Type of scientist:
Microbiologist / PhD researcher and student
Degree(s) and where you obtained them:
Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology at Cork Institute of Technology
B.Sc in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology at Cork Institute of Technology
PhD candidate and postgraduate researcher for the Biological Sciences Department at CIT, (October 2018 – Present), Internship at Janssen Biologics, Ringaskiddy in the Sample Management and Planning laboratory, (March 2017 – September 2017),Waitressing / hotel staff
Microbiologist / PhD researcher and student
I’m a postgraduate researcher for the Biological Sciences Department at CIT
since January 2019
Favourite thing about being a Cell EXPLORER volunteer:
I love to teach and connecting with others. Cell Explorers is the perfect opportunity to help to spread scientific awareness and understanding to others in an informal setting.
My best tip for extracting DNA:
Slow and steady wins the race! Also reading instructions fully beforehand is very useful…
Favourite thing to do in science: Collecting results/data. Seeing all the efforts of your hard work and preparation appear in a physical or measurable form is so satisfying!
About Me: A chatty bookworm with a love of microbiology and herbal tea.
Even though my family is Irish, but I was born on the West coast of Australia. I moved here when I was 12 and have lived in Cork since. I started my undergrad in CIT, (Pharmaceutical Biotechnology), in 2014, and even though I was very nervous, I grew to love it! Doing my final year project in my fourth year at CIT, I found my passion in antimicrobials, (medicines that kill bad bacteria). I started my postgrad, a PhD, in 2018 and was introduced to the Cell Explorer team through my supervisor in 2019. I am an enormous bookworm, I read everything and anything, (the aim is to read 52 books this year). I love films, particularly foreign works and Japanese animation. I am a big people person and have been active member of my college’s societies since my undergrad, being on committees and even starting my own society, (the CIT Biotechnology Society), in 2017. Although the bookworm lifestyle makes me inclined to be a bit of a couch potato, I am really into my personal fitness and diet.
My Course/Research/Work: I am trying to discover and develop new antimicrobials to help overcome issues like infections caused by resistant pathogens.
I am a microbiologist, which means I study bacteria. Bacteria are really tiny organisms that we need a microscope to see. Even though they are so small, bacteria are really strong and can do lots of things to help make human lives better, like make medicines! Doing a PhD means doing research to learn new things that no one has seen before. I hope that I can find bacteria that make new medical treatments that can help fight hard to treat infections. I look at bacteria that live in soil to see what antibiotics they can make. Antibiotics are chemicals some bacteria use to kill other bad bacteria that make us sick. Maybe you have taken one when you were not well! Unfortunately, the world is running out of antibiotics because some have stopped working, so I am trying to find new ones. Doing a PhD can also help you become a teacher in a college. I use some of my time to teach students microbiology lab classes, so they can understand how bacteria can help us or hurt us, depending on what type they are. I also have a position on the CIT Post Grad Society, which is like a club for all post grad students that helps us get together to do fun things like going to outdoor adventure courses or to nice restaurants in Cork. By working with Cell Explorers, I hope I can improve how I communicate with others about microbiology to help make them as interested and passionate about the field as I am.
My Typical Day: Writing my thesis, reading lots of papers, trying to get my bacterial strains to do what they should, and drinking lots of tea!
Doing a PhD means I have to do research to work out problems and discover new things that no one else has done before. My research is in microbiology, which means I work with bacteria. I am trying to find for new antibiotics to help people who are sick with infections. My day usually starts around 9am, where I spend an hour organising the chemicals and reagents I will need for the day and answering emails! I get the bacteria I need for my experiments ready by giving them food, (media), and incubating them, (keeping them warm). They are like pets, but much smaller! Because I work with bacteria that could make me sick, I wear gloves, a lab coat and glasses, and I always wash my hands. If I am not in the lab doing an experiment, I will be at my desk writing or reading. I need to read lots of scientific papers to understand how to do different and new experiments. Reading papers also helps me to see what the latest break throughs in my field are, (it’s kind of like watching the news but for microbiology). Throughout the day I write up all the results of my experiments carefully and make lots of notes, so I always understand what I have done. A big cup of tea always helps me stay focused when I am writing for a long time. Sometimes I teach lab classes to college students and help them with their projects and assignments. At the end of the day, even if I am really tired, I go to the gym or go to a society event, (a fun meet up with other students), to watch movies or do fun activities. When I get home, I make a note to put all work away. I make a big dinner, and I always read before bed!
Why did you decide to study science/become a scientist?:
Science was not my first choice going into college. My secondary school did not really support sciences and this turned me off the classes, even though I really liked biology. At first, I was planning on either studying English and History so I could become a teacher or a historian. However, I was given some very practical advice and told to explore teaching through science. The course I chose suited me far more than I ever thought it could, and I fell down the rabbit hole of disease, medical microbiology and how bacteria can be used to help people. As a person who loves learning, discussing problems, is both passionate and interested in the field of biology, each year in my undergrad drew me more into the scientific world. I found that, not only did it challenge me, but it could give me the chance to help others understand their own challenges in the field and learn more. I have always enjoyed working with people and I hope that through programs like Cell Explorers I can help other see the beauty of learning, so they can become confident scientists and analysts themselves.
What part of your own life experience gives you a unique view on your science work?:
I really can’t think of anything that is “uniquely” me. I think maybe getting into science accidently has made me very enthusiastic about it and that enthusiasm can be used to help other find what they love about science too.
Name 1 thing you struggled with in science and how you overcame it.:
I have struggled previously with finding a balance between the things I study and my own personal time. I love microbiology and I love the work I do, but sometimes I forget that you need to put it down and take a break. If you don’t take breaks from your work you can get really tired and you won’t be able to do your best.
Quickfire Q/A questions
State 1 part of your job that requires creativity
Problem solving always requires creativity! Sometimes my bacteria do not grow, and you have to think outside of the box to figure out why. Sometimes it is easy, (they may be too cold or too hot), or sometimes it is more complicated, they need different food or don’t like being kept in a container that is moving around too much. Every angle needs to be looked at and addressed so that it can be figured out.
Give 1 example of how a hobby/personal interest relates to science
I really like cooking, which relates to science, in a way. When doing an experiment, you have to follow a step by step “procedure”, which is kind of like a recipe.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Chatty, to the point, caring
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I am never sure, at the moment I’m driving a lot and that means I’m listening to a lot of Meatloaf, (they’re the best for driving tunes).
What's your favourite food?
Beans on super buttery toast, (yeah, I’m basic, I know)!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Dancing and singing with my friends all night after a music festival!
What did you want to be after you left school?
A teacher of some description…. I love finding out how a problem works in someone else’s head and showing that they do understand and can work the problem out!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Never! I was too good to get caught ;)
What was your favourite subject at school?
Biology, history and English!
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Doing volunteer work with Cell Explorers! It has really shown me a side to teaching and outreach that I never considered doing. I can’t wait to do more!
What part(s) of your job makes you happy?
When an experiment works out smoothly… which is not often.
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
My dad and my uncle. My dad is a teacher and has shown me what a good teacher can do to a student’s life. My uncle is a senior scientist in a pharmaceutical company and I have always being interested and impressed by what he does.
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
An English/History/Biology teacher… either one or a combination of all three! Or maybe I would be a book reviewer? I think everyone around me is sick of hearing me rant about Nabokov novels though.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I hate to sound shallow, but my first wish would to be filthy rich! It would make life so much easier! I would also wish to be a pro at parallel parking and then I’d wish for a house with a huuuuge library!
Tell us a joke.
Did you hear oxygen went on a date with potassium? It only went OK though.