Informatics, Physical and Computational Sciences

Sub-themes in this priority research area:

  • Data Analytics & Future Networks
  • Applied Photonics & Medical Physics
  • Astronomy & Physical Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Modelling & Applied Mathematics

The University supports research in mathematics, core physical sciences, and Information Technology leading to new technologies and contributing to the knowledge-based economy in Ireland. DERI, the Digital Enterprise Research Institute, is the world’s largest institute for semantic web research and is a SFI Centre for Excellence in Science and Technology.

NUI Galway’s researchers in informatics use their world-wide network of partners to take part in global standardisation efforts and to improve the way people and businesses communicate and interact. This research addresses the problems presented by vast data sets flowing from imaging activities (biology, chemistry, astronomy) that need significant computing power to reduce, analyse and visualise. Further, we research modelling and simulation, which are integral to almost all physical and biological sciences.

Here are some highlights in this area:

Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI)

sample DERI image Where the future is being invented

Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) is one of the leading international web science research institutes interlinking technologies, information and people to advance business and benefit society. DERI brings together academic and industrial partners to boost innovation in science and technology, with its research focused on the Web Science.

In the past five years DERI has developed into an internationally leading research centre, as documented by its large number of high quality publications in core conferences, outnumbering any other research organisation world-wide in our field of research.

DERI’s research directly contributes to the Irish government’s plan of transforming Ireland into a competitive knowledge economy.
DERI has created a number of spin out companies through its research including Peracton. Peracton’s MAARS technology solves complex business and analytical issues in the investment and the retail banking space.
President Obama’s administration is using internet technology developed by DERI, as is the UK’s main Government data website,

DERI’s impact

DERI has attracted companies to set up subsidiaries in Galway, for example, Cyntelix, which provides the seed for the Silicon Valley inspired “DERI Land”, an eco-system of companies and research partners composed around DERI know-how and technologies, which intends to transform the region into a technological powerhouse. DERI’s success over the last five years has also attracted further multi-national and local companies which expand its range of core industrial partners from Hewlett Packard to include Nortel, Cisco, Ericsson, IBM, Storm, and CelTrak.

Postgraduate students are shining stars

shining star Astronomers from NUI Galway’s Centre for Astronomy have made an important breakthrough in the understanding of how pulsars work. The team of postgraduate students and post-doctoral researchers, compared optical observations with a detailed model of the structure of the pulsar. From this, using their inverse mapping or reverse engineering approach, they were able to establish for the first time that most of the light from the pulsar comes from close to the star’s surface. This is contrary to most pulsar models and points to a new way of analysing observational data from pulsars. This discovery is the culmination of ten years work and shows the importance of using different approaches of combining numerical models run on large supercomputers with detailed observations. Pulsars are about one and a half times the mass of the sun, but are so small they could fit into Galway Bay. Consequently they represent extreme matter. They have a magnetic field which can be greater than a million billion times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field. Their density is also about a million, billion times greater than the density of the Earth. They are formed during a massive explosion at the end of a star’s life known as a Type II supernova. During a supernova, the light from a single star outshines its host galaxy which contains up to a hundred billion stars. 

World-leading facilities and resources to support this research priority area

Ultrafast Laser Facility

We invest in the very best facilities to keep research at the cutting edge at NUI Galway. The Ultrafast Laser Facility, which is located in LightHOUSE: Centre for Applied Photonics, brings together several new short pulse laser technologies and advanced optical instrumentation, in a single clean room facility. The research facility targets LightFactories of the future, which propose all optical production facilities—highly relevant to Ireland’s SMART economy.

Fluorescence microscopy facilities

The Nanoscale Biophotonics Laboratory (NBL) at NUI Galway has been developing one of the most advanced fluorescence microscopy facilities in Ireland. They currently operate four confocal and one TIRF system (four fluorescence and one Raman). These systems are used for a variety of materials science and biological applications. These are all now located in the School of Chemistry in a dedicated laboratory. 

Computer Museum 

DERI museum Postgraduate students have Ireland’s only Communications and Computer Museum (at DERI) at their doorstep when they choose to study at NUI Galway. This museum has computers on display, amongst many others, are the DEC Vax, Digital Rainbow, Apple 11, Apple Macintosh, IBM PC, Commodore 64, Vic-20, BBC and the Sinclair ZX81 along with portable computing, printing and microprocessing technologies and legendary video games of the 70s and 80s. Apart from using history as a context for understanding the present it has another purpose which is to inspire young people to consider careers in science and engineering as interesting and worthwhile.   

Ireland’s High Performance Computing Space (ICHEC)

computing researcher The Irish Centre for High-End Computing (ICHEC), founded in 2005, is Ireland's national high performance computer centre. It houses NUI Galway’s supercomputer, a computing architecture that provides fast performance by making multiple CPUs available to complete multiprocessing proves fundamental for future scientific and technological research and development, and technology transfer projects. Unlike asymmetrical processing any idle processor can be assigned any task and additional CPUs can be added to improve performance and handle increased loads. NUI Galway is the second institution in Ireland to have such facility. 


Materials characterisation

• Raman spectroscopy/microscopy
• Fluorescence and fluorescence lifetime spectroscopy
• Reflectance spectroscopy
• Scanning White-Light Interferometry

Laser Materials Processing

• Marking Micro-machining Ultrafast (Femtosecond)
• Machining
• Surface Activation
• Laser Ablation Computational Modelling
• Cutting
• Drilling Welding
• Nanotechnology

Learn more

Postgraduate videos

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