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Name: Maire O’Neill (nee McLoone)

I lead the Cryptography research team at the ECIT Institute, Queen’s University Belfast, where I carry out research into data encryption algorithms and architectures for the provision of security in modern communications applications such as email, online shopping and banking, set-top boxes and satellite communications. Along with carrying out research, I am required to secure funding to support the research area, publish papers on my work and to promote national and international links. I also lecture in the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Queens and I supervise undergraduate and postgraduate student projects.

I was exposed to electronic engineering at an early age when my father decided to build a hydro-electric scheme on the river running by our house. Then in secondary school, I enjoyed mathematics, physics and technology, and with two older brothers in engineering, I decided that it was also the career for me. During my engineering degree course I studied all of the mathematics modules. In the final year of my engineering degree I was sponsored by Amphion Semiconductor Ltd to carry out a research project in the area of data security. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to research new ideas and designs using cutting-edge technologies, and this led me to my career as an academic researcher in data encryption. All security techniques are based on mathematical principles and as such a thorough understanding of basic mathematical principles is vital for my research work.