowships have had a real impact on research at Notre Dame by building dynamic collaborations with Irish faculty. For Dr. Andrew Steward, an alumnus of the program, it had practical benefits for his work on cartilage tissue engineering. At the culmination of his fellowship, Steward said, “Being able to perform my research in a well-established lab really helped to catapult it. Researching in Ireland not only helped my work for the two years I was there, but I was also able to bring back countless techniques and strategies that continued to support my research at Notre Dame.”

A current Notre Dame doctoral student, Lauren Assour, the Naughton Fellowship allowed her to establish multidisciplinary collaborations in Ireland that would not have otherwise occurred. Assour, who is utilizing her field of computer science to analyze how mosquitoes transmit malaria, said, “I was able to work with a biologist from a completely different background and with a different skillset than I had worked with at Notre Dame. As a result, my advisor gave me very different insights that helped me to move my research along in interesting ways, including an ancestral reconstruction of mosquitoes, which would never have been on my radar but is a big part of my dissertation now.”

For the Irish students coming to Notre Dame, the program is just as significant. As a participant in the Engineering, Science, and Technology Entrepreneurship Excellence Master’s (ESTEEM) Program, Amy Flanagan’s time at Notre Dame has been a meaningful growth experience. She said the program “has been as much about what we learn outside the classroom as in it…It has been an unbelievable opportunity to study at Notre Dame and bring the research skills I have learned in Ireland to one of America’s leading research universities. The continuous support of the Naughton Foundation ensured I was able to perform to the best of my ability, to rise to the academic challenges, and embrace all of the opportunities presented.”

Fellow ESTEEM student, Shane McQuillan, has been able to see his research in action as well. He has co-founded a start-up company that is commercializing the work he did at Notre Dame on a mobile application that uses speech analysis to screen for concussions, which he said “would not have been possible without the Naughton Fellowship.”

With new students coming and going on a regular basis, Notre Dame will soon be welcoming Dublin City University doctoral student Gillian Duffy to campus. Duffy, who is researching the impact of agriculture on river and stream nutrient levels, is looking forward to both the technical and personal sides of the fellowship; she said, “The Naughton Fellowship gives me the opportunity to study agricultural watersheds in the Midwest, which I would not have had access to otherwise. Additionally, it is a fantastic opportunity to meet a wider community of researchers in my field. This international experience is not only important for my research, but for my personal development, independence, and the chance to meet new people and make new friends.”

The fellowships are awarded on an annual basis, with deadlines fast approaching. For more information, please see naughton.nd.edu.

Provided by Joanne Fahey, Office of Research