David Donohoe – BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Science
Name: David Donohoe
School: Moyne Community School, Moyne, Co. Longford
Current Job: Graduate Scientist with Pfizer, Dublin
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to choose your course:
I always wanted to help people, and I always wanted to do something scientific; as a child, I had a toy microscope. I found medicine production very interesting and wanted to learn more about treatment and disease. Then in secondary school, my career guidance teacher recommended Sligo, I fell in love with the campus and the labs after just seeing them.
What specifically about the course did you particularly enjoy?
The hands-on approach to learning. At ATU Sligo, I gained experience with real-life equipment in the industry. Not only was it interesting, but it was extremely relevant to the job I wished to pursue. In this course, students are given actual equipment used in industry and become familiar with the software which is similarly used. It’s a good introduction to biotechnology as the subject is very broad and depends on the area you wish to pursue. I found the relevance of the Covid-19 pandemic quite interesting, whilst studying methods to test, prevent and treat an infection.
What is the best thing about the course that you think new applicants should know?
It is a very interesting and very relevant course to the manufacturing of medication, and medical devices, and understanding the cause and treatment of disease. It’s quite a broad entry to science with relevant biology, chemistry, and physics modules. I loved the fact that there was always someone there to help, whether it be in the lab or lectures.
Any favourite modules during your time studying?
Microbiology – A very hands-on and very useful module to teach you about aseptic techniques and bacteria. It was very useful to learn how to make up media and looking at cells under a microscope.
Cell culture processing – Probably my first time using a bioreactor. In their final year, students are trained in the use of a small-scale bioreactors, how to operate it in an aseptic technique, and get to see a fully functional and operational bioreactor, like the ones in industry.
Protein Purification – Learning how to use the skills and products from the cell culture processing to separate the cells and the target protein. I used real-life industrial equipment on campus which gave me an insight into how drugs are purified in industry.
What key skills did you learn while studying at ATU Sligo that has influenced your career?
Lab skills – The whole course is based on a practical style of learning. I gained skills in research, lab-based skills and problem-solving skills.
Interview skills – The course is hugely based on industry, from the first interview to working within the company.
Can you share some detail of your career path or further studies to date
I finished my degree in medical biotechnology and started as part of the graduate programme at Pfizer, Grange Castle the following September.
What does your current role involve?
I have started a job as a graduate scientist at Pfizer. I work in the Technical Services department for the production of drugs using large-scale bioreactors. My role is to give technical and scientific support to production, troubleshoot any issues which may arise, and follow up on any issues with a thorough investigation. It’s a very rewarding job as I’m learning something new every day, and no two days are the same.
What advice would you share with our current students considering a career in your field?
Don’t be afraid to start applying for jobs early in the 4th year, for example, Pfizer tend to pick people very early so the onboarding process is smoother. I would also say not to panic about having a job lined up after college, taking a master’s or PhD or something completely different is also a very viable option. Find a field in which you have a very keen interest and try and do something in that area.
What did you like best about studying at ATU Sligo?
I loved the fact that lecturers would know you by name. For any questions I had, big or small, the lecturers would always be there to assist and answer. I met some amazing people and gained some extremely valuable friends.
What advice would you give a first-year student starting at ATU Sligo?
Know that there’s always someone there to help, whether it be the health services in the SU, the Students’ Union, lecturers, and staff. Join a club or society to meet people who have a common interest. Make sure to make the most of your college years, this place is amazing.