NUI Galway Graduate Awarded €2000 prize for Audio documentary on Covid-19 inequities

NUI Galway graduate Eoin Murphy
May 31 2021 Posted: 11:06 IST

NUI Galway graduate Eoin Murphy is the 2021 winner of the €2000 Mary Mulvihill Award, the science media competition for third-level students that commemorates the legacy of science journalist and author Mary Mulvihill (1959–2015).

Eoin won the top prize for an urgent and moving audio documentary, ‘Black Market Oxygen – The Peru Project’, which examined the contrasting experiences of Ireland and Peru during the Covid-19 pandemic. The piece was inspired by a photograph in The Guardian showing a stand-off between hundreds of impoverished and desperate families attempting to leave Peru’s capital, Lima, on foot to return to their home villages, and riot police, who blocked their path in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The documentary, which Eoin wrote and narrated, is a stark reminder that old age and underlying conditions are not the only factors that exacerbate vulnerabilities to Covid-19. “The incredible speed of innovation, which the scientific community has demonstrated since the beginning of 2020, will only be truly realised in years to come,” Eoin notes. “But what is already clear to see is that the inequality which exists around the world means that the poorest nations are being left behind in their

Now in its fifth year, the competition invited entries this year on the theme of ‘Virus’. Entrants were encouraged to consider the concept in its broadest sense – not only in terms of infectious agents, such as SARS-CoV-2, which has come to dominate our lives – but also in terms of computer viruses and other metaphorical uses, notably the media phenomenon of ‘going viral’.

The diverse entries included considerations of different aspects of virology, such as human endogenous retroviral sequences, which play essential roles in human biology, and bacteriophages, the viruses that attack bacteria, which have therapeutic potential as next-generation antibiotics, also an analysis of the ‘infodemic’ that has accompanied the present pandemic, and another on the difficulty faced by asylum-seekers in direct provision trying to maintain social distance in over-crowded accommodation.

A native of Ennis, County Clare, Eoin is a biochemist, a passionate science communicator and an educator. He currently combines his work as a part-time student on DCU’s M.Sc. in Science and Health Communication with his role as a teacher of biology, mathematics and general science in Ballinrobe Community School, in Ballinrobe, County Galway. He is a former Hardiman and Irish Research Council scholar and has a first class honours degree in biotechnology from NUI Galway and has completed two research MSc. degrees, in cancer and the genetics of Huntington’s disease, but has found himself increasingly drawn to science communication and education. He has taught in England and Canada, as well as in Ireland. He is currently collaborating with the British Council on a pilot science communication programme for transition year students. He also co-presents an Instagram TV show, @2baddadstalkscience, and has contributed articles to,, RTE Brainstorm and the British Council’s Voices magazine.

“The judges were greatly impressed with the volume and variety of this year’s entries,” said Anne Mulvihill, a sister of Mary’s and a member of the judging panel from the inception of the competition. “Eoin Murphy’s excellent audio piece was a unanimous winner and, given that Mary did a lot of audio work, it’s additionally fitting that the piece is in this medium. There was also consensus amongst the judges on giving the highly commended award to Matthew Thomas’s strong essay. We congratulate both winners and send our thanks and appreciation to all the entrants who took part in this year’s competition.”

The Mary Mulvihill Award is a project of The Mary Mulvihill Association, an initiative established by the family and friends of the late Mary Mulvihill (1959–2015) to honour her memory and her work in science journalism, science communication and heritage, and to promote her legacy. It administers and awards funds to support projects that commemorate her work and its significance.

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