Two leading academics from the University of Ulster have been elected to membership of the Royal Irish Academy. The Royal Irish Academy is Ireland’s premier learned society, numbering Nobel Prize Winners, world famous scholars and high ranking politicians amongst its members.
The Ulster academics are Professor Robert Welch, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, and Professor Helene McNulty, Professor in Human Nutrition and Dietetics at the Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health. Professor Welch is one of the leading critics of Irish literature in English on the island of Ireland and he also has an international reputation as a literary historian of Ireland. A novelist and poet as well as a literary historian and editor, Professor Welch’s main research interests lie in Irish literature of all periods in both Irish and English, translation and translation theory, literary history, and cultural interactions in the European and global context. He is also a Past President of the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures.
His most recent undertaking is the five volume Oxford History of the Irish Book, of which he is co-general editor. Professor Welch said: “I feel very honoured to have been elected to the Academy when one considers the distinguished membership of that Academy since 1785. Virtually anyone who was anyone in Irish science or the world of arts and letters has been a member, including people like Yeats, Einstein and Walton”.
Professor McNulty graduated in 1986 from Trinity College, Dublin and then pursued a PhD at the same institution. She worked for two years as a nutritionist in the Kellogg Co in Manchester before joining Ulster in 1992 as a lecturer in Human Nutrition and Dietetics, being promoted to senior lecturer in 1997 and to professor in 2001. In her academic career she is involved in lecturing on a number of undergraduate and postgraduate courses and in the supervision of research students to PhD level.
Among her research interests are issues concerning folate and related B-vitamins in health and disease prevention, as well as food fortification and micronutrient requirements in humans. She is involved in investigating the effects of suboptimal nutrition on a wide range of topics from birth defects to cardiovascular disease and cancer. Recently her group’s work has embraced the new challenges of how common genetic variations in the apparently normal population influence disease risk. She is a member of the British Dietetic Association, the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute and the Nutrition Society.
Professor McNulty said: “It is a great honour for me and for the University. I feel very honoured and it was a very special occasion for me and my family when I was admitted to membership. The whole staff of the Academy were very welcoming to myself and Professor Welch. It was a lovely day.”Welcoming the new members, Professor Nicholas Canny, President of the Royal Irish Academy, said: “It is a testament to Ireland’s formidable position in the academic world that the Royal Irish Academy is today able to honour such a variety of exceptional scholars in the Sciences and Humanities.
“Ireland can be proud of these brilliant women and men who are universally recognised as leaders in the world of learning.”