Career Profiles: Deirdre Kilbane

What is your name?

Deirdre Kilbane.

Where do you work and what is your role/job title?

I work in Walton Institute, Waterford Institute of TechnologyWalton Institute is a cornerstone of ICT research and development activity in Ireland since 1996. It undertakes cutting edge research blending fundamental science with real world commercial applications. am Head of Division of the Emerging Networks Laboratory (ENL). I manage a diverse team of researchers advancing technologies that enable communications and information services. My research combines nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, quantum and molecular communication to develop innovative technologies for Agriculture, Healthcare, ICT and Space4.0.

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with? 

Yes. I enjoy the excitement and challenges of research along with a healthy family and social life.


Questions about your current Job 

How did you go about getting your current job?

I did a Science degree in University College Dublin. I always enjoyed physics in school and wanted to continue studying Mathematics, Biology and Chemistry too. In the end I focused on Experimental Physics. I became interested in quantum mechanics in third and fourth year. I decided to do a PhD in mathematical physics in quantum chaos at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. I followed this by working as a postdoctoral researcher based in Ireland and Europe studying atomic spectroscopy, plasma physics and plasmonics. I relocating to Walton Institute in 2018 after securing funding from Science Foundation Ireland to develop artificial intelligence algorithms, molecular communication theory and the internet of things (IoT) for biomedical applications.  

 Describe a typical day.

Early in the day, I catch up on emails, administrative tasks associated with managing a team of researchers, and attending meetings. I follow this by focusing on the research projects that I lead. As a team, we discuss project progress and plan research activities, perform research tasks, guide post graduate students and early stage researchers, review research, write and publish papers and prepare for presentations at conferences and workshops. I also spend time writing proposal applications for National and European funding to drive our research. 

 What’s the coolest part of your job?

Collaborative research with excellent scientists in multiple disciplines to try to solve major challenges for society. For example, I lead a European project PRIME (Grant ID: 964712) which aims to develop therapies for neurological disorders including epilepsy. This requires a combination of experts in bioengineering, mathematical modelling and simulation, epilepsy, medicine, and nanotechnology, across 5 countries and includes academic and industry partners. The cross-collaboration gives us a great opportunity to develop early career researchers. This research is linked with SFI Research Centre FutureNeuro. I am also interested in quantum communication and sensing. In particular, along with my colleagues in Walton Institute we model quantum communication via satellites and ground to support the development of the future quantum internet. This research is linked with SFI Research Centre CONNECT. 


Questions about education and training 

 What subjects did you take in school/college and how have these influenced your career path? 

I studied English, Mathematics, Irish, French, Accounting, Physics and Chemistry for my Leaving Cert. I decided to do science in college as they are the subjects I liked best. I specialised in Experimental Physics as I enjoyed the practical demonstration of topics discussed in lectures. I also liked analyzing data and applying mathematical models and statistics to understand the experimental results. Regardless of the type of research you do in the future a strong background in mathematical modelling, computational and experimental physics are always useful.  


Questions about yourself 

What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?

Obtaining my PhD and guiding students to obtain their PhDs. Securing competitive funding to pursue research that interests me and my team members.  


Advice for people thinking of this job as a career choice 

 What advice would you give to someone considering this job? Are there important personal characteristics, or good work experience they can undertake for example.

You must have patience to become an excellent researcher. Hard work, the ability to work in a team and flexibility, combined with curiosity, a desire to figure things out and problem solving skills. If you can get the opportunity to work as an intern during a summer in secondary school or as an undergraduate, this will help you to understand what becoming a researcher is all about.