UA Alumni: Jamie Sugrue
Jamie completed his undergraduate degree in Human Health and Disease at Trinity College Dublin, graduating in 2017 with a first-class honours degree. He was the Global Winner in the Life Sciences category at The Undergraduate Awards that same year, for his thesis entitled “NLRP3 inflammasome activation alters the metabolic profile of macrophages”, which is now available as a paper here.
Where do your interests lie?
I’m a keen reader and lover of languages. My name is Jamie Sugrue or Ó Siochrú, depending on whether you know me as Gaeilge or in English. Being from a Gaeltacht, Irish is something I’m passionate about, but I also love French and work hard to improve my French in my free time - though increasingly free time is a diminishing luxury. Academically, immunology is the subject matter in which I’m most interested.
What are you doing now and what has happened since the award?
I’m still at Trinity, now a fourth year PhD student working with a cohort of women who were exposed to the hepatitis C virus through a contaminated medication in the 1970s. We’re interested in understanding why some of the women who were exposed were protected against infection.
I’ve really enjoyed my PhD, though granted it’s certainly been tough at times. My PhD project is highly collaborative, with input from research groups and people all across Europe and Australia. I was fortunate to spend some time in the Institut Pasteur in Paris with a collaborator of ours during my second and third years. It was great to experience how things work in a different research institute, and gave me the opportunity to improve both my science and my French!
More recently because of the pandemic, being a viral immunologist (in training), I have been involved in some COVID projects between St James’s Hospital, Trinity and the Institut Pasteur. The part I was mostly involved in was stimulating blood samples from COVID patients in the first wave with antiviral agents to look at differences in responses to stimulation between different COVID severities. That data is currently being analysed by the group in Pasteur. Stay tuned for the paper!
What do you like the most about what you do?
I really like how varied research and academia can be. I’ve been able to attend summer schools on research policy with the League of European Research Universities, compete in presentation competitions with the French Embassy, talk about my work on the radio and in newspaper articles.
I’ve also been able to write my own pieces for RTE and other platforms on subjects that really interest me. This is on top of my actual PhD work, which involves wet-lab experiments, data analysis, and writing.
Has receiving an award for your hard work helped?
Personally, it’s nice to get recognition for your work on a global scale. On a wider level though it’s been a valuable addition to my CV and will no doubt help me in securing a position after I finish my PhD.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to wrap up my PhD in the next couple of months. After that, I hope to postdoc on a COVID project and then immigrate to spend some time working in a different institution in either Europe or the US. Ultimately I’d like a career in academia, I love science and the life of an academic is really appealing to me.
What advice would you give to students?
For current undergraduates, it’s a bit cliche but I would say to do as much outside of your coursework as possible- write an article for the college paper, do some debating, join trampolining, it’s such a great opportunity to try new things, your undergrad is so much more than just your degree.
For recent graduates, it can be a difficult time because for many people it is the first time in their lives where the next step isn’t completely obvious. The linearity of primary school, secondary school, university is gone, and you can do anything you want, which is both very exciting and very scary. Take the time you need to decide what it is that you actually want to do, and don’t feel rushed by anyone else.
Why should students submit their work to the UA Programme?
It’s definitely worth submitting something, even if you’re not confident you’ll win a prize (I certainly didn’t expect to win anything!). It doesn’t take much time, you’ve done the hard work in writing your piece as part of your university work already, so you really have no excuse not to make the minor formatting tweaks required to submit!
The recognition is great, and the summit is lots of fun. I met some really interesting and like-minded people from all over the world that I’ve stayed in touch with and will hopefully meet again someday.