Meet the Researcher: Meadhbh O’ Neill

Meadhbh is a CONFIRM PhD student based at the University of Limerick.

“I enjoy problem-solving and the challenge of working on a project from start to finish.”

Tell us a bit about your research...

My research involves the use of modern statistical and machine learning techniques to analyse and optimise complex manufacturing processes.

For example, consider an industrial process with many “features” or inputs which could include temperature, pressure, airflow, and material concentration. These features impact the output, such as product performance or quality. We want to know more about this relationship and model the impact of the input features on the output.

Often, only a subset of the features are important and feature selection methods can be used to identify these important features. Feature selection methods eliminate the redundant features which are not providing us with any useful information. The figure below shows a simplified scenario where 5 input features pass through a process and impact the output. There are 3 redundant features (grey). Smart and innovative enhancements in data collection technologies and the era of “big data” have highlighted the importance of feature selection methods for tackling this abundance of data.

What did you study as an Undergraduate?

I completed a B.Sc. in Financial Mathematics at the University of Limerick. I gained a mix of mathematical, statistical, and computing skills throughout the various modules and projects in the course. I discovered that my main interest was in the area of statistical modelling and data analytics.

What made you decide to go into research?

My interest in research started when I worked on my final year thesis. I investigated the reaction times of competitive sprinters and the effectiveness of the detection systems used in the sprint start. This was enjoyable as it was a crossover between my interests of statistics and sports analytics.

What do you enjoy most about being a PhD Student?

I enjoy problem-solving and the challenge of working on a project from start to finish. There is a constant environment for learning during a Ph.D. which I like as I am a curious person. Everyone within the Confirm team and the MASCI (Mathematics Applications Consortium for Science and Industry) group where I am based are extremely supportive. I also enjoy participating in events with schools to spark an interest in STEM which is always fun!

Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking about a career or research in STEM?

I would encourage anyone thinking of studying STEM to jump right in. There are many opportunities to get involved in the latest innovations. You can find what suits you as there is an extensive range of disciplines to choose from. Consider doing a Ph.D. if you are highly self-motivated and you look forward to the challenge of learning more about your area of interest.

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