“I always wanted to pursue a career in the agricultural sector either something science-based or animal-based” explained Dr. Fiona McGovern.
Fiona - an only-child - grew up on a suckler and sheep farm in The Neale, Co. Mayo and enrolled in University College Dublin’s (UCD) Agricultural Science – Animal Science degree programme in 2008.
When she was finishing her undergraduate studies in 2012, she discussed possible further study opportunities with one of her lecturers.
Fiona worked alongside Professor Tommy Boland to apply for research funding in her own right.She was awarded a scholarship from the Irish Research Council which provided her with the necessary funding to begin a three-year PhD programme with Boland.
The Mayo native focused on the impact of the nutrition of a ewe in late-pregnancy on lamb performance from birth to weaning at UCD Lyon’s Estate.
She commenced working at Teagasc just one week after she finished her PhD in September 2015. She worked as a post-doctoral research officer for two years, where she explored ovine genetics and the impact of genetic selection on production and performance.
In late-2017, she secured a permanent position as a Research Officer at Animal and Bioscience Research and Innovation Centre, Mellows Campus, Athenry, Co. Galway.
She juggles this role with the running of the family farm which she inherited four years ago following her father’s passing.
Dr. McGovern’s responsibilities include preparing research grants, overseeing research experiments and managing and assisting PhD students with their post-graduate studies.She is driving force behind the Ireland and New Zealand Across Country research programme.
“As a research officer, our primary role is to seek funding in order to carry out experiments.”
“We do this to answer or fulfil some of the queries or questions that are posed to us by farmers, industry stakeholders or the wide scientific community.”
“We are always striving to help farmers to improve their systems in order to get the most from them.” She added.
Fiona avails of travel opportunities through her current position; international conferences provide networking opportunities.
She has spent some time in New Zealand where she visited farms and worked with research organisations. She has recently collaborated with researchers from across Europe to undertake joint experiments.
“There’s a nice mix in my job which I quite like. There’s a lot of office-based work, but I also attend meetings and we also run events for discussion groups along with larger national events on farms.”
“My job allows me to see farming as a business, answer some scientific questions and seeks ways to improve farms, whether it’s through genetics or production efficiencies.”
Satisfied in her relatively new role, Dr. Fiona is attempting to establish herself in her own right. “When you are a research officer, you are only as good as the team that surrounds you.”
“I am very lucky to have lots of really good people working with me at the moment.”
Her main aims going forward including working with more assigned PhD student and setting up new experiments. “We are starting to look at some greenhouse gas-related studies so that will be novel and new for the industry.”
“It will inform a lot of people in an area that is becoming very important,” she added.
“Times are changing – more than ever, we need to work together as an industry including farmers, researchers and industry partners to get the most that we can from a really successful, vibrant sector.”
“We need to make everybody in our country aware of the importance of agriculture and the significance we hold in relation to food production.” The IGA and ASA member concluded.
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