Name: Dr Catherine Mulligan
Research institution: Digital Cities Exchange, Imperial College London
Research career length: 6 years
Research Council: Research Councils UK (RCUK) and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Location: London, England
Brief summary of research: Digital Technologies and 21st Century Globalisation
Higher School Certificate, Monte Sant’ Angelo North Sydney, NSW, Australia
BSc in Business Information Technology at the University of New South Wales
MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development, University of Cambridge
PhD in investigating the Communications Industries in the Era of Convergence, University of Cambridge
Working at the Centre for Advanced Empirical Software Engineering Institute whilst completing undergraduate degree
Ericsson, Sweden, Roles; Software Engineer, System Manger, Strategic Product Manager, Portfolio Manager
University of Nottingham, Horizon Digital Economy Research Department
Imperial College London, Digital Cities Exchange
Our planet is facing many big challenges. Catherine Mulligan believes that digital technology research will provide some of the answers to dealing with our uncertain future.
I was always encouraged to pursue science and technology by my family, and no one ever questioned that a girl should be interested in such things - many other girls at my school did not receive the same support at When it was suggested I study law because "smart women study law", my Dad told me "smart women study what smart men study – what they find interesting”. For me, that was technology.
Without research, society cannot advance. Our world currently faces some dramatic challenges, including urbanisation, population explosion, pollution and economic difficulties. These issues can no longer be addressed separately but must be viewed as parts of the same problem. Research can help deepen our understanding of how all these systems are working together.
I’m attempting to understand how we can use digital technologies to create new jobs and industries, replacing those that have reduced in size. I investigate how small isolated rural communities can use technology to compete with their much larger city-based competitors, and also how data captured from sensors, smartphones, humans and the urban environment, can be used to renew cities, and create new jobs and industries. My other current research interest involves working on new economic measures that will better reflect the nature of our economy in an information age.
I started programming computers aged ten, and fell in love with technology. I applied for the course in Business Information Technology at the University of New South Wales, where I was living, and gained the degree. The course was business, computer science and a few other things thrown in. Near the end of my degree, I worked at a software development institute at the university, where I got my first taste of research. I then moved back to Europe and was offered a job in Sweden, working for Ericsson, which also allowed me to follow another of my passions - learning languages. I spent ten amazing years there, working on Bluetooth and other innovative technologies. Watching mobile broadband take off the way it did was truly awesome.
I volunteered for ‘Ericsson Response’, where I helped design networks that have since been used in disaster relief across the world by United Nations organisations. I was sent on an expedition to the North Pole with a boat of researchers who were investigating climate change, researching bird flu and tracking bird migratory paths. This experience changed my life. Being exposed to the fragility of the world, the beauty of the animals in those locations, and seeing the research being done made me stop and think about what my contribution as an engineer could be to help solve the problems of the world. So I applied to Cambridge for the MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development, and arrived to find a great group of classmates from all over the world. I went on to a PhD investigating the Communications Industries in the Era of Convergence.
I realised that the best way I could contribute to society was to carry out research linked to business, technology and the environment. Fortunately I stumbled across Horizon, a Research Institute at The University of Nottingham, where I now work.
While research can seem far removed from day-to-day life, it is a major factor in how society moves forward. It is also a tremendously exciting time to enter research. Some days I imagine that this is how people felt when they were working on developing the steam engine or the first computers.