Alumni Spotlight

Professor Martin Tangney - Director, Biofuel Research Centre, Edinburgh Napier University

8 Aug
Professor Martin Tangney

Professor Martin Tangney is Director of the Biofuel Research Centre at Edinburgh Napier University, He is an internationally recognised expert in microbial biofuel production, particularly biobutanol. Prof. Tangney recently made history by successfully driving a car powered by a whiskey derived biofuel. He chats to us about his memories of UCC and how studying Microbiology shaped his career path.

Course/subjects studied in UCC
I studied Microbiology as my honours degree subject, which included taking Biochemistry and Chemistry to general degree level. 

Best memory of UCC 
I have lots of very fond memories of time spent with the friends I made back then, who remain close to this day, but if I had to pick a specific moment it would have to be getting my final year results.  I topped my year with First Class Honours, and back then there hadn’t been a First in Micro for a quite a while.  I lost my Dad while I was doing my degree, and he had been to UCC so I knew he would have been really proud of me and it was an emotional moment - I’ll never forget the shout I let out on the corridors! 

How has your time at UCC helped you to get to where you are now?
I developed a wonder and appreciation for Microbiology which has been the cornerstone of my career.  That subject specialisation underpinned my subsequent work in Biotechnology, and while everyone builds on their experiences, all of my academic and commercial success stems from that first step into microbiology.  However, life in UCC was about way more than getting a degree - there was a wonderful life around Cork and being at UCC that helped shape much of my outlook. 

What is your advice to current UCC students?
Do your best and don’t walk away with regrets, but be sure to enjoy it – these are amongst the best days of your life.

What person/people at UCC had the most positive influence on you?
Other than the friends who made it all so special, I would single out Professor Seamus Condon in Microbiology who nurtured my scientific curiosity.  I always enjoyed his lectures, but it was in doing my final year research project under his supervision that I really grew into my subject area.  I gained a real appreciation of applied science, which took me into industry and ultimately setting up my own company, Celtic Renewables.  I also frequently quote him when people are nervous to ask a question…”there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers”.

Were you involved in any Clubs or Societies?
I may have signed my name to a couple of clubs, but can’t claim to have ever really been involved.  I was far too busy playing in a band back then - the 80’s heyday of Irish music! 

Favourite UCC legend or superstition
I’m not much of a man for superstition – all actions have consequences.  That said, I have to admit that I was lucky enough to have been in Microbiology with some great people in UCC from 82-86.  Fond memories and a great foundation.

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