Featured ‘Day in the life of’ : Kate, PhD student researching the common cockle.

Hi, I’m Kate and I’m a second year PhD student in University College Cork (UCC), Ireland. My work focusses on the common cockle, a type of shellfish found in Europe. I’m trying to understand why cockles have been dying in large numbers, by looking at reproduction, parasites and things like weather. I received an undergraduate degree in Zoology, as well as a MSc in Marine Biology, both from UCC. 

I live about a forty minute drive from the University so I am very lucky to be able to live at home. My typical day can be quite varied, some days are spent outside doing field work, which is great when the weather is good (although I live in Ireland so this is rare). Other days are spent doing lab work or at my desk, writing or working on data. 

I’m very adamant about protecting my mental health during the PhD, so ensure I get to spend lots of time focussing on my hobbies, friends and family. Feel free to take a look at my Instagram and Twitter (@kate_mahony), which I regularly update. DISCLAIMER: Not every day is as productive as this one, but that’s OK too ☺ 


My alarm goes off at 6.15 am on a Tuesday morning and I always struggle getting out of bed. I take a spinning class on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, which wakes me up for the day.


Back home to discover I’ve had my t-shirt on inside out since getting dressed in the dark! I fed my two dogs, let them play outside and took a shower. This morning I’m not in a rush eat my breakfast at home, but I generally take a smoothie to drink in the car.


When I arrived in college, the first thing I did was set up the Autostainer. This stains my slides and takes about an hour. In the meantime, I got a chance to check my emails and take a look at some slides under the microscope


My slides are ready to cover slip. I tidied up the lab and let the slides to dry in the fume hood, this normally takes a few days.


After cover slipping my slides I started to feel a bit hungry so go for a snack. Afterwards I screen more slides under the microscope, looking for parasites and to see if the cockles were spawning.


I went for lunch at 1 and was lucky to be able to eat it outside. After lunch I went back to the microscope to screen even more slides.


There’s only so much microscope work you can do in a day, so I decided to give my eyes a rest and catch up on some work at my desk, with a snack and cup of tea.

I checked my emails and input some data.


After spending about a half hour looking for some code that I saved somewhere silly, I eventually managed to import my data.

I double checked that everything important was crossed off my to do list, saved my files and left the office for the evening.


The drive home took much longer than normal because of the amount of tractors on the road at this time of year! I got a wonderful welcome home from my doggies and spent some time playing with them in the garden.


Time to water my vegetables! I finally built my own raised bed this year and it’s such a satisfying feeling to grow your own food. I even picked some edible flowers to put in my dinner


Dinner is served (super quick Halloumi Burger and salad) and time to put my feet up and watch TV. I love to watch documentaries and crime shows but sometime you can’t beat the Simpsons!


I managed to get some cleaning done and watch Love Island, before collecting my brother from a gig. Finally time for bed, much later than normal but at least I had a productive day

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