2024 Kathleen Lonsdale RIA Chemistry Prize

Published: 1 Jul, 2024
A recent TU Dublin research graduate from the School of Food Science and Environmental Health, Dr Billy McCarthy, was recently awarded the 2024 Kathleen Lonsdale RIA Chemistry Prize at a ceremony in the Royal Irish Academy. The prestigious prize, sponsored by Henkel, is awarded for outstanding doctoral research in the chemical sciences carried out on the island of Ireland. The award is named in honour of the famous Irish X-ray crystallographer, Kathleen Lonsdale, who was born on 28 January 1903.
Dr McCarthy completed his PhD with the School of Food Science and Environmental Health at Technological University Dublin, where he was supervised by Prof Christine O'Connor and Dr John Tobin, Teagasc Moorepark.  Dr McCarthy was awarded a Teagasc Walsh Scholarship to carry out his PhD on ‘Understanding the Entry, Partition, and Fate of Chlorates in Dairy Processes’. 
His winning PhD thesis presents a detailed exploration of chlorate dynamics in dairy processing and proposes a novel solution for chlorate management. Chlorate is a contaminant that can find its way into dairy products through chlorinated water and products used during the cleaning of processing equipment. Due to its adverse health effects, the presence of chlorate in dairy products is strictly regulated. Understanding chlorate’s entry, partition, and fate in dairy production is vital to ensuring the safety and quality of dairy products across a global industry.
A key aspect of Dr McCarthy’s study involved developing an industrially feasible approach to chlorate removal from milk using membrane filtration, which had not been performed before this research. At Teagasc Moorepark, using this filtration method, Dr McCarthy demonstrated a significant reduction in chlorate levels of ~60% per unit of dry matter at an industrial scale. The results of this study make a strong case for the potential of membrane filtration as a critical control step for chlorate management that will enhance the safety and quality of dairy products globally.
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