Originally from Navan, in Co. Meath, Des lives in Dublin with his wife Anne, son Ferdia, and daughter Saoirse. When not in the lab, Des loves to garden and travel. He is currently reading Padre Pio’s biography and ‘The Dual Tradition’ by Thomas Kinsella. Des has always been curious about the natural world and believes this is why he ended up in science. Even as a child, Des says that he was the kid that would bring a nest from his garden at home into school for the class Nature Table.
Des is Full Professor of Dermatological Science at UCD School of Medicine and Director of the Charles Institute of Dermatology in UCD. Over the past 25+ years Des has researched basic and applied skin/hair sciences, with a particular focus on the regulation of hair growth in health and disease, and on the biology of human melanocytes/pigmentation in health and disease.
Currently, Des is investigating how exactly UV radiation from the sun transforms the pigment cells in our skin, known as melanocytes, into melanoma cells – a dangerous form of skin cancer if not caught early enough. Understanding how this happens could lead to improved treatments and outcomes for melanoma. A year after starting this project, Des’s brother was diagnosed with melanoma himself. This has provided further motivation for Des to understand why good melanocytes become bad melanoma cells.