SMARTlab PostDocs

Dr Aviva Cohen

In 1994, Aviva began lecturing in Philosophy, Psychoanalysis and Communications Theory. She combined her academic work with a career as a Senior Communications Consultant, working with both public sector and private sector clients. In 2006, Aviva’ husband survived a stroke. This motivated her to create projects to support those living with severe disabilities.

In 2008, Aviva launched the Research & Hope website. It explains clinically tested but non-standard treatments for stroke. Shortly after that she started the Carers’ Sanctuary Magazine, an online publication to support family carers.

Aviva founded Neuro Hero Ltd. in 2011 to develop low cost therapeutic and educational apps for people with severe speech and language difficulties. This work received numerous awards from institutions such as the Arthur Guinness Fund, Social Entrepreneurs Ireland and Enterprise Ireland.


Dr Tomonori Hasegawa

Tomonori joins SMARTlab and the IDRC as an Associate Researcher at PostDoc level, researching the AI possibilities for programming drones to serve as assistive technology aids for People with Disabilities and elderly citizens. He recently completed a 4 year PhD at DCU on the topic of Artificial Life. His background prior to the PhD was in the area of Information Systems Science. His doctoral thesis focused on the topic of evolution of biological symbol systems in the emergent interdisciplinary domain of Artificial Life. Specific domains covered include: modelling, adaptive systems, artificial intelligence, etc. His broader academic interests include (but are not limited to): cognitive science; philosophy of mind; biosemiotics; science, technology, society and ethics. He also spent two years of Postdoc professional industry experience as a Project Manager in a Dublin game design studio, publishing freemium games.


Dr Shane Keaveney

Post-Doctoral Researcher

Shane Keaveney completed his honours degree in Mechanical Engineering in UCD in 2010 continuing his final year project into his PhD with funding and support from the Irish Research Council and Depuy (Ireland). During his PhD on medical device manufacturing, he spent time researching in the Institute of Machining Technology (ISF), Dortmund TU, Germany.

This was under the supervision of Prof. Petra Kersting, chair of CIRP Research Affiliates, and funded by the DAAD. He worked with Dr. Eoin O’Cearbhaill in establishing the MDD group (funding proposals, project supervision etc.) before working with SolidCAM UK as their lead Irish applications engineer.

Whilst working with SolidCAM UK full time, he worked part-time in the group on various research projects. He is heavily involved in the success of the MTTRF award since 2011 in UCD. This award provides state of the art manufacturing and research facilities to the school along with access and collaboration with a global network of the best researchers and companies in the world. He is also involved with various public engagement events (design and innovation workshops, 3D printing/additive manufacturing workshops and talks etc.), charity organisations, and start-ups. His team won the UCD Student Innovation Fund in 2014 for a start-up in the area of Biomass energy and he is co-founder of the Rapid Foundation.


  • Chair of the young members panel for the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in Ireland
  • Research affiliate of CIRP (The International Academy for Production Engineers)
  • Board Member of Young Engineers Society for Engineers Ireland
  • Board Member of Young Members Board for Institute of Mechanical Engineers
  • Board member of the Irish Senior Institute of Mechanical Engineers panel
  • Member of the Assistive Technology Community of Practice
  • Co-founder of the Rapid Foundation
  • Research interests: medical devices, 5-axis CNC, additive manufacturing, low-cost medical device manufacture, CAD/CAM, kinematic error modelling and compensation


Dr Ruchi Palan

Ruchi is a post-doctoral researcher at SmartLab. Her work focuses on using a combination of physical and technological tools such as augmented and virtual reality for disability awareness and the use of 3D printing to make science and mathematics accessible for blind and visually impaired students.

She was awarded a PhD from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India in May 2017. Her doctoral work focused on understanding the experiences and aspirations of students with physical and sensory impairment in higher education in India and UK. She received Commonwealth Split-Site Scholarship in 2013 and pursued one year of her doctoral study at University of Sussex, UK. Having undertaken fieldwork in both the developed and the developing world, she has a cross-cultural understanding of disability issues, methodologies and ethics in disability research. She has worked in the area of disability advocacy, particularly focusing on sensitisation and education access.

Her areas of interest are inclusive design, accessible technology, disability, education and employment for disabled people.


Yurgos Politis

Yurgos completed a 4-year Physics degree at the University of Athens and qualified as a Physics teacher. He then undertook a Masters in Education and a PhD in Physics Education in University College Dublin. As an experienced teacher and teacher-trainer he has taught at a variety of levels in the educational system. From an after-school programme with senior and junior infants, to a secondary school as a Science and Maths teacher, to higher education as both a physics lecturer/teaching assistant and a science methodologist at the teacher training programme. In more recent years he has worked on projects on higher education, development education, transnational families, inclusive education, adult education and lifelong learning.
In 2013-14, while at SMARTlab UCD, he worked on a European Commission's Leonardo Project called Inclusive Learning Project. In the course of that project he has become much more aware of the huge potential for assistive technology tools and open online learning tools to be customised and personalised to support learners with all levels of intellectual and physical ability. His current Marie Curie project, Virtual Learning for people with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), is closely aligned to that philosophy. The project has created a training intervention on conversation skills for people with ASD and/or ID, using Virtual Reality. It investigates the level of effectiveness of delivering training virtually.
Yurgos is a founding member of the Neurodiversity in Design Working Group; a founding member and member of the Executive Committee for the Early Career Higher Education Research Network (ECHER Net); a member of the Serious Games Society; a member of the Local Organizing Committee of the VSMM2017 conference at UCD, among others.
Relevant Publications:

  • Politis, Y., Olivia, L., Olivia, T. & Sung, C. (2018). Involving People with Autism in Development of Virtual World for Provision of Skills Training. International Journal of E-learning and Distance Education.
  • Politis. Y., Robb, N., Yakkundi, A., Dillenburger, K., Herbertson, N., Charlesworth, B. and Goodman L. (2017). People with Disabilities Leading the Design of Serious Games and Virtual Worlds. International Journal of Serious Games, 4(2): 63-73.
  • Murphy E., Politis Y. and Slowey M. (2015). Contributing to an evidence base for the
    enhancement of the experiences and outcomes of mature students at an Irish University. In, F.M. Ribeiro, Y. Politis & B. Culum, New Voices in Higher Education Research and Scholarship. Hershey (PA): IGI Global.
  • Politis Y., Deveril D., Baldiris Navarro S., Avila C., de Lera E., Monjo T. and, Goodman L. (2014). Introducing the Inclusive Learning Handbook: an OER for teachers and policy makers. Valencia: IATED Academy Publishing.
  • Zervas P., Kardaras V., Baldiris Navarro S.M., Bacca J., Avila C., Politis Y., Deveril, Treviranus J., Fabregat R., Goodman L. and Sampson D.G. (2014). An Online Educational Portal for Open Access to Teaching and Learning of People with Disabilities. In D.G. Sampson, D. Ifenthaler, M. Spector & P. Isaias (eds.) Digital Systems for Open Access to Formal and Informal Learning. Dordrecht: Springer.


  • 2016-2019: Marie Curie ASSISTID Fellowship project– Virtual Learning for people with ASD (Respect/EC cofund; budget €238k)
  • 2015-2017: UNIBILITY – University meets social responsibility (Funder EC; DCU budget €30k).
  • 2013: Colloquium “Higher Education and Society: Implications and effects” (Funder ESF, budget €6.75k).

Dr Nigel Robb

Nigel Robb received his PhD in Philosophy from Queen’s University Belfast.

He is ASSISTED Fellow, Adjunct Associate Professor, SMARTlab Digital Media Institute, UCD Dublin. He also holds an MA in Philosophy and an MSc in Software Development.  He has a broad range of professional experience, including experience in illustration, game design, software engineering, and interdisciplinary research.

Most recently, he has led the design and development of a cognitive training game, tailored for children with Prader-Willi syndrome. His research interests include video games, including applied (‘serious’) games; human-centred design, particularly the design of software for people with intellectual disabilities; and philosophical theories of learning and concept acquisition objects for grown-ups, (October 2012) showed digital prints and portable textile sculpture for grown-ups.


Dr Anita Yakkundi

Anita is a Research Fellow currently based at the SMARTlab, University College Dublin. She is focusing on developing Inclusive Research Design for Educational curriculum for individuals with autism having varied intellectual ability.  She is currently focusing on literacy and reading intervention strategies for learners with autism and intellectual disability. She is awarded the Marie Curie, EU-RESPECT co-fund, ASSISTID (Assistive technology for people with intellectual disability and autism)-, fellowship,


She is collaborating with Centre for Behaviour Analysis (CBA), School of Social Sciences, Education, and Social work (SSESW), Queens University Belfast (QUB). She is a visiting fellow at CBA, and a steering committee member of Queen’s University, Autism Research Intervention at SSESW, QUB.

Her research objectives are to provide academic and pre-vocational skills to individuals with autism and learning disability using evidence based interventions Her current research focuses on developing individualized interventions for reading, for students with autism and learning difficulties using assistive technology and behaviour analysis.

Anita obtained her PhD in life sciences in 1996 at the M.S University, Vadodara, India and has vast experience in scientific and preclinical cancer studies through her research work at the prestigious Indian Institute of Sciences and National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore, India and more extensively at Queen’s University of Belfast (QUB). Through her work at QUB, she has made a major research contribution for development of a cancer therapeutic which is now in clinical trials in cancer patients

Due to personal interests, she has now made a career switch into research for individuals with autism and intellectual disability and has acquired parallel experience and training in autism intervention and applied behaviour analysis, over past 12 years. She has completed MSc Applied Behaviour Analysis in 2015 from QUB and now actively engages in autism research using the evidence base.


Dr Bo Zhang

Bo Zhang is a full time funded PhD candidate at University College Dublin. In September 2013 she began her 4 years of PhD study with the SMARTlab, funded by a Chinese Council Scholarship, under the direction of Professor Lizbeth Goodman. Previously, Bo worked as a Web designer and developer in her native China. In December 2013, she won a Travel Scholarship from the Graduate Research & Innovation Fund to attend and present at the BETT Global Conference in London. In January 2014, as a team leader, she joined the 3D Printer Competition which was organised by the Innovation Academy of UCD; for which she won the prize of a new 3D printer. In December 2014, she won a  Conference Scholarship to travel to New York University and the Inclusive Design Research Institute at OCAD University, Toronto. In October 2015, she represented UCD as a player in the UCD International Ladies’ GAA Team, participating in the 20th Edition of the 2015 FEXCO Asian Gaelic Games in Shanghai, China, where UCD won the silver medal. Currently, Bo is participating as a researcher in several SMARTlab projects and is also working as a Laboratory Demonstrator/ Tutorial Tutor in the UCD School of Computer Science. Her PhD research topic focusses on the design of unique  3D virtual worlds for cross-cultural collaborative learning between China and Ireland. Bo is proficient in computer languages C & Java and has also studied Python, as well as developing skills in 3D design and web design. Throughout her studies, she has gained useful skills in applied research and technology transfer through her hands-on work on educational technology and digital media projects.


On the Winning Team of Citadel Dublin Datathon (Win €20,000 Grands), Apr 2017, organizer: Citadel and Citadel Securities, and winning team is invited to compete $100,000 international prize in New York City.
Winner Team of the #HackAccessDubin (Win €2,000 Grands), 2016, organizer: Google & Nissan, Topic: to develop technologies for assisting the people with disabilities to access to the public transportation: cash prize and start up supports.

1. Laboratory TA and Demonstrator in the school of Computer Science
2. The winner of the top 10 excelent projects in the 2016 “Win in Suzhou, China” Venture Contest for International Elites in Europe
3, The winner of the Excelent Project in 2015 the 10th Chun Hui Cup, ( 第十届“春晖杯”创业大赛) which organised by The Ministry of ducation of the People’s Republic of China
4. Speaker in the 2016 15th International Forum on Educational Technology, China (
5. Presenter in 2015 the IDRC conference, OCAD University
6. Speaker in the 2015 27th Confucius PhD Students Forum, UCD
7. Speaker in Graduate Research Student | Symposium 2015, UCD
8. Presenter: All-Ireland Conference: All –Ireland Original PhD Research, 2015, UCD
9. Speaker in Graduate Research Student | Symposium 2014, UCD
10. Co-Presenter in 2013 BETT Conference, London
11. The organiser of the Meetup@ Dublin Deep Learning ( event from Jan 2016, our previous sponsors are ZALANDO, INTERCOM, AON, GILT.

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