Dundalk Institute of Technology, University College Cork and Cork Institute of Technology
Bachelors of Science in Applied Bioscience, Food and Agri-business from DkIT and Masters of Science from UCC
I guess I started out working on my parents farm when I was young. I worked in a pharmacy, a hotel and a pub during college. I also worked in America for awhile in an ice cream parlour. That was lots of fun!
I love animals and being outdoors. In my spare time I like to go hiking and go on adventures with my friends.
I live near Cork with my friend and her dog (he looks like a real life Teddy Bear, that’s why his name is Teddy!) I am originally from Co. Louth, so I’ve moved from the smallest county in Ireland to the biggest! My family own a farm so I love being outdoors and now, since moving away, spend a lot of time in the forest exploring and looking for cool plants. Since we have had to stay at home, I’ve a new found interest in birds. I like to play football and do Pilates to help me unwind. My favorite book is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I’ve read all of the series but I’ve read this one 3 times!
I study microbiology, so that means I get to work with tiny bugs called microbes. The microbes I work with live in cows’ bellies and do lots of important things. Some of them might help cows produce more milk, some of them make cows burp and some of them can make cows really sick. Because there are lots and lots of these microbes and lots and lots of different types, we used special computers to find out what’s in the cows’ bellies. To do that, we have to get a very small sample of poo from the cows. We use special chemicals to take all of the DNA out of all the microbes that are in the poo. My job is to see how all of the different microbes change when the cows eat something different or if the catch a nasty microbe.
The project I’m working on right now involves looking at a really nasty microbe that makes cows really sick. It’s a sneaky microbe because usually farmers don’t know their cow is sick until they are around 5 years old, even though they catch it when they are around 6 weeks old, when the calves are really young. It’s also really hard to find out if the cow is sick. Sometimes the cows poop out the microbe, other times they don’t. There are lots of different tests available to vets and scientists to see if they are sick but they don’t always work. I’m looking to see what “good” microbes change in the cows’ bellies when they are sick and compare them to cows that are not sick and look for changes. This might let vets, scientists and farmers figure out if a cow is sick much sooner.
My Typical Day
At moment, because we have to stay at home, I am doing lots and lots of writing. I get to research new studies in my area everyday. I usually catch up on all of the latest research on Twitter where I follow all of my favourite scientists.
Everyday is different when you are a scientist, even when you have to stay at home. But my typical day usually starts with a coffee! I go to work and check all my emails and check out any recent experiments in my area. I’ll write a little bit about them in my notebook so I remember some of the information later. Then I use data that I get from my own experiments to make really colorful graphs. These graphs are like pictures that help us to see the differences between the microbes in the cows. Then I write up all the results I get. I have meetings with my supervisor and my lab mates every week to catch up and see what everyone has been up to for the week. I get to learn lots of things about different areas of science from them as we all work on different things.
Other days I make special food for my microbes to grow on. The microbe I work with is very fussy and only likes certain food. When I make the food, I heat it up to certain temperature that makes sure there are no other microbes in the food. When the food is ready, I carefully pour my mixture into little tubes and I put my microbe in the mixture. I do all of this in a special area to stop other microbes getting into the food. Most microbes take about 2 days to grow, some take a little bit longer, but my little microbe can take up to 3 months, and in some cases, a year! I check on my microbe to see if any other microbes got into the food along the way. You can usually tell if this happened very quickly as the food gets cloudy after a few days. I know when my bacteria has grown by looking into the tube as it is much different to others. Sometimes I do special tests, using dyes (like paint), which stick to only this microbe to make sure it is the right one growing in the food.
Sometimes I have to work with poo! We use special tools though so we never have to touch it! We always wear gloves and a lab coat too.
In between all of this I get to go to lunch and have breaks with my friends. I am also on the social committee at work so we have meetings about organising events for everyone at work to attend. We organise parties and quizzes for everyone to go to after work and at special times of the year, like Halloween, we have a fancy dress competition.
What I'd do with the prize money
If I won the prize money I would buy lots of cool props to help teach everyone about microbes and cows.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Curious, funny and helpful
What did you want to be after you left school?
I always wanted to be a vet for big animals.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yes! I always got the giggles!
Who is your favourite singer or band?
I like all music and listen to different types of music everyday. I particularly like Indie music like Arctic Monkeys.
What's your favourite food?
Pizza because you can put so many different toppings on it.Homemade is the best!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I travel a lot and love to experience different cultures. I lived in America for a few months and got to travel all over. I met a lot of great people.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
To be happy, healthy and forever curious.
Tell us a joke.
Why do fish live in salt water? Because pepper makes them sneeze...!