Studying Agricultural Science as a subject for her Leaving Certificate and visiting her friend’s farms inspired Shauna Walsh’s career path.
The 22-year-old – who does not hail from a farming background – enrolled in Cork Institute of Technology’s Level-7 BSc in Agriculture in 2015 following the completion of her Leaving Certificate.
“This was my first CAO choice; I selected this course based on my growing interest in Agriculture.” Shauna Walsh told Catherina Cunnane – That’s Farming.
“During my first year in this course, I learned about the different areas that the Agri-Industry covers. I particularly enjoyed the lab work covering such modules as Food Science and Biology.”
As a result, she re-applied through the CAO for Biological Sciences (BSc Honours) (Common Entry) at the same institution; this course is designed to give candidates an insight into Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, Nutrition and Health Sciences and Agri-Biosciences.
“I initially intended to go into nutrition after the two years common entry but when Agri-Biosciences became available it exactly suited my interests.” She added.
Shauna is now a third-year Agri-BioSciences BSc student at Cork Institute of Technology. Agri-Biosciences BSc (Honours) - a new four-year degree option - is designed in collaboration with industry partners to meet the needs of the ever-evolving agri-food industry.
Agri-Biosciences involves the use of biological tools to increase production and sustainability in the Irish Agri-Food sector. Topics which students study include genetics, animal breeding, animal health and nutrition, crop biotechnology, microbiology and veterinary diagnostics.
“This course is specifically tailored to train students in biological tools for application in the Agri-Food industry. The course is open to anyone with an interest in the Agri-food industry but there is no need to have a background in agriculture.” Shauna added.
Students undertake a 6-month placement in semester two of year three which Shauna is currently completing at Teagasc Moorepark - Food Research Centre.
"My first few days in Moorepark have been very interesting, especially to get to work with new equipment and software. I feel that this work placement opportunity is going to be very rewarding and the knowledge I'm going to learn here is going to benefit me enormously". “
“I am really enjoying the course. The modules are very interesting, and I love that there is a strong focus on practical techniques and approximately 50% of contact time is spent in the laboratory gaining in-depth technical experience.”
When Shauna is not studying, she plays camogie with Brian Dillions Camogie Club and GAA with Erins Own Ladies Football club; she is also an Emergency First Responder with Glanmire Division - St. John Ambulance Ireland.
Shauna’s advice to aspiring students is to research various degree programmes and network with those involved in various arms of the industry.
“The Agri industry is growing which is offering more and more career opportunities; the sector is broad, ranging from science to business.”
Further growth opportunities have been identified by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine which aim to position Ireland as a world leader in sustainable Agri-Food production.”
“If you are considering pursuing a career in the Agri-industry and you don’t have a background in farming/agriculture, if you have the interest and you're willing to learn, you will flourish,” Shauna added.
Looking forward, Shauna – who is set to complete her undergraduate studies in 2020 - said one of her main goals is to complete a PhD.
She hopes to further her studies before seeking a laboratory-based position in the Agri-industry in research labs, agricultural testing labs or in the area of Veterinary Diagnostics. “I want to work in the Ag industry as it is a rapidly developing area in which I have a great interest. I find it exciting to see the new technologies unfolding.”
“Although I am only in my third year in college, my experience has been limited but very rewarding and my passion for Agriculture is developing.” Shauna Walsh concluded.
“I am still a newbie to this environment and only finding my feet at the moment, but so far it has been a positive experience and looking forward to seeing where it will take me” – Shauna Walsh.
“Don’t be a sheep! Follow your interests, never let a stumble in the road be the end of the journey” – Shauna Walsh
If you are a student studying any agricultural discipline and you want to share your story, email – firstname.lastname@example.org – and you may be featured on That’s Farming next week.