St Joseph's Secondary School, Charlestown, Co. Mayo 2005-2011, University College Cork 2011-2016, University College Cork/INFANT Centre 2017- Present
B. Sc (Hons) Neuroscience
I spent 3 months as a research assistant with INFANT before I started my PhD. I have also worked in call centres, shops, bars and cafes during college!
PhD candidate with the INFANT centre
Favourite thing to do in science: Experiments!
I am a GAA loving PhD scientist from Mayo researching how brains grow!
I am from Mayo but am living in Cork city where I am a PhD scientist with University College Cork and the INFANT Centre. My research looks at how the brain grows in the first two years of life. I look at how your life at home and in the outside world helps your brain grow.
I play Ladies football with Bishopstown GAA club and I also help coach the u14’s team. I am a big supporter of Mayo GAA and have been going to their games since I was little!
I also love to read and Harry Potter books are one of my favorites. I love traveling and have visited Italy, France, Scotland, and England. I am going to Paris at the end of October to talk about my research.
To find out how the brain grows in the first 2 years after birth
I work with the Infant Centre in Cork http://www.infantcentre.ie/
Since the start of my PhD I have been reading papers from other scientists so that I know everything there is about my research. I have also written a paper and will be talking about this paper in Paris at the end of October.
Very soon, I will start the main section of my PhD where 18 month old toddlers will be visiting me for an eye-tracking assessment. I will be showing them pictures and videos on a computer screen and a little black box (shown below) that is placed under the computer screen records the eye-movements of the toddler.
Some of these toddlers will have been born prematurely (which means they were born too early) and others will have been born at the right time which is known as term birth. We are going to see if the eye-tracking shows us any differences in the way the brain of a premature baby grows when we compare it to the brain of a baby born at term.
My Typical Day
If I don't have toddlers and their parents visiting me in the early life lab, then you can find me at my desk drinking tea and reading and writing!
Right now, I have no eye-tracking visits, so my days are mostly spent at my desk answering emails, reading papers, and planning on how to write my thesis (a big book of all my work that I have to give to the college at the end of my PhD). I will also have to meet with everyone else on my team to make sure we are all working together so that we are ready for the eye-tracking visits when they start. When I get a break, I will head for lunch with some of the other PhDs that work in INFANT.
I am also practicing every day for the talk I have to give in Paris. It is my first big talk and I am very nervous! Keep your fingers crossed for me, please!
When I can, I make sure to go to schools to talk to them about the brain and I go to different events to help people understand what we do at the infant centre. Here is a picture of me at the ploughing championships last year with two of the girls I work with!
I also try to go to conferences that are close to home so that I can continue to learn new things from other scientists. Here I am with other PhD students from the INFANT centre at a conference in Killarney last year!
What I'd do with the money
I would like to give the money to the National Council for the Blind
My youngest sister is blind and I saw how it was very hard for her to understand science with the way it was taught in schools. A lot of it is pictures of cells or pictures of how the heart works and because she was unable to see these images, she found science very hard.
I would like to use the prize money to help the National Council for the Blind (NCBI) buy models of the cells and the heart and other science equipment that will help children who are blind or have visual impairments understand science. I would work with the NCBI to develop a science programme that could be used each year so that children and teenagers who are blind or visual impaired can understand and participate in science.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Not a threat!
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I love water sports and have surfed, sailed, Kayaking and windsurfing.
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Once! For laughing in class with my friend. I can't remember what we were laughing at, but it was one of those fits of giggles where neither of us could stop laughing. We were not allowed sit together again!
What was your favourite subject at school?
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Everyday I go to work to help the babies in our world that are sick and need extra help and I feel really good about that.
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
When I was young, my Mum bought me a set of books and videos called 'How My Body Works' I loved these books so much! So that sparked my interest. When my sister was born blind, that got me interested in asking why things went wrong in the brain and how we could fix them.
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
That is a hard question! Maybe a midwife or a teacher.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1. That Mayo wins the Sam Maguire in my life time! 2. I submit my PhD on time 3. I have enough money to travel the world
Tell us a joke.
Where do Hippos go to college? Hippocampus!