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Michael O'Neill

Position: Director of the UCD Complex & Adaptive Systems Laboratory (CASL), a founding Director of the UCD Natural Computing Research & Applications group and a Senior Lecturer in UCD School of Computer Science & Informatics.

Computing natural solutions to real-world questions

Nature and computers may not be the most obvious of bedfellows, but by combining processes from the natural world and the power of software, Dr Michael O'Neill is developing elegant and practical solutions to real-world issues.

Among those natural processes are genetics and evolution, and Dr O'Neill is independently ranked as one of the top five researchers in 'genetic programming', which is an approach to software programming that uses biological evolution as an inspiration.

Within this field he is one of the inventors of Grammatical Evolution, which effectively breeds software or design solutions to problems over generations. As an example, an engineer looking to design a functional and aesthetically pleasing bridge could use the software approach to generate several structurally sound versions of a design and select creatively appealing renderings, then those could be combined to 'breed' further generations of designs.

Dr O'Neill, who initially studied biochemistry before moving into computer science, is working with colleagues at UCD, MIT and Alcatel-Lucent Bell Laboratories to develop genetic programming solutions for applications in architectural and engineering design, games development and the automatic optimisation of dynamic networks.

He is also a Principal Investigator with the Science Foundation Ireland - funded Financial Mathematics and Computing Cluster, which uses biologically-inspired algorithms for financial modelling to analyse transaction patterns and identify potential problems and solutions.