Joseph Barry

Researcher in Computational Biology
BSc Theoretical Physics & Mathematics

Current Status

Currently employed as a Researcher in Computational Biology at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany

Why did you study Mathematics at University?

Mathematics was the subject that I enjoyed most at Secondary School. I was fascinated by the concept of being able to describe natural phenomena in the language of Mathematics. In addition I viewed Mathematics as the perfect companion to Theoretical Physics, which I also studied at Maynooth. I remember reading the popular science book "Zero: the biography of a dangerous idea" around the time of my Leaving Certificate. It captured my imagination and cemented my decision to study Mathematics.

Describe what you do now and how mathematics is useful to you.

Following the completion of my PhD in Computation Physics at TCD, where I studied the structure and flow properties of liquid foams, I decided to apply my skills in Computational Biology. Molecular Biology in particular is a subject that is progressing rapidly and becoming more quantitative. People with a background in mathematics, statistics and physics are valued highly. Microscopes are becoming more accurate and powerful, generating massive amounts of data. In my job I analyse microscopy images in an automated fasion and create mathematical models to interpret the results, which in turn help biologists to design future experiments. I have found that the biggest asset to having formal training in Mathematics is the ability to pick up almost any textbook in a quantitative discipline and be able to teach yourself.

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of doing a degree in Mathematics?

Do it! You won't regret it. Mathematics is a worthwhile pursuit in its own right but it also acts as a springboard to a wide variety of careers. It teaches independence of thought and rewards perseverance. Just be prepared to work hard.

Would you recommend that people study Maths in Maynooth?

Yes. Maynooth has a beautiful campus and the Mathematics Department is first class. The lecturers are friendly and take a real interest in their students.