Biochemistry graduate testimonials
Kathy Barriscale, BSc, PhD
I studied B.Sc. (Hons) Biochemistry at University College Cork, and graduated in October 2009 with a first class honours degree. As part of my Fourth year biochemistry programme, I completed a research project under the supervision of Professor Tom Cotter which was entitled “Analysis of Cell Populations in the Mouse Retina During Ageing and Degeneration”. This project compared changes in the different cell populations of the retina between naturally aged mice and from mice with Retinitis Pigmentosa, using immunohistochemical methods. During this time, I developed an interest in research and subsequently decided to apply for a PhD.
I was accepted into the PhD Scholars Programme in Cancer Biology here at UCC in 2009. This is a structured PhD programme in which I had the opportunity to experience research in different laboratories in the form of three rotation projects in the first year. My rotations were carried out under the supervision of Dr Pavel Baranov, Professor Caitriona O’ Driscoll and Professor Tommie Mc Carthy. I decided to carry out my PhD under the supervision of Professor Tommie Mc Carthy in the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology in October 2010. My research is focused on the Sterol Response Element Binding Protein (SREBP) pathway and Cancer.
Kathy graduated with a PhD in Cancer Biology in 2014.
Rebecca Buckley, BSc
My fascination with neurology and neurodegeneration began during my final year of Biochemistry at UCC when I undertook a module in Molecular Basis of Brain Disorders. The enormous complexity underlying neurodegenerative diseases really piqued my interest and led to my pursuit of postgraduate research in this area at the University of Cambridge.
The broad range of disciplines covered during my four years of Biochemistry as well as the experience gained during my final year project equipped me with both the scientific knowledge and the technical ability to engage successfully with research at a postgraduate level.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at UCC and believe that the skills I acquired during my four years will be invaluable to my future career. The high quality of research, excellent teaching and supportive staff make the School of Biochemistry & Cell Biology an obvious choice for those wishing to pursue a career in science.
Rebecca graduated with a first class honours degree in Biochemistry in 2012, and was the 2012 recipient of the Art Champlin Gold Medal Award for being the top student graduating BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry that year.
Jamie Byrne, BSc, MSc
I chose University College Cork to study for my undergraduate degree due to its renown for high academic standards and friendly people. I began my journey in biological and chemical sciences with 400 similarly minded people and I specialised in biological sciences for 2nd year, during which I spent a lot of time learning new concepts and I became fascinated with the inner workings of cells. While exams were tough, I passed and had to decide on which degree to go for. I chose to go into biochemistry for my 3rd and 4th year and there I spent two years studying topics ranging from advanced cell biology and molecular oncology, to developmental genetics and more.
The Biochemistry degree gave me an amazing advantage over other degrees in that, it has ties to other biology subjects, such as neuroscience, genetics etc. and it forms the basis of many operations in the biologics industry, e.g., the production of beneficial proteins such as insulin and other biological proteins and enzymes. Through labs, lectures, projects and tutorials, I graduated with a second class honours (grade 1), which only was achieved thanks to the fantastic lecturers and lab demonstrators who taught me and challenged me with new ideas and cutting edge research concepts.
While the BSC in biochemistry was more than adequate to get jobs in industry, I decided to take my education one step further and do the master’s degree in Biotechnology here in UCC. Essentially continuing on from what I learned before, it has broadened my knowledge across multiple topics and has made me more lucrative to companies such as Janssen biologics and MSD, both of which I had interviews for a 6 month internship which is part of the masters. In the end, I chose Boston scientific in Galway for my placement as they offered a great opportunity to gain insight into working in industry and promised an exceptional training plan.
Up to now, I have really enjoyed my time here and I would definitely recommend UCC as a top class university to anybody who is planning to start on a degree course in biochemistry.
Fiona Cahill, BSc
I decided to undertake the BSc in Biochemistry because of my love for science throughout secondary school. I specialised in Biochemistry as I found metabolism very interesting. I found the biochemistry course very fulfilling and particularly enjoyed the lectures on cell signalling and how this can change in cancer cells. The staff of the Biochemistry Department were always encouraging, approachable and supportive in relation to getting third year work experience and a PhD.
For my third year work experience, I took part in the Amgen Scholars Programme which was hosted by the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. I learned a lot during this programme and really enjoyed undertaking my own project where I investigated the effects of mitomycin C on calcium signalling in bladder cancer cells. This placement strengthened my interest in beginning a PhD in cancer research after my degree. Also, this experience played a key role when applying for a PhD. I have just completed an MSc in Radiation Biology at the University of Oxford and I am now studying for a PhD in lung cancer at Oxford University which is funded by Cancer Research UK.
Sean Cantillon, BSc, MSc
I graduated with a BSc in Biochemistry from UCC in 2011. The modules covered in this degree are both interesting and challenging and will be a great background for anyone who wants to progress in the Bio/Biotech industry in the future. The lecturers and staff of the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology were always on hand to help students, and the practical classes were a great way to get to know them, while also learning more through the lab work.
I went on to do the MSc in Biotechology in UCC in 2012, the main reason being the 6-month work placement in the second half of the year. The MSc curriculum is very detailed but is also very interesting and gives you experience in other areas such as chemistry, pharmaceutics and Bioprocess engineering which you will need in the Biotech industry. For my work placement I was placed in Boston Scientific in Cork as a quality technician, where I worked for one year before moving to Janssen Biologics as a Bioprocess Specialist in Cell Culture. The knowledge gained from both the BSc and MSc courses was key to fitting into an established manufacturing team. Modules covering the cell cycle for example are well worth holding onto and I have looked back through them at times to clarify something I have seen during the day. If working in industry is your aim when finishing college I would recommend both the BSc in Biochemistry and MSc in Biotechnology degrees to give you the tools you need to get established in the Biotech industry.
Elaine Clancy, BSc
In 2009, I graduated from UCC with a BSc Honours in Biochemistry.
I decided not to pursue further study and went directly into employment. As I was not sure in what area of the healthcare industry I wanted to work, I applied for a graduate program with Abbott Ireland. This program involves three rotations, around three of their sites in Ireland, over two years. All of the sites are completely different, as they have Vascular, Pharmaceutical, Diagnostic and Nutritional divisions. My first placement is in the Abbott Diagnostic plant in Longford. I am currently working on projects, to improve Abbott’s products, from both a customer and business point of view. On completion of the program, I will choose which Abbott site I would like to remain in and in what position. I am quickly learning how a global healthcare company, such as Abbott functions. It is completely different from an academic setting, but I am really enjoying it.
Niamh Dowling, BSc, MSc
While researching university courses, I decided the Biological and Chemical Sciences course at UCC gave me the best range of degree options, and the ability to experience a variety of fields before choosing my degree speciality. I was fascinated by biochemistry classes, learning about the complex workings of the body at a cellular level and I greatly enjoyed lab classes. I chose the BSc in Biochemistry because of my interest; and because I felt the lecturers and support staff were organised, approachable and genuinely passionate about helping me understand the subject and thrive as a student. The degree was an excellent preparation for working in research or industry as it was wide-ranging and engaging.
My fourth year project was a great chance to experience research. It was a really proud moment when I realised my work would contribute in a small way to the group’s aims of understanding Leukaemia better.
After graduation I was keen to specialise more, so I applied for the MSc in Biotechnology. The course has a great balance between coursework and research/industry placement. The coursework gave excellent preparation for working in research laboratories and in regulated industries like pharmaceutical or medical device companies; and we were shown the cutting edge areas of research within these companies. It approached the challenges of industry from biochemical, process chemistry, engineering, regulatory and research points of view. This helped us to understand the complexities of the business, and become great team members and leaders.
I was also able to do my six-month work placement as an Erasmus student on a project in Spain. It was extremely challenging adapting to a new country and culture but it has given me the confidence to chase any opportunities which come my way.
I now have a fantastic new career within the pharmaceutical company Temmler Ireland Ltd. The skills I have obtained from the courses in the Biochemistry department have been essential in the success of my career.
Deirdre Duff, BSc
I really enjoyed my time spent as a biochemistry undergraduate in UCC. I began this course by entering first year as a '’Biological and Chemical Sciences’' student before specialising in biochemistry in third and fourth year. I choose the biochemistry course at UCC as I was attracted by the interesting and diverse range of subjects which the course included. Personally, I particularly enjoyed learning about the biochemical and molecular basis of various human diseases such as cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. I also really enjoyed learning about the biochemistry which underlies key processes in the human body, such as the functioning of our immune systems. Cell biology also intrigued me and I really enjoyed modules on this subject such as a '’Cell Signalling'’ module which I took in third year.
In my opinion, the greatest strength of this degree course was the research experience which it provides. In the summer after third year I undertook a 12 week UREKA summer research project in Professor Rosemary O'Connor's research group. This provided me with real life experience of work in a research laboratory and enabled me to work on a mini research project of my own. It was an invaluable experience and something which I would highly recommend to any student who is considering a career in research. The School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology in UCC provides students with great support in obtaining such placements which is without doubt an advantage of being a biochemistry student at UCC.
Fourth year biochemistry provided me with further research experience. At the start of the year we had a large number of practical laboratory classes to improve our laboratory research skills and prepare us for our final year research projects. These classes were accompanied by a number of excellent tutorials which ensured that we were competent in designing experiments and carrying out calculations which we would need in the research laboratory. I graduated in 2012 but I am still using the skills and calculations which I learnt in those tutorials today! The final year project for UCC's Biochemistry degree involved an eight week research project in one of UCC's research groups. My project involved research on a protein which is involved in leukaemia in Dr Karen Keeshan's research group. Like my UREKA placement, this research project provided me with invaluable experience of work as a research scientist.
Having really enjoyed the research experience which UCC provided me with, I decided to commence a PhD research project following my graduation. The skills which I gained during my biochemistry degree were instrumental in helping me to obtain a CRI scholarship to fund this project, as was the support I received from the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology in providing me with advice and references. I am currently working on this research project in the Institute of Molecular Medicine in Trinity College Dublin where I am investigating the role of a protein called RACK1 in oesophageal cancer.
I would highly recommend UCC's biochemistry degree. It is a diverse course which covers many fascinating topics in a friendly, supportive university which boasts top class research. My time at UCC was certainly very special and I can safely say that I am still using the knowledge and skills which I gained there on a daily basis.
Chloe Falvey BSc
I have always been particularly fascinated by exactly how biological processes occur at a molecular level and so, it was a natural evolution for me to specialise in Biochemistry in the third and fourth year of my Biological and Chemical Sciences degree programme (CK402).
The most appealing thing to me about this discipline was the applicable nature of Biochemistry to every other biological science. My only initial concern was the absence of a built in work experience programme. However, I soon discovered that this worry was unfounded. I received great encouragement, advice and support from the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology to approach scientific institutes and obtain my own summer research position, which was an experience in itself.
In the summer between my third and fourth year, I began an undergraduate research assistant placement at Cork Cancer Research Centre. This may have been the best decision I made during my Bachelors degree as it allowed me to apply all that I had learned during my degree programme to a research environment. I cannot underestimate the value of this choice as it gave me confidence in my scientific ability and equipped me with skills that helped me to hit the ground running when I began my final year research project. In my fourth year, I was also given the opportunity to co-demonstrate undergraduate lab practicals which allowed me to experience the teaching side of academia for the first time. These positive experiences gave me the insight to realise that a career in research was the right choice for me.
I graduated in 2012 with a First Class Honours Bsc. in Biochemistry. Upon graduating, I received a UCC Strategic Research PhD Studentship Award and returned to the Cork Cancer Research Centre to pursue a PhD in cell death and survival signalling in oesophageal cancer. My advice to all incoming students is that you will not find a school or department elsewhere in Ireland better prepared to provide you with a high calibre of scientific education and the support to pursue your career ambitions.
Sean Farrelly, BSc
I completed my leaving cert in DLS Waterford and, with a keen interest in the sciences, began my education in UCC in 2006 in Biological and Chemical Sciences, where I progressed to graduate with a First Class Honours BSc (Biochemistry). I am currently completing my final year of medicine and I feel the education I received in the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology has been of huge benefit.
A broad foundation in all aspects of science and scientific methodology is provided initially which becomes more specific as one progresses through the programme. In the final years of education, there is a palpable emphasis on career development and maximising ones future employment options. It is crucial to be competitive in the current climate and students are encouraged to CV build from an early stage. This was an aspect of the course that I didn’t appreciate at the time but retrospectively, it was a crucial aspect. Advice is given regarding summer internships in industry or funded research programmes, which both appeals to future employers and will cultivate personal interest in these broad areas.
The final year research project was the highlight of the four years personally. The research project is performed in laboratories with excellent facilities and I gained experience in a multitude of skills including cell culture and immunohistochemistry.
As one approaches the end of their time in third level education, it is often difficult to know what avenues to pursue for the future. The staff in the department are available to give career advice and organise seminars regarding applications for industrial positions, PhD funding or further education.
While currently studying medicine, the benefits of my primary degree are undoubted. The foundation I received in critical and analytical thinking is of help on a daily bases. The processes and research methodology I developed in Biochemistry are of great use in my current research projects, enabling me to perform in areas which require the specialist training I obtained in the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology. Research and publications are the new currency by which one will succeed or fail in applications for specialist training in the medical setting. Hence, I feel that my primary degree has been, and will continue to be, integral to the development of my career.
Ciaran Forde, BSc, MSc
I sat my Leaving Certificate exam in 2004 and like most of my friends at the time, I had little or no idea about how I was supposed to make a living for the rest of my life. What I did know was that I wanted to go to college. I also knew that I liked science.
The Biological and Chemical Sciences degree (CK402) offered me the chance to begin a broad science degree and decide, over the first 2 years, what I liked, what I didn’t like and what I would like to specialise in. It turned out I liked Biochemistry and Cell Biology so I decided to stick with that. Throughout my degree I always found the practical sessions very useful. Setting up experiments or performing assays in the lab helped me to better understand the principles that were taught in the lectures. Overall, I thought that the fourth year project was the most interesting and useful part of the whole degree. It not only gave me insight into what it was like to work in a research environment, but more importantly, I learned how to perform basic lab duties and learned at least one technique very well (in my case SDS-PAGE).
After finishing my degree, I was determined to get involved in research so I started a PhD. Unfortunately that didn’t work out and instead, after 2 years, I graduated with a research MSc. In the 6 years I was involved with the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, I always found the staff to be very friendly, approachable and eager to engage with students. While studying within the School, students were encouraged to get involved in extra-curricular activities such as the UREKA program, the Biochemistry and Biotechnology Society and Science Cafés. As a post-graduate student within the School I was involved with the society and I also supervised undergraduate practical sessions in the lab.
I am now employed as the Principal Scientist within the customer applications department of a small Irish industrial biotechnology company. I work on developing applications for enzymes that can break down different types of biomass for the biofuel, nutraceutical and animal feed industries. I have no doubt that the extra opportunities made available within the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, in combination with the hands-on experiences I gained during my fourth year project and MSc really added to my CV and helped me to find employment after graduation.
Martina Foudy, BSc
I found the Biochemistry Honours degree at UCC to be a very worthwhile and well planned out degree course, and taught well by the lecturers. With its mix of genetics, microbiology and chemistry as well as the core aspects underpinning biochemistry itself, the degree equips students with a good knowledge for a career in research or as a foundation for other science related areas.
I went on to do the Masters in Biotechnology. I picked the course at UCC because of its wide range of modules which I was interested in. The course covers a huge area in the various different aspects of the biotechnology field, including plant sciences, many of which we went into depth of. The course is both challenging and rewarding. We were encouraged to think for ourselves, voice our opinions and ask countless questions. The lecturer’s were always on hand to turn to for guidance. As part of the Masters, either a research- or industry-based placement is undertaken. I undertook the 6-month placement in the Pharmaceutics at UCC, developing a novel way to deliver peptide drugs via the mouth. During these 6 months, I greatly developed my investigative and problem-solving skills. The issues that arose saw me looking outside the box to identify ways to solve them. The Biotechnology Masters was of huge benefit as I now am at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen studying Pharmacy. The course delved into very relevant pharmacy areas covering areas of pharmaceutics, chemistry, biochemistry and microbiology. I have used this knowledge to help build on what I am learning in the pharmacy, and having already learned more than the basics, it has been hugely beneficial. For anyone with an interest and a passion in science, but really not too sure of what particular area they want to work in, I would recommend a degree in Biochemistry and the Biotechnology Masters at UCC. By covering the vast areas of the up and coming biotechnology industry, students can see which areas interest them most, and which don’t, and make informed decisions on where they would like their career path to go. The course prepares the student for a career in industry, in research, or like me, as a stepping stone for further learning.
Jill Gleeson, BSc
I sat my leaving certificate in 2007, and when it came to filling out the CAO form I had no idea what to put down. I enjoyed studying biology and chemistry; so I decided I wanted to go down the science route. I chose Biological and Chemical Sciences as it is a broad course that covers many subjects. It gave me the chance to decide what I liked and I chose to continue with my biochemistry degree.
When I finished my degree, I was still unsure as to what career path I wanted to choose. I have now been teaching primary in Oman for three years. I am currently looking into secondary science teaching and have found that my biochemistry degree will aid me in this endeavour.
As for UCC, it’s an outstanding college. UCC degrees are recognised worldwide and are highly regarded. There are great resources and amenities available to you. There are numerous clubs and societies to get involved in. I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent at UCC.
The BSc Biochemistry opens a lot of doors for a variety of careers. It provides great opportunities, and the skills and knowledge to be successful in many areas.
Maura Hannon, BSc, PhD
I grew up in Ballincollig, Co. Cork; a twenty minute bus journey from University College Cork. But that is not why I decided to pursue my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry in UCC; instead I was attracted to the wide range of subjects I could study, allowing me to get a taste of both biological and chemical sciences, before fixing upon biochemistry as my preferred degree.
I chose biochemistry as I was most interested in the molecular mechanisms of the cell, covering how the cell was regulated during its lifetime and what happened when this regulation went wrong.
After my third year I was awarded a UREKA scholarship which allowed me to carry out a summer research project in the microbiology department here in UCC. This was an excellent opportunity that gave me an insight not only into biological research in general but also into other areas of research altogether. I learnt a huge amount and discovered how closely related the two disciplines of microbiology and biochemistry really are.
During fourth year I had to complete a research project which involved mutating a gene called RACK1 so that its function could be studied in the cell. This project gave me an excellent grounding in molecular laboratory work and helped me make the decision to continue in this area of research once I had completed my degree.
The fourth year research project, coupled with the subjects covered in my undergraduate degree, gave me a good foundation in biochemistry and I was well prepared to begin a PhD in UCC after graduation. My biochemistry degree from UCC helped my win an IRCSET (now Irish Research Council) research scholarship so that I could obtain my PhD on the regulation of genes in leukaemia.
Now I have almost completed my PhD and I’m looking forward to continuing with research in the field of biochemistry.
David Hardwicke, BSc, MSc
I graduated from UCC with a BSc Biochemistry, and while I thoroughly enjoyed my classes and labs in biochemistry, I also became heavily involved with learning activities outside of the classroom through society work, internships and various part-time jobs in more business and marketing focused roles. UCC really is an incredible university for student societies and activities!
The extra-curricular learning drove me to want something different in my career and by the time I was starting my final year of biochemistry, I was convinced that I wanted to fuse my two passions of science and business and build a career around that.
That is where the ESTEEM Masters Program at the University of Notre Dame comes in. ESTEEM stands for Engineering, Science, and Technology Entrepreneurship Excellence Masters. It essentially helps to develop STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) students into entrepreneurs and effective business leaders. For a whole year, you learn about how to commercialise high potential science and engineering based technologies. I was lucky enough to be accepted to the program in my final year at UCC and knew it was the right master’s for me.
ESTEEM is an option for any STEM graduate from UCC and many students from the university have been accepted in the past including two biochemistry students in 2016 and 2017. Studying in the US is known for being expensive but there are incredible internship opportunities for UCC students through the Naughton Fellowship covering fees and living expenses.
The field of biochemistry and biotechnology is evolving constantly and I am very grateful to the outstanding teaching and support staff at the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology for giving me such a solid foundation in biochemistry which I am now harnessing in a business role at a biotechnology start-up in the US.
The key takeaway is that biochemistry is a great way to begin a fulfilling career and you have numerous options as you approach graduation. Whether it is going into industry, pursuing further learning or branching out and going into the business world, there is always demand for biochemistry graduates from UCC and the skill-sets they bring with them.
Amy Harris, BSc, MSc
I graduated from the BSc Biochemistry course in 2009. I initially chose Biochemistry due to my interest in the field, but I soon found it to be an excellent stepping stone towards further education and a future career. The course was both comprehensive and engaging with excellent final year project options. Following my BSc, I successfully gained a place in the UCC MSc Biotechnology course and am currently working in MSD Brinny as a QC Analyst.
Elizabeth Hinchy, BSc
I enrolled in Biological and Chemical Sciences at UCC in 2009. The first two years of the course gave me a very broad introduction to a wide variety of subjects I had never studied before, like ecology, physics and organic chemistry. With advice from lecturers, I chose to enter into BSc Biochemistry for my third and final year; it combined my love of the fine details of molecular and cell biology with a growing interest in human physiology and disease, including diabetes and cancer. I was encouraged to think about and discuss current scientific problems and opportunities and the lecturers were always willing to offer help and guidance in making career decisions.
The degree opens many doors to jobs in Ireland and abroad, in the biotechnology industry, in teaching and communication and in academic research. I have chosen the latter route for now; entering into post-graduate research in Biological Science (specifically mitochondrial biology) at the University of Cambridge, UK, where the UCC name is held in great regard. The hands-on laboratory experience throughout the Biochemistry course and especially during the two-month research project in 4th year really helped me to settle in to a research environment.
I would recommend BSc Biochemistry at UCC to anyone with an interest in natural sciences. It is often the case that people will shape our experiences and both my classmates and the excellent teaching staff in the School made my four years at UCC fun, exciting and rewarding.
Elizabeth graduated with a first class honours degree in Biochemistry in 2013, and was the 2013 recipient of the Art Champlin Gold Medal Award for being the top student graduating BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry that year.
Fiona Lynch, BSc
I graduated from UCC in 2011 with a BSc in Biochemistry. I had a fantastic four years in UCC; I absolutely loved the University itself and I feel I chose my course very well. In school, I was never entirely sure of what career path I wanted to go down and going into Biological and Chemical Sciences at the age of 18 was a great decision. The course was so broad that it allowed a lot room for my personal and academic development, with different options to choose from every year and great guidance along the way.
After graduating, I started a 6-month internship with Radisens Diagnostics, a start-up company based in the Rubicon Centre in CIT. Following my internship, Radisens hired me as an Assay Development Scientist, a position that challenged me on a daily basis and taught me an incredible amount about the world of immunoassays. I moved to Galway in 2013 to work as a Production Scientist for Beckman Coulter, in a lab that works mainly with immunoassay products. Going from a start-up company of 12 people, into a multinational company like Beckman Coulter was a real eye opener, but I was well-equipped for the challenge after the great grounding and training I received from my time in UCC.
Susan Lynch, BSc
Following my graduation with a BSc in Biochemistry from UCC in 2010, I progressed to complete an MSc in Biotechnology at Edinburgh Napier University.
After completing my Masters, I joined Charles River Preclinical Services Edinburgh as a Quality Assurance Auditor. After 12 months in this position, I transferred into the Bioanalysis and Immunology Group as Assistant Scientist and was promoted to Senior Assistant Scientist. In June 2014 I moved to Quotient Biodiagnostics and am currently a member of a research group called MosaiQ, involved in new product development. In this role I use a lot of the techniques I learned at UCC such as, Affinity and size exclusion chromatography, HPLC, Western blots and SDS page gels.
The Biochemistry course at UCC provided me with a broad knowledge of cellular chemistry. I particularly enjoyed the modules on Cell Signalling, Biochemical Immunology, Toxicology, Chemotherapy and Pharmacology of Inflammation. Furthermore, the practical classes taught me the laboratory techniques required to work in a research environment. I believe the BSc in Biochemistry has equipped me with the fundamental analytical skills and knowledge required to develop a successful and rewarding scientific career.
Denis McAuliffe, BSc, MSc
I completed my secondary school education in St.Ita’s College, Abbeyfeale Co.Limerick where I developed a love for all things science. I chose the course Biological and Chemical science so I could get an overview of all the different areas of science. When it came round to majoring in a certain area, I chose Biochemistry. Here I attained an excellent grasp of the different mechanisms and pathways inside in each and every one of us that makes us tick. I really enjoyed my time in this course, particularly the laboratory practicals. It was highly interesting and challenging at the same time! Of course, my time doing biochemistry would have been nothing without the various lecturers, laboratory demonstrators and all the staff in the Biochemistry department who were excellent and easy to talk which was paramount to the whole experience.
I am currently doing a Masters in Biotechnology in UCC which is highly interesting! Hopefully after completing my Masters I will acquire a job in industry! I hope to go on and represent UCC with distinction wherever I go.
Aoife McCarthy, BSc, MSc
The theoretical and practical knowledge I gained during my degree in Biochemistry and MSc in Biotechnology, UCC set me up perfectly for a career in the BioPharma industry. Six years on from graduating, I am still recalling information from my degree and using it in my everyday work as a manufacturing associate at BioMarin Manufacturing Ireland Limited.
BioPharma companies are consistently looking to employ Biochemistry and MSc Biotechnology graduates and offer diverse roles to those with such a science background.
Eileen McCarthy, BSc, MSc
Biology and chemistry were my favourite subjects in school, so applying for course code CK402 on my CAO form was a simple decision.
Biochemistry is a fascinating subject which covers a wide range of chemical reactions which occur within living cells. During the course of my undergraduate degree, I particularly enjoyed learning about Metabolic Pathways, Protein Structure, Toxicology and Oncology.
After 3rd year I was awarded a place in the UREKA (Undergraduate Research Experience and Knowledge Award) program and completed a research project investigating the interactions of the scaffolding protein RACK-1 with IGF-1 under the supervision of Dr Patrick Kiely and Professor Rosemary O’Connor. It was a particularly enjoyable summer in which I had the opportunity to perform research and meet students visiting from other universities worldwide.
As part of my 4th year research project, I cloned and deleted a section of the Presenilin 1 (PS-1) gene, a component of the Presenilin complex which mediates gamma-secretase (an enzyme that is implicated in Alzheimer’s disease) under the supervision of Dr Justin McCarthy.
Following my degree, I was granted a place in the MSc Biotechnology program. This Masters course covers the application of biochemistry and biotechnology to industry, as well as covering Good Manufacturing Practice, Regulatory Affairs and Chemical Engineering. I was placed in Pfizer Biotechnology’s Technical Services laboratory as part of my Masters industry placement.
Following graduation, I obtained a position in Upstream Cell Culture at this site. I was employed with Pfizer Biotechnology for two enjoyable years before deciding to travel to South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
I now live in Australia and am currently Production Supervisor with Biopharm Australia Pty Ltd, a small pharmaceutical company based in Sydney. I am responsible for the management and oversight of non-sterile oral pharmaceuticals as well as sterile injectable products that are used to treat conditions such as arthritis and interstitial cystitis.
The BSc Biochemistry can be used as a platform for a number of career opportunities within the pharmaceuticals industry.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time as an undergraduate and postgraduate at UCC.
Gwen Mullins, BSc, MSc
When I first started in UCC I pursued a degree in Biochemistry, as I had a keen interest in science, but I was not entirely sure where I was headed. Fortunately, I chose UCC and a course that would both challenge me and provide me with a wide range of skills. Following this, I completed the MSc in Applied Science (Biotechnology), one of the reasons for me choosing this were that this course provides modules which better prepare you for industry work, such as modules in Biopharmaceuticals and Bioprocess Engineering. The second was that this Masters programme contained a placement, either in industry or within the University.
Through the UCC Careers Service, I interviewed for and was offered an internship with Abbott Vascular Clonmel as a Supplier Quality Engineer. Abbott Vascular is a global leader in the development and manufacture of both coronary and endovascular therapies and in Clonmel we manufacture cardiovascular stents. This position awarded me huge opportunities, firstly through Abbott’s intern programme, to get involved with all areas of the company and also visited Abbott Diagnostics Longford to meet with fellow interns from Ireland. I was also given the opportunity to complete Lead Auditor training to the ISO13485 standard and completed external audits of suppliers. I left the company to spend a year travelling and have returned since to the Regulatory Compliance Department to work as a Quality Systems Analyst.
I value my time spent within UCC as I know that I laid the foundations there for the work that I’m doing today. From both my degree and Masters course I developed many skills including problem solving, critical thinking and in public speaking which have proven to be vital in my career. My time within the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, has given me both the confidence and the skills to be successful in pursuing a career in the medical device industry.
Carolyn Murray, BSc
Carolyn graduated with a first class honours degree in Biochemistry in 2017, and was the 2017 recipient of the Art Champlin Gold Medal Award for being the top student graduating BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry that year.
Elaine O'Brien, BSc
Elaine graduated with a first class honours degree in Biochemistry in 2016, and was the 2016 recipient of the Art Champlin Gold Medal Award for being the top student graduating BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry that year.
Cian O'Donnell, BSc
Biological science has always been my chief interest. I decided to study Biological and Chemical Sciences (CK402) because I wanted to explore each of the biological outlets which this course offered. After getting exposure to these outlets I decided to pursue Biochemistry. This choice provided me with a first-class education in the fundamentals of biological life. The modules covered throughout the course take a deep dive into biological concepts which are reinforced and put into practice in the lab. What we learned during labs proved invaluable when we undertook our final year projects. I was lucky enough to work on retinitis pigmentosa in the Tom Cotter lab under the supervision of Dr Sarah Roche.
I am currently studying in the ESTEEM (Engineering Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Excellence) master’s program at the University of Notre Dame. This program is for students coming from a background in science or engineering who want to learn about business and entrepreneurship. My education in Biochemistry positioned me well to secure the Naughton Fellowship, a scholarship available to Irish STEM students to study in the course. I learned about this course from David Hardwicke (see David's testimonial for Biochemistry on this page), who was one year ahead of me in Biochemistry and secured a place in the program.
While challenging at times, studying Biochemistry in UCC has equipped me to pivot into many different branches of science and has taught me transferrable skills which will serve me throughout the rest of my career. Lectures which were delivered by devoted and interested staff spurred me on to do my best while providing me with a scientific education of the highest calibre. If you have an interest in Biology I would strongly recommend studying Biochemistry in UCC as it will expose you to many different scientific avenues you could take after graduation and make you a highly competitive candidate as you look for jobs at the start of your career.
Linda O'Flaherty, BSc, PhD
I’ve always been fascinated by how things work and since science is the perfect playground for anyone with lots of curiosity, a degree in science was the natural option for me. My favourite subject has always been biology, in particular cancer biology, and UCC’s Biochemistry degree offered the perfect course, covering numerous interesting and career-relevant subjects.
In the summer leading up to my 4th and final year, I took part in the UREKA (Undergraduate Research Experience and Knowledge Award) program at the Conway Institute, University College Dublin. I became aware of this scholarship through members of the Biochemistry & Biotechnology Society at UCC. Under the supervision of Professor William Gallagher and Dr Darran O’Connor, I worked on the construction of a shRNA library for analysing p21-mediated paracrine effects. The UREKA program provided a fantastic opportunity to meet other young scientists, from both national and international universities, and to fully experience the working environment of a lab.
My final year research project focused on the use of fluorescent intracellular oxygen- and pH-sensing probes in assessing the metabolic status of PC12 cells and was carried out under the supervision of Professor Dmitri Papkovsky and Dr Alexander Zhdanov. This project was a great introduction to crucial lab techniques such as tissue culture and fluorescent assays. I went back to work with Professor Papkovsky and Dr Zhdanov for a brief period during my PhD and the collaboration resulted in two publications.
After graduating from UCC in 2008, I moved to the UK to start my PhD in Clinical Medicine at Oxford University. My PhD project involved the development of in vitro and in vivo models for determining the role of the TCA cycle enzyme, Fumarate Hydratase, in the early stages of Hereditary Leiomyomatosis and Renal Cell Cancer (HLRCC) and was carried out under the supervision of Professor Sir Peter Ratcliffe and Dr Patrick Pollard. I graduated from Oxford University in 2012.
I remain living in the UK, where I now continue my career in cancer research as a CRUK-funded post-doctoral researcher at the University of Bristol. My current research is aimed at better understanding the role of Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC).
My undergraduate years were fundamental to my chosen career path and I have many fond memories of my time as a Biochemistry student at UCC.
Laura O'Kennedy, BSc
Throughout my final year in secondary school and up until the week of the CAO deadline, I was very undecided about my next step. I picked CK402 (Biological and Chemical Sciences) because it was a broad course in which I could figure out what exact degree to specialise in while studying some of my favourite subjects - biology and chemistry. With preconceived ideas that I would go on to study physiology or neuroscience, I entered first year. After being exposed to a wide variety of sciences during first and second year college, it was clear to me that my passion actually lay with biochemistry.
Throughout third and fourth year, the lecturers, and heads of the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, took time to get to know us as individuals and were always available to talk to me. It was certainly a challenging two years but studying a subject that I had developed a genuine interest for, made all the difference. The final year project (which I had originally been apprehensive about), was thoroughly enjoyable. I worked in Professor Mary McCaffreys lab studying the protein Rab25 and was guided and supported throughout.
For some of my third year and fourth year summer I worked in a microbiology lab in UCC under Professor Alan Dobson. This was a hugely beneficial experience as it gave me an insight into what life was like as a PhD student and in research in general. It also equipped me with many techniques and familiarised me with much of the equipment that I would go on to use in my fourth year project.
When I finished my degree in 2017 I decided that I wouldn't go into a Masters straight away and instead I applied to some of the pharmaceuticals in Cork. I started working in Janssen in Ringaskiddy in September 2017 and I’m really enjoying it so far. It is a completely different environment to college and I’m getting the opportunity to build upon some of what I learnt during my degree. I would never dismiss the idea of doing further studies in the future but as of now, I’m delighted to be able to get a feel for, and work within the pharmaceutical industry. Studying biochemistry in UCC really set me up for what I hope will be a successful and fulfilling future career.
David O'Sullivan, BSc
David graduated with a first class honours degree in Biochemistry in 2015, and was the 2015 recipient of the Art Champlin Gold Medal Award for being the top student graduating BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry that year.
Mattie O'Sullivan, BSc
I graduated from CK402 in 2014 and enrolled in a Biochemistry PhD program at UC Davis. Originally, I applied to CK402 because I had a generic interest in science and the career possibilities available from the program are extremely diverse. By the end of first year it was obvious to me that I wanted to go in the direction of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Even though I was completely inexperienced Dr Justin McCarthy, School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology graciously agreed to let me volunteer in his lab for the summer, and from there I quickly developed a goal to pursue a research career path. During the following summers I interned at Brown University working in a molecular epidemiology lab, and at the University of Wisconsin, Madison where the work was focused primarily on RNA splicing. Then, for my final year project, I worked with Professor Thomas Cotter, School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology in the area of combination cancer chemotherapy sensitivity testing. While these opportunities were invaluable to me, they wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the fundamental scientific training built by the degree program, consistently broadening my appreciation for research, and importantly all of the helpful advice and encouragement I received from multiple members of the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, UCC.
Sharon O'Sullivan, BSc, MSc
I first began my study at UCC in 2006 knowing I wanted to pursue a path in Science but not yet fully understanding the vast number of scientific pursuits that one could specialise in. With this in mind, I choose the route of a general Science degree (Biological & Chemical Science) which allowed me to study a vast range of subjects and ultimately lead me towards an Honours degree in Biochemistry. Choosing to specialise in Biochemistry was an easy option for me as I always had an avid interest in disease and cancer states and how one tiny change at the subcellular level could have far reaching consequences.
During the summer of 2010 after completing my undergraduate degree, I voluntarily gained experience in Shannon ABC, Applied Biotechnology Centre and in the Bons Secours Hospital allowing me to apply the skill set I had gained during my undergraduate degree. I then choose to pursue a Masters in Biotechnology giving me the theoretical and practical skills to apply my biological knowledge further afield. Whilst completing my Masters, I was given the opportunity to complete a six-month placement either within an industrial setting or a research environment. Ultimately I choose research carrying out my placement abroad in the Universitat Rovira I Virgili, Tarragona, Spain, allowing me to integrate as part of a multi-international team.
Since then I have worked as a Research Assistant within the School of Biochemistry currently working within the LAPTI research group pursuing research at the level of translation initiation and how this has an effect on protein synthesis.
Ronan Russell, BSc
After finishing secondary school, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in science. However at this point, I didn’t fully understand the intricateness of each particular discipline so I decided to undertake a rather general science course in first year and choose Biological and Chemical Sciences (CK402) at UCC. I quickly realised that Biochemistry was the area most suited to my interests and pursued a BSc in Biochemistry.
After my BSc, I was accepted for a Swiss Government Scholarship to pursue a Research Masters in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Lausanne in collaboration with University College Dublin. My work here focused on understanding the cross talk between pro- and anti- inflammatory mediators and estrogen signalling within endometrial biology. I continued to expand on the knowledge I acquired during my BSc and to develop a catalogue of laboratory techniques. This led to my first publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal and was overall a great learning experience.
Since my then, I have been pursuing a PhD in Ulm, Germany and hope to finish sometime in mid-2014. My current research focuses on characterizing the molecular mechanisms which direct pancreatic development during embryogenesis and also the molecular alterations which give rise to pancreatic cancer.
I am continuously grateful for the experiences I had during my BSc from interacting with experienced scientists to learning how to perform and design experiments. The time I spent in UCC acts as a foundation for skills which are continuously being used on a daily basis and are an immense help in my career to date. These include not only the background understanding of biological processes but also how to convey research data through scientific writing and presentations. Another important aspect of the course is learning to network with other scientists and this is very important in science, particularly in academia. I thoroughly enjoyed my times as a student in Cork and the opportunities which have arisen since. I have been able to obtain competitive funding from both the Swiss Government and German Research Foundation (DFG) and have also had the opportunity to present my data at a variety of international scientific meetings.
Siobhan Ryan, BSc
I chose the BSc in Biochemistry at the end of my 2nd year in Biological and Chemical Science for several reasons. Firstly, I found that the biochemistry modules we had up to then were extremely interesting and wanted to get a deeper understanding of the subject. I also knew that in industry, the use of biopharmaceuticals and biotechnology was growing and would continue to grow rapidly. I therefore wanted to have the option of entering into those areas and I felt that biochemistry would be a great grounding for that. Additionally, the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology has a renowned reputation and the lecturers we had in 1st and 2nd year from the school were very engaging and passionate about what they were lecturing in.
Once on the degree programme, I enjoyed the range of modules offered to us, both compulsory and elective. I believe it has given me a strong foundation on which to build my career. My favourite part of the degree was the Final Year Project which gave me an insight into the everyday workings of a real research lab and first hand experience in carrying out a cell biology lab project over 2 months.
UCC itself is a fantastic college. Not only is a UCC degree recognized internationally, the student life is brilliant and club and society amenities are excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed being involved in the Dance Club and Clubs Executive having been elected Captain and Vice President/Interim President respectively.
I am currently studying for an MSc in Biotechnology and Business in UCD.
Daniel Sheehan, BSc, MSc
I have always been interested in Biology and Chemistry which began in secondary school. As a result of this, I undertook CK402 Biological and Chemical Sciences in University College Cork. I always knew that I wanted to do Biochemistry in UCC from the opportunities I felt would arise from this course. Therefore I worked and studied hard to achieve the proper grades in order to get into Biochemistry class at the start of third year. Once in the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, I was continually learning with the most up-to-date knowledge by professors and demonstrators. The professors encouraged and challenged me to think for myself, and therefore, gain a greater understanding of the course.
With the continuous work and help of the staff in the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, I graduated in 2012 with a second class Honours (2H1) in Biochemistry. This then allowed me to further pursue a career in Science by undertaking the Masters in Biotechnology in UCC.
This Masters provided me with significant theoretical and practical knowledge into the industrial applications of modern science and how this knowledge is used to benefit patients in need. Additionally it provided me with the confidence and enthusiasm to scientifically think for myself and to ask extensive scientific questions.
As part of this Masters I undertook a six-month industry-based research project. I had the opportunity to conduct this industry-based project in the Manufacturing Sciences and Technology Department at BioMarin Manufacturing Ireland Ltd. I garnered significant knowledge and expertise from the personnel on-site. I will be forever grateful to the extensive knowledge and experience with which this Masters, UCC and BioMarin have provided me.
I graduated with a First class Honours (1H1) in the MSc in Biotechnology in 2013, due to hard work but I would not have achieved this without the personnel in UCC.
Due to the significant analytical knowledge that I learned with the Masters and while in Industry, I began working in April 2014 as an analytical Technical Specialist with Merck, Sharp, & Dohme (MSD) Brinny, in the Process & Analytical Development (P&AD) Department.
UCC is a fantastic place to study, as it combines education and fun along the way. The college is easy to get around and you will always meet someone between lectures. Be prepared to be late for classes! The college bars aren’t bad either! I have gained friends for life and can honestly say that the 5 years I spent in UCC were the best of my life.
Overall I enjoyed my time at UCC and would highly recommend it to anyone that intends to gain a scientific education especially from a Biochemistry and Biotechnology perspective.
David Walsh, BSc
I chose University College Cork because of its reputation for Science and Research. The university is the hub of the city providing a great experience for student life. Biochemistry was a fantastic course where over the four years I learned the transferable skills that merited my acceptance on the Darley Flying Start International Thoroughbred Industry Management Scholarship. Studying Biochemistry not only improved my scientific knowledge but also helped me to develop invaluable skills such as team work, communication and analytical ability which I will take with me for my future career.
Gary Williamson, BSc, MSc
Biology was no doubt my favourite subject in school but I was never sure of what career path I would like to take. For this reason I decided to apply for Biological and Chemical sciences in University College Cork. The range of scientific and mathematical modules in the first two years was very diverse which allowed me to identify where my main interests were. I chose to complete the course with a Degree in Biochemistry. The practical classes were the most enjoyable aspect of this course as they allow you to put what you have learned into practice by carrying out scientific laboratory work.
After completion of my undergraduate degree, I applied for and acquired a place in the MSc in Biotechnology programme. The 6 month industrial placement was the main reason I chose this course as I was eager to break into industrial biotechnology. The classroom-based section of the programme equipped me with the theory and knowledge to perform effectively whilst on the work placement. The MSc programme is an intense but rewarding 12 months with a wide variety of modules, practical classes and lectures.
I undertook my industrial placement in Eli Lilly, Kinsale, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was working within the laboratory Technical Services/Manufacturing Sciences (TS/MS) department. The role of the laboratory TS/MS group is to optimize the processes which Lilly uses to produce its various biologics. This is achieved through process issue investigations, optimisation studies, introduction of new molecules and processes, collaboration with operations TS/MS personnel, etc.
At the end of the MSc programme, I was also awarded the Eli Lilly academic excellence scholarship based on my overall results in both the research thesis and spring exams. This was a proud moment for me as I put a lot of time and effort in during the year. I am currently working as a Bioprocess Chemist in Lilly’s newest biopharmaceutical manufacturing facility on site at Kinsale. The building is currently in start-up and the coming years will be both exciting and challenging.
I would recommend UCC to any student that is interested in a science degree whether it be at undergraduate or postgraduate level. Both the biochemistry and biotechnology courses equipped me with the skills that I need to be successful in my career.