Welcome to the first edition of the newsletter for the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research Training in Machine Learning. Our mission in the centre is to train industry-ready, academically excellent graduates who will lead the current and future transformation of industry, society, and science that machine learning is enabling. And we are making good progress.

 It is now a little over a year since we welcomed our first cohort of 24 PhD candidates to our three institutions in October 2019. This group is progressing research on applications of machine learning from improving water desalination plants to identifying potholes, and developments in fundamental machine learning approaches in areas from network analysis to computer vision. This work has already led to 13 scientific publications, as well as multiple conference presentations, several hackathon wins, and a new start-up company. Some highlights from these experiences are described later in this newsletter. 

Our second cohort, of 29 PhD candidates, joined us in September 2020. They have just completed Bootcamp, a 10 week programme designed to kickstart their PhD research. As well as technical content, this programme included workshops on communications, mental well-being, machine learning and the law, and the ethics of machine learning. We were also delighted to include industry seminars from Nokia Bell Labs, Accenture Labs, Equal1, Huawei, Mastercard, and Aylien.

 As part of Bootcamp PhD candidates also took part in a fascinating project in collaboration with the USA National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Private Automated Contact Tracing (PACT) research group from MIT. This involved developing machine learning solutions to better identify close contacts as part of Covid-19 contact tracing based on data from phones, and is described in detail in an article below.

Collaboration with industry partners is a key part of the centre and we are delighted to be currently engaging in collaborative research projects with Strategic Partners Colgate-Palmolive, Microsoft, Huawei, and Equal1. We are also beginning to send PhD candidates on placement where they will not only get to experience hands-on real-world machine learning development work, but will also be able to bring all of the skills they have developed so far to benefit their host companies. Anyone interested in getting involved in the centre in these ways should contact me to discuss it more.

We hope that you enjoy hearing about the work that we have been doing at the centre so far and we look forward to working with you further in the new year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


Centre Director

Brian Mac Namee