2004-2010 Sacred Heart School, Co. Offaly, Ireland. 2011-2015 National University of Ireland, Galway. 2015-2017 University of South Florida, United States. 2017-present University of Strathclyde, Scotland.
Bachelor of Science (honours)
Malta - cancer research, Galway - synthetic chemistry, Florida - teaching and marine chemistry (Floridian and Antarctic), Scotland - marine biotechnology
1st year PhD student
Favourite thing to do in my job: Play with/troubleshoot instruments
I am a 26-year old Irish PhD student crazy about all things science, rugby, and nature
I am from the home of Tullamore D.E.W. whiskey in co. Offaly, Ireland, where my family still lives. I have lived in various places in Ireland, Malta, Florida, and now Scotland. I love playing and watching rugby (hon Leinster!) and am eternally hungry. I feel most at peace when surrounded by water and nature, so I enjoy taking trips to places of natural beauty. I have been diving in Cuba, spent a night in the Sahara desert, and floated down the rainbow river in Florida. My greatest passion is traveling, and science has allowed me to do a lot of it and meet some fantastic people from different countries and cultures. The worst thing about living away from home is not seeing my 2 dogs, Jack and Penny, and my 2 cats, Muffin and Lala.
1st year PhD student in Marine Biotechnology
My research focuses on utilising microalgae for biotechnology applications. They have massive potential as biofuels, feedstocks, and pharmaceuticals/nutraceuticals, but are expensive to scale on an industrial level since they are photosynthetic and require light input. My PhD will investigate the effect of various environmental stressors (nutrients, light, pH, etc) on the metabolism of marine microalgal strains. This will be achieved using mass spectrometry and molecular networking, with a focus on finding new antimicrobial compounds.
My Typical Day
Lab in the morning, office in the afternoon
I will begin my day around 9:30-10 AM. Depending on where I am in my experiment, I will either be measuring the growth of my cultures, extracting my cultures with organic solvent, or performing antimicrobial bioassays of these extracts. I will usually finish lab work before lunch, unless I am using the mass spectrometer. After lunch, I will answer e-mails, read papers, or write report/papers. Currently I have a university report and two publication deadlines upcoming. Work usually finishes around 5:30, after which I will either play football with lab mates or return home to relax by listening to podcasts or crafting.
What I'd do with the prize money
Equip the lab for outreach activities
I would like to equip my lab with all of the tools, crafts, and games they may require to teach children about the importance of the ocean and just how fascinating it is. We would like to demonstrate to children that there are living organisms everywhere (even ones we can’t see in the water) and how these organisms can be used to produce useful medicines for people. We would also like to engage them more in natural products chemistry. As we say, it is more of an art that a defined science. We can show them the beautiful colours that exist in natural through basic chromatography skills. We can also demonstrate the effect of stress on different organisms. For example, red cabbage changes colour depending on the pH of the water it is being cooked in. We could also demonstrate that these stressors force organisms to adapt and become superheroes with niche skills that allow them to survive in a very hostile environment.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Chatty, enthusiastic, Irish
What's the best thing you've done in your career?
SCUBA diving in Florida
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
Visiting the seaside as a child began my fascination with the ocean that has not faded as I have grown older. Roald Dahl books always taught me to be curious and see the funny side of life.
What was your favourite subject at school?
Although I enjoyed biology, english was my favourite subject in school. I absolutely hated chemistry and then went on to study it for 4 years!
What did you want to be after you left school?
At first, a psychologist because I wanted to help people but couldn't handle blood. Then I wanted to do forensics before deciding to do general science and figuring it out from there.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I got away with a lot at school because I was quiet, but I was pretty bold
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Bake and run a quirky science themed cafe
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Lianne Le Havas/ Hermitage Green
What's your favourite food?
Roast beef Sunday dinner
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Spent a night in the Sahara desert
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Travel the world, meet every species of animal, dive somewhere no one has ever visited before
Tell us a joke.
What's pink and fluffy?...pink fluff....what's blue and fluffy?....pink fluff holding its breath