Trinity and IBM Research Europe – Dublin announce new fellowship programme

Posted on: 13 December 2021

Trinity and IBM Research Europe – Dublin have just announced a new fellowship programme to provide exceptional PhD candidates with the unique opportunity to work with scientists tackling real-world problems – while simultaneously gaining industry experience. 

Students will work on a mutually agreed research project and receive supervision from Trinity researchers as well as IBM Research mentors, while also being employed by IBM Research in Dublin for the duration of their PhDs.

Provost Linda Doyle, Trinity, said:

“Trinity is delighted to be part of this innovative program with IBM. It offers participants the best of both worlds: in addition to a grounding in the rigorous approach of academic research, PhD candidates will also be exposed to the culture of innovation which is the hallmark of a company like IBM. As well as generating excellent research projects informed by real-world applications, the programme will produce a new cohort of highly qualified, well rounded researchers.”

Dr Ruoyi Zhou, Director, IBM Research Europe – Dublin, said:

“Not only will this collaboration be instrumental in elevating the innovation ecosystem in Ireland, but it will also attract top talent to IBM Research. We are excited to see how each recipient will contribute to the advancement of scientific research.”

Research spotlight: from next-gen quantum computing to artificial intelligence

Among the areas of research focus are quantum computing and quantum systems;artificial intelligence; the future of computing; and security and privacy. 

A number of Trinity’s researchers are spearheading exciting work in these areas and are looking forward to working with talented incoming students and strengthening relationships with IBM Research Europe as part of the programme. These researchers include Professors John Goold, Sinéad Ryan, Ivana Dusparic and Declan O’Sullivan. 

Associate Professor in Physics, John Goold 

Professor Goold works in the area of quantum mechanics. He has great interest in the field of quantum information and computing where now quantum bits – called qubits – form the basis of a new form of computational logic that has the potential to solve problems even the world’s most massive supercomputers currently cannot solve.

We are at the dawn of the era of quantum information processing and unfortunately the hardware, although improving rapidly, is far from ideal. Despite this one of the first applications is expected to be in the area of quantum simulation and this is what Nathan Keenan, one of the new Fellowship Programme’s first students, will focus on. 

Professor Goold said:

“We plan to move some of the dynamical simulations routinely done in my lab to the new quantum architecture being developed at IBM and most importantly we want to understand how we can improve the simulation times despite the imperfect nature of the current devices. It will be essential to see how far we can push this new technology, which has the potential to revolutionise the way we simulate complex quantum systems.” 

From left to right: Dr. Ruoyi Zhou, Director of IBM Research Dublin; Alessandro Curioni, IBM Research VP Europe and Africa; Nathan Keenan, Pre-Doc Quantum Computing Researcher, who will work with Professor John Goold; Simon Harris, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science; Deborah Threadgold, IBM Ireland Country General Manager.

Dr Martin Mevissen, Senior Manager, AI & Quantum at IBM Research Europe – Dublin, said:

“A key technical challenge in quantum computing is efficiently compiling quantum programs in circuits on current quantum computing hardware. At IBM Research Europe – Dublin, Nathan will work on the simulation of quantum systems on quantum computers with the aim to discover new quantum compilation and circuit optimization approaches. This project will allow IBM to evaluate and enhance its circuit optimization techniques, while Trinity explores the potential of noisy quantum computers for quantum simulation. This is an exciting collaboration in the emerging quantum computing ecosystem in Ireland.”

Professor of Theoretical High Energy Physics, Sinéad Ryan 

Professor Ryan’s research focus is the numerical simulation of quantum chromodynamics and the quantum theory of the strong nuclear force, in an approach known as lattice QCD. A particular interest is better understanding the fundamental nature of strong exotic matter and the physics of the early universe. 

Precision lattice QCD calculations require state-of-the-art, High-Performance Computing (HPC) resources and the field has been at the forefront of supercomputing hardware and software innovation for more than 30 years. 

Professor Ryan said:

“The project for a student in this programme will combine fundamental research in particle physics with innovative software development to accelerate scientific workflows on diverse computing infrastructures. The project will extend the scope of current simulations to include new computing paradigms in Machine Learning in convergence with HPC by deploying and optimising the IBM Accelerated Discovery platform with open-source Lattice QCD codes.” 

Ussher Assistant Professor in Computer Science, Ivana Dusparic

Professor Dusparic’s research focuses on the development of novel artificial intelligence techniques, and in particular reinforcement learning, to optimise resource use in large-scale heterogeneous infrastructures (e.g., intelligent transport, communication networks).  

She is currently a co-director of the SFI Centre for Research Training in Artificial Intelligence, and a funded investigator in the CONNECT SFI Research Centre for Future Networks and Communications.

Professor Dusparic said:

“IBM’s world-leading research strongly aligns with and complements our research in various aspects of AI, such as reinforcement learning, scaling and automating machine learning, and human-centred AI. As AI is having increasingly transformational impact on our lives and society, we will focus on training the next generation of PhD graduates to not only develop robust and scalable AI techniques which learn to meet their objectives, but which also include a human-in-the-loop to ensure they have been given the right objectives to meet.”

Dr Elizabeth Daly, STSM, Master Inventor, Research Manager, Interactive AI Group at IBM Research Europe – Dublin, said:

“I am excited to be part of shaping the next generation of AI researchers in Ireland. The pre-doc program gives students the time and scope to focus on foundational academic research while grounding their research in challenges faced by industry when leveraging AI in practise. While benefiting from TCD’s depth of knowledge and expertise they will also get the opportunity to work with IBM Researchers from many different backgrounds providing a broad perspective to drive novel, impactful innovation.  “

Professor in Computer Science, Declan O’Sullivan

Data and its relationship with Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence algorithms is increasingly crucial – never more so than in support of security and privacy applications – and Professor O’Sullivan and his team’s research into Knowledge Graph Techniques (which extract, transform and integrate data) is central to this relationship. 

Professor O’Sullivan is Director of Research in Trinity’s School of Computer Science and Statistics, and Principal Investigator in Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) Research Centre ADAPT

Professor O’Sullivan said:

“We are very excited to be collaborating with the IBM Security and Privacy team, especially given the range of exciting research topics in an area of mutual interest: proactive and semi-automated data privacy compliance; vocabularies, ontologies and knowledge graphs for semantic representations and reasoning over compliance frameworks, such as GDPR; just-in-time generation of datasets in zero-trust environments; recommender systems for data privacy compliance; novel measures for data privacy risks and vulnerabilities; and customisations for specific industries, such as healthcare, finance, and insurance. We are really looking forward to recruiting several students as part of this exciting programme in the coming years.”

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