Michelle Hay lives in her home town of Downings, Co Donegal, a village known for its fishing and beautiful scenery. Yet Michelle is an expert marine and environmental analysist with Northern Ireland Water in Derry. She’s living the dream of building a challenging professional career while managing to locate herself in her home village in rural Donegal.
In 2006 Michelle graduated from LYIT with an Honours degree in Analytical Science. She then completed a Masters in Environmental Science at Trinity College Dublin, on the recommendation of her lecturer Dr. Mary Brennan. There was never a better recommendation.
Michelle has gone on to develop her expertise and win the respect of employers in Ireland and the UK. Her role with NI Water began with intense laboratory testing of Cryptosporidium parvum, the pathogen that famously infected people in Galway in 2007 via the water supply.
She is now working in an accredited laboratory for NI Water using the latest technology and precision testing practices – a role she thoroughly enjoys.
She says: “The best thing about my job is the mixture of work. I could be in the lab one day doing very precise technical testing, and the next day be out collecting samples from rivers, lakes or beaches. It’s great.”
Her career path has given her unique experience in the world of environmental science. From her third year in LYIT she began working with Donegal County Council’s water treatment testing division and during her Masters programme, she began mixing business with pleasure – she used her holiday time to work on research boats belonging to the Marine Institute.
Michelle comments: “The key was my great experience at LYIT. I would get chosen for the research trips because I had so much more practical experience than a lot of the graduates with more theoretical degrees. I was also good at doing testing while the boat was ploughing through rocky waters – but that’s probably more thanks to my experience on boats at home in Downings.”
Her work on the research boats exposed Michelle to experts further afield. After her Masters, she was offered a position with Marine Scotland and worked on their research boats for about six months. While working there, the Irish Fisheries Board offered her a job as a Fisheries Officer based in Ballyshannon but covering North and West Donegal and Cavan.
Next she was offered an exciting role with Donegal County Council as a Beach and Life Guard Supervisor, which involved water testing around the county’s coastline to make sure beaches were clean and up to standard.
All her positions since graduation have strengthend Michelle’s expertise and experience. “LYIT gave me a great start. It’s practical focus is just what employers want and it definitely gave me an advantage,” she says.
In her current role with NI Water, Michelle commutes from Downings to Derry doing what she loves – working out on coastlines or rivers as well as in state-of-the-art laboratories. She even has time to volunteer with the local Coast Guard.