Up close and personal with our researchers: Farhad Mohammed

What is your current job title in the university?

I am currently a second year PhD candidate in the Elmes group at the Chemistry department.

Why did you choose to work in Maynooth University and how many years have you worked here?

I started at Maynooth University in September 2017 where I carried out a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Chemistry. I graduated in September 2021, and I am now currently pursuing a PhD in Organic Chemistry under the supervision of Dr Robert Elmes. I Chose Maynooth University for many reasons. Mainly for the Wednesday nights in Brady’s and Thursday nights in Roost, both of which are now said to be the wonders of the world!

On a more serious note, Maynooth University hosts world class research laboratories as well as amazing lecturers/researchers who are dedicated to helping you reach your full potential.

I also admire the Chemistry departments continuous promotion of strong cross disciplinary collaborations, which provides an optimal research environment and support network
What it is you like about your current job?

I really enjoy being able to conduct day to day research and experiments in the lab. Having the freedom to discuss new ideas with my colleagues is exciting, as it helps expand our thinking as well as allowing me to learn something new, to hone my problem-solving skills and to challenge myself in new ways.

Of course, some days are better than others, but no matter how difficult it can get when your faced with a synthesis problem that sets you back for weeks, there is no better feeling than finally overcoming your hurdle and powering on to the next challenge. (Also, not having to worry about any exams is wonderful!)
Why did you choose to work in your field of research?

I always found it rather fascinating that Chemistry is all around us, whether we see it in a chemical reaction at a lab or experience it subconsciously in our bodies. The understanding of these chemical reactions was something that I was always interested about.

Upon completion of my first year in my undergraduate studies I found myself developing a passion for the field of Chemistry. Thankfully I had the pleasure to work with my supervisor Dr Robert Elmes during the summer after my 3rd year where he introduced me to the field of Supramolecular and host-guest Chemistry which really sparked my interest and motivated me to pursue a PhD in order to make a contribution to the field and to create a scientific impact at a large scale in the world we live in today.
Is there anything preventing you from progressing in your career?

As of now, I believe that there is nothing preventing me from progressing in my career. I have a good work-life balance and have a supportive circle of friends and family that constantly motivate me.

Only I can prevent myself from reaching my full potential, so as long as I stay grounded and continue to work hard, all the tough and draining days in the lab will pay off, and hopefully I will be able to excel in my career and achieve great things.

What is your greatest achievement to date in research?

Once I decided that I wanted to pursue a PhD, I put my head down and made a conscious effort to ensure that I excelled in my degree and produced competitive results which would help me progress in my future career.

Throughout my undergraduate degree I have been fortunate enough and grateful to have accomplished many achievements along the way. After my 3rd year I was awarded the Rev. Michael Casey Prize for the highest grade in third year chemistry. I was then awarded a summer programme for undergraduate research (SPUR) which offered me the opportunity to work closely with my supervisor, Dr Robert Elmes, on my research project giving me an insight of what it’s like to be a postgraduate researcher.

Upon completion of my Final year, I was awarded the Kathleen Lonsdale Prize for the highest grade in final year Chemistry. I was then awarded the John & Pat Hume Doctoral Scholarship which has allowed me to carry out my PhD research in Supramolecular and Peptide Chemistry.

Now that I am undergoing my PhD, I hope to continue working hard in order to achieve the milestones and goals that I have set myself.

What advice would you give to others starting out in a similar job to yours?

From my own personal experience so far, the start of your PhD can be quite overwhelming as its completely different to your usual undergraduate experience. Having imposter syndrome and feeling self-doubt and inadequacy is completely valid. My advice would be to not be afraid to ask plenty questions to your supervisor and peers even if you think they are foolish questions. No one expects you to know everything! Asking what certain words mean or how to do things that you aren’t sure of will help develop your research skills and give you confidence.

Also, try not to compare your PhD project to other peoples. Everyone’s project is different, and some might have more or less done than others but always remind yourself that you were accepted into the programme because you deserve to be there.

It is important to build a network so you can meet people at all professional levels and exchange ideas which can lead to an avenue of newer opportunities and boost your self-confidence.

The most important advice I can give is to enjoy yourself in the lab! Take your work seriously but also make sure to laugh and joke with your fellow colleagues. A fun environment in the lab helps you have a more positive mind-set as well as being more productive, engaged and creative.