Issue 8
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School Newsletter

Issue 8 | December 2020


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

- 21st Annual Fundraiser for Marymount

- EDI Committee Update

- UCC Sports Star Award

- Undergraduate Class of 2020

- Postgraduate Graduations

- Research News

- Staying Safe Indoors Over Christmas


21st Annual Fundraiser for Marymount Hospice

As is the long-standing tradition in the School of Chemistry, December marks the annual Christmas Coffee Morning, a fundraising event with all proceeds going to Marymount University Hospital and Hospice. This year would have been the 21st year. Due to current circumstances, sadly, this event cannot proceed in the usual manner.

In 2020 we are inviting you to take part in the 21 Minutes for 21 Days in place of 21 Years (21/21/21) Challenge. Some staff and students in the School of Chemistry will commit to an activity (sports, exercise, meditation, art, or a neglected hobby) for 21 minutes every day for the first 21 days in December. 

Donations can be made online. All donations are processed securely. A donation box will also be available in the Chemistry Apparatus Stores, Room G.21, Kane Building, Main Campus.


Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee

This year, the School of Chemistry has been preparing for a renewal application of our Athena SWAN status in 2021 and the committee and working groups involved in this process have been collecting data and surveying the landscape of all our operations.

In recognition of the importance of diversity and inclusion in addition to gender balance, we have renewed the focus of the Athena SWAN Self Assessment Team to become the Equality, Diversion and Inclusion Committee. Our focus moving forward is to promote equality for all staff and students in the School, to increase the diversity of contribution within the School and to cultivate further an inclusive culture. 

The committee would sincerely like to thank the outgoing Chair, Prof. John Wenger for all of his work in driving this agenda over the past 4 years which resulted in a Bronze Athena SWAN award and welcome Dr. Florence McCarthy (pictured) to the role.

EDI Highlights

 - Discussion Chair of Royal Irish Academy Diversity in Research - Prof. Anita Maguire

- AURORA Women's Leadership Development Programme - Dr. Brenda Long

- Chemistry le Chéile Conference

New Staff & Retirements

A warm welcome to Imelda Power, who arrived earlier this year to our administrative team as an Executive Assistant.

In recent months, two of our staff members retired. We wish Prof. Martyn Pemble (pictured) and Mick O'Shea an enjoyable retirement, and thank them for their huge contribution and dedication to UCC and to the School of Chemistry.

Chemistry le Chéile Conference 2020

The Chemistry le Chéile conference was held on the 9th of December. This conference was organised to promote the visibility of women in chemistry and to highlight the wide array of female role models within the field of chemistry. The event was held virtually, giving early-stage Ph.D. researchers an opportunity to present their work and their path to pursuing a Ph.D. It also included speakers from industry and academia.

The organising committee consisted of four Ph.D. students from the School of Chemistry in UCC.

- Amy O' Donoghue (2nd year Ph.D. student and EDI committee member)
- Michelle Ryan (2nd year Ph.D. student and EDI committee member)
- Niamh O' Mahoney (3rd year Ph.D. student and chemistry postgraduate rep)
- Justina Ugwah (3rd year Ph.D. student based in the Tyndall National Institute)

The conference began with opening remarks from Professor Anita Maguire, Vice-President for Research and Innovation in UCC, followed by twelve Ph.D. student talks and five speakers from industry/academia. Students from various institutes around Ireland and two universities from the UK, contributed to the day. The industry speakers were women with different and established careers within the chemistry field. Speakers included;

- Denise Hickey (Janssen Pharmaceutical)
- Dr. Jovanna Arndt (AWN Consulting)
- Dr. Elizabeth Gilchrist (UCC Lecturer)
- Dr. Michelle Tierney (SymPhysis Co-Founder)
- Dr. Deirdre Murphy (Pfizer Pharmaceutical)

Closing remarks from Professor Sarah Culloty, Head of College of SEFS at UCC, concluded what was a fantastic and diverse display of chemistry.

Prize winners were announced for their excellent talks:

- 1st Prize | Victoria Atkinson (Oxford University)
- Runner-Up | Caytlin Boylan (NUI Maynooth)
- Special Mention | Emma O'Sullivan-Carroll (Hovione/UCC)

UCC Walktober 2020 - Top 10 Finish

A team from the School of Chemistry finished in the top 10 of the annual UCC Walktober competition. Congratulations to all teams who got out walking in all sorts of weather conditions during the month of October.

1. Paws Patrollers  of  Aidan O'Dwyer, Barrie Curley, Catherine Deenihan, Mary Duggan and Michael O'Sullivan 

2. No Mean Feet of Aoife Sammon, Brid Drake, Caroline O'Shea, Jane O'Leary and Nora Hennessy.

3. Boolean Operators of Alan Carbery, Ann Byrne, Anne O'Callaghan, Aoife Coffey, Elaine Harrington and Ger Prendercast 

4. Hip Replacement Chicks of Anne Fitzpatrick, Janas Harrington, Karen Mulcahy and Vera McCarthy.

5. The Fire Nation of Carl Fisher, Celina Li, Huihui Lu and Katarzyna Komolibus. 

6. Step It Up of Maurice Ryder, Noelette Hurley and Ruth Butler.

7. Between a Walk and a Hard Place of Anna Hogan, Dave Otway and Elizabeth Gilchrist.

8. Berry Hunters of Elena Arranz, Fabiana Hoffmann Sarda, Kata Trifkovic, and Sara Arbulu

9. Your Pace or Mine of Amy Stone, Breda Good, Maura O'Leary, Michelle White and Moira Keegan.

10. The Walking Dead! Again! of Caroline Egan, Eoin Ryan, Maria Caples, Therese Ahern and Thomas Erlandsson.

Christmas Jumper Day 2020

A number of our staff, research staff and postgraduate students recently held a Christmas Jumper Day in aid of the Cork Simon Community. A huge thanks to everyone that organised, took part, dressed up, and donated prizes. €450 was raised for the Cork Simon Community. Postgraduate students Aobha Hickey and Kevin Daly were awarded "Best Dressed" prizes.

ICI Fellow

Congratulations to our Senior Technical Officer, Dr. Donnacha O'Connell, who has recently been made a Fellow of the Institute of Chemistry of Ireland.

Research News

Prof. Justin Holmes Leads €3.2M Air Quality Project

A University College Cork-led research project has received €3.2m in European funding to develop a more cost effective way to measure air pollution.

It is hoped that the research team, drawn from industry and academia and coordinated by UCC, will bring about the creation of low cost electrical sensors for detecting harmful particles in the atmosphere, and that these devices can be subsequently deployed on airplanes, ships and other platforms to monitor air quality.

The team is led by Professor Justin Holmes at University College Cork and comprises partners from academia and industry across five different European countries.


Prof. Justin Holmes also became the first Irish PI to successfully coordinate two FET-Open projects and the first UCC PI to co-ordinate a project under this prestigious H2020 programme.

In addition to the RADICAL project detailed above, the objective of TRANSLATE, which will start in early 2021, is to create a new and sustainable technology, based on the movement of ions in very small channels, to effective capture waste heat and convert it into electricity. This projects involves researchers from the Materials Chemistry & Analysis Group and the Tyndall National Institute.

NUI Awards 2020

Two School of Chemistry researchers have been successful in the 2020 NUI awards for doctoral and postdoctoral research. Promoting scholars and scholarship is a core aim of NUI, and through these awards, the University honours academic distinction among its students and graduates and early career academics. Congratulations to both Marie Clara Michel and Dr. Karzan Zangana (pictured).

NUI Grant Scheme for Early Career Academics
Dr. Karzan Zangana, B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D.

This award supports international conference organisation, participation and networking in NUI institutions and in institutions outside of Ireland.

NUI Travelling Doctoral Studenships
Marie Clara Michel, B.Sc.

This award enables students to undertake postgraduate research abroad, in the most reputable universities, towards a doctoral degree.

NUI 2020 Awards Ceremony and Programme

SSPC Research Article of the Year

Congratulations to Prof. Anita Maguire, who was presented with the accolade of Research Article of the Year at the SSPC awards ceremony in September.


RTÉ Brainstorm Features

Over recent months, a number of researchers at the School of Chemistry have featured on RTÉ Brainstorm. A summary and links to these articles are given below.

How to keep your home Covid-safe over Christmas - by John Wenger.

How do tiny organisms like bacteria communicate? - by Aobha Hickey, Jerry Reen, Fergal O'Gara and Gerard McGlacken.

Why airborne transmission of Covid-19 will increase this winter. - by John Wenger.

Undergraduate Student Focus

Undergraduate Class of 2020

In November, 90 students graduated remotely with B.Sc. (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.


Annual Undergraduate Awards

Annual undergraduate prizes in Chemistry were awarded to a number of students earlier this year for their performances in the 2018/19 examinations. Thanks to Eli Lilly for their continued support with these awards. Full details on this year's winners are as follows:

Eli Lilly Chemistry Prize
Recipient: Jack Roche

The Eli Lilly Chemistry Prize is awarded annually to the student who has obtained the highest mark in Chemistry and passed the Summer First University Examination in Science in 2018/19, at the first attempt, and who subsequently registers for an honours degree in Chemistry at UCC.

Reilly Chemistry Prize
Recipient: Hayley Furnell

The Reilly Chemistry Prize is awarded to the candidate who has obtained first place in the fouth year B.Sc. (Hons) degree examination in 2018/19 and has obtained first class honours. The prize is named in the memory of the late Professor J. Reilly, who was professor of Chemistry and Head of the Chemistry Department in UCC for the period 1924-1959.

George Guilbault Medal
Recipient: Hayley Furnell

The George Guilbault medal is awarded to the student who has achieved the highest aggregate performance in 4th year Analytical Chemistry. The prize is named in the memory of the late Professor George G. Guilbault, who was the 1st Chair Professor of Analytical Chemistry at University College Cork.

History of all our award winners (1990 - 2019)

Tyndall & IPIC Summer Internships 2021

At Tyndall and IPIC, interns have the opportunity to work on projects that can help to make a real difference. Interns will receive access to world-class research environments, and also have the opportunity to learn from award-winning scientists and researchers who are at the cutting edge of deep-tech research.

To be considered for an internship, you need to be enrolled as an undergraduate student in applicable fields such as physics, mathematics, chemistry or engineering.

Tyndall & IPIC will provide 20 summer bursaries for the 2021 programme. Applications are now open.

You are eligible to apply for this programme if:

- You are a student in an Irish based University (Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland).

- You are in 1st year, 2nd year, 3rd year or 4th year of your degree programme.

- You are studying Science, Engineering, Technology or Mathematics.


Postgraduate Student Focus

Summer & Autumn Conferrings 2020

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

Dr. Paul Buckley (Ph.D.)
Supervisor: Prof. John Wenger

Dr. Vuslat Buk (Ph.D.)
Supervisor: Prof. Martyn Pemble

Dr. Mehael Fennelly (Ph.D.)
Supervisor: Prof. John Sodeau

Dr. Elsa Giraud (Ph.D.)
Supervisor: Prof. Justin Holmes & Prof. Michael Morris

Dr. Roisin Jones (Ph.D.)
Supervisor: Dr. JJ Keating

Dr. Laura McCarthy (Ph.D.)
Supervisors: Dr. Stuart Collins & Prof. Anita Maguire

Dr. Rachel Shanahan (Ph.D.)
Supervisor: Dr. Gerard McGlacken

Dr. Maart van Druenen (Ph.D.)
Supervisor: Prof. Justin Holmes

Dr. Shifa Felemban (Ph.D.)
Supervisors | Dr. Eric Moore and Dr. Patricia Vasquez

Dr. Chloe Murphy (Ph.D.)
Supervisors | Prof. Anita Maguire and Dr. Stuart Collins

Dr. Louise Ryan (Ph.D.)
Supervisors | Prof. Martyn Pemble, & Dr. Ian Povey

Mr. Aaron Kang (M.Sc.)
Supervisor | Dr. Dara Fitzpatrick

Mr. John Downey (M.Sc.)
Supervisor | Dr. Simon Lawrence

UCC Sports Star Award

Congratulations to Ph.D. student Anya Curran, who was one of thirteen receipients of a UCC Sports Star award for 2019/20. Anya is recognised for her gold medal performance in the European Taekwon-do Championships in August 2019.

UCC’s Head of Sport, Morgan Buckley: “Although the sporting year was cut short, we still have had another great year with UCC Sports Clubs: the Fitzgibbon Cup staying in Leeside for another year. The U20’s rugby secured the Donal Walsh Trophy for a third consecutive year, along with Aussie Rules and Trampoline making it a hat-trick of success in their intervarsity competitions. Mountaineering and Canoe clubs also enjoyed intervarsity success and our athletes medalled at the Indoor Athletics Intervarsities and many more.

The full list of UCC Sports Star award winners for 2019/20 is as follows:

Athletics | David Cussen
Gaelic Football | Brian Hartnett
Golf | Seán Desmond
Hockey | Caoimhe Perdue
Hurling | Shane Kingston and Shane Conway
Rowing | Emily Hegarty, Tara Hanlon, Ronan Byrne, Paul O'Donovan
Rugby | John Hodnett
Taekwon-Do | Anya Curran
Soccer/Hockey | Christina Dring


Annual Eli Lilly Postgraduate Research Symposium

Photo: Prof. Anita Maguire, Organic & Pharmaceutical Chemistry Year 3 Ph.D. students and Eli Lilly representatives.

The 18th Eli Lilly Postgraduate Symposium in Organic & Pharmaceutical Chemistry took place on October 23rd. The symposium involves oral presentations from Year 3 postgraduate students in Organic & Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

Congratulations to Louise Cooney, this years winner. In second place was Kevin Sheehy and Ryan Alam  in third place.

RSC BMCS Postgraduate Symposium

Louise Cooney, a Ph.D. student in Organic & Pharaceutical chemistry, under the supervision of Dr. Florence McCarthy, was recently selected for oral presentation at the prestigious 14th RSC BMCS postgraduate symposium, held on December 11th. The RSC-BMCS (Biological and Medicinal Chemistry Sector) is a postgraduate symposium for PhD students and post-doctoral workers researching in biological or medicinal chemistry and related areas.

Best Poster Prize Awarded to Hanan Alatawi

Ph.D. student Hanan Alatawi came 2nd in the Best Poster Award category at the recent 27th International Symposium on Electrophoretic and Liquid Phase Separation Techniques.

Her poster was entitled Determination of NSAID drugs using Micellar Electrokinetic Chromatography with UV detection. Hanan carries out her postgraduate research under the supervision of Dr. Eric Moore.

Chemical Society Update

2020/21 Committee

Chairperson - Philip Krause (CHEM3)

Secretary - Neil Curtis (CPY3)

Industry and Education Officer - Darragh Dwane (CPC2)

Finance Officer - Dara Musgrave (CHEM4)

Events Officer - Hannah Ní Choncobhair Ciarraige (PME CHEM)

Public Relations Officer - Kailyn Lordan (CHEM3)

Vice Public Relations Officer - Fiona Kinsella (CPC3)

Social Media Officer - Rachel Lynch (CPC4)

Post Graduate Representative - Ehren Dixon (PhD1)

Fourth Year Representative - Emily Collins (CPC4)

Third Year Representative - Trish Holland (CHEM3)

Second Year Representative - Kate O'Riordan (CFS2)

First Year Representative - Sofiya Evenko (CK402)

Get In Touch & Keep Up to Date

Anyone interested in getting involved in ChemSoc or keeping up to date with events planned for the remainder of the year, can do so by checking out the ChemSoc Instrgram account.

Outreach Focus

Cork Discovers 2020

Over the last weekend in November, 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 a number of online initiatives, including this video by postgraduate student Orla Lynch. Orla shows children how and why the periodic table of elements is important.

Virtual Open Day - December 2020

UCC's Virtual Open Days on December 4th and 5th attracted close to 5,000 registrations and 3,000 unique visitors over the course of the two days. All those who registered for the event can continue to visit the platform throughout December and January, and they can leave messages which will be picked up and answered. Prospective students can continue to register where they will enjoy the amazing amount of content that has been posted in the platform, including immersive virtual campus experiences, guest lectures, programme overviews, employability guides, and so much more.


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 Paul Buckley. Paul graduated from UCC with a B.Sc. honours degree in Chemistry and a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Chemistry. He is now working in the National Physical Laboratory in London.

Dr. Paul Buckley

Degree Course
B.Sc. Chemistry (2015), Ph.D. Chemistry (2020)

What year did you arrive in UCC?
I started in 2011.

What course did you study?
I started in Chemical Sciences (CK406) and went down the Chemistry route for second year. I did both biochemistry modules in the second year and had the option to switch to the biochemistry degree for third year, but I decided to stick with Chemistry. I did a summer internship with Prof. John Wenger at the end of third year. In fourth year I picked the Atmospheric Chemistry elective module. I took the summer of 2015 off before returning to start my Ph.D. with Prof. Wenger.

What was your favourite Chemistry topic?
Atmospheric Chemistry. I enjoyed most of the modules we did as they were all interesting in different ways but the atmosphere is something that everyone has some knowledge of. Going forward into my Ph.D., the fact that I could have a conversation about my studies with pretty much anyone is something I enjoyed. We also got to help enact some real-life changes during my Ph.D. which is not something everyone gets to say.

What was your best ‘Chemistry’ moment and why?
There were a lot to choose from, the relief of getting my results after third year, as well as getting the email to say I had secured my Ph.D. have to rank the highest. I had many amazing experiences during my FYP and Ph.D. with the CRAC Lab, including travelling to many places like Switzerland, Sweden, Japan, Slovenia, the exotic Birr! The day of my Ph.D. viva probably tops the lot - finishing my studies and getting to spend time with everyone from the lab and my friends made it special. Hopefully in 2021 there will be some kind of ceremony to mark it.

Who was your favourite chemistry staff member?
Too many to choose from but anyone associated with the CRAC Lab, past or present.

When did you leave UCC and what did you do straight after graduating?
I left UCC in January 2020 to work in London. I had my Ph.D. viva in February and then I had a virtual graduation in June. 

What are you doing now?
I’m working as a Higher Research Scientist (HRS) in the Air Quality and Aerosol Metrology (AQAM) group in the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in London. The job involves working with a wide range of instruments, calibrating and testing them to ensure accurate measurements for a large number of companies around the world. I am also able to participate in some cutting edge research in the field of air quality.

Have you any advice for current students?
If anyone is considering pursuing a masters or a Ph.D. then I would say try and find a research group that they fit in well with. One of the best pieces of advice I got during my undergraduate was "it's not all about the project, it is about the people you are working with as well". This advice has also guided me outside of college when applying for jobs. Activities outside of college are important too, be it a club or society, sport, or even a part time job. While it is important to do well academically, it is the experience you gain in the outside world that help to distinguish you in interviews. I have found myself discussing non-college related activities in interviews, which can help make you more memorable as a candidate. It is also important to take breaks from college and study, especially in the tough 3rd and 4th years. 

Special Feature

A Guide to Staying Safe Indoors Over Christmas

Professor of Physical Chemistry, John Wenger, has recently worked with colleagues in Media, Marketing and Communications at UCC to produce a visual guide to staying safe indoors over the Christmas period, highlighting the importance of ventilation.

"Research clearly shows that ventilation plays a very important role in preventing the spread of COVID-19" commented Professor John Wenger, Director of the Centre for Research into Atmospheric Chemistry (CRAC) at University College Cork. "Fresh air is safer air and you don't need to freeze! It is important we follow all public health advice and our guide is designed to help us have a safe Christmas in the home."

Key tips in the guide are:

- Use a CO2 sensor to monitor the ventilation in a room.

- Opening windows just a small bit can still make a difference.

- At the Christmas dinner table sit as far away as possible from people outside your household or support bubble.

- Keep bathroom windows open all of the time or turn the extraction fan on.

- Close the toilet lid before you flush as it will help to prevent the virus from getting into the air.

- Use a portable air purifier to remove the virus from the air.

- No Christmas carols as singing is known to release a lot more virus particles than talking. 

- In the kitchen, keeping the extractor fan on can ensure additional ventilation.


Countdown to Key Date

2020/21 Semester 1 Examinations


Next Issue

We hope you enjoyed the latest issue of our newsletter. To submit news, features and feedback, please contact us.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
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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