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Chemistry & Chemical Sciences Blogs

Chemistry & Chemical Sciences Blogs

In this section, students and graduates of subjects in Chemistry & Chemical Sciences subject areas will share their experiences in UCD.  If you choose to focus your studies on the Chemistry & Chemical Sciences Blogs disciplines this will lead to a degree in one of the following subjects:

  • Chemistry
  • Chemistry with Biophysical Chemistry
  • Chemistry with Environmental & Sustainable Chemistry
  • Medicinal Chemistry & Chemical Biology
  • Chemistry, Mathematics & Education

 UCD Chemistry graduate Niamh McKeever explains why she took a year out to complete an internship at APC Ltd

Deciding to do an internship

The choice to take a year out of your degree requires a lot of consideration so weighing up the pros and cons is a good first step. For example:


  • Gain experience in an area relevant to your degree.
  • Learn skills such as team work as well as specialised skills (in my case, lab based).
  • Earn money (depending on your internship type).
  • Have 1 year relevant work experience on your CV.


  • Leaving a year group you know and returning to a new one.
  • Starting work in an area that’s completely new to you.
  • Not knowing how difficult it would be to readjust into studying when returning to complete my final year.

In third year I knew I wanted a pharmaceutical industry placement and, for me, the pros completely outweighed the cons. What appealed to me was the opportunity to experience working in the field of chemistry and getting exposed to industry labs, knowing that my final year of my degree would allow me to experience academic research labs and have something to compare them to. I applied for 3-month long summer internships as well as a year-long internship offered by APC.

How the process worked

Before applying to any jobs, I prepared my CV and cover letters and I got them checked by a lecturer. It’s so important to have someone else look at your CV and cover letter and give you tips and changes you should make, whether it’s your lecturer, a friend or family member. Another useful thing is to research the company and the role you are applying for. This allows you to tailor your application to what they are looking for, specific skills in the lab, team work etc.

After the application process, I was invited for an interview. Again, researching the company is key. It allows you to find out why you want to work in the company and this enthusiasm will come across in the interview. I was excited to join APC because it was a young company based in UCD in the pharmaceutical R&D sector. After receiving a call to say I had got the position I was delighted. The process of applying for a year out is made easy by the science programme office. Once you go into them they’ll give you a form to fill out and process your application. Then you’re good to go and content that when you come back a year later you’ll have a place in final year.

Typical day in APC

Firstly, to explain what APC does. It is a consulting company that provides process development for pharmaceutical companies. This means that my internship would involve working in the lab, running and analysing experiments in order to improve a particular process that produces an API (active pharmaceutical ingredient). For working in a lab-based environment no two days are going to be the same as each project gives rise to different challenges and problems to overcome.

Typically, my role involved assisting the scientists and engineers on my team by analysing samples from their processes and determine various properties of the materials such as purity, water content and thermal characteristics. Apart from project work other things in the lab needed to be carried out like safety checks, calibration and maintenance of various instruments and checklists to complete to ensure the team has everything needed to carry out processes.

Outside of work there was a Sports and Social club that organised events like comedy nights, days at the races and dinners out. A year in a company is of course completely different to a year in college. The benefits you don’t think of are that your evenings and weekends are free and don’t have to be filled with studying (or the guilt of not!). Of course of the other side, in work there’s no month off for Christmas and other long college holidays but that’s something we all have to get used to eventually!

What I learned

My 14 months as an intern in APC gave me an understanding of the pharmaceutical industry and an experience of what a lab based job entails day to day. Luckily for me, it is something I enjoyed and an area that I knew I would want to work in again. As well as the experience I learned many fundamental skills for future jobs including operating different pieces of lab equipment, working as part of a team and using various types of software.

Regardless of whether I wanted to carry on in chemistry or take a different route after my degree the skills I learned are transferable to many jobs and would impress any potential employers in future job applications and interviews. It’s something I’m very glad I did and would recommend it to anyone who is eager to experience what working life is like.

Niamh McKeever, UCD Chemistry Graduate

Niamh has now graduated with a BSc Chemistry and is working as an Assistant Scientist (Small Molecule) at APC Ltd 

 Meet UCD Chemistry with Environmental & Sustainable graduate Eimear Madden...

To mark International Day of Women and Girls in Science, UCD Science graduate Eimear Madden explains why decided to study Science.

I chose to pursue an undergraduate degree in Science because I’m a curious person. I wanted to help answer some of the questions that the world has posed to us, particularly from a chemical perspective, for example how can we harness the energy in chemicals to provide us with electricity? And I know that these questions are difficult to answer, but I know I am capable of contributing to this kind of research.

Read the full article now in our News section.

Final year Chemistry student Andrew Keating describes his experiences studying Chemistry in UCD…

Like a lot of people, I had no idea what I wanted to do in science. I had really liked maths for the Leaving Cert and I had only done Biology as a science subject. So straight away I thought I would do either Maths or Biology. However, after two weeks, I realized I didn’t like either as much as I thought. Disaster! I thought I had messed up and was now confined to MPG. Luckily I had taken an Introductory Chemistry module just to keep my options open. I loved it. The lecturer, Dr. Mike Casey, was great. He was always happy and enthusiastic. I decided to go to the Science Programme Office and change from MPG to No Preference. I swapped some of my Biology and Maths modules for Chemistry and Geology modules. Even though I hadn’t seen Chemistry since the Junior Cert science I wasn’t phased at all. I really enjoyed the lectures and the labs.

Along came Second Year and I started to veer closer towards Chemistry. It was the right decision. The lectures were even more interesting, the labs were challenging and stimulating. Even though the material was tougher, the lecturers were all so approachable and made great efforts to facilitate us that it was difficult not to learn. We also had postgraduates to demonstrate and help us in the labs and be our tutors to aid with the course material. We could tell that everybody wanted us to do well. Second Year really sealed the deal. I knew I was doing the best degree for me. So I chose Chemistry as my major.

Third year was definitely a huge step up. It was business time. The learning material, the labs, and the tutorials all became tougher. But it was all so compelling. We began learning about the inner workings of instrumental analysis such as HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography) and NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) spectroscopy. We began to expend our knowledge of mechanisms, stereochemistry, and carbonyl chemistry.

Besides exams, we had two ways of being assessed – labs and tutorials. The labs typically take up about 30% of your continuous assessment, while the tutorials 10%. Our labs, like our modules, covered three main aspects of chemistry – Physical, Organic and Inorganic. Each aspect was challenging for a variety of reasons. They required different techniques and a different mind-set.

As much as I enjoyed the physical labs, the organic and inorganic labs were my favourite part of third year. At first 6 hour labs sounds unappealing but they were great. In the first week, we received our manuals with all our experiments for the semester. Before each lab, we were required to cover all safety and precautionary aspects of each experiment. We were required to use more volatile chemicals than previous years and several experiments would be performed under vacuum or anaerobically, i.e. in an inert atmosphere such as Nitrogen gas. We had more independence and more responsibility.

Nevertheless, the lecturers and demonstrators were close by to help if needed. A big change from second to third year was that we were not only getting a product we were analysing it too. One of the greatest joys of being a chemistry student is when you’ve worked really hard in a lab synthesizing and isolating a product and then analysing it to find, firstly it’s the correct product, and secondly that it’s pure. It really makes all the hard work worth it knowing you’ve done a good job.

Personally, I found tutorials really helpful because at times I found myself taking notes and understanding the lectures, but I was never really sure how much I knew until we received a tutorial problem sheet. These typically consisted of problems similar to homework in secondary school but we would have about a week or two to complete them. They test your knowledge of the lecture material and your ability to back-up your knowledge with references to academic papers. When we attended a tutorial class, they were either held by the lecturer themselves or a postgraduate. These were very insightful! The lecturer or postgraduate would go through the tutorial answers and make sure everybody understood what was being asked. Tutorials are also a perfect time to ask any questions you have about the learning material.

As for me, I’m now in my final year. As scary, as it is I am comforted by the fact that I have support if needed. I am not sure what I will pursue once I am finished but my two main ideas are to head straight into industry and begin working full-time or to stay in academia and aim for a PhD. I am hoping that after this year I will lean one way or another but only time will tell which way I go.

Final year Chemistry student Niamh Lehane explains why she chose DN200 Science and describes her experiences of studying Chemistry in UCD…

Why did you pick DN200 Science?

Science was always my favourite subject at school – I studied Biology, Chemistry and Physics for the Leaving Cert. I found it difficult to choose one over the others, which is why I chose to come to UCD and enter DN200. The degree is extremely flexible, and this allowed me to study modules in Biology, Chemistry and Physics in my First Year so I could experience each subject at Third Level before making a decision.

Why did you choose Chemistry?

Chemistry grasped my interest right from day one. I love how it combines logic and analytical thinking with creativity. I find it fascinating how one minor adjustment to a molecule can completely alter its properties. I also think it’s amazing that even though atoms and molecules are miniscule, they are what make up the world around us. I’m hoping to enter the pharmaceutical industry after graduation, where designing and altering compounds can be of huge benefit to peoples’ health, and perhaps even lifesaving.

What do you like best about Chemistry?

I really like the balance of lectures with lab sessions. I find it really helpful to synthesise a compound after studying the mechanism in class – proof that it’s not just an abstract theory! Labs are a great way to get to know your classmates, and the more relaxed setting is a nice break from sitting in a class or the library.

What is your favourite part of the course?

My favourite part of the course was a lab we took in semester one of Third Year. The set up was different to other modules; we had to complete a group research project, but unlike any we had done previously, this time we were actually carrying out experiments. It was the first time we had the opportunity to design and perform novel reactions. My group successfully worked on modifying a reaction scheme for the synthesis of a type of sulfone, to make it greener and more efficient. It was so cool to know that we were the first people to execute this reaction.

UCD College of Science

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