UCD Discovery launches inaugural summer school 2023

November 30th, 2021 

University College Dublin's Institute for Discovery is launching a new interdisciplinary summer programme led by programme directors Prof Patricia Maguire, Institute Director, and Prof Scott Rickard, Discovery Adjunct Professor. Designed with the emerging needs of industry in mind, UCD’s Design, Data Science and Discovery course is a four-week academic programme in May/June 2023, encompassing lectures, team-based project work and self study in Dublin, Ireland. Tailored to students from a broad range of disciplines who have an interest in computer science or life science, applications are now open to students from America and right around the world, from rising juniors and seniors to graduates. 


In his role as Chief Data Scientist at financial services company Citadel, Scott Rickard regularly interviews and hires data scientists. 

His valuable insights into what makes a stellar candidate have informed the design of the inaugural Study Abroad Programme at UCD Discovery, where Rickard is Adjunct Professor. 

“I believe there is a large gap in the education system right now, in that we are teaching technical skills and the ability to make amazing observations in data but we are not adequately teaching students how to present and communicate those ideas,” says Rickard, who has Degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton University. “The point of this summer module in University College Dublin, Ireland, is to teach students to become data storytellers who can skilfully present and communicate their observations. Knowledge transfer is so important.”

Not only will students learn sought-after skills to improve their future career prospects, but they will do so in an immersive environment that is equal parts academic, social and cultural. 

UCD’s Design, Data Science and Discovery course is a four-week academic programme in May/June 2022, encompassing lectures, team-based project work and self study. Tailored to those studying data science or life science, applications are now open to students from America and right around the world, from rising juniors and seniors to graduates. 

Along with lectures, labs and tutorials, guided tours of some of Ireland’s famed historical sites are integral to this course. Other trips and organized social activities are optional, but strongly encouraged. 

“When people come to Ireland it's such a place of natural beauty with so many national treasures that the last thing they want to do is sit in the classroom eight hours a day for four weeks and then have to shoehorn in their sightseeing activities,” says Prof Rickard. “We thought, since we're talking about the display and presentation of information, why don't we incorporate into the modules how these national treasures are displaying their information?”

For instance, a guided tour of the Titanic museum in Belfast, where the doomed liner was made in the Harland & Wolff shipyard, will reflect on how and why the museum chooses to display certain information. 

“What do they highlight? What do they exclude? Why does it work so well? The course is really designed to get students thinking about the communication of information and the user experience.”

There will be guided tours of the Book of Kells in Dublin, Glendalough Monastic Site in Co. Wicklow and the Giant’s Causeway in Co. Antrim, among other field trips reflecting Ireland’s reputation as ‘The Land of Saints and Scholars’.

The programme is hosted by University College Dublin, Ireland’s premier University and leading Study Abroad Destination. It is worth 10 ECTS credits and contains enough statistics and programming to be considered a quantitative elective for non-quantitative majors. Lectures and labs on campus will cover coding, data analysis and the history of Irish discovery. 

“Leading Irish scientists will speak about the projects they are currently working on and share their cutting edge research and real world data.”

The UCD Institute for Discovery houses the AI Healthcare Hub, whose data-driven flagship projects have won awards and media coverage. Co-lead on these AI projects is Prof Patricia Maguire, who is also a Summer Programme course director. 

“We want our students to understand the emerging technologies that are revolutionizing healthcare and a spectrum of other industries. One of our projects is a machine learning tool AI_PREMie which will accurately risk-stratify the pregnancy condition preeclampsia and facilitate early intervention by clinicians to avert severe complications. Our Cocoon study uses an algorithm to analyse blood samples from Covid-19 patients for biomarkers that could help predict on admission to hospital how sick they will become. As well as learning more about these kinds of applied, interdisciplinary projects, we also want our summer programme students to get fired up about how their own ideas could help change our world for the better.”

Students will learn about the history of discovery in Ireland that paved the way for more recent scientific breakthroughs.

“We will use stories from Ireland's past, for example how statistician, chemist and Guinness brewer William Sealy Gosset, who invented the student T-test, also invented a technique to brew better beer. It was published under a pseudonym because the Guinness family didn't want competitors using it!” adds Prof Rickard. 

All students will attend coding tutorials that will cater to a spectrum of ability. 

“Those that have more experience will be paired with those that have less, so there will be coding in groups. Everybody in the modern world should understand how to spin up a Python Challenge to be able to programme some simple things. It’s literacy at this stage. There will be computer labs where you analyse the data, produce plots and build apps - all with mentors present,” adds Prof Rickard. “We look forward to welcoming our students and encouraging them to hone their various skill sets for the future while exploring the rich and ancient culture of Ireland.”


The UCD Study Abroad Programme will now take place in 2023 due to the ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic. It will place over four weeks from May 22 to June 16th 2023 and costs €3,300. Application deadline: February 1 2023.  For more information contact elva.osullivan@ucd.ie.