In your opinion, what is the biggest myth about STEM careers?
That you have to be a ‘genius’ to pursue STEM or a PhD, STEM careers are very varied and suited to many skill sets and interests. Once you are hardworking and curious the options are endless!
Describe an interesting day in your current position.
There is no typical day and my work is often dictated by the weather. My work is a combination of indoor and outdoor work. Depending on the time of the year I could be out planting or harvesting trials, assessing or treating trials in the field or monitoring for insects. I could be in the lab testing plants for disease or insects for resistance to chemicals. I could be in my office writing grants, papers, planning projects or meeting with my students. I could be travelling around the country to do talks for farmers or I could be travelling outside of Ireland to conferences or meetings.
What do you love about your current role?
I love the variety in the job itself (working indoors and outdoors) and also the variety in the subject I study. Entomology is the study of insects. More than one million different species of insect have been described to date. They are the most abundant group of animals in the world and live in almost every habitat. Insects have lived on earth for more than 350 million years. Entomology is crucial to our understanding of human disease, agriculture, evolution, ecology and biodiversity.
Do you ever get to travel abroad for work?
Yes, I get to travel to conferences and meetings nationally and internationally for example this year I’ve been to Naples, Edinburgh and Vienna for work.
What kind of other experts do you work with on a day to day basis?
I get to work with and learn from many types of experts daily; those with expertise in entomology, pathology, machinery, molecular biology, statistics etc. Teagasc brings together experts in many areas to work together.
If a young person told you that they would like to get into your role, what advice would you give them?
Get experience. Not only will doing placements and internships help strengthen your CV but it will also give you an insight into careers you would like and those you would not. As part of my transition year placement in secondary school I came to Teagasc, Oak Park Crop Research Centre. It was one of the reasons I decided to pursue a career in STEM and 10 years later I got a job there!
Did you complete any sort of placement or internship during your studies? If so, did it prepare you for what you do now?
During my degree at Maynooth University, I did an SFI funded placement in Microbiology at Galway University. I also did a final year lab placement and project in a Biotechnology lab. Together they gave me the experience and confidence to apply for a PhD. Whatever career you want to pursue in STEM, placements/internships are a great way of getting experience, contacts and a real feeling for what a career in STEM means.
Name one thing on your bucket list.
Travel to Alaska
What television series are you currently watching?
Power and The Good Place
What living person do you most admire, and why?
David Attenborough. He makes appreciation and understanding of nature accessible to millions through his documentaries. Being able to engage people and make information accessible to everyone is an incredible skill for any career, but particularly for STEM.