The Professor Arthur K Champlin Gold Medal Award

The Professor Arthur K Champlin Gold Medal Award

The Professor Arthur K. Champlin medal is awarded annually to the top student graduating BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry. It is named after Professor Art Champlin (RIP), the Arey Professor of Biology at Colby College, Maine, USA who had a long-standing and close relationship with UCC through the Colby in Cork (Exchange) Programme from the late eighties.

Art spent periods in UCC in 1991-1992 as the Resident Director of the programme and as a Visiting Professor in Biochemistry (which he revisited in 1994). He returned in 2003 as Resident Director of the Colby in Cork programme.

During his time at UCC, Art taught several courses in development biology (his main research passion) and molecular genetics. He was an exceptionally outstanding and dedicated teacher and was loved and admired by his students. He was also a natural gentleman who had time for everyone and who made a lasting impression on all who met him or spent time in his company. Art was a wonderful and good man and a gentle man. He touched the hearts of staff and students in Biochemistry with his positive and loving outlook on life and his caring attitude. It is fitting that the staff and students in the School of Biochemistry continue to honour his memory and we hope his passionate interest in research and teaching continues to inspire our graduates into the future.

2022 Recipient — Donagh Gribbon

Professor John O'Halloran, president of UCC; Donagh Gribbon, winner of the Art Champlin Gold Medal Award; and Professor Justin McCarthy, School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology

The Professor Art Champlin Gold Medal Award for academic excellence in Biochemistry, was presented to Donagh Gribbon by Professor John O’Halloran, President, UCC, and Professor Justin McCarthy, Head of School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, UCC on the 26th October 2022.

Donagh was joined by his very proud parents, Sinéad and Michael Gribbon, his brother Olan,  his sister Ailbhe and his girlfriend Brónagh.

Donagh has been an outstanding student and was also the recipient of the Eli Lilly Award for academic excellence in Biochemistry in 2020 and 2021.

Donagh has now commenced an MRes in Biochemistry and Biosciences and is conducting a cancer biology research project under the supervision of Professor Rosemary O’Connor, UCC and Professor Ivan Gout, UCL.

The staff in the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology would like to wish Donagh every success with his research and in his future career.

Donagh's Path to the Gold Medal

When I first started secondary school, I didn’t really know what subjects interested me the most or what area I wanted to work at later in life. It wasn’t until I had finished the Junior Cert that I realised Biology and Chemistry were the subjects that fascinated me the most. It was of complete surprise to my Business teacher that I decided to drop all Business subjects for the Leaving Cert, despite receiving the BSTAI award for achieving the highest result in Junior Cert Business Studies in Ireland. After studying Business for three years, it seemed to me that everything in the business world was already known, whereas with biology and chemistry there were so many questions that still remained unanswered. The idea of the unknown, that there was so much still to be uncovered and explained intrigued me. By the time it came to filling out the CAO, I still wasn’t fully sure what I wanted to do, so Biological and Chemical Sciences seemed like the best fit for me, seeing that I could take two years to get a taste of the various disciplines and then specialise in one.

The first year of the course was really helpful for me, as I developed a basic understanding of cell biology and the fundamentals of chemistry. We undertook a number of introductory modules in different disciplines and experienced working in the lab for the first time. After first year, I was sure that I wanted to go down the Biological Sciences route. My understanding and curiosity developed throughout the year as we undertook modules in different biological disciplines such as anatomy, neuroscience, physiology, biochemistry and microbiology. The modules that I enjoyed most were the Biochemistry modules. I was fascinated by the complex signalling pathways and the way in which cells controlled their gene expression in response to different stimuli. My second year college experience was cut short by the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. The one positive that I took from this was that the lockdown granted me ample time to sit down and dive deeper into additional reading that accompanied the lectures. This afforded me the opportunity to realise that I definitely wanted to specialise in Biochemistry.

In Third and Fourth year, as the material got more complex and we dove deeper into topics such as cancer cell signalling, cellular metabolism and immunology, my desire for research grew. What fascinated me most was learning about how a cell’s molecular processes and regulatory mechanisms became dysregulated in cancer cells and neurodegenerative diseases. I became particularly interested in cancer, becoming aware of just how unique different cancer types were, realising that two cancer cells within the same tumour might not even be the same. I enjoy problem solving and am never afraid of challenging myself, and I believe that is why I was drawn to the topic of cancer. I learned just how difficult it is to target and treat cancer, and the multitude of problems that could lead to a cell becoming cancerous. As I read more and more papers, I realised just how much was still unknown and how much was still left to be explored.

The highlight of my four years in UCC, was conducting my Final Year Project. Due to the pandemic, our practical experience was limited to virtual Labster simulations. Although it was good to learn the theory behind conducting experiments and different techniques, as well as carrying out experiments virtually, it just wasn’t the same as physically being in the lab. I was excited but at the same time nervous about going into the lab, having not been in one for so long. My FYP was entitled “Investigation of the PIKfyve Complex and its Relationship with Akt” and was conducted under the supervision of Professor Cora O’Neill. The PIKfyve complex consists of three proteins and is implicated in cancer, neurodegenerative disease and viral infection. The basis of the project was to measure the protein expression levels of the PIKfyve complex in different breast cancer and colon cancer cell lines and to see if there was a relationship with Akt activation. On my first day in the lab, I knocked over three different test tubes and at the end of that day, felt like I never wanted to go back into the lab again. However, by the end of my eight weeks of lab work, I would have gladly gone back to do another eight weeks. Despite my nightmare of a first day in the lab, that soon became a distant memory, as I thoroughly enjoyed coming into the lab each day. I gained confidence in the techniques of Western blotting and immunofluorescence, and enjoyed the atmosphere in the lab each day. Interpreting results and being able to come up with an explanation for what I was seeing was the most satisfying aspect of the lab work.

Looking back, I can now say that studying Biochemistry in UCC was the ideal degree for me. I have found an area that I am passionate about and with each passing day I am motivated to dive deeper into the unknown. I have met some amazing people and have made friends for life along the way. I also take satisfaction in seeing the awards I have received, such as The Eli Lily Award for Academic Excellence in Second and Third year, and this has shown me that my hard work has paid off. I am currently enrolled in a Research Masters investigating Protein CoAlation in Cancer under the co-supervision of Professor Rosemary O’Connor in UCC and Professor Ivan Gout in University College London and I am excited to see where this will take me. But what satisfies me the most is knowing that I am working in an area that can have such far reaching effects and the research that I will be doing could make a big difference to peoples’ lives.

Although my time as an undergrad has come to an end, I am excited to still remain part of the UCC community as I begin my Research Masters. Being within the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology has been amazing, getting to know the excellent, dedicated staff who worked so hard in a very challenging time to provide us with an excellent degree and learning opportunities. I am looking forward to seeing where my research takes me and making a difference. “Even though the world is large, one person can still make a world of difference.” - Frank Sonnenberg.

See Donagh's career profile on LinkedIn

2021 Recipient — Stephen O'Shea


Stephen's Path to the Gold Medal

Growing up, I would have never imagined myself in the life sciences. In retrospect, I can trace the roots of my scientific journey back to my Transition Year in secondary school. A family friend suggested that I sign up for a programme in the UCC School of Microbiology. There, I had my first real introduction to the world of science. Before I knew it, I was in a real lab, culturing microbes and working with DNA. Until then, I had never really considered science as a career option – but this was a turning point. Though brief, those two weeks really ignited my interest. A PhD student that was supervising me recommended the Biological and Chemical Sciences course at UCC. This fleeting suggestion led me to choose Biology and Chemistry for my Leaving Cert. When it came time to fill out my CAO application, I distinctly remember struggling to list any other course. This was genuinely the only thing I could see myself studying and thankfully I was able to secure my place.

Throughout first and second year, I was always gravitating towards the life sciences. Even when studying chemistry, my favourite aspect was always the organic branch – of which biomolecules (proteins, DNA/RNA and lipids) are a major component. In hindsight, my penchant for biochemistry had already manifested by that point. All of my favourite modules were steering me towards the BSc in Biochemistry. I really enjoyed grasping topics at the cellular and subcellular level – from gene structure and DNA replication to the enzymes and metabolic pathways that enable our cells to store and utilise energy: I wanted to understand all of the sophisticated molecular processes that allow cells to function, and how irregularities in these processes underpin disease.

The two-year specialisation in Biochemistry absolutely exceeded my expectations. I was exposed to many exciting areas, covering everything from the molecular events that underlie cancer development and neurodegeneration to the biochemical cascades that stimulate immune responses. The content really piqued my interest in basic research. This led me to pursue a research project in the summer of my third year in affiliation with the Institut Pasteur Unit of Membrane Traffic and Pathogenesis, headed by Chiara Zurzolo, MD/PhD. This highly enriching experience allowed me to work closely with seasoned scientists and experience the joys and challenges of cutting-edge research. I spent four months creating 3D reconstructions of intercellular connections called Tunnelling Nanotubes (TNTs), which are hypothesised to play a significant role in cell communication. This work was very different from the biochemical and molecular techniques that I was learning about in lectures and laboratory practicals but it really opened my eyes to an emerging area of cell biology that I had never even heard of a few months prior. Moreover, this experience cemented my desire to pursue a career in scientific research.

My final year project granted me an opportunity to explore this desire further. Under the supervision of Dr. Kellie Dean, I investigated the role of previously unidentified intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs) in an RNA-binding protein, and the effect that these IDRs have on the biomolecular condensation of RNA granules. As well as teaching me many valuable lessons in communicating my ideas and designing experiments, this project introduced me to a topic that I am still extremely passionate about – intrinsically disordered proteins! I consider it the highlight of my undergraduate degree. Outside of research and studying, I also had numerous opportunities to promote public engagement with science as a member of the UCC Biochemistry and Biotechnology Society and as a demonstrator with UCC CELL Explorers. The CELL Explorers programme – an SFI-funded outreach initiative aimed at instilling a passion for science in primary school children – was particularly fulfilling. Having been raised in a family of non-scientists, my own situation really illustrated to me why these educational programmes are so critical. Without them, I may never have found Biochemistry.

My experience of the Biochemistry programme at UCC has been overwhelmingly constructive. The open-ended nature of the programme allows students to follow various career trajectories – whether it be a career in academic research, or in the biotech/biopharma industry. With enthusiastic faculty possessing a diverse range of skillsets, the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology make this course what it is – an engaging and comprehensive course that really inspires you to become more self-guided in your learning and delve into detail on a whole assortment of forefront topics. I am so incredibly grateful for the friends that I have made, and to have met some amazing scientific mentors that have supported me these past four years. I am excited to be continuing my studies at my alma mater as a PhD candidate under the supervision of Prof. Rosemary O’Connor, where I am studying regulation of the insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) signaling pathway in cancer. Even now, as a PhD student, I realise how well the programme has prepared me for my career moving forward.

We live in a time where the life sciences are more important than ever. Scientific jargon has woven its way into everyday conversation and rapid progress in research is transforming society. I could never be prouder of my degree and will always speak highly of my experience, considering myself lucky to have chosen to study Biochemistry at UCC.

See Stephen's career profile on LinkedIn

2020 Recipient — Niamh Casey

Professor Justin McCarthy, Head of School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, UCC; Niamh Casey, BSc Biochemistry Graduate and 2020 recipient of the Art Champlin Gold Medal award; and UCC President, Professor John O'Halloran

The Professor Art Champlin Gold Medal Award for academic excellence in Biochemistry was won in 2020 by Niamh Casey.

The Professor Arthur K. Champlin gold medal is awarded annually to the top student graduating BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry. The staff in the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology would like to wish Niamh every success in her future career.

Niamh’s path to the Gold Medal…

"Reflecting upon my younger self, studying biochemistry would never have been on my radar, much less achieving such an award. I had always had a real interest in science. However, studying science for the junior cert, biology seemed the least exciting discipline in the field. It appeared to me that the subject held no intrigue. Chemistry was full of colourful experiments and mysterious concoctions and physics required abstract reasoning and creative thinking, while biology was just…there. This is a cell, and this is what it looks like. This is a heart, and this is how it beats. It seemed as though all of the questions had already been answered, so what was left to figure out?

Going into the leaving cert, I had picked chemistry and physics as my science subjects. Unfortunately, the physics class was full, and I was left to do biology. I quickly realised that there was quite a bit left to figure out. As the complexity of the topics grew, so too did my desire to learn. I became particularly interested in the nervous system and neurodegenerative disorders. This is how I discovered Biological and Chemical Sciences at University College Cork. I chose the course intending to eventually specialise in neuroscience.

However, on entering the course, I found myself fascinated by the intricacies of molecular mechanisms and signalling pathways. The fact that a microscopic change in the structure of a protein could lead to an entire system failing to function amazed me. This prompted me to specialise in biochemistry. The course allowed me to get to grips with the body on a microscopic level. Module content ranged from the interwoven pathways which allow cancer to spread, to the proteins that cause neurodegeneration. The course content was exciting and dynamic and always inspired me to research further. My constant desire to learn more, along with the support of the department, enabled me to earn the title of college scholar every year, as well as the Eli Lilly Award for Academic Excellence in second and third year.

In the summer of third year, I decided I wanted to gain some solo lab experience. I was generously awarded the SEFS bursary and worked in Dr Eoin Fleming’s lab on a project involving the purification of recombinant IL-8. I gained experience in spectrophotometry, western blotting, HPLC and cell culture. It was a steep learning curve, but the project gave me a lot more confidence in my own abilities. This was really beneficial for my final year project.

My FYP, entitled “The Synergistic Relationship between Interferon-γ and Tumour Necrosis Factor-α and their Effects on Colorectal Cancer Cell Death” was done under the supervision of Dr Ken Nally. The basis of the project was to characterise the response of mammalian cancer cells to treatment with the cytokines IFN-γ and TNF-α. The project required the culturing of two different colorectal cancer cell lines. The cells were subjected to various assays to assess characteristics of cell death including caspase activation, cell viability and chemokine production. The most rewarding aspect of the project was the confidence I gained, both in the lab, and in my area of study. Each person became an expert on their own FYP. It was always interesting to discuss our projects and play both the student and the teacher.

One of the standout experiences I had with the course was the opportunity to take part in the Cell Explorers SFI funded outreach programme. Organised by Dr Eoin Fleming and Dr Kellie Dean, the programme enables science students to bring the lab to primary schools. We became demonstrators for primary school children, teaching them how to extract DNA from bananas and getting them excited about science along the way. The programme was incredibly rewarding and really fun. One moment that stuck out for me personally was when one girl told me I did not look like a scientist. I asked what she thought a scientist looked like and she described an old man with crazy hair and big glasses. She then said it was really cool that I wasn’t an old man and that she wanted to be a scientist now too. I don’t imagine a simple experiment with a banana will inspire a generation of new scientists, but I do hope that it encourages children, and girls especially, to realise there is a place for them in science.

2020 is a scary time to be a graduate. The end of college marks a time of great change. For a lot of people, it is the first time in their lives where the next step is undefined. Mixing that with a worldwide pandemic creates a cocktail of confusion and anxiety. However, it is also an incredibly exciting time to be a graduate of biochemistry. Talk of viruses and vaccines dominate the headlines and my degree has never been more relevant to everyday life. The future is uncertain, but I suppose if everything were clear cut and well-defined, scientists wouldn’t have anything left to do. The past four years have been an amazing experience, and I cannot wait to see where my degree leads me."

See Niamh's career profile on LinkedIn

2019 Recipient — Caoimhe Lynch

Professor Sarah Cullotty, Head of School of BEES, UCC; Winner of the Art Champlin Gold Medal for 2019, Caoimhe Lynch; Professor Patrick G. O' Shea, President of UCC; Professor Rosemary O’Connor, Head of School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, UCC.

The Professor Art Champlin Gold Medal Award for academic excellence in Biochemistry, was presented to Caoimhe Lynch on 15 October 2019 by Professor Patrick O'Shea, President of University College Cork (UCC); Professor Sarah Culloty Head of College, College of Science, Engineering & Food Science (SEFS), UCC; and Professor Rosemary O'Connor, Head of School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, UCC

The Professor Arthur K. Champlin gold medal is awarded annually to the top student graduating BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry.

Caoimhe was joined at her graduation by her parents, Sharon and John Lynch, her sisters Darina and Shónagh, her brother Cian and her boyfriend Daniel Sheehan, who is also a Biochemistry graduate and a graduate of the MSc in Biotechnology programme UCC. Caoimhe has been an outstanding student and has commenced a PhD under the supervision of Professor John Cryan, Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience UCC. Caoimhe is delighted “to be staying in my alma mater for the next four years, surrounded my good friends and colleagues”. The staff in the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology would like to wish Caoimhe every success in her future career.

Caoimhe’s path to the Gold Medal…

"As I child I was lucky enough to be brought up in a family that appreciated nature and the environment. With this in mind it’s not surprising that even from a young age I was fascinated by the human body and intrigued as to how its complex and diverse mechanisms work in cohort to enable an individual to function effectively and efficiently. Moreover, how these various mechanisms are influenced by an individual’s environment and how they differ in specific diseases. So, for me choosing to study Biological and Chemical Sciences in University College Cork was an easy decision and I knew it would set me on the right career path.

The first two years of Biological and Chemical Sciences was wide-ranging allowing me to study modules in Biology, Chemistry, Statistics and Physics. Moreover, it gave me a chance to make new friends and build relationships with lectures. Working hard and engaging in the course provided me with a really good basis for my future scientific endeavours. My passion for science and interest in getting an insight into scientific research led me to enquire about obtaining Summer placement during my second year. Fortunately, I was offered an opportunity to work in Prof. Douwe Van Sinderen’s laboratory as an APC Microbiome Ireland Summer student. Without a doubt, undertaking this project alongside extremely talented individuals increased my desire to pursue a career in scientific research. However, having completed second year I still wasn’t sure what career path I wanted to venture down: biochemistry or neuroscience.

After a great amount of thought and advice from lecturers and family I decided to commence a BSc in Biochemistry. Undertaking a wide variety of modules, third year really opened my mind to current research and provoked my interest particularly in the field of neurobiology. My desire to pursue a career in this area led me to obtain Summer Placement in Prof. Cora O’Neill’s laboratory. I was generously awarded a SEFs Summer Research Bursary which enabled me to conduct a project which investigated gut inflammatory responses in Parkinson’s disease. This project really demonstrated to me first-hand the impact that researchers can have on improving the lives for patients and their families. Additionally, this experience really crystallized the direction of research I wanted to focus on: the gut-brain axis.

Undoubtedly, the skills I had developed during my Summer placements helped me immensely during my final year project. Under the supervision of Dr. Eoin Fleming I actively worked on a project entitled: “Site-directed Mutagenesis of Cas9 for novel CRISPR-Cas9 mediated knock-out of the ubiquitin conjugating enzyme UBC6e/Ube2J1”. This project taught me to think outside the box, to be critical of my capabilities and always strive for self-improvement. During my final year I really challenged myself to keep up to date with recent research, to be creative and think of novel ways to elucidate scientific questions/problems. As Albert Einstein said, “Logic will get you from A to Z: imagination will get you everywhere”.

Without a doubt, my four years spent in UCC studying Biochemistry have been demanding but I’ve always enjoyed a challenge and my passion for science really didn’t make it feel like work! Moreover, having my hard work recognised by numerous prestigious awards such as Title of College Scholar every year of my undergraduate and two Eli Lilly Awards for Academic Excellence not only fuelled my ambition to succeed but also reassured me that hard work really does pay off and is always rewarded.

Outside of the countless hours of studying, laboratory practicals and lectures I also got the opportunity to be involved in numerous Education and Public Engagement volunteering activities such as “Alimentary Adventures” and “Fota Mad Scientist” during my Summer Placements. I was also an avid member of “Cell Explorers” an SFI funded scientific outreach program organised by Dr. Kellie Dean and Dr. Eoin Fleming in the Biochemistry and Cell Biology department. Without a doubt, I found these events extremely rewarding and they emphasized the importance of raising public awareness and communicating science. Networking is also an extremely important aspect of science, keeping this in mind I got the opportunity to attend numerous APC forums and seminars hosted by the Biochemistry and Biotechnology Society in UCC. These experiences allowed me to gain insights into a variety of different research fields and gain relationships with highly recognised researchers.

Studying Biochemistry in UCC has been an invaluable experience, not only has it shaped me as a person but also prepared me for the next step in my journey. Not to forget along the way I’ve met some amazing likeminded people, increased my skills and knowledge. I eagerly anticipate the next chapter of my career and look forward to what the future holds. I am honoured to have the opportunity to complete a PhD under the supervision of Prof. John Cryan and Dr. Gerard Clarke. Moreover, I’m thrilled to be staying in my alma mater, a world class University surrounded by a close-knit community of researchers, lectures and top-quality facilities. I look forward to making a difference in the scientific community by helping solve some of the most complex problems that face our society."

See Caoimhe's career profile on LinkedIn

2018 Recipient — Róisín Cassidy

Professor Patrick O'Shea, President of University College Cork; Róisín Cassidy, 2018 recipient of the Art Champlin Gold Medal – awarded annually to the top student graduating BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry; and Professor Rosemary O'Connor, Head of School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, UCC.

Professor Patrick O'Shea, President of University College Cork; Róisín Cassidy, 2018 recipient of the Art Champlin Gold Medal – awarded annually to the top student graduating BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry; and Professor Rosemary O'Connor, Head of School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, UCC.

For me, putting in all that hard work and effort throughout my four years as an undergrad, was so well worth it! Read more of Róisín’s story below...

The Professor Art Champlin Gold Medal Award for academic excellence in Biochemistry, was presented to Róisín Cassidy on 16 October 2018 by Professor Patrick O'Shea, President of University College Cork and Professor Rosemary O'Connor, Head of School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, UCC.

Róisín graduated as the top student, with a first class honours degree in Biochemistry and was joined at her graduation by her parents, Noirin and Declan Cassidy, grandparents, Pauline and Pat O‘Riordan, and boyfriend, Ross O'Neill. Róisín has been an outstanding student and has chosen to continue her education in UCC as a Masters student with Cork Cancer Research Centre. The staff in the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology would like to wish Róisín every success in her future career.

Róisín’s path to the Gold Medal

My all-consuming passion for science in secondary school was nurtured by choosing Physics and Chemistry as my two science subjects for the Leaving Certificate. Knowing that I wanted to pursue science as my career path helped in my decision to choose Biological & Chemical Sciences here at UCC. I was attracted to the fact that that this course was very broad and seemed very exciting. Also, it suited me that I did not have to commit to something instantly. I distinctively remember the majority of people in this course had taken Biology in their Leaving Certificate. It seemed to me that everyone was finding it so easy in first year and I was struggling. Nonetheless, I was determined to put in the hard work and excelled in a subject I had never previously studied. This gave me huge confidence and an enthusiasm for the subject.

When the beginning of second year approached, we were faced with the decision to go down the chemistry or biology route. Even though I had struggled to get to the standard most people had already attained in biology, I surprised myself when I opted for the Biological Sciences route. I knew I would always be challenged as I had found the topics wholly fulfilling and captivating. Moreover, all my hard work had paid off and I was thrilled to receive the title 'College Scholar', an honour which I maintained throughout my four years in college.

In second year, science became even more exciting as we got a taster of the main subjects: microbiology, biochemistry, neuroscience and physiology. I knew almost instantly that I wanted to specialise in Biochemistry for my final two years. By choosing this course I knew I would have an option to do either research or industry and this suited me perfectly as I was still unsure of my specific career path.

I was fortunate to secure a place in Biochemistry after finishing second year. From then on it was onwards and upwards as I began to specialise in the challenging and exciting discipline of biochemistry.

My final year really crystallized for me the fact that I was on the right career track. I thoroughly enjoyed the wide range of modules as I moved between research-based subjects such as neurodegenerative diseases, to industry-based subjects like biotechnology. My most cherished memory as a biochemistry student was my final year project in Professor Tom Cotter's lab. My project title was ‘Investigating the effects of progesterone on the glial response in the healthy retina'. I performed immunofluorescence and Western blots on control retinal mice sections. This was in preparation for a progesterone analogue- Norgestrel- for clinical trials for a disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa. It was incredibly stimulating to experience first-hand the difference scientists could make, no matter how small the research may be. It really brought home to me the huge impact that science can make in the lives of certain people, this thought motivated me to succeed throughout my final year. My project had afforded me the opportunity to see science in action at a very intimate level and this benefited me greatly. I knew instantly I wanted to do research in an area which was related to disease. I wished to make a difference, no matter how small.

My degree in Biochemistry provided me with the requisite knowledge and experience to apply for a Research Master's on Oesophageal Cancer with the department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics in Cork Cancer Research Centre with Dr. Barry from UCC. I was honoured and humbled to receive this tremendous opportunity which I am currently undertaking.

I believe the Biochemistry degree at UCC is a broad-ranging, innovative and inspiring course, which enables you to choose from a multitude of career options. The modules are fascinating and diverse, but it is the knowledgeable and encouraging lecturers who really bring the course to life and provide the impetus for students like me to succeed. The lab atmosphere was also very collegiate and engaging and provided a perfect way to get to know both staff and fellow students.

For me, putting in all that hard work and effort throughout my four years as an undergrad, was so well worth it. I enjoyed all of those rare but exciting eureka moments which sustained me throughout the last four years and I cannot wait to see where my degree leads me to in the future.

See Róisín's career profile on Linkedin

2017 Recipient — Carolyn Murray

Professor Rosemary O’Connor, School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, UCC and The 2017 Art Champlin Gold Medal recipient & top BSc in Biochemistry graduate in 2017, Carolyn Murray.

The Professor Art Champlin Gold medal award for academic excellence in Biochemistry, was presented to Carolyn Murray on Thursday October 19th by Professor Rosemary O’Connor of this School.

The Professor Art Champlin Gold medal award for academic excellence in Biochemistry, was presented to Carolyn Murray on Thursday October 19th by Professor Rosemary O’Connor of this School.

Carolyn graduated as the top student, with a first class honours degree in Biochemistry. Carolyn has been an outstanding student and is also the recipient of the Eli Lilly undergraduate award for academic excellence in Biochemistry and a Quercus College Scholarship in recognition of her exceptional results in Third Year Biochemistry.

Carolyn has commenced a two year Rotational Graduate Programme in Boston Scientific and we would like to wish Carolyn every success in her future career.

Carolyn's path to the Gold Medal...

'I couldn’t imagine a course more suited to me than biochemistry. However, I did not know this when I was filling out my CAO over four years ago. To be honest, I got lucky and fell into the right course. As my time in secondary school came to a close I was still utterly clueless about how I wanted to spend the rest of my working life. Biological and Chemical Science was my top choice purely because I kind of liked leaving certificate biology, and it appealed to me that I could specialize further down the road (by which point I hoped I would have a better idea of what I would like to do).

From the beginning of university, I was always very determined to do the best I could and to gain as much experience as possible. I worked hard from the get go and managed to get a few awards under my belt over the years such as the title of University Scholar every year, the Eli Lilly Award for Academic Excellence, and the Quercus College Scholarship. Each summer I ensured I was working in a job that would give me relevant experience ranging from science outreach programs, laboratory maintenance and administration, and laboratory internships.

After first year, biology was the obvious choice for me. Second year provided a great opportunity to dabble in different fields of biology such as physiology, anatomy, neuroscience, microbiology and, of course, biochemistry. When it came to choosing which area of biology I wanted to continue studying into my third and fourth year, I was torn between biochemistry and microbiology. In hope of gaining some clarity and experience, I applied and successfully got accepted in APC Microbiome Institute Summer Studentship program. During my eight weeks of research in Professor Douwe Van Sinderen's laboratory, I gained invaluable experience in laboratory techniques such as gene cloning, PCR, plasmid purification, transformations and others. It was during this internship that my real love for science and curiosity developed. When the time came to choose what I wanted to continue studying into third year, although I was still torn between microbiology and biochemistry, I went with biochemistry, and I couldn't have chosen better.

Most of the modules in third and fourth year captivated me. Studying was never a real hardship as I was fascinated by the vast majority of the modules I was studying. I was genuinely curious to learn more, and frequently would find myself going off track and getting lost in papers while studying. The complexities of our bodies’ pathways intrigued me, and I always wanted to know more. I loved how what I was studying was so current and how any future jobs I would have would literally be saving lives. For me, my final year project was the best part of the four years. I completed my research project under Dr. Susan Joyce entitled “Bile Acid Diarrhoea In Crohn’s Disease – Diagnosis, Weight Differences And Pathophysiology”. Part of my project involved investigating possible causes of Bile Acid Diarrhoea (BAD) in Crohn's disease patients. This gave me the opportunity to throw myself into researching and staying up to date in a very defined topic. It also allowed me to see the value in what I was studying and the impact this work would have on the medical world in particular. As a result of my work on this project, a method for diagnosing BAD in Crohn's disease patients has been validated, and is now being utilized for diagnostics in Cork University Hospital.

My four years in university gave me invaluable experience and helped me grow into the woman that I am today. I am currently completing a two year Rotational Graduate Programme in Boston Scientific (curious to see what industry will hold for me) with the aim of completing a masters or PhD down the road. I can honeslty say that I had a fantastic four years, and I couldn't have had a nicer year group or more encouraging lecturers. I feel very lucky to have been fortunate enough to choose a course which I loved so much. “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” - Steve Jobs'

See Carolyn’s career profile on Linkedin

2016 Recipient — Elaine O'Brien

Elaine O'Brien, Gold Medal Recipient for 2016 and Professor David Sheehan, Head of School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology

Elaine O'Brien graduated as top student, with a first class honours degree in Biochemistry and received the Art Champlin Gold Medal Award  in 2016.

Elaine has since commenced the MSc in Biotechnology programme at UCC. The staff in the School would like to wish Elaine every success in her future career.

Elaine's path to the Gold Medal...

'Looking back on that day when I made my final choices on the CAO, I can definitely say that I made the right decision. I initially opted to study the Biological and Chemical Sciences course in University College Cork because of its broad range in degree specialisations…at 18 years old I was not yet ready to commit to a definite career path. I also really enjoyed biology and chemistry at secondary school and was interested to see how these areas of science evolve by studying them at 3rd level. However, it was the UCC open day at Western Gateway that consolidated my choice. After speaking to the lecturers in the Biochemistry and Microbiology departments, who were so passionate about their research, I knew that I wanted to share the same passion for science.

Through first and second year of the degree, I paved my way towards specialising in biological sciences. I really wanted to major in biochemistry particularly, as it was never a chore to study the biochemistry modules. I always wanted to find out more about the topics in question at lectures. Luckily, I was selected for the BSc in Biochemistry and was soon learning about the mechanisms of disease at a molecular level and studying the cellular processes that underlie the everyday function of the human body. The best thing about being a biochemistry student for me, was knowing that everything I was studying in college was current and making an impact on society. One day you too could be studying about the latest drug combination to tackle breast cancer, or the latest gene editing techniques such as CRISPR.

I had some fantastic opportunities during my degree that have got me to where I am today. In 3rd year I spent a month as a research assistant in the Cork Cancer Research Centre. I was involved in a project investigating the role of autophagy related genes in oesophageal cancer. The skills I had developed from the laboratory practical’s in the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology helped me immensely during this time. Without a doubt, the highlight of my BSc in Biochemistry was conducting my final year project “Construction of Arabinose Inducible Expression Vectors for Recombinant Production of Hagfish Slime Thread Proteins” under the supervision of Dr Paul Young. I was exposed to a whole area of science that I had not been previously familiar with - synthetic biology. It also gave me an insight as to what undertaking a PhD might be like. My project was also very much biotechnology-based which in turn influenced my decision to undertake an MSc in Biotechnology here at University College Cork, as I am keen to develop my knowledge of this sector.

I believe that graduating with a BSc in Biochemistry gives one a great platform to work from; whether it be moving onto further education or starting a career in industry. During the course, not only are you encouraged to maintain a high standard with regards to academics, but also to get involved in the science community. Such opportunities are offered to students through the Biochemical & Biotechnology Society and research and industry seminars which allowed me and other students to network with experts. As students, the facilities, teaching and mentoring that we experienced from the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology has been outstanding. I am sure the lessons that we have learned from our mentors within the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology will be invaluable to us all throughout our careers.

Now, with a first class honours degree in Biochemistry under my belt, I am looking forward to the next step which happens to be the MSc in Biotechnology. I have had the best time during my four years at University College Cork that would not have been the same without my classmates or lecturers.'

Elaine's career profile on LinkedIn

2015 Recipient — David O'Sullivan

The Professor Art Champlin Gold Medal Award for academic excellence in Biochemistry, was presented to David O’Sullivan on 19 October 2015 by Professor Dave Sheehan of this School.

David graduated as the top student, with a first class honours degree in Biochemistry and was joined at his graduation by his parents Aileen and Gerald O’Sullivan. David has been an outstanding student and is also the recipient of the Eil Lilly undergraduate award for academic excellence in Biochemistry in 2014. David has commenced the Graduate Entry Medicine programme at UCC and we would like to wish David every success in his future medical career.

David's path to the Gold Medal

“As my Leaving Cert year was coming to a conclusion, like many, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to study at third level and the decision seemed quite daunting. I had an interest in science and thus was drawn to Biological and Chemical Sciences course in University College Cork due to its broad scope of study and the ability to sculpt your degree as the years progressed. As soon as I began I knew I had made the right choice. The first year provided me with a substantial grounding in the basic sciences which evolved to a more in-depth level in second year after I chose to pursue the Biological Sciences route. The Biochemistry modules I studied here really peaked my interest giving an insight into the chemical processes within the cell and the complexity of the human body. At the end of second year I had no doubt that I wanted a Bachelors Degree in Biochemistry.

Once in the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, I was constantly learning with the most up-to-date knowledge by demonstrators and professors. The fundamental theory in lectures was incorporated with the most recent research papers or with practical and clinical significance anecdotes which helped to reinforce the importance of what we were learning. I believe it was through experiencing these modules and through the excellent laboratory sessions that put the theory into practice is what fostered my passion more towards the medical aspects of the course.

My final year in Biochemistry and in the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology was, for me, the best experience of my undergraduate degree. We began with a 2-week hands-on intensive introduction into all aspects of laboratory skills in preparation for our final year project. My project entitled “Purification and comparative fingerprinting of glutathione transferases from kidney cortex and medulla” was conducted under the supervision of Professor David Sheehan and gave me incredible laboratory experience and a grasp of what a PhD may be like. At this stage in my degree, however, I had already came to the conclusion that I wanted to pursue a career in Medicine and this conviction was further compounded by studying final year modules such as “Cancer Biology”, “Toxicology” and “Advanced Metabolism in Health, Disease and Cancer”. Thus after graduating with first class honours (1.1) in Biochemistry, I began my study of postgraduate medicine in UCC.

Now only three months into my medical education, I can already see the importance and benefits that my undergraduate degree will provide to me. Not only the expansive foundations in science but the teaching I received in critical and analytical thinking, the processes and research methodology, presentation skills, and also, the maturity I gained from the school events and extra curricular activities I was involved in.

University College Cork is a world class university with extraordinary mentors, teachers and facilities. The School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology is a further extrapolation of this and has a close community of students and teachers who work incredibly hard to give you the best degree and opportunities possible.”

David’s career profile on LinkedIn

2014 Recipient — Fergus Collins

Mr Fergus Collins, 2014 Art Champlin Gold Medal winner, pictured here with Professor David Sheehan, Head of School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology

The Professor Art Champlin Gold medal award for academic excellence in Biochemistry, was presented to Fergus Collins on October 28th by Professor David Sheehan of this School.

Fergus graduated as the top student with a first-class honours degree in Biochemistry and has commenced a PhD at Teagasc, Moorepark under the supervision of Professor Paul Ross, Head of SEFS.

Fergus has been an outstanding student and is also the recipient of the Eil Lilly undergraduate award for academic excellence in Biochemistry in 2013 and 2014. In 2013, Fergus was also awarded a UCC Academic Scholarship and a Health Research Board Summer fellowship, which enabled Fergus to conduct research with Dr Ken Nally, School of Biochemistry, analysing the expression and function of the Type 1 Interferon pathway in irritable bowel syndrome.

Fergus’ career profile on LinkedIn

2013 Recipient — Elizabeth Hinchy

Elizabeth’s career profile on LinkedIn

2012 Recipient — Rebecca Buckley

Rebecca’s career profile on LinkedIn

2011 Recipient — Joanna Stanicka

Joanna’s career profile on LinkedIn

2010-2007 Recipients

2010 Recipient — Sean Farrelly

2009 Recipient — Maura Hannon

2008 Recipient — Laura Walsh

2007 Recipient — Siobhan Ryan

School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology

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