Postgraduate Profiles

Justin Varghese, PhD student in Materials Chemistry

Novel Nano-structured Ferroelectric Materials

After obtaining my masters degree in chemistry at the University of Calicut, India, I considered many different institutes and universities for my graduate research that would suit my background and experience.  I was lucky to be selected for a PhD programme at the School of Chemistry/Tyndall National Institute. Currently, I am conducting research in the area of nanostructured ferroelectric materials.

As a foreign student, I was attracted by the department’s cutting edge research.  In my opinion, UCC is one of the best places in Europe where students can come into direct contact with the newest developments in interdisciplinary chemistry, spanning from pharmaceutical research to nanoelectronic materials.  Also, the collaborative research and close ties with leading industries has provided me with vast opportunities to further my experience.  Since coming here I have greatly improved my analytical, experimental and transferrable skills, with the help of the readily available and advanced facilities, services and training sessions.  Not only this, but I get high quality guidance and support from my supervisor encouraging my progress.

It would be a discredit to the Irish not to mention the fantastic social life in Cork.  This was my first visit to Europe; when I landed in Cork my nervousness was taken away by the warmth of the ‘Irish welcome’ given by my fellow lab mates.  From this moment on still I am still enjoying the supportive, friendly and of course ‘the born-witty’ nature of the people around me, they have made my stay here a great experience.

Yang Chen, PhD student in Atmospheric/Environmental Chemistry

The Atmospheric Chemistry of Naphthalene

I arrived at University College Cork in 2008 to begin my PhD, after I got my Master degree in Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Science. My research area is about the atmospheric chemistry of naphthalene. As the simplest and most abundant compound in the urban area, it can undergo photooxidation in the Troposphere in the presence of nitrogen oxide which leads to the formation of "new" ozone, nitrogen oxide and Secondary Organic Aerosol,  known as the “photosmog”. My research is product study, SOA formation, and the mechanism for the photooxidation of naphthalene, which is challenging! As a world-leading, and one of the best Irish Universities, UCC is a good choice for study in Europe! UCC has a high reputation in both education and research. It has state-of-art research facilities and excellent research staff.

My studies in UCC is pleasant, and all the staff in the School of Department are fantastic to work with. With the help of very kind and helpful colleagues, the research never gets tough. Cork is a beautiful and peaceful town for living: the air is fresh, the sky is blue, there are even rainbows after the rain!  The tame Lee River is just silently crossing the city, with swans on it! The local people are nice and friendly to give the strangers a warm greeting. So I am in a good mood everyday and I love this place!

Una Barrett, PhD student in Analytical Chemistry

Speciation of Biologically Important Metal Complexes by Electrophoretic Methods and Hyphenated Techniques including QE-QTOFMS and CE-ICPMS

I first arrived to UCC in 2005 where I began my degree in Chemistry. After my third year, I carried out work experience in the process development and quality control labs in Roche Ireland Ltd. It was this experience that got me first thinking about carrying out postgraduate research. When I returned to college to complete my final year, I completed two different research projects and really enjoyed them and ultimately decided that research was for me! Following my degree, I was lucky enough to be offered a PhD position under the supervision of Prof. Jeremy Glennon in the area of metal complex speciation in biological systems using hyphenated techniques. 

The School of Chemistry in UCC offers a wide range of top class facilities which is why I didn’t have to look too far in deciding where I would like to carry out my PhD. These facilities allow advanced research to be carried out which is instrumental in furthering a student’s skill set and career. As part of my research project, collaborations exist with other schools within UCC and also with DCU as part of the Irish Separation Science Cluster. These links are invaluable and provide an opportunity of further interacting with industry which enhances the research experience. Along with all these prospects offered to me by the School of Chemistry, I have had priceless guidance and support from my supervisor who constantly encourages my progress and keeps my mind open to the many different directions my project can take. While the majority of time is spent working in the lab, there are great opportunities to travel to and present at conferences both nationally and internationally and so far has taken me to places like Boston, Germany and Hungary. Research aside, there is a very close group in the department and the craic is mighty which is great on those days where things aren’t exactly going to plan. Overall I am thoroughly enjoying my time here and would highly recommend a PhD with the School of Chemistry to anyone.

Justin Varghese, PhD student in Materials Chemistry

Sarah Clarke, PhD student in Organic Chemistry

The Asymmetric Synthesis of Alpha-substituted Ketones and Application to Total Synthesis

I decided to move from County Down to University College Cork to study for my undergraduate degree in Chemistry of Pharmaceutical Compounds as the course seemed to be one of the best on offer in Ireland. The 20 week industrial work placement in the summer between third and fourth year was excellent; I managed to obtain a placement in Almac Sciences (Headquarters in Craigavon, Northern Ireland) in their labs in QUB David Keir Building. During this time I worked on three projects in the area of Biocatalysis. My time at Almac increased my confidence in the lab as well as giving me a lot more experience. I knew then that I would like to pursue a PhD degree in Organic Chemistry. To me, UCC is the ideal place to carry out PhD research due to the newly refurbished labs as well as a range of high quality equipment available to researchers.

During my final year I was offered a PhD position under the supervision of Dr. Gerard McGlacken in the area of asymmetric synthesis of alpha-substituted ketones. I was lucky to gain funding provided through the IRCSET Enterprise Partnership Scheme with my sponsorship coming from Pfizer Process Development Centre (PDC) to whom I am most grateful. I have thoroughly enjoyed my research to date; it helps that I have a supportive supervisor with whom I have regular contact, who encourages me to think outside the box and ask plenty of questions! The Organic Chemistry section in UCC is one of the best in Ireland, with many staff publishing top class papers on a regular basis. During my PhD I hope to have a couple of publications. There is also the opportunity to travel to international conferences – this summer I will be attending the RSC International Symposium: Synthesis in Organic Chemistry in Cambridge. There is a great rapport between everyone in the lab, everyone is happy to help everyone else out and to keep spirits up when reactions don’t quite go as expected!  Now more than ever it is vital to enter the workforce with a high quality degree and to me, a PhD in Organic Chemistry from UCC will open many doors.

Ivan Kazadojev, PhD student in Inorganic Chemistry

Metal Organic Precursor Synthesis for ALD

After graduating with my Master’s degree in Chemistry at Vilnius University, Lithuania, I was intensively looking for a job. Eventually my search brought me to Ireland. At that stage it was quite hard to get a job in industry, so I decided to visit UCC and talk to the Head of the School of Chemistry. I was asked to leave my CV with him and I was contacted the next day with a PhD research proposal which is sponsored by SFI.   Although the research area differed from my previous experience, I was excited to start something new.

I was impressed with the top class facilities that are available in the School of Chemistry, together with the vast range of different analytical equipment, which gives me a perfect opportunity of carrying out a modern and up to date PhD research degree. My PhD area of research is Metal-organic precursor synthesis for Atomic Layer Deposition. Since I have started my degree, almost two years ago, I have greatly improved both my synthesis and analytical skills as a chemist. This was not done without the help of my supervisor and colleagues who have always helped me when the need arose.

I would strongly recommend anyone, who is looking at furthering their studies, to consider Ireland and University College Cork as one of the best places in Europe where you can achieve your goals.

School of Chemistry


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