What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
The main tasks associated with my job are devising and delivering lectures on a number of subjects to students studying forestry in UCD. I am also involved in a number of research projects; I source funding for the research, and supervise postgraduate students while they undertake the research. I also write research papers for scientific journals.
Describe a typical day?
During the time of the year that undergraduate students are in UCD, around half of my time is spent preparing for and delivering lectures, otherwise I am working on research projects; for the remainder of the year I would spend all my time supervising post-graduate students undertaking research and writing papers.
What are the main challenges?
As a lecturer in a University you are not expected only to lecture. You are also expected to look for research funds from outside bodies, carry out that research in conjunction with postgraduate students and then publish the results. Trying to keep all these aspects going can be quite challenging.
What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?
I have good statistical skills which is very important when undertaking research of any kind.
Most of my work involves dealing with students, both undergraduate and postgraduate. It can be very rewarding to help a student understand some element of the course that they have difficulty with; in particular with postgraduate students it is rewarding to see them evolve into independent researchers. Finally seeing a paper that you have co-written published in an international scientific journal is also “cool”.
What's not so cool?
Dealing with a lot of paperwork that is associated with administration is not cool. Another aspect that is not cool is meeting students who have not really put a lot of thought into their choice of subject in UCD and are not happy or enjoying their studies.
How did you go about getting your current job?
There was an element of luck; of being in the right place at the right time. When I was studying for my PhD I did some teaching in UCD. Then I got a job as a researcher in UCD and continued to teach a number of forestry courses. I was doing that when a lecturing vacancy came up; I applied for it and got the job.
What were the main 'career decision' milestones in your life so far?
The main one was deciding that I really enjoyed lecturing and preparing material for lectures. This was despite the fact that I had initially decided to do forestry so as not to end up being a teacher like the rest of my siblings. Once I got the buzz from lecturing I decided that was something I would like to continue to do.
Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?
When deciding what subject I would study in UCD I was told by a family friend that there was no future in forestry for a woman; that made me very determined to study forestry to prove them wrong. The really good lecturers that I had as a student inspired to want to become a good lecturer/teacher.
Education and Training
What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?
In addition to the usual subjects (i.e. Irish, English, French and Maths) I studied Biology, Chemistry and History. To be honest my choice of subject did not influence my career path. Almost all my siblings were teachers and I wanted to do something different, so I choose forestry as I knew no-one who was a forester. In the end I have ended up as a teacher.
What is your education to date?
I was awarded by undergraduate degree in forestry, BAgrSc in Forestry in 1987. I then studied for a PhD in forestry and was the first woman in Ireland to be awarded a PhD (by 1 minute!). I also have a Higher Diploma in Statistics.
What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
The work involved in my PhD help prepare me to initiate research projects myself and helped me guide and supervise others undertaking their masters or PhD studies.
Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?
Yes – to improve my knowledge of statistics, I did a Higher Diploma in Statistics. Scientists need to have a good grounding in statistical methods.
What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?
I think the first time a paper I had written was published in an American forestry journal. When my first postgraduate student graduated – that was also a very rewarding event.
What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?
I think in any job it’s important to work hard. So I would consider myself a hard worker. It’s also important to get on with people and I would like to think I try to get on with people I work with.
What is your dream job?
I think my current job is my dream job.
What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?
Organisational skills are important; those funding research expect that deadlines are met regarding producing research results etc.; so often these deadlines coincide with demands for teaching so it is important to be very organised.
For the teaching element of the job it is important that the material that has to be covered in the individual lectures and in the course overall has to be presented in an engaging and informative way.
To do any job well I think you have to enjoy it.
What advice would you give to someone considering this job?
The road to becoming a lecturer is quite long; you need to have at least PhD as well as an undergraduate degree; you would also need to have experience of working as a researcher in research projects so it can take quite a while to reach a stage where you might be considered for a lecturer’s position. So patience is required.
What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?
Taking part in any scientific research projects in school etc would help decide whether you have a taste for scientific research.
Department of Forestry