I went to Ballyhale Primary school and St Keirens college in Kilkenny unitl I moved up to the BIg smoke to do science in Trinity College. Iv been here every since!
Degree in Zoology
Iv worked as an archaeologist as well as a waiter before my PhD
Favourite thing to do in science: Thinking up wacky ideas about animals (do they see time different to us, do stick insects dance like twigs etc…) and then checking out if nature is even stranger (it nearly always is!)
I try to figure out what makes predators so good at catching their dinner and what makes prey good at avoiding becoming dinner.
My work is about trying to understand how animals work. How do animals see time, what makes small birds live longer then small mammals and how much venom is enough to catch your dinner.
I answer these questions by trying to think of questions that apply to all animals such as how do they see time or how much energy different sized animals need. I then look for the data that can answer my questions by checking books, scientific papers and (as tempting as wikipedia might be) places I can trust on the internet. I then test all this data to see if my ideas were right by letting computers do all the hard maths for me.
If I’m right I celebrate with some chocolate and try to publish what I find in scientific journals.
(check out my video explaining some of my reserch on my reserch page)
My Typical Day
I mostly drink coffee and talk science in the morning until I’v properly woken up (which could be after lunch), I then either collect data or run tests on data using computers.
Most of the mornings involve working up the motivation to get out of bed by which time its coffee time. Once my brain in sufficiently caffeinated I respond to emails from students, researchers and sometimes journalists. I try to read up on the latest science but Facebook/twitter/internet cats often distract me until lunch.
After lunch my brain is finally past morning zombie mode and I start doing some more taxing work such as come up new ideas, collect data and write about any of my findings.
Since my type of research is very flexible I might work some more in the evening to make up for my general morning uselessness but more often then not I go home and chill out for the evening.
What I'd do with the money
I would use it to help with creating displays in our annual researchers night were we open up the doors to our department and our museum to teach the public about our research.
For the last two years our department has taken part in the Discover Research event were we open the doors of our department to the public. The event focuses on showing the public what reserchers are studying and the Zoology Department especially enjoys takeing part by showcasing our Zoology Museum. (Check out some posters of some of the reserch we showcased this year)
As we currently run the event with no money at all, I will use any prize funds to help keep the event running and to create more and better displays (projectors, printing posters etc) of our research and allow us to continue to open our doors to you guys!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
quirky, easygoing, grumpy
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Right now Arctic Monkeys are top of my spotify list.
What's your favourite food?
Cheese and anything with cheese on it!
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Skiing with my mates in Andorra was probably up there!
What did you want to be after you left school?
I wanted to do physics but didnt like computers and hard maths so I switch to zoology but still ended up working with computers and (less difficult) maths!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Lets just say I assumed my school week would include the hour detention every week!
What was your favourite subject at school?
lunch time (or maths/biology)
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
Being interviewed on BBC news about my work on how animals see time was probably the highlight of my career so far.
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
The closest single event that inspired me towards science is finding a copy of Stephen Hawking’s “A brief history of time” in my brothers van (I have no idea what he was doing with it!). I think a similar story with Richard Dawkins “The Ancestor’s Tale” inspired me towards zoology as well as David Attenborough’s documentaries of course
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
A time travalling machine, the ability to understand everything and that the world understood (politically as well as scientifically) how to solve all its problems
Tell us a joke.
If anyone has any questions on mitosis, I will need you undivided attention (ask your teacher about that one maybe).
Poster on my research looking at why some snakes are so much more venomous than others
Poster on some of my research looking at how important scavenging was to big predators such as T.rex
Poster of some reserch I’m involved with on trying to understand how complex ecosytems recover after events such as pollution or overfishing.