More than 250 UCD alumni attend event in London as part of university’s strategy to develop and strengthen the UCD community internationally
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More than 250 University College Dublin (UCD) alumni have attended an event in London as part of the university’s strategy to develop and strengthen the UCD community internationally.

The event, held in the House of Lords, was hosted by businessman Lord Adair Turner, a member of the UK’s Financial Policy Committee and his wife, Orna Ní Chionna, a distinguished alumna of UCD.

The primary objective of the event, which had a ‘Big Data and the Digital Age’ theme, was to build relationships with UCD alumni in the UK in order to develop UCD’s reputation as Ireland’s global university. The event, organised by UCD Alumni Relations and the UK Chapter of UCD, was attended by Professor Andrew J Deeks, president, UCD.

Lord Turner said: “I am delighted to host UCD here in the House of Lords. It is increasingly important to build and maintain relationships between industry and universities in the UK and Ireland.”

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Dr Laura Toogood and Prof Barry Smyth

Prof Deeks said: “We are conscious that many of our graduates live and work in the UK.  We aim to encourage a vibrant UCD alumni community so that our graduates can benefit from the strength of the UCD network and connections.

“This event, which was so generously hosted by Lord Turner, provides a gracious setting in which we foster greater engagement and two-way exchange between alumni and the university.”

At the event guest speakers Professor Barry Smyth, digital professor of computer science, UCD; Dr Laura Toogood, journalist and digital expert; and Lauren Boyle, the European Digital Girl of the Year 2014 addressed guests on the ‘Big Data and the Digital Age’ theme.

Introducing the speakers Professor Orla Feely, UCD vice-president for research, innovation and impact said: “UCD’s vision for 2020 is built on a foundation of excellent research and innovation delivering answers to challenges of global importance and opportunity with a focus on a number of priority research areas.

“Tonight’s theme of ‘Big Data and the Digital Age’ reflects the strategic importance of ICT research and the important societal questions it addresses at UCD. One of our objectives for this event is to inform alumni about our expertise and impact in this key area.”

Prof Smyth is an award-winning international expert on personalisation technologies and recommender systems, who has published more than 400 scientific papers. He has also co-founded two university spin-out companies, one of which was ChangingWorlds which was acquired by Amdocs in 2008 for $65 million. In 2013 the €88 million Insight Centre for Data Analytics was established under the leadership of Prof Smyth.

Opportunities that technology has given to society


Prof Smyth, who spoke about the opportunities that technology has given to society, said: “To take full advantage of our digital future means striking the right balance between personal privacy and the use of big data for opportunities in healthcare, agriculture, energy, and smart cities, exciting as they may be. Above all else individuals need to remain in control of their own data and how it is used.”

Dr Toogood is a communications professional, media commentator and author with broad academic and industry experience on social technology and digital media. Dr Toogood graduated with a PhD in social informatics, the study of interaction between society and information communication technologies from UCD after completing her undergraduate degree at the university.

Dr Toogood, who spoke about the potential pitfalls of technology, said: “Technology has empowered us with many exciting new tools for communication. However, it is important that we also understand the various risks and vulnerabilities that are presented to us in the modern digital age in order to move forward in a positive, constructive and safe way.”

Lauren Boyle, who is 11 years old, was the European Digital Girl of the Year in 2014. Lauren, whose mother is a UCD graduate, is a frequent speaker at digital conferences is the founder of Cool Kids Studio, which offers practical life skills for children on bullying and friendship. “Coding makes your ideas come alive,” she said. “It has opened up so many doors for me and I’m really grateful for those opportunities.

“We already have contact lenses for diabetics that measure your glucose levels through the tear drops in your eyes, and send that information to a pump and it gives you the right amount of insulin. We are starting to 3D print bones and organs and medical technology is changing. I think it is going to really change the future.”

As part of UCD’s global engagement strategy, a series of similar events will be held in key countries over the coming years.

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  More than 250 University College Dublin (UCD) alumni have attended an event in London as part of the university’s strategy to develop and strengthen the UCD community internationally. The event, held in the House of Lords, was hosted by businessman Lord Adair Turner, a member of the UK’s Financial Policy...