Maeve Connolly - MSc Biotechnology

I fell in love with UCC from the very first moment I stepped foot on campus almost 4 years ago. This was when I began my academic journey ultimately leading me to graduate with a degree in Physiology.  I was absolutely delighted when I discovered I was accepted into the Biotechnology MSc programme. One of the most sought after masters in UCC. I was then kindly offered the Quercus academic scholarship which allowed me to pursue my masters and helped me continue my studies in UCC.

UCC is a beautiful campus often compared to Hogwarts situated in the heart of Cork City. UCC is well known for its welcoming and friendly community. Staff and students have always gone above and beyond and have done everything within their power and more to help me feel welcome and at home here in UCC. Cork city may be small but has big personality and character. Cork may or may not be “The real capital” but is undisputedly the food capital of Ireland. Here I have never struggled to find a gorgeous restaurant or café where I can unwind with my friends. Corks young student population has created a bustling and vibrant nightlife scene. Cork is dotted with small quirky bars and pubs where I can enjoy a night out with my friends. Right on Corks doorstep is the Wild Atlantic Way. When I want to escape the city life I can hop on a bus, train or car and within 20 minutes I am at one of Ireland’s most beautiful tourist attraction. Cork really has it all.

Before I started my lectures in Biotechnology I was really apprehensive. I was the only one from Physiology going into the programme and was extremely nervous. On the first day all my fears vanished as everyone in the course was extremely friendly and I was already making new friends. There were a few familiar faces in the course but it was fantastic to see people who had previously studied in other colleges such as NUIG, UCD, UL and from overseas.  Currently we are halfway through the first semester and we have had numerous class nights out.

My first impression of lectures has been really positive. The lecturers are aware that not all students have the same academic background and are extremely approachable and supportive. I am really enjoying the lecture material as I feel I am building on the knowledge I gained during the undergraduate degrees. One of the reasons I chose the MSc in Biotechnology is due to its strong links with industry. All students from the masters have obtained a placement due to the support and help of the lecturers and the UCC careers office. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the academic year.

Check the online prospectus page for MSc Biotechnology.


Maeve Connolly (MSc Biotechnology) - Blog Post 2

As I hand in my final assignment I can officially say that semester one has ended. The first semester of the biotechnology masters was eventful and challenging but extremely rewarding. During the first semester we were constantly kept busy with assignments, interviews and exams however this only made the Christmas holidays much more enjoyable. My exams finished a week before Christmas which gave me the chance to enjoy the Christmas atmosphere around cork city.

GLOW at Cork

Picture: Christmas in Cork - Glow

The first semester flew past and I loved every minute. Throughout the semester we had five modules along with our dissertation module. Biotechnology is a highly diverse and broad area of biology and the modules really reflected this by giving the class a broad range of knowledge in many areas. Our modules included cell and molecular biology which provided us with a detailed understanding of cell processes such as protein sorting and trafficking, glycosylation, antibody production and formation, DNA technology and biotechniques. These topics were taught in relation to both biopharmaceuticals and research making this module extremely interesting and beneficial for when we enter work placement. We had microbiology modules which taught us about the importance of functional foods and gut microbiology. This is an exciting area of research in Ireland with a huge amount of diseases and disorders being linked in the gut microbiome. Chemistry labs allowed us to work in groups with our classmates. This was highly rewarding as it allowed the course to become closer whilst also carrying out vital lab techniques which are needed for industry. These included gas chromatography, HPLC and spectroscopy.  One of the highlights of the first semester was a brewing workshop carried out by the microbiology department. During this workshop a guest speaker arrived from Heineken in Amsterdam to give a talk about their brewing processes and various research they carry out alongside UCC. At the end of the brewing workshop we were allowed the opportunity to taste test beers which had been brewed using various yeast strains. This was an exciting day as we gained a vast amount of knowledge from a large international company. The guest speaker allowed us to ask questions and provided us with an insight into working life at a large multinational corporation. It was also an opportunity to understand another aspect of biotechnology as many of the other taught modules focus on biotechnology in relation to pharmaceuticals.

Second semester will be beginning shortly which I’m genuinely looking forward to. This semester is particularly exciting as in April we embark on work placement. I will be beginning my journey into the workforce as I commence my role in Quality Assurance in Janssen. This is an exciting opportunity. The strong ties between the biotechnology masters in UCC and industry is one of the reasons why I chose this programme. I hope this semester doesn’t go quite as quickly as our first semester as I don’t want my time in UCC to come to an end just yet

Check out the online prospectus page for MSc Biotechnology

Maeve Connolly - MSc Biotechnology 

Blog Post 3

It never ceases to amaze me how fast the college year goes by and this year was no exception. Semester two has come and gone and I am already a month into my six-month work placement in Janssen. Even in just the short space of a month I have gained a vast amount of knowledge of the pharmaceutical industry. Janssen has gone above and beyond for their students by organizing networking events, student days and student projects. During the student day I met many people from different departments allowing me to gain an insight into the various roles within the pharmaceutical industry. Many students travelled from the chemical site in Little Island which allowed those of us from a biological background to gain an insight into the chemical side of the industry. During the student day we were divided into groups and assigned innovation projects. This is extremely exciting as I am working alongside students from different disciplines such as finance, business information systems and engineering. This is a highly rewarding experience as I am gaining knowledge on topics that I may never have encountered during my masters or undergraduate degree. At the end of the summer we will be given the opportunity to present our findings to the plant director.

During my placement I am working in the quality assurance (QA) department. This is a highly valuable experience as it allows me to gain an in-depth knowledge of the quality assurance process. QA also communicates and works closely with many other departments such as quality control and upstream and downstream manufacturing. This in turn provides me with the opportunity to meet new people and learn about the many aspects that are involved in producing biopharmaceuticals. Janssen also assigns each student a “buddy” which was extremely helpful in the transition from college to work and my buddy had even just graduated from the biotechnology masters the year before. During my first few weeks everyone went above and beyond to make me feel welcome and were extremely friendly. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer welcome! What also really struck me is how many people told me they also had done the biotechnology masters in UCC.  In the coming weeks I will continue to gain firsthand experience of the pharmaceutical industry and I will be assigned a project which will form my thesis. Janssen also runs a program known as “walk in my shoes” where employees can move to a different department for a day. This allows employees to explore other areas and increase understanding and communication between departments. Another aspect of Janssen is they really promote healthy living and exercise! This is done by competitions to win fit bits, free fruit and mindfulness classes etc. This in turn has encouraged me to get out and exercise more and during the May bank holiday weekend I climbed Djouce mountain in Co. Wicklow. I am extremely lucky to have chosen a college which has such close ties to industry. The biotechnology masters increased my knowledge on a subject I am passionate about and allowed me the opportunity to apply this knowledge in industry. I am excited for the rest of my placement and can’t wait to see what else is in store for the future.

 Lough Tay

Picture: Lough Tay Co. Wicklow 

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