2015 Press Releases

Billions of benefits from Boole…

4 Feb 2015
Professors Muffy Calder and Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli will give the George Boole200 Inaugural Lectures Image: Aine Mc Carthy

The co-founder of the world’s two largest electronic design automation companies and the former Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland are the guest speakers at the George Boole 200 Inaugural Lectures in UCC, Thursday 5 February, 6pm.

In 2015, University College Cork celebrates the bicentenary of George Boole, first professor of mathematics at UCC and forefather of the information age.

It has been estimated that there are 7 billion mobile phones in existence. Add that to about a billion computers and countless other devices for information storage and retrieval, electronic communications, and control systems that support life in the 21st century. All of these are underpinned by mathematics that is derived ultimately from the work of George Boole.

Professor Alberto Sangiovanni-Vincentelli, University of California Berkeley and co-founder of Synopsys and Cadence and Professor Muffy Calder OBE, University of Glasgow, and  former Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland will discuss how Boolean thought has influenced our modern world.

The George Boole 200 Inaugural Lecture swill be held in Boole Lecture Theatre 4 on the UCC main campus at 6pm and all are welcome. The event is free but pre-registration is required. To register, click here.

The event will also be live streamed at tinyurl.com/GB200InauguralLectures.

Born in Lincoln in 1815, Boole was a largely self-taught mathematical genius who is recognised today as being the ‘forefather of the information age’. His creation of Boolean algebra and symbolic logic pioneered a new strand of mathematics, which was employed in the work of scientific and engineering giants such as Claude Shannon and Alan Turing, and many others, in the development of the computer.

The pioneering research of Prof. Sangiovanni-Vincentelli has contributed to major advancements in the semiconductor and electronics area. He was at the forefront of a revolution in the computer-aided design of advanced devices that dates back three decades, helping to co-found the world’s two largest electronic design automation companies – Cadence and Synopsys. Professor Sangiovanni-Vincentelli’s universe is built on Boolean logic. 

In Ireland, there are currently more than 50 electronics companies with a roughly equal split between international and indigenous firms, including many start-ups, that use tools produced by Cadence and Synopsys. The total annual exports from this sector are estimated at €9bn with 8,000 high-value jobs, 1,500 of these directly involved with design or product development. 

Boole’s legacy has come full circle back to UCC with the involvement of researchers in the School of Engineering and the Tyndall National Institute at UCC in major collaborative projects with Synopsys at Irish and European level. Irish students of electrical and computer engineering, computer science and mathematics learn about Boolean logic and many of the engineers use Cadence and Synopsys tools in their project work. UCC students in these areas would be familiar with the academic publications of Professor Sangiovanni-Vincentelli.

Born in Milan, Prof. Sangiovanni-Vincentelli received his engineering degree from the Politecnico di Milano in 1971. The youngest person to become an associate professor there, he left in 1976 for a position at the University of California Berkeley.  He currently holds the Edgar L. and Harold H. Buttner Chair in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science there.

He has published widely and received numerous awards including being elected a Fellow of the IEEE (1993), Member of the US National Academy of Engineering (1998), and Fellow of Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) in 2014 – for contributions to electronic design automation.

Apart from his work in the USA Prof Sangiovanni-Vincentelli is also the President of the Italian National Committee of Research Trustees and is on the boards of the Italian national research council (CNR) and the Italian Institute of Technology.

When explaining his passion for the application of science he was quoted, as saying: “With physics, you explain what God does. With engineering you’re creating your own universe. You are God.”

Also speaking on the night will be Professor Muffy Calder OBE, Professor of Computing Science at Glasgow University, and until recently Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland. Her research is in modelling and reasoning about the behaviour of complex software and biochemical systems using computer science, mathematics and automated reasoning techniques. In 2011, Professor Calder was awarded the OBE for services to Computer Science and a Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award. Professor Calder also played a key role in establishing the British Computer Society Academy of Computing.  Before becoming Chief Scientific Adviser, she was a Royal Society Leverhulme Research Senior Fellow and Dean for Research in the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Glasgow.

While her main research is in the area of “formal methods” which might be described as “pure” computer science, she also makes connections through research with problems in a wide variety of other fields. For instance, she has worked with cell biologists to figure out if communication within a cell can be predicted and what is the most effective way to change it. Rosemary O’Connor Professor in the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at UCC agrees with this approach: “Boolean modelling is one of the approaches to identifying new ways of interfering with the insulin-like growth factor system, which determines the progression of many kinds of cancer, as well as their lifespan.”

Prof Calder has also worked on the science behind some key communication technologies, including communications systems for air traffic control and advanced telephony systems, where a number of decisions have to be made at the same time, and it is crucial that they are correct.

Our world has never been more dependent on computer science and computer software but Prof Calder believes that the focus on making our interaction with computers, phones and other devices as seamless and invisible as possible actually has some risks.  She thinks this has led us to take these devices for granted and just assume they work, so we become passive consumers who have no real insight into what computers can and cannot do. “It is important that we have a better understanding of how these systems work”, she says. “CoderDojo and other programming sessions have great potential as a way for young people and families to learn the basics of programming, and also to experience the joy and power of programming.” Cork man James Whelton, co-founder of CoderDojo attended the Munster Programme Training  run by UCC’s Computer Science Department  which encourages students from primary and secondary schools to get involved in programming prior to third level.

Prof Calder is a former external examiner of the Department of Computer Science at UCC.

As Chief Scientific Advisor for Scotland, it was Prof Calder's job to provide independent scientific advice to ministers, champion science as a key driver of the economy, and ensure the Scottish Government uses science effectively in all policy-making.

University College Cork greatly appreciates the support of Mr Brian Kingham and Reliance Cyber Services, who have generously enabled the George Boole 200 Inaugural Lectures at the University.

For more information about the wide range of activities that UCC has organised to commemorate George Boole visit www.georgeboole.com

University College Cork

Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh

College Road, Cork T12 K8AF