Meet Yensi, our Honduran and UCC Ambassador, she’s been on an incredible journey so far. Discover more about her PhD and why she rates UCC and the people that work there so highly…

I started my PhD in October 2015. I was lucky to meet my supervisor during my MSc in Molecular Cell Biology. The timing was perfect, I had two weeks to propose a lab where I wanted to do my MSc research placement. When Dr Mark Tangney (my PhD supervisor) came to lecture us, I was so impressed by research done in his lab that I knew I wanted my placement on his lab. However, there was a blip, his lab wasn’t listed among the labs available for placements for the MSc.  Nevertheless, I spoke to him and spoke with my MSc supervisor and I was very lucky – I got the placement in his lab.

It is in decisions like this one, where I’ve been most impressed and have appreciated the quality of people in Irish research institutions. That decision had a huge impact on my life. During my placement, I applied for a PhD with him, he accepted me (the second happiest day in my life!!) and I am currently doing a PhD in his lab, after being granted an Irish Research Council PhD Scholarship. I wonder what would have happened if I was in another place, a place where my MSc supervisor would have just said: “No, you are not allowed”. In most places, that’s what would have happened. But here in UCC, things are different. All because of the people. I would dare to say that in Ireland, people go out of their ways to help you thrive (if you are willing to do your part).

What’s more, this was not the only time. I have experienced many of this (and I’m very grateful for it) The most important being giving me the opportunity to pursue an MSc in Molecular Cell Biology and Bioinnovation in UCC.

You see, scholarship opportunities are limited in Honduras and many times our academic records are “not good enough” to be accepted in MSc programmes, even after being awarded a prestigious scholarship. This was my case – I was passionate about molecular biology; however, the subject was not taught in my University in Honduras, so I self-studied it. As an undergraduate, I excelled in my studies and extracurricular activities, to make sure I could be a candidate for a Scholarship. I was lucky to be awarded several scholarships; however, even when holding a scholarship, I got rejected because my transcripts didn’t include molecular biology modules (Even when my CV showed I volunteered for 5 years in a Molecular Biology Lab).

When I was awarded the AMIDILA Scholarship to come to UCC, I was scared this would be the case. I was so happy (the happiest day in my life!) when instead of a rejection letter, I received an invitation for an interview, “Wow!!!! I just couldn’t believe it”. You see, by doing this, the MSc coordinators gave me a chance to prove myself and I remember I even showed them the books I used to study with.  That is how researchers in UCC are, they go beyond what they are supposed to do. They are people. Good people, that see the potential in people and are happy to help. Unlike other institutions, where an application is not even considered if its missing something, where humanity is lost somewhere in the process, where evaluators fail to see the person in the application and judge only be ticking a box.

In my experience – it was true, I was the student with the weaker foundations in my promotion. Nevertheless, I graduated with first class honours, and the highest marks in the history of the MSc. The coordinators were right, saw my passion and dedication for learning, they knew I would appreciate the opportunity –  in other words: they saw my human qualities.

I feel blessed to be here and work in my lab. It is a thrilling and challenging experience that wouldn’t feel as good if I wasn’t surrounded by genuine and good people. My lab mates, supervisors and everyone in my lab is great. Now that I am here, doing a PhD, I realise how important it is to have this support system when doing a PhD. In my experience, a PhD requires dedication, a lot of work and creativity. But most importantly: patience, acceptance of failure and determination, because in science a lot of things don’t work at the first or second time. I imagine it would be very psychologically and emotionally exhausting if you didn’t have the support of your team and supervisor. Again, this is what makes the difference here. It is here where I can dedicate more time in my lab, because I feel happy and comfortable with the people that surround me. Where if I have a long day or a bad day, I know someone will be there to make me feel better. I am a HAPPY PhD student! When I say this in front of other PhD students in conferences, they see me as a nut! But its true.

Want to know more? Read my testimony on the UCC website