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Postdoctoral Researcher, MaREI, the Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy Ireland, University College Cork

Damien Haberlin

Job title
Post-Doctoral Researcher
Company
MaREI, the Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy Ireland in University College Cork
Industry
Marine Ecology
Experience
Marine biologist since 2010
Education
  1. Certificate in Mechanical Engineering, 1994 – 1996
  2. B.Sc. Zoology, 2001 – 2005
  3. M.Sc. Marine Biology, 2009 – 2010
  4. PhD Zoology – studying jellyfish, 2014 - 2018
Favourite subjects in school
I didn't have one!
The best thing about my job
Being outside! Getting out in the boat to take samples is great and I really enjoy going to sea in the larger research vessels, and heading offshore for days/weeks at a time. I enjoy meeting other scientists, and meeting people within other industries.

I enjoy meeting other scientists, and meeting people within other industries, like aquaculture. It’s always interesting to get a range of perspectives and insights from different people.

You will fail at times, so you must be tenacious. You must be willing to learn continuously. Research is really varied, so any skill you possess will almost certainly come in useful at some stage in your career. 

 

My main tasks

We are primarily field ecologists and therefore, we cannot setup controlled experiments, which means we must try to understand a species or an ecosystem as it occurs naturally. This means that our data collection must be designed to answer specific questions and so experimental design and a good understanding of statistics are crucial. In terms of analysing the data we collect, an ability to programme is increasingly important. We often use satellite data and GIS in our analyses, so an understanding of different types of data is important. In more general terms, it’s important to be organised, to be able to communicate and present information to other people. 

Challenges

I used to really dislike writing, but as I have developed in my career it has become easier, and sometimes even enjoyable. My biggest challenge is presenting to large audiences; I don’t like this. But it is unavoidable and usually once I begin talking it’s fine, however, I hate the nervous feeling before speaking. 

Who influenced me

I think that would be my PhD supervisor, Dr Tom Doyle. His support and encouragement has been important over the last 5-6 years. 

Work/life balance 

I love the sea and tend to snorkel, dive and surf in my spare time, so you’re never really switched off - work and life over-lap a lot. I don’t buy into a lot of the work-life balance stuff, life is life and you make time for the things you want or need to do. The majority of research positions are contract based and few of us have permanent roles, so job security is certainly an issue in research. 

Most useful aspects of my education

Many of the practical skills I’ve developed have proven to be essential over the years; driving boats, diving and an aptitude for fixing things and improvising in the field. In a more academic sense, good writing and a strong grounding in math and especially statistics are absolutely essential. Finally, but certainly not least, you must be able to work with people!

Useful work experience

It’s important to develop academic and practical skills if you can. Experience of field work is always sought after and stands out in a CV. Likewise, a good level of math and the ability to programme are increasingly important. I think project managers often look for a balance between those two aspects. 

Top tip

There is no such thing as a top tip that suits all students, so I will give you a quote from one of my favourite authors instead.

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down”