Monday, 22 June 2015

Bringing the Berkeley students home

Clockwise from top left: Eimear Walsh, Olivia Burke, Ashley Donohue,
Lorc├ín Miller, Niccolai Schuster and Eoghan Culligan
'They lived and laughed and loved and left - we will not forget them' said UCD President Andrew Deeks quoting lines from Joyce's Finegans Wake at the memorial service held in Belfield last Friday for the young Dublin students who died tragically at Berkeley California while there on J1 visas for the summer.
I was away last Tuesday when I heard the tragic news on social media that evening and I immediately placed a message of profound sympathy on Twitter to the families and friends of the six students on behalf of UCD EGA. I could see that President Deeks was there before me clearly empathising with the entirely unexpected tragedy affecting the global UCD community. 'We lost six wonderful young people, and the lives of a generation of students were completely changed' he said and then quoting fittingly from  UCD alumnus James Joyce in Finegan's Wake as the students died tragically on Bloomsday June 16th 2015.
The national outpouring of grief was huge, immediate and heartfelt. Flags on Government Buildings were lowered to half mast. The Irish Government sent Diaspora Minister Jimmy Deenihan to San Francisco who having attended the scene and met grieving family and friends called the six students 'the Children of Ireland' as they had brought the Irish global community together with this sad event. Aer Lingus is kindly flying them home with their parents and relatives as a courtesy to Dublin this weekend for burial this Tuesday and Wednesday.
This was not the start of an exciting new life experience in Summer 2015 in a welcoming country that the students and their parents expected. All due apparently to defective timbers on an apartment block balcony with gave way to some 10 students who fell four stories to their death and terrible injury. It positively galls me as a civil engineer that the building regulatory system in California allowed these defects to go unchecked on a relatively new structure.
I have empathy with how their young lives were shattered as I too was a J1 student from UCD who aged 19 went to NewYork to spent the summer working and enjoying US life in Manhattan and upstate New York. I remember flying over the Statue of Liberty and landing in JFK and being met by USIT officials who brought us to a hotel off Times Square for 'an orientation course'. Then onto a job in a condo on Central Park West next to the block where John Lennon was shot and where TV detective series Kojak was filmed. Then up to the Catskills Mountains where many Irish New Yorkers had vacation homes when the August daytime humidity exceeded 90 degrees in Manhattan.
It was a trip in a lifetime that I could never forget and therefore I was deeply touched by the events in Berkeley. Hoping that the injured students make a good recovery and again deepest sympathy to the bereaved family and friends.
I will end with the most poignant but beautiful message I read on social media this weekend. It was written as a tribute from the girlfriend of 21-year-old Eoghan Culligan who died in the tragedy. Sarah McCarthy grappling for words to express how she felt, simply exclaimed : 'See you on the other side, my boy'. It was perhaps for her a message that had its own consolation.


Friday, 19 June 2015

Nine Presidents bid farewell to Director General of Engineers Ireland

Last Monday night there was a very special occasion. The current President and Director General of Engineers Ireland presented a Gold Presidential Pin to eight of his predecessors commencing with John McGowan (2006/07) up to the current President Bill Grimson (2015/16).  It was a unique occasion where nine past Presidents and current President paid tribute to John Power who has been our Director General for the past 8 years.
Before this event on the same evening I chaired a meeting of the EGA Board in Belfield UCD. There we discussed and agreed on a theme for the 2015 Autumn Panel Discussion 'What the Digital Economy 2020 means for Engineering in Ireland' to be led by a senior Minister and supported by a panel of 4 Irish experts drawn from the principal ICT disciplines. We hope to have this event held on campus sometime around mid October subject to availability of speakers.
We also set up an EGA Board Subcommittee to work on the Growing of Corporate Membership chaired by Dr Aisling Harkin together with Prof David Fitzpatrick, Tina Pittock and George Young.
Back to Engineers Ireland later that evening. It was a unique occasion as the photograph below shows. Unfortunately two of our recent female Presidents Anne Butler (2005/06) and Regina Moran (2014/2015) were unavoidably absent abroad on business. 
The former Presidents present were John McGowan (2006/07), Jack Golden (2007/08), Jim Browne (2008/09), Chris Horn (2009/10), Martin Lowery (2010/11), P J Rudden (2011/12), Michael Phillips (2012/13), John O'Dea (2013/14) and current President Bill Grimson.  John Power Director General was also present has served in that position since 2007  and has decided to step down after 8 very fruitful years. He will be replaced by Caroline Spillane current CEO of the Irish Medical Council next month.
Front Row: Bill Grimson, John Power, Michael Phillips, John O'Dea
2nd Row: Chris Horn, Martin Lowery, PJ Rudden
Back Row: Jack Golden, John McGowan and Jim Browne


Friday, 5 June 2015

UCD Student Scoops Prestigious European Award

Killian McKenna, a UCD PhD student from Dublin, and member of the UCD Engineering Graduates Association Board, has fought off competition from students from across Europe to win a prestigious European award in Berlin.

Killian, who is representing the all-island electricity sector at a European level, was awarded the 2015 EURELECTRIC Student Award. At the official award ceremony in Berlin, he presented his winning submission to the 400 delegates.
Killian McKenna, Pat O'Doherty and Hans ten Berge
Pat O'Doherty, ESB Chief Executive, Killian McKenna, and Hans ten Berge, Secretary General of EURELECTRIC - the European Electricity Association 

Aged 25 and from Glenageary, Killian was chosen as the Electricity Association of Ireland (EAI) entrant for this year’s Award. It followed his success in the national competition sponsored by ESB in which students from Northern Ireland and Ireland participated.

Entrants to the European stage of the competition were invited to submit an essay with the title ‘Dinosaurs of the past or innovators of the future? Designing digital strategies for electricity companies to engage domestic customers.’ An expert panel judged Killian’s entry to be the overall winner from among those entered across Europe.

EAI Chief Executive Owen Wilson said: “We’re delighted to see Killian win this award. It’s a wonderful recognition of the standard of young graduates on the island, on a par with those across Europe. Delivering sustainable energy is critical for the future of all our economies and the environment and it’s wonderful that we have a new generation of people, like Killian, with the knowledge and enthusiasm to help solve some of the many challenges facing the industry.”

Killian, a PhD student at the Electricity Research Centre at University College Dublin (UCD), said: “I’m thrilled to receive this award. It’s a real pleasure to represent my island and our electricity industry in Europe. I’ve found the whole experience extremely thought provoking and enjoyable. I’ll be leaving Berlin with lots of ideas, which I hope to be able to apply to my own research.”

ESB Chief Executive, Pat O’Doherty added: “I would like to congratulate Killian on winning this coveted award. We at ESB are immensely proud to see such talent from Ireland being recognised on the international stage. The 2015 EURELECTRIC Student Award is just the beginning for Killian and we wish him enormous success in his career.”

Introducing the award Hildegarde Mueller, Secretary General of the German electricity industry association said “the finalists today are the future of the industry. They will provide the innovative solutions to the challenges of delivering a sustainable, secure and affordable energy supply”.

EURELECTRIC is the sector association which represents the common interests of the electricity industry at a pan-European level. EAI is the representative body for the electricity sector operating within the Single Electricity Market (SEM) on the island of Ireland. 

Killian’s own research looks at the potential impacts for the distribution network of customers taking greater control over their electricity demand.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

UCD Vice President Orla Feely wins 2015 EGA Distinguished Graduate Award

The UCD Vice President Professor Orla Feely was a worthy winner of the 2015 EGA Distinguished Graduate Award presented at our Annual Dinner in The National Concert Hall last week. At the same event the Founder of the EGA Professor John Kelly was presented with an EGA Lifetime Achievement Award.

EGA founder Professor John Kelly, EGA President P.J. Rudden and UCD Vice President Professor Orla Feely, Winner of the 2015 Distinguished Graduate Award
The EGA Distinguished Graduate Award recognises a UCD graduate in active service who is making an outstanding contribution to Irish Society. This contribution can be in the fields of Public Policy Development or in Entrepreneurship, Manufacturing, Information Technology, Research Innovation or Job Creation with a strong public profile who can act as a role model for young members of the profession.

Orla Feely shares her memories of UCD as a student
Professor Orla Feely is UCD Vice President for Research Innovation and Impact and was Chair of the Irish Research Council from 2012 to 2015 set up by Government to support research across a broad range of scholarship in any academic discipline including Engineering, Science, Business, Law, Medicine, Humanities and Social Science. During her three years the IRC supported the work of more than 1,400 researchers and made 4,000 awards, about 3,000 of them in support of PhDs and Masters students.

Since becoming UCD Vice President Orla has supported President Andrew Deeks in the new UCD Strategy 2015 - 2020. Only last week the Taoiseach launched the latest UCD study 'Delivering Impact' showing the huge economic and educational impact of Ireland's largest university. UCD currently has 30,000 students some 13% of them international. It has a total monetary value of some €1.3 billion to the Irish economy generated by UCD and its students.

Orla qualified with an Hons BE Degree in Electronic Engineering in 1986. She then went to Berkeley University California US where she obtained an MS and PhD in electrical engineering.

EGA President P.J. Rudden, UCD Vice President Professor Orla Feely and UCD Professor Tom Brazil
She joined UCD as Lecturer in 1992 graduating to Professor of Electronic Engineering in 2010. She became a Fellow of IEEE in 2009, a Fellow of Engineers Ireland by Presidential Invitation in 2012, a Fellow of the Irish Academy of Engineering in 2013 and on the following day to this event she was formally admitted to Membership of the Royal Irish Academy - Ireland's highest academic accolade.

Also at the Annual Dinner we presented the Founder of the UCD Engineering Graduates Association Professor Emeritus John Kelly with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his achievement in setting up the EGA in 1980. He had the vision to see the benefit of closer university cooperation with industry to further research and innovation and thus set up the University Industry Centre (UIC) with funds raised from engineering graduates and firms.

John Kelly remembers his time as Dean of Engineering and the move from Merrion St. to Belfield
The UIC was officially opened by Taoiseach Garret Fitzgerald in May 1985 and this in turn contributed to the establishment of NovaUCD and NexusUCD, which now successfully incubate and nurture emerging new spin out and spin in companies which create value added products and jobs for the Irish economy.

John Kelly was UCD Dean of Engineering from 1979 until 1986 when he became UCD Registrar and was later Professor of Chemical Engineering.

The Annual Dinner in the ambiance of the John Field Room in National Concert Hall was a great success, thanks mainly to the generosity of our many Sponsors - Coillte, CRH, Energia, Engineers Ireland, ESB, RPS and Siemens.

P.J. Rudden welcomes the attendance in National Concert Hall
Also, we were delighted to be joined again by EGA Board Member Sean Murphy and friends and by a full table of the BE Class of 1983 led by former first EGA Secretary Clodagh O'Donnell and colleagues.

The Class of 1983 led by Clodagh O'Donnell (fourth from left)
Jane O'Callaghan, Sarah Lynn and Mary O'Carroll
Gary O'Callaghan and Greg Duggan from Siemens
Apart from our Founder John Kelly, we had the honour of four former EGA Presidents with us - Dr Liam Connellan, Pat Mercer, Tony O'Brien and Michael Loughnane. Indeed two of them Liam and Pat were previous recipients of the EGA Distinguished Graduate Awards.

Past and Current Presidents of EGA: Michael Loughnane, Liam Connellan, P.J. Rudden, Tony O'Brien and Pat Mercer
It was a highly social occasion as the photographs clearly show. We hope to grow this event further next year with further increased Corporate Member involvement. We are also hopeful of having the pleasure again of the lively 1983 class or and any other past BE Class who will use the event to meet old friends and colleagues while recognising an outstanding graduate of national stature.

Sarah McFarlane, Sylvia Kenna and Dee Keogh from Engineers Ireland
Ciara Murphy RPS, Anne Marie McCague EirGrid and Neasa Kane-Fine RPS
I was proud indeed opening last Saturday's Irish Times to find the photograph of our 2015 Distinguished Graduate at her induction to the Royal Irish Academy on Friday. It all seems so right and timely as we look forward to the continued leadership of Vice President Orla Feely supporting President Andrew Deeks in guiding UCD to being truly Ireland's Global University.

Majella Henchion, Ellen Diskin and Derek Hynes from ESB