What is a typical day like for you?
For me, my work in science is very much integrated with my education. I study genetics at UCC, so my typical day consists of attending lectures, and then either working with my codirector Emer Hickey on new experiments, or in the library researching next steps for our company Germinaid. I also spend time working on web design for different companies and events on the side in order to make a bit of money to support myself, as all students must do! And if that wasn’t enough I also work as a student ambassador for the Blackstone Launchpad at UCC, where I help to offer support and advice to other students thinking of starting a company or project. However, it’s not all work and no play: I always make some time to meet with my friends from college at the end of a long day!
I have also started to speak more often at schools in the Cork area, where I can share my story with either primary or secondary school students and try and encourage them to embrace their difference, and break from the mold by getting involved in STEM at an early age. The empowerment of young people is something I am hugely passionate about, and speaking at schools allows me to do this!
What are the main tasks and responsibilities you have while working?
I suppose my career is very different to most at the moment in that it is self-driven. I work for myself, and don’t get a paycheck or anything of the sort: my reward is progress, and getting to feel like I’m making the world a better place! Who knows, in the future Germinaid might be enough to support me but we are still very much at the research stage now. Resultingly, my tasks are assigned by myself for myself, and at the moment they are centered on making progress on Germinaid’s current experiments. The necessary skills really are a willingness to learn and an interest in science, and of course the technical lab skills I’ve built up over the years. I also attend and speak at many different conferences all over the world as a result of the work that I do which is very rewarding. For that, you need a lot of confidence to stand up in front of a huge audience and tell your story, which is luckily something I’ve gotten used to over the years!
What’s your favourite thing about your job?
I think my favourite thing about the work I do is that I get to follow my own curiosity. Science and research are things I am keenly interested in, so being allowed to pursue my passion is great! I also have had the opportunity to travel due to speaking at events, which is really enjoyable!
Who or what has most influenced your career direction?
I think my family environment really influenced my career direction. As a child, I was always encouraged to be curious, and to search for the answers to any questions I had. My parents would help me when I tried to invent crazy new contraptions as a kid, so having grown up in a home like that I naturally chose a path towards STEM.
What subjects did you take in school and did they influence your career path?
I took very scientific subjects, so for obvious reasons my career path was influenced in that direction. My leaving cert subjects were English, Maths, Irish, French, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Applied Maths and Music. I loved all of my subjects but if I had to choose I think Chemistry was been my favourite.
If someone wanted to pursue a career like yours, what kind of work experience would you recommend?
That’s the best thing about what I do! No experience required at this level: just take the leap, jump right in and start exploring!