I went to the Abbey CBS in Tipperary Town and did my leaving cert in 2006. Afterwards I went to UCC from 2009 to 2013 for a bachelor's degree in maths and physics and then to Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris from 2014 to 2016 for a masters degree in physics. I started studying for a PhD in chemistry at UCC last year.
BSc Maths & Physics, MSc Condensed Matter Physics
I have worked in hotels, bars and restuarants in Ireland and Canada. I have also done scientific internships in Ireland, Canada and France.
I'm a Science Foundation Ireland funded PhD researcher at Tyndall National Institute in Cork city.
Favourite thing to do in science: Learning new things, whether they're practical or conceptual.
I'm studying for a PhD at the Tyndall National Insitute in Cork City. I'm from Tipperary and I like hurling, art, music, movies and travelling.
I try to develop new materials which can convert solar energy into fuel. To do this I use computer simulations which run on giant supercomputers. With these simulations I can see what is happening at the atomic scale.
I study “photocatalysts”. These are materials which can absorb energy from sunlight (photo) and use that energy to help (catalyse) chemical reactions. In this way the energy from the sun (solar energy) can be converted into a fuel.
One example of a reaction I look at is called “water splitting”. In this reaction, water molecules (made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom) are broken or split into oxygen gas and hydrogen gas. Hydrogen gas can be used as a fuel (like in the space shuttles). The best thing is that the by-product of using hydrogen gas as a fuel is water!
So, using solar energy to “split water” and produce hydrogen fuel with a photocatalyst is a clean, green and renewable method of energy production.
The only problem: efficiency…. and that’s where I come in. I try to develop new photocatalysts which are efficient. This means they should be good at absorbing solar energy and good at using that energy to make reactions happen.
My Typical Day
My work is computer based so I spend most of my time at my desk. In a typical day I will read some recent articles, check on my calculations and see if there are any interesting results. I use a visualisation software to look at material surfaces at the atomic scale and I use this program to move atoms around. Twice a week I demonstrate Chemistry labs to first year students.
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Couldn't pick just one.
What's your favourite food?
I could eat pasta three times a day every day.
What did you want to be after you left school?
I had no idea - I took a few years off to travel before starting college at 21, studying maths and physics.
Were you ever in trouble at school?
The odd time.
What was your favourite subject at school?
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
Wanting to know how and why... or try to.
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
I hope I'd be some sort of graphic designer.
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1. Need less sleep. 2. To live in the countryside, preferably near the coast. 3. More wishes.
Tell us a joke.
Someone asked me what I knew about atoms. I said, "very little".