Dr Áine Mac Dermott

Áine won the Individual Teaching Excellence Award at our Teaching Excellence Awards held in our Bicentenary year, recognising how she has provided amazing real-world learning experiences for students across the Faculty of Engineering and Technology, all while being an active supporter of women in STEM.

Áine is a Belfast native passionate about digital forensic science and academia. Having studied computer science at GCSE and A-Level, she visited our School of Computer Science and Mathematics at an open day event to find out more about further study at LJMU.

It turns out that LJMU was the perfect choice for Áine and she became the first person in her family to go to university, graduating with a first-class degree in computer forensics in 2011. She then went on to conduct her PhD here as well.

“I had just begun to look at graduate schemes and postgraduate study when the department advertised PhD projects in network security. I was successfully awarded a fully funded PhD studentship, which continued my studies at LJMU in the department I had grown to love.”

Since 2017, she has been a lecturer with our School of Computer Science and Mathematics, specialising in digital forensics and cybersecurity.

“The highlight of my experience is seeing my students graduate and thrive in their careers. I enjoy finding out how the skills we taught them have helped them. I’ve been teaching long enough now that one of my previous students has since completed his PhD studies and is now a colleague in our department.”

– Dr Áine Mac Dermott

Áine keeps students at the heart, from working with our Outreach team to better support applicants looking to study with LJMU from Northern Ireland, to using her research to provide real-world learning experiences for her students to gain experience from.

A real-world example she believes helped her win the Individual Teaching Excellence Award is when in 2019, in collaboration with Dr Sorren Hanvey, they were awarded £5,000 to purchase computing and security-themed Lego to help students gain clearer understandings of cybersecurity via role-based gameplay.

“The students are presented with scenarios utilising the equipment to see how their changes affect their overall security. This project was a great success and has been used in an array of modules and is definitely one to remember.”

On winning the Individual Teaching Excellence Award, Áine said: “It feels really nice to be the recipient of the Individual Teaching Excellence Award 2023, as it's not often that we get recognition for the work we do. I have received good feedback from students over the years, but it is particularly nice to see it in writing. I’m very grateful.”

Áine is also deeply involved in LJMU's Forensic Research Institute (FORRI), representing the School of Computer Science and Mathematics in the research group. Collaborating with fellow researchers has broadened her horizons and created lasting connections. Her ties with Merseyside Police Digital Forensics Unit and Ontario Tech University, where she is a visiting lecturer, showcase her commitment to bridging the gap between academia and industry. Not only do her students benefit from placements with Merseyside Police, but ongoing collaborations ensure that research meets real-world needs.

Áine's £10,000 research grant from the FET QR Policy Fund delved into the intriguing realm of 'Deepfake Forensics’. The study, exploring the implications of AI-generated deepfakes, brought together academics, researchers, and practitioners in a workshop and gave her an opportunity to network at BSlides Berlin 2023 conference on cybersecurity, sharing her expertise with colleagues in the field internationally.

She is also a valued member of the Diversity and Inclusion committee in her school and represents LJMU at women in science events to continue to raise the profile of women in all forms of STEM.