Women in Science – Linda O’Hea

To celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science on 11th February 2021, the Marine Institute is highlighting the many brilliant women who play transformative and ambitious roles in understanding, exploring, protecting and sustainably managing our oceans wealth.

The Marine Institute is profiling our female scientists, sharing their study and career paths, the work they do at the Marine Institute and the important contribution their work delivers.

Linda O'Hea, Marine InstituteLinda O'Hea
Senior Laboratory Analyst, Fisheries Ecosystems Advisory Services
Marine Institute

What is your current role at the Marine Institute and what's involved in your daily work?
I currently work as a Senior Laboratory Analyst in the Marine Chemistry Section of the Marine Environment and Food Safety Services area. My day to day role is quiet varied and my responsibilities include operational management of the chemistry laboratories, technical management of the quality system within the chemistry section, management of a number of laboratory staff, as well as oversight of the inorganics laboratory which is used for the testing of a range of metals for food safety and environmental monitoring. This work supports the health and quality of our seafood, as well as our oceans.

What did you study and why?
I started an Applied Science course in Dublin Institute of Technology, with the intention of specialising in Biology. During my first year I took an interest in chemistry (having not previously studied it in school) and in my second year I specialised in Analytical Chemistry, obtaining a first class honours degree in Analytical Chemistry.

I was introduced to the Marine Institute, when its headquarters was located in Dublin, as a student on the summer Bursary Programme. I now have 20 years of experience in several roles, from Laboratory Analyst to Section Manager. After my bursary placement, I worked for a short time as a Laboratory Analyst, and moved to a studentship position to complete a Masters by Research in the Marine chemistry section. For three years, I balanced working as a Laboratory Analyst in the area of metals with my Masters by Research. In 2003, I began my current role of Senior Laboratory Analyst within the chemistry section. The nature of my role has changed over the years, as has the location, with offices moving to Galway in 2006. What started out as a mix of laboratory analysis, sampling and management has now switched to being a full-time management role covering coordination of testing, reporting, health and safety, procurement and people management. In 2020, I also worked part-time as a Section Manager in our Fisheries and Ecosystems Advisory team, while carrying out my day to day chemistry role. It was an extremely rewarding opportunity and I learnt a lot during my time there. The Marine Institute encourages all of its employees to invest time in their personal and professional development.

What are your interests and passions?
Our location in Oranmore, means that we are very fortunate to have the coastline on our doorstep and can go outside for lunchtime walks, which is also really important for our physical and mental wellbeing. I enjoy the impressive views from the Marine Institute's building on the west coast and the amazing sunsets in winter. Living inland from the sea in east Galway, gives me a great balance and I spend my spare time getting involved in the local community, volunteering in both the local GAA and athletics clubs.

What is the best thing about working in the Marine Institute? What do you enjoy most about your job?
After 20 years working in the Marine Institute, the best thing about working here is the people. I have made a lot of great friends during my time here. The support and opportunities for training and professional development also make it a great place to work. Being from Dublin originally, moving west was a big decision, but it was one I was happy to make, as I love my job and couldn't imagine working anywhere else.

What is something you think everyone should know about the ocean?
The ocean provides so much for so many - from seafood to leisure to employment. It is important that we work together to protect it. We are very fortunate to have a workplace beside the sea; we get to enjoy its benefits while also working to protect it.