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Ben Boomerangs back to DkIT

08 August 2023

Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) as part of its celebration of all things Science and the pending opening of their new state of the art 1,300 sqm Science Building this September, are delighted to bring you a collection of ‘Meet the Scientist’ profiles with some of the Institute’s leading Science academics.

Dr Bernard (Ben) Drumm who is a Dundalk native, is a Lecturer in Biochemistry & Biotechnology, Research Investigator in the Smooth Muscle Research Centre in DkIT and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Physiology & Cell Biology, University of Nevada, USA.  

Dr Drumm said of his career journey,

I came out of school with only a vague idea of what I wanted to do, I certainly never thought I would do research, pursue a PhD, or have a successful research career in the United States or become a lecturer. My career as a scientist has enabled me to travel the world and live an exciting life. The training, skills and opportunities I received at DkIT allowed me to achieve all these things and more”.

Ben added,

I always had a general interest in science subjects at school and was very interested as a kid in science documentaries”, yet Ben admitted he was very average at chemistry and biology at secondary school but still applied for science courses exclusively on his CAO form, he saidI applied solely for these courses as I always enjoyed figuring stuff out for myself and doing tests on things to see how they worked as I was growing up”.

Dr Drumm undertook his undergraduate BSc in Applied Bioscience which was a 3-year course and followed it with a one year add on BSc Hons in Biopharmaceutical Science in DkIT. He said of his course

“The degree was very practical, and that real-world foundation has proven to be really important in my career. One of the reasons our science students in DkIT get employed very quickly after graduation is because their practical skills are at much higher levels than other prospective applicants”.

Whilst completing his undergraduate studies Ben fell in love with research whilst doing a project with the Smooth Muscle Research Centre at DkIT, who are a group of scientists that study the physiology of cells and organs in the body. After Ben completed his degree, he was offered a chance to do a 4-year PhD program with the Smooth Muscle Research Centre which included a 1-year placement in the RSCI research labs in Beaumont Hospital Dublin. After defending his PhD in 2012 Ben undertook a postdoctoral fellowship in the United States, at the University of Nevada in the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology. He ended up working there for 7 years before returning almost 4 years ago to an academic position in DkIT.

Ben said of his love of science

Something I always tell students is that science is not just a list of facts that you need to learn off, but rather it’s an exciting way to view the world. By learning to use the scientific method, you can test things about the world around you and figure out what is true or not. There is so much that we still don’t know and the pursuit of that, even if it’s in a very small way is thrilling”.

Ben is currently involved in 2 main areas of research in DkIT, firstly, in the Smooth Muscle Research Centre, where they study organs such as the bladder, urethra and airways to figure out how muscle cells contract and relax as that is essential for normal body function. Ben is also a member of the DkIT Teaching and Learning Research Group, which researches the application of education by using innovative teaching and learning technologies and strategies to enhance the student experience.

Dr Drumm said of teaching in DkIT

“I love having constant interaction with students, developing their skills and seeing them grow as scientists and as people. Something we are all very proud of at DkIT is the relationship students have with the faculty. Our class sizes are such that we can get to know students quite well and determine what supports they might need to get them where they want to go. The demand for our science courses continues to increase and we have built our new extension to keep up with this demand”.

Ben is one of the many teaching staff in DkIT that will be utilising the fantastic new Science building from this September, and he said,

“I can’t wait to see the new science extension filled with students. The new extension contains state of the art facilities, it will provide students with the very best experience in practical science. The new cell culture lab in particular is going to open so many new doors for undergraduate teaching and research projects. Cell culture is a technique where colonies of cells are grown under very strict conditions. It’s one of the most widely used techniques for any field of biology or biopharmaceutical research or industry work. Now with DkIT being in such proximity to companies such as WuXi, Almac and Norbrook, all of whom are also very excited about our extension, we will be able to train our students into the types of graduates these employers want to employ”.

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