Andrea Pacheco: ‘My presentation is about optogenetics, a new branch of neuroscience’

4 Apr 2019

Andrea Pacheco. Image: British Council

From Colombia to Cork, Andrea Pacheco’s journey to FameLab has been one of collaboration and learning lifelong skills.

Andrea Pacheco did her undergrad and master’s studies in physics at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia before coming to Ireland and joining the biophotonics team at Tyndall National Institute in 2017.

Since then, she has been working on the clinical translation of gas in scattering media absorption spectroscopy (GASMAS) to develop a non-invasive clinical device for assessment and diagnosis in respiratory healthcare for newborns.

How did you hear about FameLab and what made you enter?

I attended the Cork heats in 2018 and enjoyed it a lot. This year I saw the call and said to myself, ‘Well, let’s give it a try to learn how to overcome your fear to speak in public.’ I thought I would do it just once in life – and here I am!

What’s your presentation about and how did you prepare for it?

My presentation is about optogenetics, a new branch of neuroscience that combines light and genetic engineering to control specific cells in the brain without interacting with the neighbouring ones. This technique opens the window to understanding how the brain stores memories, controls movement and triggers emotions.

To prepare for the final I have been learning as much as possible about it. I spoke with some experts in the topic and discussed it with friends and colleagues. The training from the British Council has been extremely helpful!

What was your journey to the final?

I got second place in the Cork heats, my friend Luiza got a very well-deserved first place. We are both working in the Tyndall National Institute and we prepared and practised together for the heats (we were actually joking about both getting through the Cork final, and we did!).

Now we keep practising together, getting input and feedback from FameLabbers from Tyndall who succeeded in the past. It has been a great journey of collaborative work and quick improvement.

How valuable is this experience in teaching you how to communicate?

It was a very valuable experience standing on a stage for the very first time in the Cork heats. It was great fun and, to my surprise, I did not blank and could perform as expected.

FameLab has helped to improve my self-confidence. Now, I am aware of the importance of words, speech structure and body language. All of these communication skills are without doubt things I’ll carry with me all my life.

Are you a researcher with an interesting project to share? Let us know by emailing with the subject line ‘Science Uncovered’.