Art Champlin Gold Medal Award 2018
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.
Róisín Cassidy, BSc Biochemistry 2018
Congratulations to Róisín Cassidy, the 2018 recipient of the Art Champlin Gold Medal – awarded annually to the top student graduating BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry.
Róisín with her parents, Noirin and Declan Cassidy.
Róisín with Professor Patrick O'Shea, President of UCC and her family: her parents, Noirin and Declan Cassidy; her grandparents, Pauline and Pat O‘Riordan; and her boyfriend, Ross O’Neill.
Dr Sinéad Kerins, School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, UCC and Róisín Cassidy.