UCC PhD researcher Rosella O'Mahony's story #lookingbackmovingforward

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Rosella O'Mahony
PhD researcher at University College Cork supervised by Anita R. Maguire (UCC); Stuart G. Collins (UCC); Humphrey A. Moynihan (UCC)

Thesis Title: Enabling the synthesis and reactivity of α-diazocarbonyl compounds using continuous flow chemistry.
Research Focus: Developing better and more environmentally sustainable ways to make active pharmaceutical ingredients by enabling safe use of hazardous reagents through use of continuous flow processing

My time as an SSPC student has been a fantastic opportunity for personal development in so many ways. It was exciting to be one of the first PhD students to get training and expertise in flow chemistry in UCC and as a result I had such a vast number of opportunities. I presented my first set of results very early in the first year of my PhD which was, of course, daunting but the feedback and confidence gained from doing this has helped me immensely going forward. SSPC has supported me to attend and present at many international conferences, including FROST 2015 and 2017 (Frontiers in Organic Synthesis and Technology) and conferences in Cambridge. I also have been given the great privilege to present a Flow Chemistry Masterclass in April 2019.


The engagement with industry and prospects to collaborate with other universities has been paramount in the success of my PhD. Collaboration, through the SSPC, with other academic groups lead to my second paper “Exploiting the Continuous in Generation of Mesyl Azide for Use in a Telescoped Process”. This publication was chosen for the “Outstanding Organics” section – topics which are chosen to give a comprehensive overview of the state of the art in each field (Flow Chemistry). During my PhD I have published three research articles in peer reviewed journals, one of which was cited by Taber in “Organic Chemistry Highlights – Flow Methods in Organic Synthesis”.
I was part of the team from the School of Chemistry that delivered the first iteration of Spectroscopy in a Suitcase to Republic of Ireland schools. SSPC gave me opportunity to partake in science magic shows and science demonstration workshops and various other events. Involvement in the UCC Science Society has only enhanced this experience by giving different outreach opportunities including organising the first annual UCC Cancer conference in 2015 of which I was chief organiser and chair for the event. I have represented the School of Chemistry in UCC in several public engagements including open days and science summer camps.  Outside of this I have also attended careers nights in secondary schools and panel discussions for undergraduate students on “What it’s like to do a PhD”.


For my SSPC four month industrial placement (2016) I went to Lilly, Kinsale, where, as part of the Process Optimisation Group, I supported installation of a Vapourtec R-Series Flow Chemistry system on site and investigated the transfer of a batch process to flow, which included using FlowIR™. I also had the chance to examine batch process issues, including troubleshooting to maintain yield and quality and development and implementation of process improvements for Large Molecule reactors.


In the course of my PhD I trained, mentored and supervised four final year project students in the area of flow chemistry. Resulting from these mentorships, each final year project student has a publication and three have gone on to do PhD’s in the area of flow chemistry. As a PhD student in the SSPC so many opportunities and avenues have been opened for me and my future career. The support from SSPC in terms of training, outreach, industry engagement and supervision has led me to achieve everything I have in the past 4 years.


#SSPCStories #lookingbackmovingforward