A leading physicist and a technology entrepreneur have been named the recipients of this year's St Patrick's Day medals.

The Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) accolade was presented to Professor Margaret Murnane, who is the Professor of Physics and Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Colorado.

Also receiving a medal was telecoms innovator and entrepreneur, David McCourt, the founder and CEO of Granaham McCourt Capital.

The annual SFI award is designed to recognise the outstanding contributions of Irish scientists, engineers or technologists living and working in the US to academia, research and industry.

The medals were presented by the Taoiseach at an event at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington D.C. today.

Professor Murnane is originally from Limerick and studied physics in UCC before completing her PhD in University of California at Berkeley.

She attributes her love for physics to her father who was a teacher.

She is recognised as a leader in laser science having designed some of the fastest in the world, as well as an affordable table-top laser.

Her discoveries have pushed the field forward by enabling scientists across a range of disciplines to image particles.

She is one of only two female physicists in history to be elected to the US National Academy of Sciences and has won many awards.

Professor Murnane, who continues to support the work of the Tyndall National Institute in Cork, said she was honoured to receive the award.

"In my work with the Tyndall Institute, I have seen first-hand the fantastic research taking place in Ireland which has applications around the world," she said.

"As an Irish citizen living in America, it heartens me to see the continued collaboration between the two countries to ensure the research community in both Ireland and the US can produce the very best work."

David McCourt is best known in Ireland for his involvement in enet, the telecoms company part-owned by his network and telecommunications company Granahan McCourt Capital.

A consortium comprised of enet and SSE is currently the last remaining bidder for the state's National Broadband Plan.

David McCourt holds Irish citizenship and has a home in Co Clare and has played an ongoing role in the funding, employment and innovation of the academic system here through the Global Economic Forum.

Among his biggest innovations was the development of a new technology standard that lowered the cost of building cable networks by 80%.

"As an employer in Ireland, and with my own interest in R&D, I greatly value the culture of innovation and collaboration that exists between Ireland and the US," Mr McCourt said.

"I believe that collaborative research with industry will continue to produce transformative advances that will enhance both our economies and societies."