UCL Astrophysics Group


New centre for Data Intensive Science study opens at UCL

10 January 2022

UCL celebrated the launch of the Centre for Data Intensive Science & Industry which will engage students in AI training, research and knowledge exchange between academia and industry.


In December UCL marked the launch of the UCL Centre for Data Intensive Science & Industry (DISI). The DISI Centre builds upon the flagship and first-ever Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Data Intensive Science (DIS) that has offered innovative training and knowledge exchange opportunities between industry and academia in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. The DISI Centre is supported by a generous award from the Provost's Strategic Development Fund.

Professor Ivan Parkin, Dean of the MAPS Faculty, said: "Data Intensive Science is extremely important, especially in combination with AI methods. I am proud of the team that have led this and the Centre. The students have been outstanding, as have the interactions with industry. I look forward to the continued success of the Centre."

Some of the Centre’s first cohort students have recently successfully defended their PhD theses. In addition, a fifth cohort of the programme has just started, bringing the total number of PhD students to 53, more than doubling the number of studentships funded by STFC, thanks to the continuous support from UCL and industry partners. 

Professor Giovanna Tinetti, Head of the Astrophysics Group, said: "I am delighted to be part of the launch of the DISI Centre training the next generation of astrophysicists and planetary scientists. Data Intensive Science at UCL makes the launch of the DISI Centre very timely and of critical importance. A successful initiative, thanks to the UCL DISI management team, and I look forward to seeing UCL DISI growing even further."

The DISI Centre also incorporates a very successful MSc programme in Scientific and Data Intensive Computing, with 74 students this year (selected from about 500 applicants). Similarly, the Centre’s portfolio of industry partners has increased, as have their contributions and engagement. 

Professor Ofer Lahav, DISI Centre co-director, said: "This is an exciting phase of extending the CDT-DIS to the DISI Centre, as an umbrella of AI activities from training MSc and PhD students to cutting edge research in Astrophysics, Particle Physics, Computer Science and industry. We have already seen the great impact of cross-fertilisation among these fields.”

With over 30 industry partners, the DISI Centre’s unique collaboration has resulted in a continuous engagement in training and knowledge exchange. The Centre has also rolled out placement strategies and a wealth of research outcomes in the same vine, resulting in over 50 high-quality publications with students as lead authors or main contributors. 

Professor Nikos Konstantinidis, DISI Centre co-director, commented: "The launch of the DISI Centre is an exciting step in cementing UCL's leading role in DIS across physical sciences. Thanks to the support from UCL and our industry partners, we will be able to offer better and more training and career opportunities to our students, and to deliver enhanced research outcomes in fundamental research, as well as broader economic and societal benefits."

The DISI initiative at UCL has also received a GCRF Newton Fund award for a DIS capacity building programme with Jordan. The Provost's Fund has allowed to appoint two new lecturers (Dr Gabriel Facini and Dr Nikos Nikolaou), a post-doc (Dr Davide Piras – a recent DIS CDT student), and a centre manager (Dr Elizabeth De-Ben Rockson).

Dr Alison Kennedy, Director of the Hartree Centre and Chair of the DIS CDT External Advisory Board, commented: "Over the years, the Advisory Board has continued to work very closely with the UCL CDT management team and have seen the CDT go from strength to strength. So, the creation of the DISI Centre shows the commitment of UCL to the sustainability and long-term future of activities in Data Intensive Science, as does the recruitment of outstanding Lecturers, which will further strengthen the team. At Hartree Centre, we have recently been awarded £172 million to further collaborative research with industry in partnership with IBM, and we look forward to increased opportunities and to collaborate with Data Intensive Science activities at UCL.”