photograph and paper circles

This is a photograph of my great grandparents, taken in West Kerry near Mount Brandon on The Wild Atlantic Way. It looks like there isn’t even a proper road and there are no electricity wires anywhere. It reminds me of the fantastic opportunities we have been given and how Ireland has developed as a European country. 

We print out simple but very effective patterned stripes and make them into these paper circles to assess vision in zebrafish, a small tropical fish used in our research. Using a motorised drum these patterns are rotated in clockwise and anti-clockwise directions and the zebrafish track  the movement of the drum with a saccadic eye response.


These are two unused tickets for different events I didn’t attend. I never thought I’d see my name in the same sentence as 10 Downing Street! The other ticket is to the annual PharmTox Society Summer soiree. I helped re-establish this society to build a greater sense of community and belonging for the researchers and students in our Institute. This ticket was unused as due to Covid-19 the “Ball” was cancelled – but it did return in April 2022.

used in the lab

A selection of unlikely “tools” that we use in our research which includes a well-used “tea strainer” that is used to collect the small zebrafish larvae when we are changing them from dishes and tanks of water. The “seed dropper” has been repurposed so it is used to feed equal amounts of pellet food into each of the zebrafish tanks. We adapt paintbrushes, often to only have one bristle, but in this case trimmed to a very fine point, so that we can move the small individual larvae about in their dishes. 

coloured tubes

These coloured tubes relate to the process of drug discovery.  I use them as a prop in teaching lectures to prompt students to think about how, from the millions of chemicals that exist, we identify the best drug for treating a specific indication. This also relates to our research, wherein we take an unbiased approach to discovery of new drugs that preserve or restore vision. 


One of the unexpected things about the science lab environment is that unusual and unlikely objects are in fact essential to the research process. These everyday items, a rusty wrench for repairing and maintaining pipework and a hose handle for water, are as important to the smooth running of our lab as is our coloured tape system for labelling and distinguishing one student’s experiments from another’s. 

Researcher Profile

breandán kennedy

Originally from Glasnevin, Dublin, Breandán now lives in Bray, Co. Wicklow with his wife, two children, and Cooper a new family cockapoo that joined the family during the pandemic.

Find Out More

stephen gordon

Stephen was born in Derby, England to Irish parents who moved the family back to Mayo in the late 1970s. His roots mean he supports Derby County football club as well as the Mayo GAA football team.

Find Out More