Photo of a young woman in casual clothes, sitting against a brightly patterned wall in the GMI office.
Dana Flack. Image: Genomics Medicine Ireland.

There’s no such thing as a ‘typical day’ at Genomics Medicine Ireland

25 Sep 2019

Find out why every day is different at Genomics Medicine Ireland, from an intern who is studying stratified medicine.

Are you still at college and eager to get some pointers on what working in life sciences is really like? Well, we asked someone who is just starting her career path in this area.

Dana Flack is an intern at Genomics Medicine Ireland and her mission is to continue working in the health research company once she has graduated.

‘I’ve learned that it is definitely advantageous to have a varied skillset going into this industry’

What are you studying in college?

I am studying for a BSc (Hons) in stratified medicine, also known as precision medicine, at Ulster University.

What drew you to Genomics Medicine Ireland when you were seeking an internship?

I had heard about Genomics Medicine Ireland from my lecturers at college. I feel that for someone who has chosen to pursue a career in the life and health sciences industry, the ultimate goal is to be able to advance human health and to help provide better treatments for patients – so to find a company in Ireland that is at the forefront of this research, I knew that this was the company I wanted to work for.

What expectations did you have before you began your internship?

I honestly had no idea what to expect. I have never had a nine-to-five office job before.

I knew it would be very different to what I’m used to and that it would be a challenging year for me, but everyone here made me feel so welcome and like part of the team straight away.

What duties and responsibilities were you given initially?

Initially, I was working with the bioinformatics team, helping to troubleshoot and debug scripts, rewrite scripts into different languages, and package various programmes and scripts.

I also assisted in coordinating team meetings and events, and in documenting various projects.

Did the scope of your work change as the internship progressed?

Yes, it changed quite dramatically actually. I have seen a lot of different sides to the company over the past year.

I started with the bioinformatics department, then I was given the opportunity to spend a few weeks with the lab team, which involved spending some time in the different labs, sample processing and genotyping.

Then I did some rare disease analysis with the research team, which I wrote up as my project for college, and now I have joined the patient advocacy and community engagement (PACE) team, mainly helping with outreach and education.

Can you describe a typical day in your role?

Well, the environment is really fast paced and dynamic, so it’s hard to describe a ‘typical day’.

Currently, my day consists of doing the morning rounds with the post (I sit near the door, so I get most of the deliveries), attending a couple of meetings with the PACE and bioinformatics teams (who I still provide support to if required).

I help finalise content for educational leaflets that will be handed out to patients, the general public and healthcare professionals at different events and conferences, and then I help out with clinical supplies in the afternoon.

And maybe a quick game of table tennis at lunchtime!

What key things have you learned during this internship?

I’ve learned that it is definitely advantageous to have a varied skillset going into this industry. No matter what your role is, having another set of skills can lead to new developments within that role and provide new opportunities.

I’ve learned that if I want to go into research, there is an increasing need for scientists with data analysis skills. So even if I don’t want to be a bioinformatician, having those skills will be extremely transferable anyway.

Also, from working at GMI, I’ve realised that postgraduate education is necessary for almost any career in the life sciences industry, so that’s something I will have to think about over the next year.

Has this internship made you feel as though you’re on the right career path?

It has definitely reaffirmed that I made the right choice pursuing a career within a company like GMI! There were so many different departments that I got the opportunity to work with.

I loved working with them all and the industry is so varied in its roles and opportunities – I have a lot of different options to consider after I finish my final year in college.

Do you feel more prepared for working life following your internship?

Absolutely. I’ve found that I really enjoy the structure of a nine-to-five work day, and I now feel more comfortable adapting to a fast-paced environment. And even though I have another year to finish at college, it has given me an appreciation of how much work I have to do to get to where I want to go – which is working for GMI.

Why should someone take up an internship at Genomics Medicine Ireland?

The skills I’ve learned from working with the different departments here are skills that I can take back to college and into my future career within the industry.

But the main advantage has been working with a team of people who all share the same goal of wanting to improve lives through genomics, it creates a really nice atmosphere to work in.

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