» Building a challenging career in marine analysis
Building a challenging career in marine analysis
Michelle Hay lives in her home town of Downings, Co Donegal, a village known for its fishing and beautiful scenery. Yet Michelle is an expert marine and environmental analysist with Northern Ireland Water in Derry. She’s living the dream of building a challenging professional career while managing to locate herself in her home village in rural Donegal.
In 2006 Michelle graduated from LYIT with an Honours degree in Analytical Science. She then completed a Masters in Environmental Science at Trinity College Dublin, on the recommendation of her lecturer Dr. Mary Brennan. There was never a better recommendation.
Michelle has gone on to develop her expertise and win the respect of employers in Ireland and the UK. Her role with NI Water began with intense laboratory testing of Cryptosporidium parvum, the pathogen that famously infected people in Galway in 2007 via the water supply.
She is now working in an accredited laboratory for NI Water using the latest technology and precision testing practices – a role she thoroughly enjoys.
She says: “The best thing about my job is the mixture of work. I could be in the lab one day doing very precise technical testing, and the next day be out collecting samples from rivers, lakes or beaches. It’s great.”
Her career path has given her unique experience in the world of environmental science. From her third year in LYIT she began working with Donegal County Council’s water treatment testing division and during her Masters programme, she began mixing business with pleasure – she used her holiday time to work on research boats belonging to the Marine Institute.
Michelle comments: “The key was my great experience at LYIT. I would get chosen for the research trips because I had so much more practical experience than a lot of the graduates with more theoretical degrees. I was also good at doing testing while the boat was ploughing through rocky waters – but that’s probably more thanks to my experience on boats at home in Downings.”
Her work on the research boats exposed Michelle to experts further afield. After her Masters, she was offered a position with Marine Scotland and worked on their research boats for about six months. While working there, the Irish Fisheries Board offered her a job as a Fisheries Officer based in Ballyshannon but covering North and West Donegal and Cavan.
Next she was offered an exciting role with Donegal County Council as a Beach and Life Guard Supervisor, which involved water testing around the county’s coastline to make sure beaches were clean and up to standard.
All her positions since graduation have strengthend Michelle’s expertise and experience. “LYIT gave me a great start. It’s practical focus is just what employers want and it definitely gave me an advantage,” she says.
In her current role with NI Water, Michelle commutes from Downings to Derry doing what she loves - working out on coastlines or rivers as well as in state-of-the-art laboratories. She even has time to volunteer with the local Coast Guard.
Interviewed in August 2011
» Technical degree opens up versatile career choices for mature LYIT graduate
Technical degree opens up versatile career choices for mature LYIT graduate
When Liam Murray worked as a Manager at Vision Express, he realised that if he ever wanted to climb the career ladder, he really would need a degree. So, at 25, Liam enrolled for Architectural Technology at LYIT – since then, his career has taken off in ways he never dreamed of.
Liam now works in a job he loves as a professional services engineer with Ocuco, a software company supplying Opticians and other organisations in the Optical industry. This successful Irish company has 52 employees and offices in Ireland, UK, France, Italy, Australia, Canada and the USA.
Liam performs software installations and database management, where he travels to different opticians’ locations all the time. There is great variety in his work; he deals with cutting-edge software and works with dynamic, interesting people. He also gets well paid doing work he enjoys and has great job satisfaction.
“I love it. I’m here seven months and I’ve learned so much,” said Liam. “I went from a job where I knew everything to a job where I knew nothing – and the challenge has been amazing. I love the travel, the people and the technical side of it. Before my degree, I would never have had the confidence to do this job.”
Liam knows he is lucky to land such a great job. He was in a unique position where his degree gave him the mathematical, technical and computer skills that the company were looking for and he had previous experience in the optical industry.
However, Liam is confident that there are good positions for all graduates in Ireland, even for those with degrees related to the construction sector. “Many degrees give you transferable skills such as maths ability, technical skills and computer training. They are useful in many different kinds of jobs. You just have to look around at what employers are looking for and don’t be afraid to branch out. It’s worked out very well for me.”
Liam is definitley delighted with his new career path and with everything he’s learned from his time at LYIT. Moving to Donegal and attending LYIT was a great choice for him. “Since I already had some training in Computer Aided Design, I was interested in LYIT’s Architectural Technology degree. They were taking late applicants and, even though I’m from Kerry, I thought Donegal would be great,” said Liam.
Liam settled in very quickly in LYIT, even though he came from the other end of the country and knew nobody at first. He has many good friends from his college days and he feels the staff and facilities at the Institute were second to none.
Interviewed in July 2011
» Dream job in teaching for Applied Computing graduate
Dream job in teaching for Applied Computing graduate
Dream jobs are hard to come by but Pauric O’Donnell, a computers and maths teacher at St Eunan’s Secondary School in Letterkenny, has just that. “When I graduated it was brilliant. I had a choice of schools and I got the position I wanted at St Eunan’s. I love my job,” says Pauric, a past student of LYIT.
Pauric’s path to success unfolded smoothly but gradually, because he always followed his instincts about what interested him most and where his talent lay. He knew from the start that he wanted to be part of LYIT’s well respected Computing course and signed up for the Certificate programme. He quickly excelled and progressed through the Diploma and Degree courses, graduating in 2003 with a B.Sc Hons in Applied Computing.
After graduating Pauric worked in Pramerica, Letterkenny, for two-and-a-half years as a system engineer. He then got itchy feet and went to Australia for a year, working in IT for banks and a health insurance company, before taking off on a round-the-world trip.
On his return, Pauric took a position within LYIT’s Computer Services division before leaving to pursue his other big interest: teaching. His LYIT degree carried crucial recognition for teaching and he completed his Post Graduate Diploma in Education in Galway last year. This opened the door for him to return to his hometown of Letterkenny and his dream job which combined his two loves of computers and teaching.
Pauric has a great passion for the world of computing technology and continues to be inspired by the latest developments in his field. His studies at LYIT nurtured that enthusiasm and introduced him to the many different applications of computers in society.
He says: “I loved learning about satellite and mobile communications and security encryption and computer networks – all cutting edge and exciting stuff.” He continues: “My lecturers were brilliant. I’m still in-touch with some of them such as Maeve Carr and Martina Quinn.”
In addition to Pauric’s teaching, he also heads-up St Eunan’s Computer Club. Students interested in the area meet at lunchtimes and after school to explore the exciting world of computer technology and go on field trips to places such as Pramerica, where developers and technicians work day-to-day on the cutting edge of the industry.
Pauric’s advice to anyone interested in the area is to just get involved. There is no second-level formal qualification in Ireland in Computer Studies but at St Eunan’s, students can sit GCSE Computer Studies in Transition Year. Pauric says: “It’s really up to you to get stuck in. If you don’t have a computer club, start one. Explore your computer and see what it can do. It’s an exciting area to build an interest in.”
Interviewed in May 2011
» Call to the Bar for ambitious LYIT Law graduate
Call to the Bar for ambitious LYIT Law graduate
When Tipperary native, Samanta Ryan, chose to study Law at LYIT, she had a focused career plan – and it’s paid off. After graduating last year year with a BA Hons in Law, Samantha is now sitting her final exams at King’s Inns in Dublin to become a barrister.
After researching various degrees from science to business, Samantha realised that the area of law appealed to her most. Although the campus is four hours from home and she knew nobody going there, the course at LYIT stood out clearly for her.
She says: “This degree had more teaching time with it – 20 hours as opposed to maybe 8 – which is a great help on such a heavy course. It also has great practical subjects including accounting and tax for solicitors which gives you a broad education on other relevant aspects of the world of work.”
In addition, a crucial aspect of the course at LYIT for Samantha was the fact that it is recognised by the professional bodies such as King’s Inns. “That means I could sit the entrance exams for King’s Inns straight away and begin there immediately on graduation from LYIT,” she says.
As she expected, King’s Inns is tough going but Samantha is excited and challenged by her new career. She says: “You’re definitely thrown in at the deep end but I love it. I had a bit of practice at moot courts and debates with the Law Society at LYIT and that’s helped me get to grips with it. Soon I’ll be doing it for real.”
Since the Letterkenny campus is relatively small, Samantha found it easy to fit in, make friends and even find a boyfriend in a town where she started off knowing nobody. She says: “Letterkenny is a wonderful town and the campus is very welcoming. Our class size was only about 40 students so you got to know everyone quickly and there was a great rapport between students and lecturers. The lecturers really went out of their way to encourage and support me to achieve my goals.”
A degree in Law certainly opens up a wide range of career choices from barristers and solicitors to researchers, journalists and business executives. For Samantha, the choice was clear – she wanted to the excitement of the courtroom. “I wanted to be on my feet and trying cases – not stuch in an office. I also wanted the freedom and independence of working for myself but with the support offered from colleagues at the bar. It’s also a great career financially once you get going.”
When she passes her exams at King’s Inns, Samantha will ‘devil’ for a year – work unpaid for an established barrister (Master). He will show her the ropes and help her develop her network of contacts, through which she in turn will get work when she’s out on her own. Luckily for Samantha, she already knows her Master – her old Karate teacher. In her line of work, it’s all about making contacts.
Interviewed in May 2011
» Local graduate builds an exciting career at the cutting-edge of mainframe development
Local graduate builds an exciting career at the cutting-edge of mainframe development
If you ask Shane McMenamin, a graduate of the Letterkenny Institute of Technology, to describe his work as a mainframe developer at Pramerica Systems Ireland in Letterkenny, he would characterize it as “exciting and at the cutting edge of technology”.
“I graduated in May 2008 and this was my first professional position,” says McMenamin. “I work on innovative, challenging technology in a supportive environment.”
McMenamin works on software that processes insurance claims for the Pramerica’s US operations. So one day he’s solving a problem and another day he’s writing a new code to provide additional features for customers.
“It’s a great place to work with a lot of support, flexible hours and significant opportunities. I enjoy the teamwork and I’m constantly learning new things,” he says. His success reflects his skill and enthusiasm as well as his strong education. After completing his Honours Degree, he enrolled in LYIT’s Higher Diploma in Arts in Financial Services Technologies programme, which has a 100 percent employment record for its graduates.
This Higher Diploma programme helps graduates - primarily from business and information technology disciplines - become best-of-class software developers/testers who understand the financial services business and have the professional skills required to become future technology leaders.
The programme works closely with Pramerica to teach skills specifically associated with the financial services technology sector. As a result, the course is practical and reflects today’s business technology issues and challenges.
“The course was very relevant from day one on the job. Michael Carey (Lecturer) was heavily involved with his students and helped us understand the course. He was brilliant,” says McMenamin, “and it was great to have presentation skills training.”
McMenamin plans to broaden his expertise by enrolling in some of Pramerica’s in-house learning programmes and plan to take his industry exams in the near future.
Interviewed in May 2011
» Exciting local opportunities for Motion Graphics graduate
Exciting local opportunities for Motion Graphics graduate
When you see adverts such as ‘Guinness – It’s Alive Inside’ or the VHI animated commerical on TV, do you think: How do they do that?
Fiona O’Reilly, a freelance designer from Letterkenny, knows the secrets of this type of visual communication. She grabbed the opportunity to upgrade her skills so she could excel in this exciting and expanding industry. She graduated from LYIT last year with a First Class MA in Motion Graphics and is now launching her own company: Design By Fiona - Visual Communications.
These types of commercials are part of an expanding and exciting creative industry that offers great opportunities for talented professionals. Fiona is now one of them. “When the economy is in the grips of a recession and work in any discipline is thin on the ground, it’s more important than ever to arm yourself with specialist skills that are in demand. I was able to do that while doing work I love,” says Fiona.
Fiona worked for 15 years in the design industry in Dublin, New York and Sydney in various creative and business roles. In 2006 she returned to Donegal to work with a small design company but was made redundant in 2008. She had always wanted to go back to education to build on her Foundation Art and Diploma in Design qualifications. So she completed her BA Honours in Visual Communication at LYIT and followed it with her Masters in Motion Graphics.
“LYIT is a great college that is very welcoming to mature students like me. The staff and facilities are excellent and there’s a great atmosphere on campus. It’s given me the skills and confidence to branch out into this niche area and start a new exciting stage of my life,” says Fiona.
Motion graphics combines animation, illustration, photography, video, typography, graphic design and audio together on a timeline in order to create visual communication which changes over time, connecting with the audience on several levels to get a message across. It helps to convey information in an appealing, entertaining, and exciting way through new media culture using evolving digital technology.
Lots of examples of motion graphics can be seen everyday in the title sequences for TV programmes such as ‘Fringe’ and ‘Bored to death’ or on MTV in general or indeed in the multitude of graphics used in the gaming industry. It’s an innovative industry with huge growth potential for those with talent, drive and, in Fiona’s case, entrepreneurial spirit.
Since graduation, Fiona worked part-time as a designer while she built up her portfolio and website. Having received great support from the Donegal County Enterprise Board and the Donegal Local Development Company through mentoring and business start-up workshops, she took the plunge and set up on her own.
Fiona’s new business offers a complete communication package to her clients – combining traditional print and branding services with the latest in visual communications for the new media culture. It’s an exciting and challenging time ahead for this innovative entrepreneur who is bringing a cutting-edge industry to Donegal. Visit http://web.me.com/designbyfiona to find out more.
Interviewed in May 2011
» Saving Lives - Step by Step
Saving lives – step by step
It seems such an obvious study but surprisingly, the area of 'emergence' or how people converge on landings in buildings during an evacuation in fire is not a well researched area. This is precisely what LYIT graduate Marie Melly is examining, specifically how landings, entrances on to stairwells and the configuration of stairways can aid or hinder evacuation in a fire. Considering that approximately 50 people die each year in Ireland due to building fires and that death from smoke inhalation can occur in minutes, this study is a welcome one.
Disasters such as 9/11 have made fire evacuation a much more high profile subject. Marie says, “There’s a lot of research around the actual design of the stairs and fire escapes but less on the behaviour which occurs when groups merge at landings and stairway, in an emergency situation. We call this 'deference behaviour' and it can have a positive or negative effect on how quickly and safely people can evacuate a building.”
She continues, “For instance, if a doorway is directly situated facing a stairwell, this can affect whether people will be more likely to allow oncoming people to pass or cause a 'confrontational jam' whereas if the doorway is located at the side of the stairway this may prove more conducive to allowing them pass – 'deference'. The size and shape of a landing or turn, may also affect flow and speed of evacuation. Naturally in a fire, it’s all about flow, so anything which can enhance this in the building of a stairway and landing is vital.”
Marie will be running a series of observational tests, the first one will take place in London in a 19 storey building where there will be no pre-warning to the occupants. “We will set up cameras to observe behaviour and monitor what happens. It’s the only way to see how people behave and to identify specific areas which are problematic or help with movement and flow,” says Marie. “We will then follow up with a questionnaire and in-depth analysis, from here we can present recommendations.”
Marie was a mature student at LYIT where she studied Construction Studies and then went on to graduate with honours in Fire Safety Technology. She now lectures on a part-time basis at LYIT. Marie says, “It was a natural marriage of both my degrees, how building and structure can directly affect how people behave in life threatening situations. The findings could help to make buildings safer.”
So why did she choose Construction and Fire Safety? “I was always interested in the design and construction of buildings. Then I went on to study Fire Safety Engineering because it is a developing design discipline, with a lot of job opportunities. Furthermore, LYIT lead the field in Fire Safety Engineering at third level in the Republic of Ireland and is conveniently on my doorstep.”
Marie’s tutors are Dr Paddy Lennon and Ruth Lennon whom she says have been a great support, “Both keep me on my toes and make sure I consider all aspects. It’s very important in a project such as this that every detail is included. I’ve received great encouragement from them.” Marie hopes that her findings will result in contributing to design which facilitates evacuation in functional buildings. “After all if this can help to save lives, it will be well worth it.”
Interviewed in February 2009
» Finding a cure, cell by cell
The devil is in the detail - finding a cure, cell by cell
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease which causes progressive joint damage; it affects nearly 2% of the population (primarily women) in Ireland.
Grainne Quinn and Vicki Wallace, who graduated from LYIT with Honours degrees in Bio-Analytical Science, are studying the inflammatory pathways involved in RA. These are the first studies of this kind at LYIT, involving the use of primary human cells from patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
The aspect that Grainne is concentrating on is the imbalance between cell death and excessive cell growth in RA. “The goal is to examine key regulators of the disease process and identify possible therapeutic strategies.”
Grainne spent some time in Australia as a pharmacy technician and decided to return to Ballybofey over 6 years ago. “I wanted to continue to study in Donegal and the college offered a way for me to do this. Once I finished my honours degree, this project presented an excellent opportunity to apply and develop my research skills in this area. It is a fascinating project,” she says. Grainne has already completed one year of research and will finish her study this year.
The college has excellent facilities she continues, “We have recently moved into a newly refurbished laboratory with a dedicated cell culture room and state of the art equipment.”
Vicki is looking at a family of proteins implicated in RA. “There are proteins which are pro-inflammatory in the disease and others which are anti-inflammatory. I’m studying the interaction of these proteins and the impact they have on the development of RA. In this way I hope to uncover the mechanisms involved in the development of the disease. I’ve just started so I’ll be continuing for 2 years.”
“It’s very rewarding dealing with actual human disease and looking at possible therapeutic targets. We are hoping our findings could assist with further research in other inflammatory diseases.”
Vicki is from Carnone, Raphoe, and initially worked for a few years in a veterinary surgery and recently did some work experience in a Department of Agriculture laboratory; this made science a first choice for her.
She is very enthusiastic, “This study is challenging but very enjoyable. It’s good to know that the research could be used to help find a cure for a very debilitating disease.”
Both graduates refer to the encouragement and assistance given to them by their supervisors Dr Joanne Gallagher, LYIT, and Dr Evelyn Murphy, UCD. “They have been a great help in guiding us but also in ensuring we have access to excellent laboratory facilities.”
Both Vicki and Grainne wish to pursue their studies to PhD level in the future.
Interviewed in February 2009.
» Austrian–Polish Alliance at LYIT
Austrian–Polish Alliance at LYIT
Two international graduates at LYIT, Markus Korbel and Piotr Ksiazak, are working on ways to remotely monitor the storage of valuable products such as blood, which can be easily ruined through fluctuations in temperature.
It may sound like something from 'Mission Impossible', however, these graduates are industriously exploring how wireless sensor networks can be used to remotely observe temperature, and become ‘intelligent custodians’ for high value storage items. The project has huge implications for the medical and food sectors.
Describing the study, Markus, who has two Masters, one in Internet Technology and Management and one in Security Engineering from FH-Joanneum University, Austria, “Essentially a freezer or container is fitted with a monitor which sends data to the organisation, this is processed and then viewed online. Many hospitals house vital resources such as blood supplies in freezers; the sensor can detect a change in the temperature if the freezer breaks down and remotely alert the hospital right away. We are now looking to extend the functionality to a mobile device where the information can be received in real time with visuals.”
The graduates are also exploring the next generation of this software which can provide even more detail, eg, blood type and quantity remaining. According to Piotr Ksiazak, a graduate in e-business from the University of Commerce and Law in Warsaw who has recently graduated with honours in Applied Computing from LYIT, “The technology isn’t new; it’s been around for while. In fact you can see it in clothes shops in the form of tags to deter theft. What we’re looking to do is take it to the next level to determine amount, specific quantities and product information (such as expiry date) to make it more usable for organisations.”
Markus explains further, “We are examining RFID – radio frequency identification technologies - which use either high or low frequencies to transmit data. However, there are issues with both; high frequency can be read from quite a distance but metal and liquids can distort the readings. Low frequency can read through liquids very well but has a small and limited distance range. So we want to find ways around this. We are considering ‘intelligent shelves’ which can act as sensors and will operate well for fluids and small ranges.”
So why did Markus decide on research at LYIT? “I’ve always wanted to study abroad and I’m very comfortable with English so Ireland was one of my target countries. I had been in regular contact about the Erasmus international study programme and with Billy Farrelly at LYIT. So when this research opportunity came up I decided to take it. It’s been a very good experience and a very challenging one. Plus since I had studied security this project has allowed me to apply my skills.”
Piotr has already developed a unique mobile mapping application for LYIT for new students this year so dabbling in adapting mobile technology for very practical uses isn’t anything new for him. Why did he choose this project? “I was very interested in networks and didn’t want to end up as the person who only supports them. I wanted to take part in the integration of new networking technologies including mobile and wireless devices. This project is a chance to work in a very new area; it’s changing all of the time especially the security aspect. I like the practical and problem solving nature of it. It’s tough but rewarding.”
Both say the support from tutor William Farrelly is excellent and that LYIT is a good campus, Piotr made a conscious decision to stay on after graduating. “There is very modern equipment here and use of modern devices at the college. Lecturers are very accessible which is a big difference from Warsaw, it’s much more formal there.”
Markus is looking forward to seeing their project in practice, “The best outcome for me is actually seeing results and the sensor networks deployed in a real-life situation and getting feedback.”
Piotr concludes, “We should have results in 6 months, we’re already well into examining sample RFID development kits. It will be a major growth industry in the future.”
Interviewed in February 2009.
» Going fishing to create new opportunity
Going fishing to create new opportunity
You could be forgiven for not getting excited about the by-products of fish, but for Julia Wilson it’s a daily passion. Julia is part of the CAMBio research group at LYIT and is currently conducting research to examine whether the by-products of whelk and mackerel contain components (ACE inhibitors) which could lower blood pressure and (PEP inhibitors) which can help reduce memory loss. If these components are discovered in mackerel or whelks or their by-products, the next stage could be to develop 'functional foods' similar to cholesterol lowering drinks, which will help to reduce blood pressure or maintain memory. “Disposal of fish by-products is very costly, if they can be used in such a positive way it could spark a whole new industry” explains Julia. This exploratory project is being conducted in collaboration with Donegal Company Earagail Eisc Teoranta and in conjunction with Teagasc Moorepark Food Research Centre, Cork.
It is just one of the ground breaking research studies which are underway at LYIT and is part of an overall strategy to help solve real industry challenges through research. John Andy Bonar, Head of Development, believes that innovation must be relevant to companies to secure future opportunities. “We have made a concerted effort to conduct projects which can have a real benefit to different industries. Our goal is to continue to build on our success in winning further research assignments in 2009. We have the capability and quality graduates.”
Earagail Eisc Teoranta is the Donegal Gaeltacht based company which the college is collaborating with on this study. Aodh O’Domhnaill, Managing Director, explains how it came about, “At Earagail, we are continuously focusing on product development which includes the potential for adding value to our by- products. As part of an ongoing process, we have engaged with Julia and her team at LYIT in developing potential solutions which, if realised, could have benefits to the overall Seafood Sector. In the current climate, the focus must continue on developing Industry linkages with Academic Institutes to develop the potential of export based products.”
This is just one example of how LYIT is engaging with local industry with a view to providing potentially innovative and novel ground breaking solutions to complex issues.
Julia is very enthusiastic about the project, “We’ve just started, and it’s a very relevant topic and a very exciting one on many levels.” Julia is a mature student who initially studied Analytical Science at LYIT went on to get a degree and returned to LYIT to study Bio-analytical Science and graduated last year. “I have always been inquisitive and like to learn more. After I had gained experience in industry I decided it was time to return to college to study further with the aim of changing my career direction. The LYIT was a natural choice.”
Whilst studying at LYIT she became interested in pursuing scientific research. “I was thrilled to be accepted on to the programme, it’s what I want to do. This area is very rewarding and if we discover there are ACE and PEP inhibitors in fish by-products there could be massive scope for future work. It is very powerful to know that what we are researching could make a real difference.”
Julia will be tutored by Dr Brian Carney and Dr Maria Hayes on the study and is also writing a review article in this area which she hopes to publish this year.
Interviewed in February 2009.
» De-bugging the system
De-bugging the system
These days, doing business without a website is like opening a shop without a front door. However, the web has grown exponentially in 10 years, and many websites were built using software or ‘architecture’ which never envisaged the millions of users which are on it today or the variety of applications. That’s what James Molloy is examining ways to improve the performance and reliability of websites which do e-commerce. According to James, “Having a robust software design behind a business website will reduce bugs within the website and make the usage of the site much more user friendly. Essentially saving businesses a lot of time and money fixing problems or maintaining the site.”
He continues, “Websites are no longer passive 'brochures' for businesses to sell online but have become the very tool to do business, eg, eBay, Google. etc. Look at how Obama generated much more funds via the web than by traditional donors. So it’s important that the structure/foundations of websites are built on good design. If the website crashes that means the business can crash.”
James is an Honours graduate of Applied Computing from LYIT and was keen to gain experience in software design. He says “Over 60% of all software design projects don’t get to the next stage because of poor architecture. Within this research I hope to identify the importance of the use of design patterns and how they will benefit businesses.”
He took a year out to travel around Australia before returning to Donegal. He says, “Although I found it a bit daunting returning to college, I believed with the current economic downturn that it would be a good idea to further my education. This new course offered by the LYIT will help improve my software design skills and will provide good opportunities for the future.” Lecturer Ruth Lennon is supervisor on this research.
James says at the end of the 2 years he will have a comprehensive list of the design patterns or architectures which are best practice for e-commerce and will implement these patterns into a working website. “The web is changing all of the time, it’s important that a website is based on solid software which can protect it and enhance its functionality. Software design is very costly and can take a long time to develop. Many companies don’t invest in this right at the start.” As a result, James hopes that his findings could have a commercial value to business and industry.
Interviewed in February 2009.
» Protecting Creativity on the Web
Protecting Creativity on the Web
Stefan Riegler, an Austrian telecommunications and media student, chose LYIT to continue his studies in imaging and photography. A graduate of University of Applied Sciences St Pölten, Stefan is exploring how to develop a new method to digitally watermark creative content. Watermarking is the process of hiding information within an image to protect the ownership of text, music, film and art. Normally watermarks in images are hidden in such a way that they don’t interfere with the image to avoid detection. “Many methods already exist but they differ very much in effectiveness,” says Stefan. “I am hoping that I can produce a digital watermark which will protect the original owner‘s creativity and the usage of the image. A lot of money is lost each year to illegal use of digital imagery in photography. It is very difficult to monitor from the web. Whilst there are a number of methods which exist, there is always room for improvement.”
A digital watermark or copyright is a way for the originator to protect the usage of the image on the internet. Commercial imaging is charged by usage and the watermark on the image is the traditional way to prevent unpaid usage. Millions are lost each year in the illegal use of digital images.
A large part of Stefan’s research involves a literary review of digital watermarking systems which already exist, including the most recent ones, “It’s changing all of the time, just as the web is becoming more sophisticated digitally so must the methods to protect creative content.” Stefan explains, “At the moment I am evaluating the pros and cons of each method. After that I will be looking to develop a new digital watermark to see if it withstands currently known and future attacks.”
Stefan’s supervisors at LYIT on this study are Karen Bailey and Dr Mark Leeney who have given him a lot of encouragement and practical advice. He says, “They really know what they’re talking about and have been very helpful to me.”
Stefan is working on software he hopes will improve upon the digital watermarking systems which are out there. “It’s a very interesting mix of software programming and imagery, so there’s lots of variety. Plus illegal digital downloading is becoming more and more sophisticated so you have to keep up to date.”
Speaking about his experience so far in Donegal, “One of the differences about LYIT is that it’s a bit bigger than my university in Austria so it took me a while to settle in. The facilities here are excellent and very modern. Now I know many more people and my way around, this year I’m looking forward to seeing more of the county.”
Stefan hopes to complete the study within 2 years.
Interviewed in February 2009.
» An old concept using new tools
An old concept using new tools
The number of people using broadband in 2007 was 373 million and this is projected to explode to 1 billion by 2012 (Olausson, 2007). As such, the use of social networking sites such as Bebo and Facebook are set to become an integral fabric of communication in everyday life. Already this phenomenon is being used by the older generation in more niche networks and businesses are more frequently using these sites across a wide variety of marketing activities from marketing research to new product development.
Can social networking sites be used effectively by marketers? According to Sarah Diffley, LYIT Business Studies graduate who is researching this area, “Yes, but not using traditional marketing methods. People use these sites as part of their group, they decide who is included and they decide which ads are relevant to them. The power is completely in the hands of the consumer. Marketers must make themselves relevant and meaningful or these consumers will simply not view their message. Traditional models of advertising and marketing will not work in this space.” She continues, “To date there hasn’t been a huge use of social networking sites by Irish companies. And so, what I want to find out is how consumers behave on these sites and uncover what marketers will need to do to engage and deepen relationships with these consumers. I want to find out how we can integrate social networking sites successfully into marketing strategy.”
Sarah already has completed a review of the exhaustive number of social networking sites which prompted her to expand her focus to consumer behaviour on line. “It’s fascinating, people behave differently online than in the ‘real world’, age plays a big part but people are essentially going online to build and maintain relationships. These sites are no longer limited to just youths. An increasing number of older users are using these sites as a means of communicating with others on both a social and professional basis.”
One of the reasons Sarah chose this subject, apart from being an avid Facebook fan, is because there are relatively few studies of Irish usage of social network sites and even fewer which look at groups other than college students. “That was my motivation. The area is so fast moving, it’s changing constantly. I’ve learned a lot about consumer behaviour. I believe in the future, social networking sites will become more embedded not only from a social perspective but also as a major method of communications within business. As younger generations enter the workforce they will bring with them the expectation and motivation to use these tools as more than just a social but also a business communications mechanism”.
Sarah will be running focus groups and interviews to find out how and why people use these social networking sites and to uncover how marketers can make an impact on these sites. In addition, Sarah will also examine how businesses use social networking and how brands are built and destroyed by these networks. The supervisors on the study are Billy Bennett and James Kearns at LYIT and Peter Kawalek, Manchester School of Business.
Billy Bennett, Head of School of Business, is looking forward to the outcome of the study, “This innovative research in Social Media represents a strategic fit with LYIT’s Research Strategy and is one of the key research themes in the School of Business. Funded research masters programmes are further evidence of a growing research culture within the Institute. Graduates can now can choose from research masters programmes as well as the suite of five taught Masters programmes.”
Will the future be devoid of human contact, I wonder? “Social networking is an old concept which is using new tools,” says Sarah. “It’s about relationships just in a different space. Control is firmly in the hands of the consumer, the marketer will have to work hard to get noticed, be relevant and liked. That’s why businesses will need to involve consumers more, in finding out what people want in products, services and how they want to be communicated with, if at all. It essentially turns marketing as we know it on its head.”
Interviewed in February 2009.