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UMMS immunologist Katherine Fitzgerald admitted to Royal Irish Academy

By Susan E.W. Spencer

UMass Medical School Communications

May 22, 2020
Katherine A. Fitzgerald, PhD
Dr. Fitzgerald was among 29 new members brought into the 235-year-old institution in an online video ceremony
on Friday, May 22.

The Royal Irish Academy honored a UMass Medical School researcher and world-renowned immunologist with admission as an honorary member, in an online video ceremony on Friday, May 22.

Katherine A. Fitzgerald, PhD, the Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research Chair, professor of medicine, vice chair for research in the Department of Medicine and director of the Program in Innate Immunity, was among 29 new members brought into the 235-year-old institution.

Dr. Fitzgerald’s lab focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms controlling the inflammatory response. Her group has made seminal discoveries in the areas of host-pathogen interactions, innate immunity and mechanisms of inflammation, including discoveries of new receptors for pathogens, new signaling molecules, and defining how innate immune pathways contribute to autoimmune and inflammatory disease.

Election to membership of the Royal Irish Academy is the highest academic distinction in Ireland, according to a news release from the organization. There are 618 members of the academy, 88 of whom are honorary members. The distinction of honorary membership is reserved for academics who have made a major international contribution to their disciplines but who do not reside in Ireland.

The academy aims to promote high levels of scholarship; to act as a national and international body for the various academic disciplines; to advise government in the fields of science, research and education; and to promote collaboration between scholars and different learned institutions at home and abroad.

Welcoming the newly admitted members, Mary Canning, PhD, president of the academy, said, “Ireland should be immensely proud of these women and men who have brought international acclaim to our country. As members of the Royal Irish Academy they will strengthen our capacity to provide the expert advice Ireland needs at this time.” She thanked the many academy members who had put their expertise at the service of the people of Ireland during the COVID-19 crisis.

“I am truly honored to be elected to the Royal Irish Academy,” said Fitzgerald, who earned her doctorate degree at Trinity College Dublin. “I am very proud to be Irish and value the excellent training I received in Ireland, which laid the foundation on which I established my own career. The training and connections I have, through my education in Ireland, keep me always close to Irish science and all the best it has to offer. I look forward to even stronger ties with Ireland through this appointment and will do all I can to help the mission of the academy in future years.”

Fitzgerald has won numerous awards for her work, including the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Scholarship at UMMS, a MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health, the Milstein Award from the International Cytokine Society and the St Patrick’s Day Medal from the Irish Government. She is an elected member of the American Association of Microbiology and is currently president of the International Cytokine and Interferon Society.