Filipino PhD Scholars Join Research Programme on Artificial Intelligence in Top University in Ireland


Two young Filipino Artificial Intelligence (AI) experts have secured research opportunities under the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research Training in Digitally-Enhanced Reality (d-real) at the prestigious Trinity College in Dublin.

Seth Grace Banaga (23) from Bulacan and Michael Gringo Angelo Bayona (34) from Quezon City are among 76 students who are pursuing a four-year PhD programme which equips students with deep ICT knowledge and skills across digital platform technology, content and media technology, and their application in industry sectors.  

Banaga, who moved to Ireland when she was seven, is on a 4-year PhD research project on computer graphics entitled ‘Embody Me: Achieving Proxy Agency through Embodiment in Mixed Reality’ where she will investigate the effects of different strategies for non-direct agency in the environment which will involve animating the dance motions of a virtual avatar, and controlling the motions of this avatar using a variety of different methods. Using dance, the aim of her research is to make users feel like they have control over their own body as well as making a change in their environment despite being confined in restricted spaces and/or having mobility issues. 

Seth Banaga, AI PhD Scholar, Trinity College Dublin

“Technology can be used as a tool for solving health problems in the Philippines. Securing funds for AI research for health will see a huge positive change in Philippine healthcare where Filipinos won’t feel the need to move abroad to seek proper health treatments. I also recognise that Philippine cinema and their entertainment industry is behind on Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) compared to the rest of the world.  If AI research funding will prioritise CGI, it would be a dream for me to contribute to improving that if given the chance in the future,” said Banaga.

Michael Bayona, AI PhD Scholar, Trinity College Dublin

Bayona, who is also on the 4-year PhD programme, is researching on ‘Mobile Apps for Advanced Language Learning’ where he will develop methods to recommend user-specific learning materials and systems that can assess and provide feedback on a learner’s speaking and listening skills. “The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has been funding research and development projects involving AI for several years now. It would be ideal if research funds respond to the needs of the country, especially in agriculture, health, and education. We’ve had previous Technology for Education (Tech4Ed) projects in UP that were actually funded by DOST. For me, Tech4Ed can really change how we do learning and it is great to see that there’s a push for that development in the Philippines.”

ICT Services/Computer Software/Hardware is the top growth sector for Ireland and the availability of highly skilled IT professionals has attracted many high profile companies that continue to reinvest. Research opportunities continue to be in demand which the three young Filipino Artificial Intelligence (AI) experts have secured.

The d-real scholarship allocates around €100,000 to each student for the four-year PhD programme which covers stipend, tuition fees, laptop/desktop, as well as conference, public engagement and training costs. A new round of applications opened in March where one PhD position was successfully secured by another Filipino, Michael Gian Gonzales, who will start his research study in September at National University of Ireland, Galway.  

Author: Vanda Brady