Your career pathway

Maria O'Brien, Enterprise Partnership Scheme, Irish Research Council

What's your name and area of research?

I';m a final year PhD student in Trinity College in the School of Chemistry and I’m currently on the Enterprise Partnership Scheme with the Irish Research Council in collaboration with Intel Ireland.

What motivates your research activity?

When I started my PhD one of the outcomes I wanted was that my research would be a product in the end and be available to the public. I don’t think there is any point working in a laboratory for 20 years. I wanted to do something that would be of use to people.

Why did you pick the Enterprise Partnership Scheme?

When I was doing my undergrad I had to opportunity to intern in various research labs. Every scientist I met there was interested in getting their research out to the public and market it to industry. I was very interested in doing that from day one of my research, and I had to opportunity to meet with Intel here in Trinity and they agreed to be my research partners on the scholarship with the Irish Research Council.

What do you do in a normal week?

As a PhD student there are several elements. There is the research and working with your research partners. I’d also have a meeting with my professor and my Intel Ireland mentor about the project I’m working on and how it will feed into our longer term plans and how they fit into Intel’s goals and my thesis work. There is also a lot of administrative and teaching work, which needs to be planned and organised.

What skills do you need to be a good researcher?

Definitely organisation and teamwork, there’s no such thing as working on your own in a lab for ten years. Science is very collaborative and this saves you and everyone else time, and also money. It’s all about moving the research forward and not just focusing on yourself but focusing on the goal of the research.

What supports does the Irish Research Council provide?

First of all, they do provide financial support. If you want to do a PhD, you need financial support and assistance. They also provide introductions to research supports and meeting other researchers. The most important support that they have given me is that they funded my trip to the Nobel Laureate meeting last summer, so this meant that I got to meet 30 physics Nobel laureates and also researchers such as myself. Things like that you just don’t get with any other partner apart from the Irish Research Council.

What potential career paths can you follow?

I have a number of options after I complete my thesis. One of the options is to stay in academia and do postdoctoral research. There are also options such as scientific publishing or also, because of the importance of data solutions, which I work on, there are opportunities in that field.