By Mehreen Tahir 

One of the oldest higher education systems is in Ireland which dates back to the 16th century. Ireland’s world renowned universities are recognised for their high quality teaching and research. Although the country is comparatively small in size, it has many top rated universities, globally. The country also has a rich cultural history and has considerably invested in Arts, Humanities, Science, Engineering and Technology making it a perfect place to pursue one’s PhD.

ML-Labs is an SFI Centre for Research Training in Machine Learning. It allows students to develop deep research and technical expertise required for an internationally excellent PhD, as well as transferable skills and industry experience to make them industry ready. I always wanted a PhD program that comes with close industry engagement which made me choose ML Labs for my Phd. The program is fully-funded and also provides unmatched opportunities e.g. cohort-based interdisciplinary training, industry placements etc. which means you get the best of both worlds.  

As an international student, I’ve been asked several times why I chose to come all this way for my PhD and not some place closer to home. Well, who doesn’t love adventures right? Aside from that, the exposure we’re getting at ML-Labs is to die for. I don’t think there are many such programs that take an initial level researcher and make them attractive industry-ready hires. I certainly believe that the program would help me grooming myself personally as well as professionally.

I’m a few months into my PhD and as we all know remote has been the new norm because of COVID. Honestly speaking, the idea of starting a PhD online was quite terrifying. I had so many questions in my mind e.g. How am I going to connect to my supervisor and other fellow students when not on campus? How will the bootcamp go? Seminars, industry talks etc. But I must admire the efforts of the center in making sure that everything goes smoothly. The Boot Camp itself was very helpful and provided us an unique learning opportunities whether it be the talks from industry partners, peer-learning sessions or group projects. Besides that, it also challenged our time management and team management skills which I believe will definitely pay off in future.

Summing it up, being a PhD student at ML-Labs is a unique experience challenging as well as giving you every possible opportunity to learn and grow. But the ball just started rolling, who knows what future years will bring.