Annual Report 2001 - School of Computer Applications

annual report 2001

school of computer applications

Head: Professor Alan Smeaton
Unit Report

If 98/99 marked a year of great change in the School of Computer Applications, and 99/00 marked a year of great growth, then 00/01 will probably be remembered as a year of consolidation of the previous years' expansions. The School of Computer Applications settled into its role as a large school with large student numbers and a buzz of research activities. The teething problems associated with moving into large premises were ironed out - mostly - and the changes introduced into our courses and in our structures started to take effect.

There were several successes on the research side with staff attracting external research funding in competitive submissions, mostly from Enterprise Ireland. The Centre for Digital Video Processing remains the largest funded research group in the school and the groups working in scientific computing, software engineering, multimedia information retrieval and computational linguistics each attracted external funds to support their research activities.

Several awards were also made to support research activities from within the University, to staff in the school.

In total, the school produced over 135 research papers or other Publications during the 12 months covered by this report, a significant increase on previous years and a commendable achievement given the demands of managing the growth of our teaching activities. The school also hosted an international workshop on personalisation and recommender systems in digital libraries in June 2001, and also hosted the very popular and successful Dublin

Computational Linguistics Research Seminar series. Three of our staff, Mark Roantree, Rory O'Connor and Andy Way, were also awarded their PhDs during this period.

One of the activities which we developed from previous years was the position of "Summer Research Intern". Using part of our research budget allocation from the office of the Dean of Research, the school funded 6 new graduates to work on research projects within the school during the Summer period for between 8 and 12 weeks. Most of these interns have remained with us and are now registered for research degrees. During these internships, each intern worked directly for a research supervisor in the school, pursuing some specific project or task. There was such a demand for these internships from among the staff that we had to have an internal peer review process to reduce the 18 applications to the 6 that we could fund. We hope to continue these internships in the future as they have been very successful.

Our taught programmes had both ups and downs during a traumatic year for the IT sector. The B.Sc. in Computer Applications continued to be the largest, and the most in-demand, computing degree programme in the country but because of perceptions associated with the downturn in the IT sector, the number of students from the CAO system taking computing courses dropped so the demand, and the CAO minimum points for entry onto the CA degree, dropped. For us this is not really a cause for concern as the minimum points dropped in all but 1 of the computing courses in Ireland and the average CAO points of those taking the course remained high. A notable success during the year for the CA degree was its accreditation by the Institute of Engineers in Ireland (IEI) for membership of the IEI as charted software engineer. The CA degree was one of only 4 degrees in the country given this accreditation.

The B.Sc. in Applied Computational Linguistics continued is niche role within the school producing high quality graduates in this important sector. Several students from this programme have gone on to register for research M.Sc. degrees and there is now a strong research activity in this area in the school

The Graduate Diploma in Information Technology had a drop in numbers this year because of the IT downturn and the effects of Sept 11th, a feature of all such courses in the Irish Universities this year, but we believe that a more aggressive marketing of this degree will take the intake up past 100 again next year.

Our part-time programmes continued as per normal but the part-time B.Sc. in Computer Applications had a slight drop in numbers and we decided not to have an intake in either the M.Sc. in Computer Applications or the M.Sc. in Computer Applications for Education. On the positive side, we've introduced a part-time version of the Graduate Diploma in IT and have introduced a part-time top-up for students of the GDF programme leading to an M.Sc. in Information Technology. The M.Sc. In Electronic Commerce, a joint programme with the DCU Business School, had its first year and there were several interesting practicums, some of which have led on to entrepreneurial activities and campus companies, while others have led to scientific Publications. Our minor, but important, roles in the B.Sc. in Mathematical Sciences and the B.Sc. in Financial and Actuarial Mathematics also continued this year.

While not directly related to our teaching, but worth noting here, the School continued to make strong contact with our alumni, independently and in parallel with the University's own alumni office and this generated many contacts from old faces and is much appreciated by our former students.

Management within the school reached a new stage of development and maturity when the school adopted a committee-based system for decision-making. Elected committees covering research, teaching and an executive group are now in place to support the Head of School in managing the school's activities and this has brought about a new sense of ownership by staff in both the overall direction and the day-to-day decision-making in the school.

On the facilities and equipment side, during summer 2001 we completed the furnishing of one more laboratory for undergraduate and taught post-graduate students which is room L128. This laboratory has 45 new PCs, each running both Windows and Solaris, a printer and a high-beam datashow for projecting a PC onto a screen and the lab is heavily in demand from both students and staff.

We also installed a wireless LAN throughout the entire Computer Applications building which runs at up to 11 Mbps. This will be of great assistance to our disabled students who can, for example, take their lab sessions on wireless laptop PCs along with other students instead of having to work in isolated office space. The wireless LAN also allows us to develop our research interests and student projects on wireless applications on mobile devices such as PDAs.

Another development on our networking side was the upgrade to our school backbone to Gigabit speed for the entire School building. This means we now have over 700 PCs in the school served by the fastest contemporary networking technology commercially available.

Several companies and organisations either sponsored students, sponsored events, or made donations to the school.
We are very grateful to:
- Microsoft for continued sponsorship of essay prize
- SAS for s/w
- SmartForce for access to courseware and guest lecturers
- Ericssons for Bluetooth kits
- IBM for continued support of S390
- SUN for continued support on video server
- CR2 for their sponsorship of the CA / CL / CAE Final Year Project Display
- Arthur Anderson for their sponsorship of the MEC prize

With such a large staff compliment (approximately 55 people now work in the school) we inevitably lost some people, but gained some others. We said goodbye to Drs James Carswell and Aleksander Milenkovic as well as Eugenia Motherway, but we welcomed Neil Austin, Colette Brady, Caroline Keenen, Maire Casey, Gary Conway, Kevin O'Toole, David Donellan, Wu Hai, Cathal Gurrin Dr Hyowon Lee and Dr Donal Fitzpatrick to our staff.

Finally, almost all staff took part in our annual Summer outing (but we do get out at other times of the year also) and this year we went clay pigeon shooting. The "best shots" over the day were Al Devine and David Gray ... something which should encourage David's students to get their assignments in on time!