Castletroy professor pushes gender boundaries

Professor Caitriona Jackman. Photograph by Humans of Dublin.

by Austin Hobbs

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A CASTLETROY woman has made history in being appointed as the first ever female senior professor of physics in the 81-year history of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS).

Professor Caitriona Jackman, in her role at DIAS’s School of Cosmic Physics, will lead a research group on planetary magnetospheres – the magnetic bubbles that surround magnetised planets.

Prof Jackman studied and worked in the UK for 17 years, having completed her PhD in Space Physics at the University of Leicester. She has held research positions at Imperial College London, University College London and the University of Southampton.

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She returned to Ireland in 2019 to take up a prestigious President of Ireland Future Research Leaders Award from Science Foundation Ireland.

Her position is one of a number of posts – specifically for women – funded under the Senior Academic Leadership Initiative (SALI), which aims to address the gender imbalance at senior academic level in higher education in Ireland. Managed by the Higher Education authority, the Initiative is funded by the Department of Further and Higher Education.

Welcoming Professor Jackman’s appointment, Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris, said there was still some work to be done in ensuring gender equality in the research and higher education sector and initiatives like SALI aimed to address them.

Commenting on her appointment, Prof. Jackman said: “It is a privilege to take up the position of senior professor at the DIAS School of Cosmic Physics, and to be the first ever female senior professor in the institute. I look forward to growing and developing my team, based at the DIAS Dunsink Observatory, and leading new research in space physics.”

DIAS chief executive Dr Eucharia Meehan said that although many talented women had worked at DIAS down through the years,none of them had been appointed to the level of professor,

“We are delighted that that has finally changed. We hope that many others will follow in Caitriona’s footsteps,” she declared.

“We know that women are not sufficiently represented in senior academic roles, so initiatives, like SALI are of vital importance to ensure that this changes.”