BA in Computer Science and Economics; PhD in Computer Science,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NVMdurance, University of Limerick
Professor of Machine Learning
University of Limerick
About Me: I enjoy finding out about how things work and why people solve problems the way they do.
I am a professor of Machine Learning. We build computers that can learn how to solve problems and write their own code.
I have travelled all over the world and lived in America for a while, in Texas and Boston. Boston is great because they all love Ireland!
My Work: I program computers so that they can program themselves. We give them a problem to solve, a method to solve it, and then they learn how to write a program.
Machine Learning is the collective name for a set of algorithms that enable computers to think for themselves. Basically, they process a bunch of data which is in the form of inputs and outputs, for example, imagine we had a list of student grades in the pre-Leaving Cert, and then the total number of points they got when they actually did their Leaving.
A Machine Learning system could analyse this data and produce a model or program that maps or guesses how to predict their final number of points from the Leaving based solely on their pre-Leaving.
Next, we could use that model to predict how many other points students next year will get based on their pre-Leaving results.
What can it do?
If you’ve got data on it, we can make predictions. For example, how does Netflix know what films you like?
Yep, Machine Learning. They look the films you watched (the input data) and predict what you’ll think of other movies.
Flash memory is the kind of computer memory in mobile phones and USB sticks. It’s very fast, but, believe it or not, it wears out. When it does, it forgets what is stored on it, and all your favourite photos and videos disappear.
The faster it is, the quicker it wears out and more power it uses. What makes things even more complicated is that different phones and computers need flash configured differently in order to make it work as best it can. This is a really complex problem that no one has quite figured out to do.
My company, NVMdurance, uses Machine Learning to automatically set up flash for a specific use case (a phone, or a computer being used in a bank, or a data centre).
My Typical Day: I always start by checking on our experiments. Machine Learning experiments can take days or weeks to run, so need to be checked on. Then I answer e-mails and meet with graduate students. These are people who already have been to University and are studying for higher degrees. Sometimes I teach classes; we have big classes in the University, often with 150 students, so these are a lot of work.
What I'd do with the money: I would use it to build a hands on Machine Learning toolkit for school kids to play with. It would be free software that they can download to learn more about Machine learning.
Last year my postgraduate students (students who already have degrees and are now studying for Masters or Doctorates) created an online workshop that we ran during Science Week. Over 500 students attended and it was a great success.
I would use the money to help build some software that we could give to the schools participating in this year’s one, so that it would be even more interactive.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
I build computers that can learn
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
Invented AI system that can write computer programs. Thousands of people around the world use it now.
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My father, who bought our first computer when I was nine.
What was your favourite subject at school?
What did you want to be after you left school?
Computer Science professor!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
All the time; I was a total messer.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
This Way To The Egress
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Rented a Ferrari for a day!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
For Covid to finally end, to be able to go travelling again and to own a Ferrari
Tell us a joke.
Lame Computer Science joke: There are only 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don't.