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27 March 2023  

Émer Hickey

Émer Hickey

Émer Hickey

A Travelling Doctoral Studentship Prize in Medical Mycology was awarded to Émer Hickey, a graduate of University College Cork

Émer graduated from University College Cork in 2020 with a Microbiology BSc. During her time at UCC, she was a Quercus Scholar for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Science has inspired Émer from a young age and her team won the BT Young Scientist. This led to further success at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists and the Google Science Fair. Her 3rd year and final year project, supervised by Dr John Morrissey, first introduced her to the field of mycology.

Émer is undertaking a PhD in Medical Mycology. She is based at Medical Research Council Centre for Medical Mycology (MRC CMM) at the University of Exeter and her project is supervised by Professors Alistair Brown and Gordon Brown. She chose this centre as the MRC CMM facilitates innovative multi-disciplinary research covering fungal pathogenesis and host immunity.

Émer’s research focuses on Candida albicans adaptation within the gut. The aim is to further understand how gut-related inputs impact the switch from harmless commensal to prolific pathogen. In doing so, she hopes to identify pathways and processes which could be used in future drug design. Émer’s desire to pursue this research reflects her aspiration to improve outcomes for those suffering from fungal diseases. She is inspired by the idea that my research has the clear potential to directly help vulnerable patients globally.

Being a recipient of an NUI Travelling Studentship is assisting Émer in conducting research in a world-leading institute. She hopes this studentship will help fund visits to other research centres with different specialities such as gut ex-vivo modelling. With the help of the NUI, Émer also hopes to continue her work in science outreach. She has written an experiment booklet for children called ‘Fungi are Alive!’ which introduces young scientists to simple fungal biology concepts. This has been made available online and is being used in classrooms in both the UK and Ireland. She is the Chief of Staff at the London International Youth Science. This is an annual science conference for 16-21 year olds which brings together over 500 students from all over the world to learn about science. Émer is still actively involved in the BTYSTE and speaks regularly at science outreach events.

Over the next few years Émer is looking forward to establishing herself as a medical mycology researcher and is excited to publish her first paper! After her PhD, she wants to research the development of novel therapeutics that target fungal pathogens in the gut. She hopes to pursue this dream in Ireland because a number of Irish institutes are performing world-leading microbiome research. Émer is also inspired by the collaborations between industry and academia in Ireland which would facilitate the translation of my research from bench to bedside. While doing this, Émer is keen to continue outreach activities to continue inspiring more young people into science, as she was once inspired back during the BT Young Scientist days.