Graduate Testimonials

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Katie Togher, BSc Neuroscience graduate 2013. ‌‌‌

Career biography‌

Katie graduated from University College Cork (UCC) in 2013. Having developed a passion for developmental biology during her studies in Neuroscience, she has remained in UCC to undertake a PhD with the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research (INFANT) and the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (APC). Her current research aims to assess the impact of Maternal Prenatal Stress and Irritable Bowel Syndrome on the microbiome in a population of nulliparous pregnant women and to determine the effect that this might have on the development of the infant microbiome in the first few months of life. She also has a keen interest in molecular biology and has spent part of her time in UCC investigating the molecular mechanisms in the placenta that regulate fetal glucocorticoid exposure.

Comments on the Neuroscience Degree 

"My time in UCC studying Neuroscience was one of the best of my life so far. I found the neuroscience degree itself great, not only does it allow the development of a thorough knowledge of neuroscience; it equips you with a range of skills and techniques that enable you to move forward into a career in neuroscience and related research. In addition to the academic benefits, the course has such a small and intricate infrastructure which provides a great platform to network and meet new people and I am very grateful to have met some of the most amazing people and made great friends during my studies. I would highly recommend studying Neuroscience at UCC for any hard working individual with an interest in discovering and exploring the wonder of the human brain".


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Shane Hegarty, BSc Neuroscience graduate 2010. ‌‌‌

Career biography‌

Shane graduated top of the BSc Neuroscience class in 2010. During the degree programme, he developed a keen interest in developmental neurobiology, and its application to the study and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, which formed the basis of his final year research project. This led to Shane’s application for, and subsequent awarding of, the ‘IRCSET Embark Postgraduate Scholarship’ by the Irish Research Council to carry out a proposed 3 year PhD project in the Anatomy and Neuroscience Department, UCC, under the supervision of Professor Aideen Sullivan and Dr Gerard O’Keeffe, which he completed in 2014.  After discovering novel molecular mechanisms regulating the development of midbrain dopaminergic neurons, Shane was awarded the 'Government of Ireland Post-Doctoral Fellowship' by the Irish Research Council, and the 'NUI Post-Doctoral Fellowship in the Sciences' by the National University of Ireland, in 2014.

Shane is currently a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, UCC, and in the future wishes to establish his own research group dedicated to the understanding of the molecular mechanisms regulating the development of neuronal subtypes, and the investigation of the potential developmental dysfunctions which cause neurological disorders. 

In addition to gaining his neuroscience expertise and research skills, Shane has had the opportunity to develop his other major passion teaching, through lecturing, mentoring and demonstrating to students.  Shane has also been involved in a number of public engagement projects, most notably their BRAINTALK project (http://www.ucc.ie/en/braintalk/) in 2015, allowing him to give back to the community.

Comments on the Neuroscience Degree 

“Despite my initial plan to study Chemistry in UCC through CK402, the Neuroscience BSc degree programme captivated my interest. Both the theoretical and practical aspects of the BSc programme prepared me to begin a career in neuroscience research. It is hard to for me to believe how far I have come as a scientist, and I know that I have the Neuroscience degree and the Department of Anatomy & Neuroscience UCC  to thank, in particular Gerard and Aideen. I would not hesitate in recommending the Neuroscience course to anyone, as it has changed my life for the better.”


‌‌‌‌‌‌Sinéad Cullen BSc Neuroscience graduate 2009.‌‌

‌‌‌Career biography

Following her degree, Sinéad completed an MSc degree in 2010 in Neuroscience in Trinity College Dublin. Sinéad is currently studying for her PhD at the Biomedical Diagnostics Institute (BDI), Dublin College University and CRANN, Trinity College Dublin. She is developing novel assays to detect changes in blood viscoelasticity, which reflect the body’s ability to regulate healing and clotting. This research involves working with micro-cantilevers and quartz crystal microbalances (QCMs) to test blood samples. These devices are extremely sensitive and can use very small sample volumes, which can be obtained using a pin-prick method, compared to taking vials of blood from a patient for a test. These devices produce results much faster than conventional methods and therefore reduce the stressful waiting time for patients. The aim is to incorporate these sensors into a point-of-care diagnostic device which will have user-friendly software, allowing patients to carry out these tests at home.

Sinéad is passionate about Science communication and has been an exhibitor at BT Young Scientist Exhibition in 2013 and 2014. Sinéad has also showcased science experiments for children from the age of 5 years, at the St. Patrick’s Day Festival, Big Day Out, and the Curiosity Festival, during Science Week. Sinéad has also been involved in the ‘Cool Jobs’ Exhibition and features in a video describing a day in the life of a PhD student http://youtu.be/Ohk3t8sXcsk.  In 2013 Sinéad also took part in the competition “I’m a Scientist get me out of here” and won the Nanotechnology section. The prize was 500 euro for her own Education and Outreach project and she is currently working on putting a workshop together for secondary school students based on her research. Sinéad has a Science Blog entitled “We can all understand Science” http://sincully53.wordpress.com

Comments on the Neuroscience Degree “I have very fond memories of my time studying for my BSc in Neuroscience. I thoroughly enjoyed all the modules we studied. The Professors and Lecturers teaching all the courses were very friendly and very approachable, which made it very easy to speak to them at all times. During my final year research project, I learned many techniques, which I was taught to carry out using excellent lab practice. The BSc (Hons) in Neurosciene is an excellent programme and I would highly recommend it.”


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Gerard O’Keeffe, BSc Neuroscience graduate 2000. ‌‌‌

Career biography‌

Gerard graduated in the first BSc Neuroscience class, in 2000. During the degree course, he developed an interest in developmental neurobiology and its application to the study and treatment of neurodegenerative disease. He completed his PhD in this area in 2004 under the supervision of Dr. Aideen Sullivan in UCC. Gerard then moved to Cardiff University to take up a postdoctoral Fellowship with Professor Alun Davies FRS, where he worked on the cell biology of axonal growth. He discovered that members of the TNF superfamily play key roles in axonal growth and described the first function for some of these proteins in the nervous system.  Gerard returned to Cork four years later to take up a lectureship position in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, where he set up his own laboratory. He now uses a variety of approaches to study the molecular basis of nervous system development, and apply this work to study how in utero infection and stress can impact on its development and what this means for life-long health in affected offspring.

Comments on the Neuroscience Degree “It has been very nice to see how the course has evolved over the years now that I am on ‘the other side of the fence’, in particular how it has expanded to include the latest advances and technologies underlying the study of neuronal function.”


‌‌‌Siobhain O'Mahony, BSc Neuroscience graduate 2000. ‌‌‌

Career biography‌

Siobhain graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons) in Neuroscience in 2000. She then completed a Masters in Neuropharmacology in the National University of Ireland, Galway. Siobhain worked in the Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology in the University of Maastricht, the Netherlands. Returning to Cork,  Siobhain obtained a Ph.D. from the department of Psychiatry, UCC. She continued her research on adverse early life events and the development of pain-related disorder during a post-doctoral post in the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre, Biosciences Institute, UCC. She then took up a post-doctoral position with GlaxoSmithKline validating lead compounds targeting visceral pain in models of irritable bowel syndrome.

In 2008 Siobhain was appointed as Lecturer in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience at UCC. She is involved in teaching the B.Sc. in Neuroscience course and Graduate Medical Entry students.  Siobhain's main research areas assess outcomes of adverse events during the first 1000 days of life in particular the disruption of the developing gut microbiota through events such as antibiotic usage or stressful situations. The outcomes assessed include the development of visceral pain in adulthood and alterations in the signalling in the brain-gut-microbiota axis. She is also interested in gender-related differences in pain perception as well as the involvement of the gut micorbiota in the development of obesity following antipsychotic treatment. Her research group is based in the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre (faculty member) and the department of Anatomy and Neuroscience in the Biosciences Institute and the Western Gateway Building.


‌‌‌Suzanne Crotty, BSc Neuroscience graduate 2000. ‌‌‌

Career biography‌

Suzanne Crotty is a Senior Technical Officer in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, UCC. She works primarily in the BioSciences Imaging Centre, located in the BioSciences Institute. Suzanne looks after the day to day running of the BioSciences Imaging Centre and supports researchers’ microscopy requirements.

Suzanne graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons) and M.Sc. in Neuroscience from University College Cork. She worked in the biotechnology sector before taking up this technical post in the university. Suzanne, as part of the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience’s BioSciences Imaging Centre, provides a microscopy service for staff and researchers throughout the university, and also investigators from other universities and from industry.  She has expertise in fluorescence microscopy including wide-field, confocal and two-photon microscopes. Suzanne has a strong research background in the preparation of biological specimens for microscopy, including scanning and transmission electron microscopy.


‌Sarah Roche, BSc Neuroscience graduate 2010.

‌‌‌Career biography

Following graduation from the BSc in Neuroscience, Sarah went to the University of Edinburgh to undertake her PhD in Neuroscience. Her PhD research was aimed at understanding how neuromuscular junctions (NMJ’s) are initially formed and how they develop. Sarah’s work focused on uncovering the molecular drivers of NMJ development, more specifically synapse elimination, which is a very dynamic and well-controlled process that takes place in all skeletal muscles. She was particularly interested in the role of glial cell types in regulating the course of synapse elimination, as it has recently become clear that this process is not solely intrinsic to axons. Sarah has discovered novel and key roles for glial cells in regulating synapse elimination.

Sarah’s PhD was funded by the University of Edinburgh’s 'Principals Career Development Scholarship'. One of the conditions of this scholarship was that she had to commit time to developing her abilities at teaching, public engagement or entrepreneurship. Sarah chose the teaching option, as she had always considered teaching as a career goal. During her PhD she demonstrated to medical and science students on human anatomy, across a wide range and depth of anatomical subjects. Sarah is currently working as a post-doctoral researcher in Prof. Tom Cotter’s lab in UCC. She is studying how glial cells contribute to retinal degeneration and their potential as therapeutic targets for retinal diseases.

Comments on the neuroscience degree:

My love of the study of human anatomy was born during my Neuroscience degree in UCC, during which I undertook several human anatomy modules, at both gross and histological levels. Due to the passion that lecturers had for understanding development and degeneration of the nervous system I also developed a keen interest in the role that glial cells play in health and disease states. The BSc Neuroscience is a fascinating course that prepares students for research careers in a variety of fields. The inclusion of anatomy modules as part of the degree is also a fantastic advantage that not many Neuroscience degrees offer. I am very grateful to the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience for their outstanding passion and standard of teaching.


Gemma Rooney, BSc Neuroscience graduate 2003.

Career biography

‌‌During her studies on the BSc Neuroscience degree in UCC, Gemma became very interested in how stem cell technologies might be harnessed to develop new therapies for neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. She was awarded a scholarship from the Irish Research Council to pursue a PhD in Dr. Frank Barry’s laboratory at the Regenerative Medicine Institute, in the National NUI, Galway.  During this time, she was awarded a NUI Travelling Scholarship to conduct research in Dr. Hans Keirstead’s laboratory at UC Irvine, California.  The overall goal of this research was to identify stem cell populations that could promote regeneration and functional recovery within the central nervous system.

Gemma then took up a postdoctoral fellowship in Dr. Anthony Windebank’s laboratory at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota, where she developed a novel delivery system to assess neural regeneration in the treatment of spinal cord injury. Using this delivery system, she demonstrated mesenchymal stem cell-mediated inhibition of neural regeneration in the injured spinal cord. This finding prompted her to reorient my research towards the use of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology to model human disease and develop potential therapies. Gemma is currently working in this research area, in Dr. Erik Ullian’s laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco. She has established a stem cell lab and generated iPSC lines from skin fibroblasts obtained from healthy control donors and patients with a mutation affecting the Ras signaling pathway, which is thought to be affected in patients with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). By gaining a better understanding of the cellular pathologies underlying ASD, Gemma’s research aims to drive the development of effective drug therapies for these disorders. 

Comments on the Neuroscience Degree “Thanks so much for getting us off to such a great start with your Neuroscience program. I think I can speak for our whole class when I say that we loved your courses and always felt that we could approach you whenever we had any questions. The fact that we were given the opportunity to learn a lot of bench techniques and produce an undergrad thesis really helped when applying for PhD programs.”


Denis Barry BSc Neuroscience graduate 2001.

‌‌Career biography

Denis was awarded a PhD in 2005 for research undertaken in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience at UCC, that centred on central nervous system development. He subsequently conducted postdoctoral research into genetic brain disorders in the Department of Pathology and Cell Biology, Columbia University, New York, focusing on the rare disease Zellweger Syndrome.

From 2008 until 2011, Denis undertook postdoctoral research fellowship positions in the areas of HIV-1 pathogenesis and cardiovascular disease at the Centre for Research into Infectious Diseases and the Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research, University College Dublin. In 2011, he was appointed to the position of Lecturer at the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, University College Cork. In this role, Denis reprised his interest in neural development, and coordinated modules in anatomy and neurology.

In 2013, he was appointed to the position of Assistant Professor at the Department of Anatomy at Trinity College Dublin. Here, Denis teaches anatomy and neuroscience modules to undergraduate life science students. His research interests lie in nervous system development and repair, and in medical education.


Karl Power BSc Neuroscience graduate 2006.

‌Career biography

A few months after finishing his Neuroscience degree at UCC, Karl started my career in an entry-level position at Quintiles, a pharmaceutical company in Dublin. After a year of doing basic tasks such as checking clinical data for errors and inconsistencies, he specialised as a clinical coder where he was responsible for standardising the medical conditions and medications reported on clinical drug trials. Within another year, he was promoted to a senior coder position, where he was responsible for validating the systems used to perform clinical coding, as well as the coding budget, timelines, quality control and training. Karl then moved to Amsterdam to work in a similar job for Novartis, with the added responsibilities of validating a new coding system and recoding of legacy data.

In 2013, he moved to Darmstadt in Germany to take up a position in Merck KGaA, where he is now the coding oversight representative for all trials run globally by Merck KGaA. Karl is responsible for defining the company’s coding strategy as well as providing cross-functional support and direction to his colleagues located around the world."

Comments on the Neuroscience Degree  “The neuroscience degree definitely helped to get me where I am right now. It definitely got my career off to a really good start".


Denis Gallagher, BSc Neuroscience graduate 2004.

Career biography

After graduating from UCC in 2004, Denis completed a PhD in Cardiff University in 2008, under the supervision of Professor Alun Davies. He worked on regulators of axon growth and neuronal survival during the development of the peripheral nervous system. Following his PhD, Denis moved to Canada where he trained as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Freda Miller at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto. His research focus switched from the peripheral nervous system to genetic and environmental factors which impact the developing cerebral cortex. He discovered a novel role for an autism-associated gene called Ankrd11 in cortical precursors and how exposure to cytokines in utero may have long-lasting effects on the developing fetal brain.

Comments on the Neuroscience Degree  “The theory and techniques I picked up during this time provided the ideal platform to launch a career in neuroscience”


 

 

Amy Cole, BSc Neuroscience graduate 2013.

Career biography

After graduating from with a BSc in Neuroscience, Amy moved to Dublin to do a PhD in the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. During her degree, Amy had the opportunity to organise work experience in Dr Guy Rouleau’s lab in Montreal.  She worked for four months as a student researcher in a genetics lab studying autism and essential tremor. This experience confirmed her decision to continue research and inspired her interest in genetics, which has led to her following a PhD in research on population genetics. 

Comments on the Neuroscience Degree  “My favourite part of the degree was studying anatomy and having the opportunity to learn directly from donors to UCC. Their gift is invaluable to our knowledge when learning the fundamentals of Neuroscience and anatomy.  I was fortunate to make friends for life studying Neuroscience, the small class numbers makes it easy to get to know everyone and the two years I spent in the Anatomy and Neuroscience department were the most enjoyable of my years at UCC.”


Aoife Kiely, BSc Neuroscience graduate 2007.

‌Career biography

Following her degree, Aoife acquired a PhD studentship in the Neurobiology and Alzheimer's lab in the Biochemistry Department in UCC, under the supervision of Dr. Cora O'Neill. Her research focused on the familial Parkinson's disease-linked gene, PINK1, and whether it was affected in Alzheimer's disease. During this time, she was able to gain a wide spectrum of practical skills, highly valuable in the competitive world of research. She also learned more about the day-to-day running of a lab and through writing research papers and her PhD thesis, became a confident scientific writer. Aoife is currently working in University College London’s Institute of Neurology. Her research focuses on neuroinflammation in a relatively rare disease named multiple system atrophy, which is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease. There she has access to the fantastic resource of the Queen Square Brain Bank, and part of her work focuses on investigating interesting cases of neurodegeneration which come into the Brain Bank.

Comments on the Neuroscience Degree  “I hugely enjoyed studying Neuroscience as an undergraduate. Both the theoretical and practical aspects of the BSc programme prepared me to begin a career in neuroscience research. While applying for post-doctoral jobs after my PhD, the quality and value of my Neuroscience BSc was highlighted to me, as I found that employers were not only interested in my research during my PhD but were also impressed by the research I was able to undertake during my undergrad research project.”


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