A mutual love of maths added up to IRC PhD awards for a Donegal-based lecturer and her mother from Ballyshannon.

Aoife Hill, who is an Assistant Lecturer in Computing at Atlantic Technological University Donegal, and her mother Róisín Hill, who is originally from Ballyshannon, were together conferred with Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) research degrees last month.

Their degrees from the University of Galway were funded under the Irish Research Council (IRC) Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Programme.

The prestigious IRC Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Programme is highly competitive and an average of 18% of applicants are successful. The scheme awards excellent, pioneering, innovative and creative research, across all academic disciplines.

Róisín and Aoife, who share a talent and passion for mathematics, embarked on their IRC-funded PhDs at the University of Galway together in 2017.

Róisín was conferred with her PhD for a project she undertook in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences that introduced improved numerical analysis techniques for predicting how fluids flow. The tools developed will be particularly useful for and can be extended to applications such as building dams or understanding how pollutants disperse.

For her PhD, Aoife completed a project in the Department of Biomedical Engineering that investigated how mathematical models can be used to predict the behaviour of special plastics that gradually break down in the human body, offering an alternative to permanent solutions that often have multiple long-term risks or require repeat surgery. The models developed contribute to ensuring optimal alignment of the degrading implant with the developing tissue, with applications including stents, orthopaedic fixation devices and sutures.

Since completing her IRC-funded PhD, Aoife took up a full-time position in May this year as an Assistant Lecturer in Computing at Atlantic Technological University Donegal, based at the Letterkenny campus.

After finishing her PhD, Róisín, who now lives in Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, was successfully awarded a distinguished two-year IRC Government of Ireland Postdoctoral Fellowship, which she is currently undertaking in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Limerick under the mentorship of Professor Natalia Kopteva.

Róisín’s postdoctoral research project is titled ‘Error Analysis and Adaptivity in the Numerical Solution of Singularly Perturbed Differential Equations’, and it aims to generate numerical solutions to fluid-flow problems.

Róisín and Aoife Hill

Róisín and Aoife Hill: A Shared Academic Journey

Róisín and Aoife had also undertaken undergraduate Bachelor of Science degrees at the University of Galway, which Aoife started in 2012 in Applied Mathematics, with Róisín having joined her in 2013 to do a degree in Mathematical Sciences.

Róisín, who is a former chartered accountant, has loved maths since she was four and she was inspired to go to university to study mathematics by Aoife.

When Aoife was 14, she was diagnosed with ME, or chronic fatigue syndrome, and she could no longer attend school full-time. During this time, Róisín tutored Aoife in some subjects at home, and Aoife asked Róisín to teach her applied maths. Then, when Aoife went to university to study applied maths and after hearing her describe her curriculum and assignments, Róisín decided to follow in her daughter’s footsteps.

Commenting on Róisín and Aoife’s conferral with IRC-funded PhDs, Director of the IRC, Dr Louise Callinan said: “I would like to congratulate Róisín and Aoife Hill on their recent conferral with PhDs from the University of Galway, funded under the IRC’s Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Programme. The IRC is proud to fund and foster excellent academic research talent in Ireland, and Róisín and Aoife epitomise the transformative impact of the Government of Ireland Postgraduate awards on the individuals who receive them, but also on society and on the economy through the insights and applications of the research which the awards support. The IRC is delighted to have played a role in supporting Róisín and Aoife in their research careers, and hopes that their story inspires others to embark on their own research journey.”