Archive for Maynooth University

Back to Sunny Ireland

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Maynooth with tags , , , , , on April 22, 2019 by telescoper

Well here I am, back in Maynooth, after a week’s restful leave in Cardiff. The weather here is just as nice as it was in Wales when I left yesterday: sunny and about 20 degrees. I’m enjoying the warm weather very much indeed, as my arthritis seems to have eased off considerably.

I was planning to return to Ireland today (Monday) but the flights were far cheaper yesterday. The plane I took yesterday (Sunday) less than half full. Incidentally, after their recent rescue and restructuring FlyBe have announced that after this summer they will no longer operate jets from Cardiff. Flights to Dublin will therefore be by their smaller Bombardier turboprops rather than the Embraer aircraft that I took yesterday.

Today is a Bank holiday in Ireland, as it is in the UK, but after that the Easter break is over; I’m officially back to work tomorrow. This semester will have been divided into three pieces, firstly by the half-term study week (around St Patrick’s Day) and now by a one-week Easter break. Last year these two breaks were contiguous, but Easter is quite late this year so they are separate this time.

Anyway, we now have three weeks of teaching left followed by the May examination period and, of course, the inevitable Marking of the Scripts.

The three remaining weeks include two Bank Holiday Mondays including today, Easter Monday, and the May Day Holiday on 6th May). I have lectures on Mondays I will miss two sessions, leaving only seven lectures remaining for Engineering Mathematics. I’d better make sure that in the short time remaining I cover everything that is in the examination!

Anyway, although it’s a holiday I’ve got to get my lecture together for tomorrow morning so I’d better get to work. It’s a shame not to be out and about in the sunshine but there you go. That is the price you pay for having a week off. No doubt there is a ton of emails to reply to as well; I’ve tried not to look at my inbox while I’ve been off. I’ve made that a rule for holidays now: put the out of office message on and leave the email alone!

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Theoretical Physics at Maynooth University Open Day!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 5, 2019 by telescoper

Well, tomorrow (Saturday 6th April)  is an Open Day at Maynooth University. If you want to find out more about it you can look here where you will find this video which has some nice views of the campus:

I used to give Open Day talks quite frequently in a previous existence as Head of School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex and now I’m at it again, giving a talk on behalf of the Department of Theoretical Physics this Open Day. If you come along, please come along to my talk (at 14.10 on Saturday)!

We also have a stall in the Iontas Building from 10.30, where you can meet staff and students and talk to them about the course, or anything else vaguely related to Theoretical Physics. There are other stalls, of course, but the Theoretical Physics one is obviously way more interesting than the others!

Looking for fun pictures to put in my talk I stumbled across this:

I think that’s the only one I need, really!

A Boost for Data Science in Ireland

Posted in Cardiff, Maynooth with tags , , , , , on March 11, 2019 by telescoper

Regular readers of this blog (both of them) will know that before I moved to Maynooth University I worked (part-time) in the Data Innovation Research Institute at Cardiff University, during which time we were very happy to be awarded a Centre for Doctoral Training by the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC), shared across Cardiff, Swansea and Bristol, as part of a big investment in this area by the UK government.

Now Science Foundation Ireland has announced a similar programme in Ireland: on Tuesday 5th March, Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, and Minister of State for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development, John Halligan TD, announced investment of over €100 million in six new SFI Centres for Research Training in the fields of ICT and data analytics. I’m very pleased to hear that Maynooth University is involved in two of these; there’s a news item on the University web pages here.

One of the new SFI Centres for Research Training, in Foundations of Data Science, is a joint initiative of Maynooth University, University College Dublin and the University of Limerick, with the support of Skillnet Ireland underpinning its industry and enterprise engagement. This Centre was awarded a total of €21 million, including industry and university contributions to train 139 PhD students towards a world-class foundational understanding of Applied Mathematics, Statistics, and Machine Learning. This represents the largest ever investment in mathematical sciences research in Ireland. The Maynooth involvement is based around the famous Hamilton Institute.

I’m not involved in this initiative myself, at least part of the reason for which is that I didn’t even know about the scheme until the results were announced, but I do hope there will be opportunities for my future PhD students working in `Big Data’ problems in cosmology to benefit from some of the training opportunities it provides.

A much wider issue is that companies based in Ireland have reported difficulties in filling vacancies with candidates sufficiently well trained in data science so hopefully this will help close the skills gap here.

Quality Cat

Posted in Education, Maynooth with tags , , , , , on March 6, 2019 by telescoper

Well, today is the first day of the Quality Review Panel visit to the Department of Theoretical Physics at Maynooth University. It has come up very quickly; I blogged about the preparations some weeks ago.

Anyway, what with the Quality Review and regular teaching and marking I’m going to be a bit preoccupied for the rest of today and tomorrow. I was in early this morning ahead of the first meeting, and noticed Maynooth University Library Cat was on sentry duty at his usual post:

More surprisingly I learn that said cat now has his own Twitter account, so please give him a follow!


What a difference a year makes

Posted in Maynooth with tags , , on February 27, 2019 by telescoper

All this week we’ve seen very nice sunny weather in Maynooth, with temperatures reaching around 16 degrees (which is unusually high for February). This is in remarkable contrast with this time last year, when Ireland was facing the Beast from the East. The roads were blocked, the airports were closed, people were panic-buying bread, and the scene on campus was this:

It’s not been quite as warm here as it has been in England and Wales, where temperatures have exceeded  20°C, but it’s still been very pleasant – apart, perhaps, from being a bit warm in the computer laboratory.

One can’t help thinking, though, that there’s something disconcerting about this weather. It’s almost as if the climate might be changing or something like that.

John & Pat Hume Doctoral Scholarships

Posted in Maynooth, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on February 5, 2019 by telescoper

You may or may not know that former Northern Irish politician John Hume, is an alumnus of St Patrick’s College Maynooth and thus has close connections with Maynooth University. There’s a building named after him, for one thing.

In the words of the Maynooth University website,

Born in Derry/Londonderry, John Hume was the second leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) from 1979 to 2001. He has served as a member of the European Parliament and a member of the UK parliament, as well as a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

He is regarded as one of the most important figures in the recent political history of Ireland and one of the architects of the Northern Ireland peace process. The co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize with David Trimble in 1998, Hume was also recognised with the Gandhi Peace Prize and the Martin Luther King Award – he is the only recipient of all three major peace awards.

In 2010, he was named ‘Ireland’s Greatest’ in a public poll by RTÉ. It is fitting that Maynooth University recognises the contribution of John and Pat Hume to peace on the island of Ireland.

One of the most important manifestations of the connection between John Hume, his wife Pat Hume, and Maynooth University is a programme of Doctoral Scholarships, which are now being advertised for entry in September 2019.

These are available to fund a PhD in any academic discipline so I encourage anyone interested in doing graduate research to have a look at the details which can be found here. Maynooth University is particularly keen to encourage more women to pursue careers in STEM disciplines, so we particularly encourage female applicants.

If there’s anyone out there who might be interested in doing a PhD in Theoretical Physics or Astrophysics please feel free to contact me directly! And I’d be very grateful if others who see this could draw it to the attention of potential candidates.

Self Assessments

Posted in Biographical, Education, Finance, Maynooth with tags , , on January 17, 2019 by telescoper

My first batch of examination marking having been completed satisfactorily and my next paper not taking place until the weekend (Saturday morning, to be precise), I naively hoped that I could devote myself to research for a few days this week as I am behind schedule in completing a couple of papers. Unfortunately this has not been as straightforward as I’d hoped. I’ve spent all of today doing various administrative things (expenses claims, examination reports, and a part of the Department’s Quality Review Self-Assessment document which is due in near the end of the month.

In case you are unfamiliar with such things, a Quality Review is an exercise that takes place from time to time for every Department or Administrative Unit in the University (and indeed for every university in Ireland). For the Department of Theoretical Physics at Maynooth University, the last one took place in 2009). The process begins with the aforementioned Self-Assessment document which basically lays out what the Department is trying to do, the processes by which it uses to do it, reflects on the effectiveness of those processes, and outlines ideas for how they can be improved. All the staff in the Department have been engaged in writing bits of this document, which is now gradually coming into shape.I’ve had a relatively light involvement in this because I haven’t been here for very long, but it has consumed quite a lot of staff effort.

When complete, the Self Assessment report is sent to a range of people both inside and outside the University and there is then a visitation during which the panel talks to staff and students and has a look around the Department. We’re expecting our `inspection’ to take place in March. After that the panel gives feedback to the Department in a report. The panel’s comments are made publicly available, as is appropriate for a publicly-funded body. The report emerging from the last Quality Review of the Department of Mathematical Physics (as it was then called ) can be found here (pdf). It’s all quite a lot of work – the latest Departmental meeting devoted to this yesterday lasted three and a half hours, and we’ve had several meetings like that! fortunately, it  will all be finished by next week. Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.

 

Talking of Self Assessment, I realized last night with a panic that I hadn’t yet done my UK income tax return for 2017/18, also due in by the end of January. I spent this lunchtime getting all the bits of paper in order, and completed the task online fairly quickly as I’ve done it many times before. It turns out that yet again HMRC owes me a substantial refund. They haven’t handled my income tax properly since I left Sussex in 2016 as a matter of fact. Despite repeated attempts to get them to apply the rules correctly they have basically taxed all my income at source at the higher rate (40%) only to pay it back when I submitted my return. Fortunately, I am now domiciled in Ireland so won’t have to deal with HMRC much again.

Anyway, I should complete most of the outstanding administrative stuff this evening and if I do that I can clear a day for research, or at least writing up papers…