UCD graduate Courtney Greene describes why she chose Pharmacology. In addition to the post below, you can watch a short Q&A with Courtney about why she chose Ireland, UCD Science and Pharmacology as well as a discussion about her career choices after graduation.
Coming into UCD I knew I wanted to study Science. I chose to study biomedical and biomolecular sciences because I was passionate about research and the human body. During, first year, I explored modules from organic chemistry to biomedical Sciences as a result of UCD Science’s flexible first year Science curriculum. It was at the end of first year that I knew I wanted to pursue a Science largely related to medicine and the human body. With that, I decided to focus my studies in Second Year on Pharmacology, Neuroscience, Microbiology and Physiology.
Early in Second Year, I knew I would eventually pursue Pharmacology. I chose it because I'm infatuated in the research of drugs and the treatment of diseases. Pharmacology is at the forefront of both biological and medical research, a career choice that has ample opportunities for both innovation and success, not just in science and medicine, but business as well.
Pharmacology is often confused with pharmacy, and it is important to understand just how different these degrees are. In pharmacy, you are studying drugs and their actions, but with the end goal of becoming a pharmacist, working in patient care settings and working with the administration of drugs. Pharmacology itself looks more at the understanding and research of drugs and thus is the branch of biology concerned with drug action. More specifically, it is the study of interactions that occur between a living organism and the chemicals that affect their biochemical function. The degree here at UCD largely focuses on different aspects of how drugs act on the body and how the body responds to the drug, appropriately termed, pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics. With that said, third Year primarily focused on advanced foundation modules like ‘Cell Signaling’, ‘Drug Action in Body Systems’, ‘Chemotherapeutic Agents’, and ‘Toxicology’. It’s with that basic fundamental understanding that we then were able to apply these pharmacological principles to more advanced modules in third and fourth Year like ‘Advanced Cancer Pharmacology’, ‘Advanced ‘Neuropharmacology’, ‘Advanced Renal Pharmacology’ and ‘Advanced Cardiovascular Pharmacology’.
The degree itself is very interactive and hands on. In third Year, we broke into smaller class sizes, allowing us to really engage with our professors and lecturers. In addition, we had anywhere from 3 to 4 labs a week that really tried to enforce knowledge for different aspects of lab skills that would be necessary for the real-world research setting of Pharmacology. These skills varied from the use of animal organ baths, to the manipulation of cancer cell lines, and to virtual computer aided labs.
In fourth year, you choose to pursue a 15-credit group research project or a full time, 3-month 20 credit individual research project carried out under a supervisor and their team of researchers. My work focused primarily on ‘oral peptide drug delivery’, using the colonic mucosae from a rat model to pursue my research on. Using a fluorescent peptide model in an apparatus called an ‘Ussing Chamber’, the objective of my studies were to see if a permeation enhancer on this peptide model was able to alleviate the grip of tight junctions in the colonic mucosae which inhibits the drug from reaching its intended target. This is the result of the large bulky size of peptide molecule drugs, like insulin! That is why insulin for diabetics cannot be taken in an oral tablet form, it is too large to cross intestinally. My research was exciting to watch unfold, and an important addition to the research of my lab group where publishable data was attained.
I had an avenue of options to pursue following my four year completion of the degree. Many students go on to pursue industry work or a full time career in their respective degree discipline, many go on to pursue further education with great opportunity and success. For example, coming out of my pharmacology degree the options were multifold with myself and my classmates all taking different routes. Many went right into a fully funded PhD, some into a research masters, and some into work and graduate programs. A few even went on to pursue Graduate Entry Medicine. I went on to pursue a masters in UCD’s Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School in the related field of ‘Biotechnology and Business’. As my future desires for work laid in regulatory management and approval of drugs, a joint business degree was crucial for my future success in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. With modules ranging from corporate finance to regulatory affairs and medical devices, my completion of the course has made me a well-rounded applicant for my future endeavours.
After working in the clinical research area of drug regulation and safety in clinical trials for a couple of years, I then moved onto directly working in pediatric clinical trials on site in CHI Hospitals. I am currently based primarily in Temple Street where I work directly with the Cystic Fibrosis multidisciplinary team carrying out phase III clinical trials and research on the young pediatric cohort. Switching to a hands-on, patient facing role has been extremely rewarding and purposeful.
In addition to the happiness I found in UCD Science, I can’t neglect to show appreciation to the state of the art campus, faculty, and student life in UCD which have been so welcoming over the past few years. The experiences, lessons, friends and education I have taken away from my time in UCD has undoubtedly crafted me into the adult I am today. I’m not sure whether my future journey will keep me in Dublin, Europe, or America but I know I’m ready for wherever my Science journey takes me, always carrying with me the experience and lessons my time in UCD has taught me.
Courtney Greene, UCD Pharmacology Graduate