Brigidine Secondary School, Mountrath, Co Laois (2001-2007), University College Dublin 2007-2011, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland 2011 – now
BSc in pharmacology – despite the way it’s pronounced it has nothing to do with farms! Or ecology.
I’ve worked anywhere that would have me, from offices in the midlands to summer camps in Rome, Italy.
I’m a PhD student in cancer research.
I work with a type of breast cancer that is difficult to cure because the cancer cells learn to adapt so they can avoid being killed by drugs – this is called resistance and is a serious problem for patients. It means that these cancers are far more likely to come back after they have been treated and that people with this breast cancer are less likely to be cured. I am looking at this type of cancer to find differences between it and other cancers which do not get resistant to drugs. That way, we can work out how it becomes resistant and how to stop it. I am also testing different mixtures of drugs in cancer cells to see if I can find a mixture of drugs that works even in resistant cancers.
My Typical Day
I come into work in the morning and spend my day looking down the microscope at cancer cells, treating them with different mixtures of drugs to find which drugs work best, and extracting DNA and protein from tumours that patients have donated to research so I can study them to find out how they are different from healthy cells.
I come in to the office as early as I can manage and the first thing I do is look at my cancer cells under the microscope to make sure they are alive and healthy – I call them my babies because they need so much attention! Then my days in the lab are quite varied – sometimes I’ll be in meetings to discuss my results, sometimes I’ll be in the hospital finding tumours that patients have donated for research to bring back to the lab, and sometimes I’ll be reading about research other scientists do. But most of the time I’ll be doing experiments on cancer cells and tumours and writing and drawing graphs of my own results, which is a really exciting thing to do as you can be the only person in the whole world to know something! Then the evenings are for fun – and lots of it!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Nerdy, pro-active, and passionate.
What did you want to be after you left school?
A scientist or a doctor. Now I can be both – just “not that kind of doctor!”
Were you ever in trouble at school?
I never got caught :)
Who is your favourite singer or band?
There’s far too much good music out there to just have one!
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