Focas Alumni


Name: Dr. Hoda Akbari

Current Position: Postdoctoral Researcher, Dept of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering Trinity College Dublin

Years in Focas: 2011-2015

Title of Thesis: Investigation of Photopolymer-Based Holographic Optical Elements for Solar Applications

Supervisor(s): Dr. Suzanne Martin and Prof. Izabela Naydenova

"I first joined FOCAS in Summer 2009 when I took part in the Eureka programme for undergraduate students funded by Science Foundation Ireland. During my scholarship, I was working on a project called “Irreversible holographic humidity sensors” in the Centre for Industrial and Engineering Optics, under the supervision of Prof. Naydenova. I had a fantastic time, all the staff and lecturers were very supportive and helpful and the social life was AMAZING.

"I re-joined FOCAS in 2011 as a postgraduate student having completed my undergraduate degree in Physics Technology in the Dublin Institute of Technology. I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in academic research and obtaining a PhD was the first step in that process. I needed to learn the appropriate research skills and obtain the necessary training in preparation for a scientific career.

"FOCAS is a great learning environment. Lecturers and leaders are approachable and helpful and there are many opportunities to collaborate across different disciplines.

"FOCAS provided me with a wealth of skills, from researching to team work, as well as the specific academic content, all of which shaped my current working and management style that I use today. There is no doubt that my time in FOCAS was one of the most enjoyable and enlightening of my life.

"In brief, my favourite memory of FOCAS is all the friendships I made. I still keep in touch with several people via Facebook and it is neat to see where everyone is now!"


  Name: Dr. Anna Murphy

Current Position: Postdoctoral researcher, Fundamental and Translational Immunology Group, Dublin City University

Years in Focas: 2011-1015

Title of Thesis: 'An investigation into the biological responses induced following oral exposure to silver nanoparticles'

Supervisor(s): Dr. Gordon Chambers and Dr. Alan Casey

"I started in FOCAS in 2011 having completed my undergraduate degree in biomedical science in the DIT Kevin St campus. I wanted to pursue research in a completely different area than my undergraduate degree and that’s exactly what I got when I started in FOCAS. Moving into a new area, especially nanotechnology/nanotoxicology, was daunting at first but having the brilliant supervisors I did, I quickly found my feet and enjoyed every aspect of learning new skills and also applying my previous knowledge to the project.

"FOCAS is a great place to complete a post graduate degree. There are always opportunities to collaborate across different disciplines and everyone is willing to offer their expertise and guidance without question. Having the opportunity to complete my PhD in a world class institute has made me a better scientist with the confidence and ability to diversify across various scientific fields, but I think most importantly what made my time there so enjoyable were the people I met and lifelong friends made who make FOCAS the great place it is."

Name: Dr. Kate Sheehy

Current Position: Bioprocessing Trainer, National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT), Ireland.

Years in Focas: 2011-2015

Title of Thesis: 'Applications of Nano-Silver as an Antimicrobial in Food Products: Assessing the Knowledge Gaps'

Supervisor(s): Dr. Gordon Chambers and Dr. Alan Casey

“I joined FOCAS in 2011 to start a PhD having finished a Masters in Biotechnology. During my masters, I completed a project in nanotechnology, and knew this was something I wanted to pursue to doctorate level. Choosing FOCAS was a no-brainer. The reputation of the Institute, with regard to nanotechnology research, is second to none. FOCAS as a research hub, has an atmosphere like nowhere else I have been before. Research groups openly communicate with one another, collaborate, and help each other out.

"As a result, my PhD research became very multi-disciplinary. I was able to gain experience across a wide range of disciplines, including toxicology, microbiology, spectroscopy and nano-characterisation. This was in part due to the fantastic open-access facilities at FOCAS, but also down to the great people, all of whom are experts in their fields and are always willing to help.

"I have no doubt that I would not be where I am today if it was not for my time In FOCAS. I was lucky enough to have a great supervisor who encouraged me to speak at many conferences, as well as undertake modules to develop my soft skills, such as science communication and leadership skills. I came out of my PhD, not only an expert in my field of research, but also a well-rounded individual.

"I managed to secure a part-time lecturing position immediately after I finished my PhD. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of my research, I was lucky that I had a great knowledge base across a wide range of topics, and I have no doubt that this was one of the main reasons I was employed.

"I am currently employed as a Bioprocessing Trainer in NIBRT (The National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training), where I teach training courses for both academic courses and industry programs. Again I most certainly owe my time in FOCAS to gaining this post, as my communication and collaboration skills are of the utmost importance in this position.

"If FOCAS taught me one thing, it is that doing a PhD is about so much more than the science. Given the fantastic nurturing, open environment of FOCAS, I was able to grow as an individual, polish my scientific skills, and continue to develop my personal skills.”   


Name: Dr. Jennifer Dorney

Current Position: Associate Research Fellow, Biomedical Physics, School of Physics, University of Exeter.

Years in Focas: 2006, 2008-2013

Title of Thesis: 'Polystyrene: A Potential Standard for Developing In Vitro Cellular Tracking Methods for Nanotoxicology'

Supervisor(s): Prof Hugh J. Byrne and Dr Gordon Chambers

"My first experience of working in Focas was during the summer of 2006 when I took part in the Eureka Summer Programme for undergraduates. I spent a summer looking at the ability of various organic solvents to disperse carbon nanotubes under the supervision of Prof Hugh J. Byrne. During these 3 months I extremely enjoyed the friendly and helpful atmosphere of Focas, and met many people, some of whom would be become lifelong friends. 

"When considering the PhD route after my undergraduate studies, Focas was the natural place to look for excellent opportunities. The equipment, instrumentation and skills that are housed within the institute have provided me with the lifelong skills that I need to continue my career in academia. The freedom and encouragement to experience as many skills, experimental procedures and techniques as possible, gave me the confidence to carry out scientific research to an extremely high standard.

"Not only does the vast array of instruments and techniques make Focas a world class research facility, but also the helpful, friendly and talented staff make it a place that is a pleasure to study, work and grow as a scientist."


Name: Dr. Kishore Kumar Jella

Current Position: Postdoctoral fellow at Emory University, Atlanta, GA USA.

Years in Focas: 2008 - 2012

Title of Thesis: 'Radiation Induced Bystander Signaling in Human Keratinocyte Cell Line'

Supervisors: Prof. Fiona M. Lyng and Prof. Hugh J. Byrne

"I was very happy during my PhD at FOCAS Institute especially with the multicultural environment and the friendly people there. A multicultural social environment influences individuals in creative thinking and performance at their work.

Presently I am in the United States as a Post-doctoral fellow but I am missing the happiness that I got from FOCAS. During my PhD, I worked under the supervision of both Fiona M. Lyng and Hugh J. Byrne, very good and supportive mentors. They were very helpful and I appreciated their suggestions during my PhD tenure. All my colleagues provided valuable information and helped me a lot for the successful completion of my PhD work.

 I wish to come back to FOCAS!"


Name: Dr. Jallapuram Raghavendra

Current Position: Senior Optical Simulation Engineer, Finisar Malaysia

Years in Focas: 2002 - 2010

Title of Thesis: "Optimization of an acrylamide based photopolymer for reflection holographic recording"

Supervisors: Dr. Robert Howard, Dr. Suzanne Martin, Dr. Izabela Naydenova, Prof. Vincent Toal

"I joined the FOCAS Institute in April 2002 as a PhD student in the Centre for Industrial and Engineering Optics (CIEO). My PhD research was on the optimization of an acrylamide photopolymer for reflection holographic recording. As I was working with photosensitive materials, dark room facilities were essential and FOCAS institute has provided us with excellent state of the art lab facilities including vibration isolated optical tables essential for holography. The core labs facilities are excellent with a wide range of equipment.

"After the completion of my PhD in 2005, I worked on multiple projects funded by Enterprise Ireland under proof of concept and technology development commercialization projects until September 2010, also in IEO and FOCAS. The time I spent in IEO and FOCAS Institute are memorable. I thoroughly enjoyed working with excellent staff and facilities, and with proactive support staff sharing their knowledge, expertise and always extending a helping hand when needed.

"FOCAS institute is truly multinational and cross cultural. I cherish every moment of my career at IEO and FOCAS Institute.

"The experience and expertise I gained while working in FOCAS is immense and has helped me in many ways during my tenure at FOCAS   and in my current work place.

"I am currently working as a senior optical simulation engineer for Optical sub-assembly New Product Introduction (OSA NPI) at Finisar Malaysia, a telecommunication equipment manufacturing industry."


Name: Dr. Sourav Prasanna Mukherjee  

Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow/NSERC Visiting Fellow, Mechanistic Studies Division, Health Canada, Tunney’s Pasture, Ottawa, Canada

Years in Focas: 2008 - 2012

Title of Thesis: "Towards Structure Activity Relationships for in vitro Toxicity of Polyamidoamine Dendritic Nanoparticles”

Supervisor: Professor Hugh J. Byrne

"Professor Byrne is a fantastic supervisor and I enjoyed every moment I had spent in Focas. During my PhD study he provided me with all the resources I needed and also taught me directly or indirectly so many skills that are required to find success in the scientific world. He also provided me the opportunity to attend different conferences around the world to showcase my research. The multinational environment of Focas helped me to find many good friends from different corners of the world. This has not only extended my professional contacts, but also contributed significantly to improve my personal development skills.

"Presently at Health Canada, I’m mainly working on different silica and titanium nanoparticles. I’m employing different in vitro and in vivo models and using different high-content ‘Omic’ tools and various molecular biology techniques to identify and validate biomarkers of exposure to nanomaterials and also providing the data to the regulators of Health Canada for legislative/regulatory purpose."


Name: Dr. Sourabhi Debnath

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Department of Applied Physics and Electronic Engineering, Rajshahi University, Bangladesh. 

Years in Focas: 2006 - 2010

Title of Thesis: "Selective Solubilisation of Single Walled Carbon Nanotubes using Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons"

Supervisors: Professor Hugh J. Byrne & Dr. Theresa Hedderman.

"At present I am working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Physics and Electronic Engineering, Rajshahi University, Bangladesh. I spend most of my time lecturing BSc and MSc level students. In 2012, I supervised three BSc project students and this year (2013) I am supervising another three. My current research interest is Thin Films. But I also have a plan to engage in research work in nano-science in the future.

"During my PhD study I spent a great time in FOCAS. The working environment in FOCAS was very comfortable. People were very helpful and cooperative. Laboratories in FOCAS were also well equipped and hence I did not need to go to any other research institute for experimentation purposes.

"I feel fortunate to have pursued my PhD study under the supervision of Professor Hugh J. Byrne and Dr. Theresa Hedderman. Their valuable suggestions, guidance, constant support, and encouragement helped me to successfully complete my PhD research.  I have learnt how to deal with students and encourage positive attitudes in them. This knowledge helps me a lot to motivate my pupils, especially the research students under my supervision.

"I wish to see FOCAS at the TOP of all research institutions all over the world!"


Name: Dr. Brian Keegan

Current Position: Lecturer in Dublin Institute of Technology, School of Computing

Years in Focas: 2004 - 2010

Title of Thesis: "Improving Multicast Communications over Wireless Mesh Networks"

Supervisor: Dr. Mark Davis

My research with the Communications Network Research Institute (CNRI) housed within Focas included topology based optimisation of multicasting in wireless mesh networks. Extensive hardware research and test bed configurations were carried out on a variety of  platforms which covered a wide range of routing and networking protocols.

During my time in Focas, Prof. Hugh Byrne made available extensive resources and building access which were crucial to deploying and testing prototype scalable wireless networks. Since leaving Focas I have gone on to work as a software engineer with Oracle before returning to DIT.

Focas is a fun place to work and study. The variety of research groups leads to a culture of learning with a good balance of social interaction.


Name: Dr. Aoife Power

Current Position: Postdoctoral Researcher at Dublin City University

Years in Focas: 2008 - 2011

Title of Thesis: ''The Preparation and Characterisation of Silver Nanomaterials and their application in Sensing Techniques"

Supervisors: Dr. Anthony Betts & Prof. John Cassidy

"I worked in the Applied Electrochemistry Group (AEG) in FOCAS/DIT from January 2008 – July 2011 under the tutelage of Prof. John Cassidy and Dr. Antony Betts.

"I found FOCAS to be great place to study and work, not just because of the great facilities and access to instrumentation, but because of the invaluable asset that was the ever present encouragement to cooperate and collaborate with my fellow researchers. This promoted a truly interdisciplinary working environment where knowledge and experience were freely shared and, in my opinion, this enhanced greatly our academic output.

"I was actively encouraged to participate, not only through publishing in academic journals and presenting at both national and international conferences but also through the mentoring of others, particularly undergraduate students, including those from other institutions, such as Singapore Polytechnic and KaHo Sint – Lieven. This was especially significant as it afforded me invaluable teaching, project management and problem solving experience that I believe has enhanced my overall skillset as a researcher.

"Finally, but most importantly, FOCAS supplied me with, not only a network of colleagues but also, some true friends."  


Name: Dr. Niall Ó Claonadh 

Current Position: Photolithography Engineer, Intel Corporation

Years in Focas: 2007 - 2012

Title of Thesis: ''Nano enhanced food contact materials: An approach to determine cytotoxicity'

Supervisors: Dr Alan Casey & Dr. Gordon Chambers

"FOCAS supplied me with every facility I could have hoped to have available while pursuing a multidisciplinary PhD which encompassed nanomaterials, materials science and toxicology. Instrumentation is state of the art and it’s all very much available to every researcher, giving the opportunity for real hands on experience, something which I and employers have found invaluable.

"I found the knowledge base present in FOCAS to be wide ranging but also very in depth. The staff of researchers are hugely talented and dedicated.

"FOCAS truly is an international research facility and the people I met and connections I’ve made will no doubt benefit me long into the future. I could not have asked for a better environment for my studies.” 


Name: Dr. Viswanath Bavigadda

Current Position: Postdoctoral Research Fellow at SUTD-MIT International Design Center, Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)

Years in Focas: 2007 - 2011

Title of Thesis: 'A new versatile electronic speckle pattern interferometer for vibration measurements'

Supervisors: Prof. Vincent Toal, Dr. Raghavendra Jallapuram and Dr. Emilia Mihaylova

"FOCAS institute is one of the best places to carry out scientific and industrially relevant research. I really liked the work culture and people were always there to help one another. The FOCAS Institute has not only shaped my career but also contributed significantly to improving my personal development skills. The best part about FOCAS is that it is like a global village. I met colleagues from all over the world and got to know many different cultures!!

"At present I am working on developing a series of benchtop and prototype infrared medical imaging systems (micro-endoscopes) for reconstructing 3D information of tissue for cardiac procedures as part of my postdoctoral research." 


Name: Dr. Peter Knief

Current Position: Postdoctoral Researcher at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Years in Focas: 2005 - 2010

Title of Thesis: 'Interaction of Carbon nanotubes with biological systems-assessed by Raman Spectroscopy'

Supervisors: Prof. Hugh J. Byrne, Prof. Fiona M. Lyng, Dr. Aiden D. Meade

"Working at Focas with colleagues and friends helped me to initiate a scientific career that I once doubted was even possible. Its multidisciplinary and multicultural environment produced a great place to work and study."

Name: Dr. Qiaohuan Cheng

Current Position: Lecturer in Henan University of Technology, China

Years in Focas: 2006 - 2010

Title of Thesis: 'Dispersion of Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes in Organic Solvents'

Supervisors: Prof. Hugh J. Byrne & Dr. Elizabeth Gregan

"I was very lucky to get the opportunity to finish my PhD study in FOCAS under the supervision of Prof. Hugh J. Byrne. It provided me with scientific training in research and a great chance of communicating with scientists working in different fields.

"During my PhD study in FOCAS, I had 6 peer-reviewed papers published and, as a result, I won the Chinese Government Award For Outstanding self-Financed Students Abroad in 2009.

"FOCAS is a great place to work and study!"

Name: Dr. Eoghan Ó Faoláin

Current Position: Senior Executive, Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC)

Years in Focas: 2001 - 2008

Title of Thesis: 'Potential of vibrational spectroscopy in the diagnosis of human tumours'

Supervisors: Prof. Hugh J. Byrne, Prof. Fiona Lyng

Eoghan joined the FOCAS Institute in June 2001 as a Research Assistant with RESC. In 2002, he embarked on his PhD research in novel methods for cervical cancer screening, which he successfully defended in 2006. Eoghan continued as a Postdoctoral Researcher and in collaboration with key collaborators at the National Maternity Hospital and the Coombe Women and Infants Hospital, the team began the process of commercialising the technology with support from Enterprise Ireland, resulting in a global patent for the technology developed. In 2012, the technology was licensed to Raman Diagnostics, an innovative life sciences company based in Ireland.

Since leaving FOCAS, Eoghan has had a variety of roles among the high-tech sectors within the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, IBEC. These include the Irish Medical Devices Association (IMDA), and more recently the Irish Software Association (ISA) and ICT Ireland.

"Having been with the FOCAS Institute for almost 7 years, as both a post-graduate researcher and staff member, I can testify to the Institute’s position as a unique facility, with dedicated support staff, internationally recognised researchers, and an unrivalled suite of instrumentation. FOCAS has a long track record in promoting interdisciplinary collaborations both within the Institute and with other national and international bodies.

"FOCAS has positioned itself at the forefront of convergent technologies and has built up a rich network of industry links, across many established and emerging sectors of the Irish economy, ranging from biomedical, pharmachemical & biotechnology to nanotechnology, environmental technology and green-tech.

"This dynamic and co-operative approach has ensured the Institute continues to carry out responsive, industry relevant research, and prepares students and graduates well for a career in Ireland’s high tech economy.”


Name: Dr. Garrett Farrell

Current Position: Lecturer in Letterkenny Institute of Technology

Years in Focas: 2000-2005

Title of Thesis: 'Investigation of the electronic properties of organic systems using electroabsorption spectroscopy'

Supervisors: Prof. Hugh J. Byrne & Dr. Gordon Chambers

Garrett under took his PhD work within the Physics of Molecular Materials (POMM group) part time, while employed as Research Technical Support within the Focas Research Institute.

"FOCAS was a great place to study and work, and it really opened up a new career direction for me.  Undertaking research in FOCAS afforded me the chance to present work at both national and international conferences and it allowed me to work alongside and gain expert tuition from some exceptionally gifted researchers both in Ireland and abroad.  The extended number of professional contacts that I have formed through friendships made while studying in FOCAS has also greatly aided my current role.

"FOCAS has a talented, culturally diverse, knowledgebase which I found to be freely accessible to anyone who asked.  The research environment was friendly and inviting and it was certainly as exciting and dynamic as any of the bigger institutions. Researchers were actively encouraged to be expressive and to think for themselves, resulting in a more independent postgraduate student capable of applying themselves to a variety of problems."

Name: Dr. Pratap C. Naha

Current Position: Postdoctoral fellow at Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Years in Focas: 2008 - 2012

Title of Thesis: Eco and In vitro mammalian toxicological assessment of Polymeric nanomaterials

Supervisor: Prof. Hugh J. Byrne

"I joined the Focas Research Institute as a Postgraduate researcher in 2008, under the PRTLI Cycle 4 INSPIRE (Integrated Nanoscience Platform for Ireland) Programme. During my Ph.D training at Focas, I found the institute to be a multinational environment and I received the opportunity to learn many things in the area of science as well as personal development. My Ph.D project was in the area of Nanotoxicology, which is a developing area of Nanomedicine. Scientific skills and knowledge learned during my Ph.D training at Focas Institute gave me the opportunity to get a postdoc position in Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, USA.

"My ongoing postdoctoral research at University of Pennsylvania is developing novel biocompatible nanomaterials as CT and MRI contrast agents as well as surface functionalized nanoparticles for gene therapy."

Name: Dr. Patrick Enright

Current Position: Chemical Regulatory Affairs Manager, H2 Compliance

Years in Focas: 2005 - 2009

Title of Thesis: Novel Photoelectrochemical Cell for the Remediation of Organic Compounds in Water

Supervisors: Prof. John Cassidy,  Dr. Tony Betts

"I completed a PhD with the Applied Electrochemistry Group (AEG) in FOCAS/DIT Jan 2005 – Jan 2009 under the tutelage of Prof. John Cassidy and Dr. Anthony Betts. The project involved construction of a fuel cell with a titania catalyst illuminated with sunlight. The fuel cell was used to remediate waste water, creating a useful current.

"The project gave me an opportunity to pursue my dream."