Hi, my name is Brian Quigley. I am originally from County Wicklow but I live and work in Dublin these days. I work as an In-Process Chemist in the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, for SK Biotek in Swords. We manufacture medicines for cancer, diabetes, hepatitis, HIV, leukaemia, cardiovascular disease and psoriasis. My job involves testing all the samples live during the manufacturing process. Away from work my interests include writing poetry and football books, and some journalism – when I was at school I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to be a writer or a chemist, so I ended up doing both!
In your opinion, what is the biggest myth about STEM careers?
That you need to be a maths genius. Maths is just the language science is run through, in the same way that you learn history or geography through English.
Do you believe that there is enough being done to encourage girls to study STEM and pursue STEM careers?
In my company there is an equal male / female split in the workforce, but that isn’t replicated elsewhere so it is vital that we keep encouraging girls in particular to get into STEM.
Describe an interesting day in your current position.
Usually, when something goes wrong! It means you have to be innovative and find a solution to the problem so as not to lose the batch of product. You learn lots in these situations!
What do you love about your current role?
Making medicines that cure people or improve their lives. Using my qualifications and experience to make a difference for the patient.
What has been the most surprising element of your job?
The way in which the pharmaceutical industry has become so global. We don’t just work in isolation in Ireland, we interact with colleagues from all over the world. You really feel part of a global, multi-cultural, dynamic team.
What has been your most exciting career moment to date?
Early in my career I worked on a drug called Taxol which revolutionised treatment of breast and ovarian cancer. Its success has meant I look back fondly on working on that project knowing we helped many, many people.
Do you get to work with any new technologies?
All the time. Innovation and new technology has to be embraced or else you fall behind. You are constantly learning, which keeps you fresh.
Do you ever get to travel abroad for work?
I have travelled all over Europe with work in a representative role. I have also been abroad for training courses.
What do you hope to achieve in the next year in your current position?
I hope to help scale several new medicines up to full-scale manufacturing and help get them to market quickly for the patients that need them.
If a young person told you that they would like to get into your role, what advice would you give them?
Pick the right course at 3rd level, namely one with a placement during the course so you can get hands on experience and see for yourself what the work environment is like.
What do you want to see change in the industry in the next 10 years?
I’d like to see more new antibiotics being made, as anti-microbial resistance poses a huge threat if we don’t act on it.
Name one thing on your bucket list.
To write a novel. I have written short stories, newspaper articles, football and poetry books and a lot of other stuff, but I’d like to write a novel at some stage!
What television series are you currently watching?
Doctor Who. I’ve watched it since I was a child and was delighted when they revived the show.
What living person do you most admire, and why?
James Lovelock. He’s a scientist and he’s the guy who first discovered the hole in the ozone layer in the 1960’s. He wasn’t listened to at the time. He’s almost 100 and still works as a scientist. Like myself he has a chemistry background, but he moved into environmental science, which is something I think I’d get into if I was starting over again.