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Having experienced an unconventional academic path complete with twists and turns, SETU graduate and Wexfordian Natasha Stafford says she now works in a field that she’s truly passionate about. After graduating from SETU with a BSc (Hons) in Molecular Biology with Biopharmaceutical Science, Natasha now works for Pfizer in Co Kildare. She outlines her career journey from freelance graphic design to molecular biology.

Falling back in love with science

I originally graduated in 2013 with a BSc in Multimedia Applications Development at what was then Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT). After graduating, I worked as a freelance graphic designer and as a medical receptionist. During my time working at the clinic, I fell in love with medicine and rediscovered my love for science.

This passion pushed me to make the huge decision in 2016 to sit Leaving Cert Biology and Chemistry where I studied both subjects at home. Despite the promising future that lay ahead, I still needed to earn a living, so after sitting my Leaving Cert I worked in a clean room where I packaged and inspected surgical grade cardiovascular guidewires. After that, I returned to SETU to study Science (common entry) before going on to graduate with a BSc (Hons) in Molecular Biology with Biopharmaceutical Science.

The advantages of common entry

I applied for the course as I had a passion for science but didn’t know what area suited me most. Common entry allowed me to experience four different areas including pharmaceutical science, physics, food science and molecular biology. This enabled me to choose the one that I liked most. I chose molecular biology as biology is my favourite science discipline; it’s ever-expanding and offers a multitude of different career types, study types and research options.

Work placement highlights

The highlight of my second stint at SETU included two parts: placement at Horizon Therapeutics where I worked as a microbiology intern and writing my final year thesis. Both experiences gave me a greater understanding of my abilities both inside and outside the laboratory. It also enabled me to accurately determine expectations for research projects.

Advice for those on a similar path to you

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. That’s one of the hardest things to do when starting somewhere new. Always keep an open mind and be willing to ask the questions that need to be asked. That allows you to improve your learning. Also, it’s always a good thing to engage with your lecturers and ask for help when needed – they’ll always be happy to oblige.

Growing with the industry

I hope to both hone my existing skills and develop new ones. My ultimate aim is to become a well-rounded scientist who can grow with the industry.

For more information on SETU's BSc (Hons) in Molecular Biology with Biopharmaceutical Science, tap here.