Dr Michelle Sands
What is your current job title in the University?
Technically (pun intended), I am a Senior Technical Officer. However, my day to day role is as lab manager of the Neurochemistry Research Group.
Why did you choose to work in Maynooth University and how many years have you worked here?
I have worked in MU since November 2015. I have been lucky to work in many different research facilities over the course of my career. I completed my PhD in cardiovascular physiology in UCD in 2009 and was a post-doc there until January 2011. At that stage, I moved to another post-doc in the Physiology Department in the University of New Mexico for one year followed by a year at the Department of Veteran Affairs, Carl T Hayden Medical Research Foundation in Phoenix, Arizona. My daughter was born in Portland, Oregon and we moved to Maynooth when she was just eight weeks old to be close to my husband’s job. We fell in love with Maynooth and decided pretty quickly that this is where we wanted to live permanently. When the time came for me to go back to work, I looked at MU for openings. I have always loved working in universities. There is such a lovely atmosphere about them so I knew MU was the place for me.
Ironically, I am not great at chemistry, but I did have a lot of knowledge of sensors/biosensors and their use in the exploration of neurodegenerative diseases from my physiology degree so I got the job. I have not looked back since!
What it is you like about your current job?
By far the best thing about working in the Chemistry Department is the people. It is such a friendly, welcoming place to be. Someone is always willing to help out. Add to that some incredible research and it makes the whole place pretty exciting.
Why did you choose to work in your field of research?
Luckily, Prof. John Lowry (whose lab I manage) has worked closely with some of my old physiology lecturers in UCD and I had a good knowledge (and my old undergrad notes) on sensors/biosensors and microdialysis. Neurochemistry/physiology has always fascinated me and it was a nice change from my cardio background.
Is there anything preventing you from progressing in your career?
I am very luck to say, that at this point in time, no there is nothing preventing me from progressing. I know that when the time comes that I want to upskill, I will have the full backing of the Department and Prof. Lowry. For now, the flexibility that comes with my job is perfect for having two small kids.
What is your greatest achievement to date in research?
I will always remember the day I did a western blot and found one particular protein that was only expressed in the lung vasculature that directly related to pulmonary hypertension. That was pretty cool and lead to a really great publication. This was especially great, as I absolutely hate doing western blots! Not many in this Department will understand the pain of doing a western blot though.
What advice would you give to others starting out in a similar job to yours?
Take the risk! I chose to leave a good career in research to move into a technical role, which was a big change. It has offered me a whole new insight in to the running of a department. Moving from a physiology department to chemistry was the biggest risk of all. Chemistry is not my strong point. Seven years and counting though, so I must be doing something right!