Fiana Ní Ghrálaigh
Can't believe it's the final today! Excited to answer the rest of your questions!
St Vincent de Paul Marino, then Maryfield College Drumcondra and then to Trinity College Dublin
I got a degree in Genetics in 2017 from Trinity College Dublin B.A (Mod) Genetics 2017
I have worked all over! I started as a babysitter when I was 15, worked part-time in different shops through college and now I work in TCD
I am a PhD student in the Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine at Trinity College Dublin
Favourite thing to do in science: I love watching Planet Earth and seeing how animals behave in the wild
I am 24, live in Dublin and am so excited to be a part of I'm A Scientist Ireland 2018
Hi there welcome to my profile! I’m really excited to be a scientist on I’m a Scientist Get me Out of Here 2018 and I’m looking forward to hearing from everyone and answering any questions you have.
My name is Fiana and I’m 24. I have lived in Dublin (Artane) my whole life and still live here now. I love to travel, swim and bring my puppy for walks. Here are some photos of him. His name is Franklin and he’s a 1 year old pug!
I am a PhD student working on understanding how DNA makes all of our brains work differently
I am a PhD student in Trinity College Dublin. This means that I will be spending the next 4 years researching questions that I find really interesting. As I am a scientist in the Genes Zone, you may have guessed already that I study genetics.
Genetics is a branch of biology that looks at our DNA. You have probably heard of DNA when people are talking about Crime Scene Investigations or Evolution. If you saw Jurassic World you will have heard the scientists mention DNA when they are designing their super-dinosaurs!
Unfortunately we don’t have any dinosaurs in our lab! Instead we study families. We look at how DNA gets passed down to children from their parents. And I promise it’s just as exciting as dinosaurs!
In our lab we focus on looking at how changes in our DNA affect the way our brains develop and how this can give differences in our behaviors. This is the study of Neurodevelopmental Genetics — I know this sounds very complicated but if you break it down “Neuro” refers to the brain, “Developmental” means how it is formed and “Genetics” is how our DNA affects this.
Check out My Typical Day (long answer) to find out exactly how we do this research!
My Typical Day
I search through DNA to find differences that affect brain development
As a scientist, everyday is different and this means that you will never ever get bored!
We study DNA in our research group. To get a DNA sample we will take blood or saliva samples from a family. In the lab we can separate the DNA from the cells in the blood.
Here is a photo of me working in the lab taking DNA from saliva samples:
When our DNA samples are ready to go we load them onto an amazing machine called a DNA sequencer. This machine reads every single molecule of DNA in the sample. That’s around 3 billion molecules!!!
This is the DNA sequencer here in Trinity College Dublin (TrinSeq). It is run by an amazing team of scientists and takes a lot of care and accuracy.
This machine gives us a giant file of all of the genetic information in the DNA sample. To look at this file we need high-performance computers. To search for the interesting genetic information, we use ‘coding’ or ‘programming’. This specific type of coding is called bioinformatics.
So, we search through all of the DNA and find differences between each sample and their parents. We look for differences between samples of people with neurodevelopmental disorders and compare them to DNA samples of people without neurodevelopmental disorders.
Being a scientist isn’t all about staying in a lab all day doing experiments. We spend a lot of time communicating with other scientists. If we all share our discoveries with one another we can work together to solve scientific mysteries a lot quicker.
Every week we communicate with other scientists. We have lab meetings where we share our progress with each other. Here is a photo of the some of the members of the lab group I am a part of.
As well as communicating with scientists in our team, we share our findings and ideas with scientists all over the world. This happens at conferences. Everyone working in the same branch of research comes together to discuss their work. Here is a photo of me presenting some of our research just last week at the World Congress for Psychiatric Genetics in Glasgow.
What I'd do with the money
I would buy fun equipment to bring with us to our demonstrations and engagement events to help me to explain the work that we do
In our group we love to reach out to young children, school students and the general public and to tell them about the work that we do. Just this year we have welcomed 3 different group of students into the lab. We are planning a big outreach event for the participants in our studies in Spring 2019. We also took part in PROBE:Research Uncovered just last month.
This is a video from PROBE last year so you can see what it is all about https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6al0Yoc8No8
This is a photo of our stand this year:
We do some exciting events throughout the year and being able to purchase more tools would really help with our demonstrations and our teaching when we leave the lab. This equipment would be used again and again for all of our events.
Some examples of tools that are useful to us are below. Take a look and be sure to let me know if you have any other ideas! I would love to hear what you would be interested in learning at these events!
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Probably Ed Sheeran although I love all sorts of music
What's your favourite food?
Everything sweet! My favourite would have to be a warm chocolate lava cake with a gooey centre and ice cream on the side
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I travelled around South America when I finished my degree! I did so many fun things like hiking Machu Picchu, taking a boat ride under Iguazu Falls and even driving through the Salt Flats in Bolivia!
What did you want to be after you left school?
I wasn't sure to be honest! I had so many different interests and it was really difficult to pick just one
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Maybe a few times!
What was your favourite subject at school?
Music and Science (particularly Biology!)
What's the best thing you've done as a scientist?
I've been able to go to really exciting conferences, some of them even abroad! Everyone working in the same area comes together and shares their work and their ideas
What or who inspired you to become a scientist?
I have had lots of great science teachers throughout the years who have made science really exciting. I also always wanted to be a part of something big that could help people in the future!
If you weren't a scientist, what would you be?
I would definitely be a Broadway singer... although I can't really sing so I'll stick to being a scientist for now!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
I would love to grow a huge fruit and vegetable patch in my garden, to travel to every continent of the world and to adopt a St.Bernard
Tell us a joke.
Did you hear about the guy who invented the knock-knock joke? He won the no-bell prize!