• Louise Brennan

Early Reflections on my Secondment to UCD

Moving to Ireland and starting a PhD in January 2017 has signalled the beginning of a new phase in my career. This started with a secondment in University College Dublin, and it’s been the perfect reintroduction to academic life. UCD is the first of two secondment locations for me - later down the line I’ll spend time in Salumedia in Seville, and of course in my host location, the Beacon Hospital. For now, I’m based in the Insight Centre for Data Analytics in UCD for six months.

The O’Brien Centre for Science - home to Insight at UCD

University College Dublin is Ireland’s largest University - it has over 32,000 students (1,500 of whom are doing a PhD), a huge campus with great facilities, and many specialist research units. The Insight Centre is one of these - a multi-disciplinary institute whose goals is “to create a healthier, safer, more productive world by empowering a data-driven society to enable better decisions by individuals, communities, business and governments.”

Application Domains within Insight: Connected Health and the Discovery Economy

The broad scope of Insight’s research means that I’m working alongside professionals from many different backgrounds, including computer programmers, engineers, sports scientists and statisticians. There’s also a strong international presence in the centre, with researchers from all over the world - as you can see from the map below!

Insight World Map showing the team member’s home countries

Each Friday, the researchers involved with personal sensing come together, and we take it in turns to lead this meeting. It’s an opportunity to show our work, practice presentations and discuss ideas. With the mixture of professional backgrounds and experience in the room, I find the discussion is always open and insightful. In the office and break room, the atmosphere is full of positive energy, and the other researchers are friendly and encouraging. This is one of the main benefits of being in UCD so early on - meeting other PhD students, including the CATCH ESRs based in UCD, at different stages of their doctoratal research. It’s really helpful to hear about the various projects going on in Insight - how they were planned and executed, and taking on any tips and advice the other researchers pass on to me.

Coming from a clinical background, I’m used to rushing around a busy hospital and getting through a workload on a day to day basis. At first, I felt like a fish out of water in this new environment, but I’m learning to adjust my pace of work and get back into an academic mindset. The opportunity for a secondment to UCD is providing me with valuable experience into the life of a researcher in an academic centre. I’ve enjoyed observing how Insight has developed inter-departmental and inter-disciplinary links, as well as how it links with partners in Industry. I’d like to thank everyone at UCD and Insight who have made me feel so welcome and who continue to give me valuable support in the early stages of my project!

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