Experience of a visiting PhD student

My name is Tomokatsu Onaga. I am a visiting research student at the MACSI group of the University of Limerick. I am PhD student in Japan and staying here for one year. Visiting research student, which is a PhD student staying at an overseas laboratory for several months or a year, may be an unfamiliar idea. In this blog post, I introduce its advantage and attractive features of MACSI from my experience as a visiting research student for 4 months.

I introduce how I came here. I started my research on mathematical modelling of propagation phenomena as a physics Ph.D student at Kyoto University in Japan, in order to model and analyse epidemic spreading, information and opinion spreading on twitter and propagation of neuronal spike signals in the brain. After writing two papers, when I was seeking further progress, I found papers from MACSI making outstanding achievements in propagation phenomena from the perspective of applied mathematics. To collaborate with a professor and a researcher in MACSI from their applied mathematics and my physics perspectives, I came here and started woking with them.


Studying abroad is a source of inspiration, leading to new ideas of worthy problems and broadening the range of solutions. Research fields actively studied vary greatly depending on countries. For example, Japan focuses on physics and pure mathematics, while Ireland focuses on applied mathematics. Especially in interdisciplinary areas, it is advantageous to collaborate with people having different backgrounds. Discussion of the same problem from different motives and perspectives is an exciting experience and broadens my thinking. Studying abroad is also an opportunity for international collaboration, and spreads my network widely. Placing myself in multiple environments before postdoc widens possibilities of future research.

One of the attractive features of MACSI is diversity of people. It covers a wide range of theory and application of applied and industrial mathematics. Here, students and researchers having various backgrounds from inside and outside of Ireland are mixed together. With the development of internet and availability of various data and computational power, applied mathematics is now a very attractive research field with many worthy problems. At the same time, interdisciplinary collaboration works well in applied mathematics because of the variety of possible approaches. MACSI offers favourable environment for collaboration. In my case, I am collaborating with a researcher who is excellent in dealing with social data such as Twitter data. Every week, we have two seminars from an internal student and an external researcher. They give us broad vision of the cutting edge research fields and places to practice discussion.

Another important feature of MACSI is that it has a lot of young people and that they are fluent. In addition to the large number of PhD students, it has many postdoctoral fellows and faculty members. Younger generation makes lively atmosphere. Postdoctoral fellows or faculty members come and go every couple of months. To know successful role models of close generation has good influence on developing future career plans.

In summary, because I had decided to come to MACSI after the first half of my research, I could meet fascinating professors and students who I did not know when I started PhD course, and find a research field attractive to me. I would like to thank the researchers, research staffs and postgraduate students of MACSI for giving me this invaluable opportunity and nice environment with nice people and friendly atmosphere.

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