Emma Young, Research

An interview with Emma Young, by Eimear Doyle.

No razzle-Dazzle- just a Right Brainer

(And by the by a Mind Hunter…)

In conversation with Emma Young from Research & Analytics where the talk turns to machetes, umbrellas, arrested development and spin-doctoring…


It always comes back to science. I originally studied to become a medical laboratory scientist in DIT but when I went over to Sweden to do my final year research project I fell in love with the place. Why? Because I’m a big rule follower and Swedes are innately good at following rules…ecstasy for me! They have a ticketing system everywhere – the butcher, the dentist, the doctor. In Sweden I knew my place! And they have everything sussed, in terms of social and healthcare; what you read on the internet about Sweden is actually true!

When I came back from my exchange I couldn’t find a job; in 2012 no one could. There were no PhD posts, no funding for PhD students, or funding that fell through and what I really wanted was to be in Sweden working with the group I had worked with in my final year research project. Doing the PhD was almost incidental. We were researching genetics in a  type of leukaemia  called chronic lymphocytic leukaemia , a leukaemia of the elderly.. I completed my PhD in Uppsala University, shortly after that my boss was offered a professorship in the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, he invited me to come with him and complete a post doctorate there. I moved to Stockholm with him, but at some point I knew I wanted to come home.

How did you find out about GMI?

I heard of GMI from my boss in Sweden, who had set up an initiative called Genomics Medicine Sweden (GMS), not the same type of set up as GMI but still with the ultimate goal of using next generation sequencing to achieve precision medicine. Unlike GMI it was pretty much all state funded, carried out in hospitals and universities without permanent staff. My boss had contacts here, so I was aware of the company and the work you were doing. I was also telling friends that I wanted to return to Ireland and a friend sent me a link for a research scientist role here.  The deadline was the next day so I put together my CV very quickly.

When I researched GMI I was really impressed with the website – loved the video and stories about the staff – personal but not cheesy, just regular people – genuine people who were interested in their jobs and very driven. The HR process was well curated and I felt good throughout the whole process. I hadn’t done an interview in years but I came back from it feeling very positive. No razzle-dazzle- the process moved quickly and I felt like they wanted me.

Why did you choose a career in science?

We’re back to the rules, the structure…. I don’t like surprises. We obviously don’t know everything in science but we do, to a certain extent, know what to expect. I like to make the analogy of when I’m in the kitchen. I’m very good at baking because baking is very scientific – you have to sieve the flour high enough above the bowl to let the air in, fold in your perfectly beaten egg whites in a certain way etc. …… At Cooking I’m useless – a dash of this, splash of that. That’s more creative, allowing the open space and all that left brain activity. I’m not into creative space and I’m ok with that!

What were your first impressions of GMI?

Having spent 6 ½ years in Sweden where they are very progressive I was worried about coming back to Ireland, my work experience here having been with state and semi state bodies, very bureaucratic, at the other end of the spectrum from the Swedish model, but GMI is very progressive, very much a model of the Nordic countries, so it was a good transition for me and I wasn’t sold anything I didn’t get.

How do you find the Culture here?

Progressive and the senior people are so interested, so good, so knowledgeable, I trust them. They are good people and they are ethical people, great at their jobs too.

What do you do day to day, or week to week?

At the moment we are involved in start up studies – the clinical research scientists help with preparing  cohort specific documents.  This include writing the research sections of the study protocols, lifestyle questionnaires and case report forms. We design disease specific questions for each cohort and perform power calculations on each cohort.

If you weren’t a scientist what would you be?

I’d be a Forensic Psychologist.

Like mind hunter?

Love it! The stuff of true drama – analysis of people, who commit crimes, psychological profiles, determining whether they are fit to stand trial, working alongside a psychiatrist….But in my day there were no degrees in Forensic Psychology and I needed a structured degree with a qualification at the end -hence medical laboratory scientist.

I love listening to true crime podcasts, sounds a bit grim and I don’t know how you’ll put a positive spin on it…Serial, Criminal, Casefile and when they get too intense there’s always Archer, Bobs burgers and Arrested Development.

The truth about the fascination with the dark stuff is to do with my personal safety – if I know all the terrible things that could happen I will never be surprised!

To a Desert Island what would you bring and why?

As a Cancer researcher it has to be– SPF 50– what ever awful things are going to happen it would be worse with sunburn!

Until you run out of it?

Well, maybe a machete, or better still an umbrella, you could defend yourself with that, use it as a sunshade and if it was shiny, turn it towards the sun and use it to attract the attention of passing ships??



This all sounds like left brainer stuff to me…

If I’m ever marooned I hope Emma’s by my side

With her forensic mind, her bottle of factor fifty and her …oops…creativity…