All my personal and research items are small but under the magnifying glass
(microscope in the case of my research) we can discover amazing detail! For my
research the ability to visually increase the size of the structures I am studying
is absolutely essential.
Originally from Dublin, Niamh currently lives in Churchtown with her partner Mike. Their four-year-old son Senan keeps life busy and interesting. These days, when not in the lab, Niamh loves to have a glass of wine with friends and has just finished the couch-to-5k…. so hopes to keep moving again after lockdown-induced inactivity! Niamh comes from a large extended family (50+ first cousins) and when people were discussing who resembled which relative, she was always curious to know whether there was anything real behind it. When she discovered that Genetics could not only answer some of these mundane personal questions, but also help to revolutionise medical treatment, it was something that she knew she wanted to be involved in.
Niamh is an Assistant Professor in the UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science. She is also the head of a research lab in UCD Conway Institute that uses fruit flies to better understand diseases like motor neuron disease. How can a pesky fly help science research? Well, about 75% of genes that cause disease in humans can also be found in flies which means that these flies can be used to study and better understand human disease.
Niamh and her team are specifically interested in how motor neurons work and what happens in motor neuron disease. Motor neurons are the nerves that connect our brain to the muscles throughout our body allowing us to control our movement, speech and breathing. If signals from the brain cannot reach the muscles, they gradually weaken and waste away causing paralysis. Niamh’s lab studies why these motor neurons stop working in patients with motor neuron disease. Her research team alter the genes of flies so that they have the same genetic mutations as patients with motor neuron disease. They then analyse the damaged neurons in the flies, in a way that could never be done in affected people. From this, they have found that certain energy systems in these flies are not working properly, which is leading to impaired movement.
“Disclaimer: This fly-on-the-wall video was recorded while capturing audio conversions between artist and researcher / patient advocates about the selected objects. While not originally part of the exhibition concept, this unedited record of their interaction gives a flavour of the creative process in this project ”