Ita Richardson - Co-Principal Investigator in Lero
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Professor Ita Richardson is currently an Associate Professor at University of Limerick’s Department of Computer Science and Information Systems and a Co-Principal Investigator at Lero. Her research examines software processes in a range of environments and domains, including global software engineering and connected health. Since joining the University of Limerick in 1992, Prof. Richardson has developed and maintained an interest in women’s issues, particularly those of women working in computing and engineering disciplines. Prof. Richardson’s works have been published extensively, and she currently leads three Lero projects.
“I was actually one of the very first people in Lero. Initially, in the pre-Lero phase, where the focus was on global software development, I led a project that involved examining software processes used by teams in different countries around the world, and how these teams work together. It was the one of the biggest problems that multinational companies were coming to us with in the early days. I developed a lot of research in that area and continue to be very involved in the global software development community. Through that work, we started to examine the principles of software as a medical device, and began looking into how we can implement healthcare regulations within software. Through that I became involved in what we call connected health or digital health, researching software and technology solutions and how they can be implemented within healthcare.
My connected health research involves examining software supporting change in healthcare processes. We’re seeing how processes can change, now, with COVID-19. For example, we have been looking at ePharmacy over the years, and now because of the current situation it has become a reality. I can make a call to my doctor; the doctor can put my prescription through the electronic system, maybe do a Skype consultation with me; get it to the pharmacist; and the pharmacist will have it ready when someone comes to collect it. But, the question about regulation arises! We are seeing these new medical systems coming about, but are they private? Are they secure? How do I know when I go to collect my prescription that the software has actually done calculations correctly or that a hacker hasn’t changed what my prescription should be? When developing software for medical use, you have to make sure that can’t happen.
When I was in university, there were so few women in classes like computing, engineering, maths and science. I developed an interest very quickly in trying to support women studying and working in these disciplines. Lero has an outreach programme supporting women in computer science. I’m the leader on a project with Johnson & Johnson that financially supports female undergraduates who develop projects around women’s issues in engineering and computing, and how they can be solved. I run various school talks, particularly in second-level education, about careers in computing and software engineering. With Women in Technology and Science, I’ve taken part in ‘role model days’ where schoolgirls hear about women working in STEM careers.
"When I was in university, there were so few women in classes like computing, engineering, maths and science. I developed an interest very quickly in trying to support women studying and working in these disciplines. Lero has an outreach programme supporting women in computer science."
Principal Investigators (PIs) are senior researchers within Lero, whose roles include leading research programmes and projects. As a Principal Investigator, I am co-leader of the Health, Wellness and Performance programme, within which we are defining research projects. Lero has supported me right through my academic career by making links with industry, by helping me find PhD students, in administrative and technical support; there are just so many things. The support Lero provides in relation to funding is also very important. I think one of the biggest challenges for us as academics is to have a continuous funding stream. Lero has given me the structure and basis for a continuous funding stream for all of my research career. Having that structure behind us really does support us and leverage us into other funding streams.
In the future, the connected health research area could support a fundamental shift in healthcare through technology: that healthcare processes don’t just remain the same, but that we look innovatively at how healthcare can change.
Looking to the future, for me what is most important is that there are younger people coming behind me that can pick up and progress what I’ve been doing; people who are good researchers that will have a positive effect on the future.
The advice I’d give to those starting out in Lero would be to take the opportunities to carve out their own personal research careers. Work well with the senior people without becoming too dependent on them. Use their support, but don’t become them; become somebody different; become an independent researcher yourself.”