Issue 7
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School Newsletter

Issue 7 | December 2019


Welcome to the latest issue of our School of Chemistry newsletter. The publication focuses on school news, events, highlights recent achievements from staff and students and also includes some special features.


Issue Highlights

- 20th Annual Coffee Morning

- University Staff & Research Awards

- Undergraduate Class of 2019

- Postgraduate Conference Prize Winners

- Research News

- On Our Travels to Brazil

- Ten Tips For a Sustainable Christmas


School of Chemistry 20th Annual Coffee Morning

Many thanks to all who supported the School of Chemistry 20th Annual Coffee Morning, in aid of Marymount Hospice. Thanks to the generosity of staff and students in UCC, €4,475 was raised for the local charity.

Special Recognition Award

School of Chemistry staff member Dr. Eric Moore received a Special Recognition Award at Convention Bureau’s Cork Ambassador Awards.

Cork Conference Ambassadors are members of national and international organisations who can influence the location of future conferences and who will work with the Cork Convention Bureau to secure conferences in Cork. The award ceremony took place at Carrigaline Court Hotel on December 3rd.

University Award for Prof. Justin Holmes

School of Chemistry staff member Prof. Justin Holmes has been honoured in the 2019 University Staff Recognition Awards Programme and the University Research Awards.

Prof. Justin Holmes was the recipient of one of three awards for Leadership at the UCC University Staff Recognition Awards ceremony on Thursday October 10th.

Long Service Award Recipient

On Thursday, 5th December, UCC celebrated the achievement of its 2019 Long Service Award recipients (35 or 25 years’ service to UCC). Congratulations to Dr. Orla Ní Dhubhghaill (25 years) on her commitment, dedication and service to UCC and the School of Chemistry.

Research News

Breakthrough That Could Help Solve The World's Antibiotics Crisis

New molecules, developed by researchers in University College Cork, have been shown to dramatically improve the effectiveness of existing antibiotics against several strains of infectious diseases and will help address the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance.


A Material Approach to Sustainable Climate Action

"For sustainability, the whole point is to use the minimum number of resources, and to use natural resources in clever ways," explains Professor Justin Holmes, who leads the sustainability stream in the second phase of the centre, AMBER 2, which is jointly hosted in Trinity College Dublin by CRANN and the Trinity Centre for Bioengineering in collaboration with the Environmental Research Institute at University College Cork and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.


Characterizing Solutes With Sound

As a PhD student in rainy Dublin in the late 1990s, Dara Fitzpatrick suffered from frequent tonsillitis. Among his remedies was gargling with salt water. One day as he mixed his homemade solution, he heard a curious thing.


Undergraduate Student Focus

Undergraduate Class of 2019

In October, 94 students graduated with BSc (Hons) degrees in Chemistry, Chemistry of Pharmaceutical Compounds, Chemistry with Forensic Science, Science (Chemistry) Education and Chemical Physics. Congratulations and best wishes in the future to all our graduates.


Postgraduate Student Focus

Autumn Conferrings 2019

Congratulations to a number of postgraduate students on their Ph.D. and M.Sc. graduation at the Autumn conferrings, and our best wishes to both of them in their future careers.

Dr. Anas Alfarsi (Ph.D.)
Supervisor: Dr. Dara Fitzpatrick
Thesis Title: Characterisation of pharmaceutical formulations, functional polymers and counterfeiit medicines using broadband acoustic reasonance dissolution spectroscopy.

Ms. Katie O'Connor (M.Sc.)
Supervisor: Dr. Humphrey Moynihan & Dr. Simon Lawrence
Thesis Title: Ripening processes using active functionalised beads.

Scientific Update - Young Chemist Award

School of Chemistry PhD student, Edel Murphy, has been awarded a Young Chemist Award by Scientific Update. Edel is one of 11 successful international Young Chemist Award recipients and will attend the 6th Winter Process Chemistry Conference in Birmingham, where she will present her work in the area of biocatalysis during a flash presentation and poster session.


Postgraduate Conference Prize Winners

Over recent months, a number of postgraduate students won 'Best Poster' prizes at international conferences. Congratulations to the following:

Annual Postgraduate Research Prize

The School of Chemistry is pleased to announce recipients of the annual Postgraduate Prize in Research.

A judging panel, covering all research themes in the School of Chemistry, selected Gold, Silver and Bronze award winners from a list of published research papers in 2018 by postgraduate students in the School. The gold award winner now advances to the annual College of SEFS best research paper award.

Gold Level Award

Student Name: Stephen Rhatigan
Supervisor: Dr Michael Nolan
Title of Paper: CO2 and water activation on ceria nanocluster modified TiO2 rutile (110)

Silver Level Award

Student Name: M. Rizwan Ahmed
Supervisor: Dr Dara Fitzpatrick
Title of Paper: Contactless, probeless and non-titrimetric determination of acid-base reactions using broadband acoustic resonance dissolution spectroscopy (BARDS)

Bronze Level Award

Student Name: Alex Lonergan
Supervisor: Prof Colm O'Dwyer
Title of Paper: Tetrahedral framework of inverse opal photonic crystals defines the optical response and photonic band gap

Masters Research Student Awarded Prestigious Scholarship

School of Chemistry MSc. Research student, Niamh O'Mahoney has been awarded a prestigious National University of Ireland (NUI) PhD scholarship. Niamh's research will focus on BARDS applications in the Pharmaceutical Industry, under the supervision of Dr. Dara Fitzpatrick.


On Our Travels

Brazil (Sao Paulo)

Words by Eimear Heffernan (PhD III)

In July 2019, I travelled to the University of Sao Paulo (USP), Brazil to participate in the inaugural Sao Paulo School of Advanced Science on Atmospheric Aerosols. The interdisciplinary programme brought together over 100 researchers from various countries for special lectures, field studies and laboratory visits over a period of two weeks. The scholarship allowed us all to understand and expand our knowledge of the environmental issues in daily life, and the efforts being made in Brazil, and South America, to lessen the adverse anthropogenic effects on the environment, and also to establish a number of links with researchers from around the world.

We attended a number of special lectures given by professors, primarily from Brazil, but also invited speakers from other South American countries, the U.S. and Europe, who gave a summary of their research topic and also explained the latest developments in their respective fields. On designated days, we visited each of the USP professors in their labs, where they introduced us to their group, the wide array of technology and instruments they have at their disposal and allowed us to partake in a typical activity relevant to their research. There were also poster sessions arranged for the attendees to discuss their own work, where I presented a poster on my research into source apportionment of ambient carbonaceous aerosols in Ireland.

Though we had busy schedules, we managed to visit some of the seemingly endless number of cafes, bars and restaurants around Sao Paulo to try the local cuisine each evening, and at the weekend, we spent some time sightseeing in the city. We visited the Contemporary Art Museum, Ibirapuera Park, Paulista Avenue and the municipal market - all a hive of activity on Saturday and Sunday afternoons! Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to travel any further afield this time, but I will definitely return to Brazil.

Chemical Society Update

Events Update from ChemSoc

Over the past number of months, the UCC Chemical Society (ChemSoc) have been very busy hosting events and collaborating with other societies to raise funds for charity.

A SEFS Welcome Night was held in September, and was followed by 'Blow Your Mind Week' in October - a week of snappy, scintillating talks from UCC's academic staff across the college of SEFS.

In November, through a series of fundraising events, ChemSoc helped raise €2690.67 for the Cork University Hospital Charity.

Date for Your Diary - The 2020 Biology & Chemistry Ball will take place on Thursday February 20th in Rochestown Park Hotel.

Outreach Focus

2020 Salters' Festival of Chemistry

The School of Chemistry at UCC will be hosting a Salters’ Festival of Chemistry (ages 11-13) on Wednesday 29th April 2020.


Cork Discovers 2019

On Friday September 27th, research was brought to life by Cork Discovers - a European research night initiative which was set up to celebrate researchers and the valuable contribution they give to society.

The School of Chemistry participated in Cork Discovers with a forensic chemistry workshop for young children, held in the undergraduate laboratories, and a number of our postgraduate students demonstrated their research at the Environmental Research Institute information stand.

Athena SWAN Update

The School of Chemistry received an Athena SWAN Bronze Award in April 2018 and is currently carrying out an Action Plan for change. Some of the main achievements to date include:

Staff and Student Surveys

Surveys and questionnaires provide a great way of measuring how successful we are in achieving our goals. We now conduct an annual final year undergraduate survey to gather feedback from students that is used to help us improve delivery of our BSc degree programmes. We have introduced an exit survey for PhD students to help us enhance postgraduate training and find out more about the careers our researchers move into. As part of Athena SWAN we have also worked with the College of SEFS on a new Staff Leaver Questionnaire. In 2020 we will be conducting a survey of existing staff in order to gain feedback and ideas for creating a more inclusive atmosphere and better working environment for all.

Athena SWAN Bronze Institution Award Application

Staff in the School of Chemistry were actively involved in the UCC Institutional Bronze Award application submitted on 30 November 2019. Prof. Anita Maguire, Dr Eric Moore and Prof. John Wenger were all part of the university’s self-assessment team responsible for developing and delivering the 150-page document. Other members of the School’s Athena SWAN Committee also provided valuable feedback on various sections of the application. The application contains an Action Plan for 2019-2023 which builds on previous progress in UCC’s efforts to achieve equality, diversity and inclusivity in the workplace. Results of the application will be published in April 2020.

Aurora in 2019/2020

Dr Brenda Long (pictured right), Senior Research Fellow in Materials Chemistry, was successfully selected to take part in 2019/2020 Aurora Women Only Leadership Programme. The programme is targeted at women in lecturer, senior lecturer, research and professional services roles (administrative & technical) across all academic disciplines and throughout university administration. It is designed to introduce key leadership topics and skills through workshops, action learning days and networking. Further on-going support is ensured through online resources and institutional level support including mentoring.

Where Are They Now?

In this section, we will profile and focus on alumni students. Each graduate will go through their student memories, experiences and update us on what they have done since leaving UCC.

In this issue, we spoke to Elsie Ronan. Elsie graduated from UCC with a B.Sc. honours degree in Chemistry of Pharmaceutical Compounds and a M.Sc. in Analysis of Pharmaceutical Compounds. She is now working in Thermo Fisher Scientific, in Cork.

Elsie Ronan

Degree Course
B.Sc. Chemistry of Pharmaceutical Compounds (2012).

What year did you arrive in UCC?
2008, all bright eyed and bushy tailed.

What course did you study?
I started in Biological and Chemical Sciences (CK402) but branched off into Chemistry of Pharmaceutical Compounds (CPC) in 2nd year. My class went from a group of roughly 300 down to 20. After my undergrad, I took a year out and worked in the Accommodation and Student Activities Office in UCC. I started a Masters in Analysis of Pharmaceutical Compounds in 2014.

What was your favourite Chemistry topic?
Pharmaceutical Chemistry. I loved learning about how drugs were made and how they interacted with the body. CPC was great for linking both the chemical and biological sides of medicines. Getting to do my work placement in GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) between 3rd and 4th year just made me want to work in the pharmaceutical industry even more.

What was your best ‘Chemistry’ moment and why?
The best moment though would have to be graduation. Going to the launch ceremony of the International Year of Chemistry in the UNESCO headquarters, Paris when I was in third year ranks pretty highly as well. Seeing four noble prize winners and a host of other world renowned scientists was a pretty humbling experience.

Who was your favourite chemistry staff member?
Surely the correct answer here is all of them?

When did you leave UCC and what did you do straight after graduating?
The second half of my masters was research based and I was lucky enough to complete it in GSK. After I graduated, I worked in GSK as an Analytical Development Chemist. Here, I worked on Quality Investigations, Technical Development Support, Cleaning Validation and Technology Transfers.

What are you doing now?
I’m in Thermo Fisher Scientific (previously GSK). After almost 3 years in Analytical Development, I switched departments and became a Technical Development Chemist.

Have you any advice for current students?
Firstly, get involved in things outside of your course, eg clubs and societies. I was very active in the St. Vincent de Paul society all through college and I was president when I was in 3rd year. I learned very quickly in interviews that it’s these extra-curricular activities that got talked about most. Remember that your academic achievements are all captured in your CV, that’s what gets you the interview, your extra-curricular activities are what set you apart from everyone else.

Secondly, maybe don’t take the advice as seriously as I did and get involved in every single opportunity that comes up. I was in a number of societies, I was class rep for 3 or 4 years, took on extra modules, relearned Irish, and became a Peer Support Leader, a Peer Assisted Learning Leader and Laboratory Demonstrator in college.

Special Feature

Top Tips to Ensure You Have a Happy and Sustainable Christmas

With Ireland expected to generate approximately 90,000 tonnes of packaging waste this Christmas, academics at the Environmental Research Institute (ERI), including staff from the School of Chemistry, have come together to provide the top ten tips for a green Christmas.

Tip 4. Chestnuts roasting on a …

If you’ve been burning coal, peat or wood in your living room fire, then you have been very naughty indeed. Domestic Solid Fuel burning is one of the largest sources of air pollution in Ireland. Your fire is not only harmful to you in your own house, but also to your neighbours, because 90% of the smoke and chemical fumes end up next door. Burning coal, wood and peat is especially harmful to asthmatics, the young, the old, people with existing heart conditions and the pregnant. And just think what it does to poor old Santa when he tries to deliver your fantastic presents down the chimney. We can only hope that he has good medical insurance! To keep Santa (and us) healthy, wherever you live in Ireland, then put some solar panels on your roof, insulate your homes better and install a heat pump. – (John Sodeau, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, UCC).


Countdown to Key Date

2019/20 Semester 2 Start


Next Issue

We hope you enjoyed the latest issue of our newsletter. The next issue will be released in June 2020. To submit news, features and feedback, please contact us.

Merry Christmas to all students and staff in the School of Chemistry!

Best Regards
Dr Humphrey Moynihan | Head of School
021 4902379

University College Cork and the School of Chemistry is proud to hold an Athena SWAN Bronze Award. Advancing gender equality: representation, progression and success for all.

Editor | Dr Trevor Carey
© School of Chemistry @ UCC

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