MGL Ambassador Spotlight: Siobhán Gaughan Helped Bring Sustainability to the First Green Certified Lab in Europe
Say hello to My Green Lab Ambassador and Laboratory Manager at the Molecular Parasitology Laboratory in NUI Galway Siobhán Gaughan! Growing up in Ireland, Siobhán has always had a deep appreciation for nature and an understanding of how proper maintenance of our natural world will sustain us and future generations. After completing her PhD at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Siobhán has helped bring sustainability to the labs she works in, including obtaining the first Green Lab Certification in Europe for NUI Galway’s medical device laboratories in CÚRAM, and establishing a Green Team at the Molecular Parasitology Laboratory.
“The information and step-by-step guides provided by the My Green Lab Team and continuing support from the My Green Lab Ambassador community have made it possible to ‘green’ our laboratory,” says Siobhán. “It is a great method to trigger engagement with practical solutions and new approaches to lab greening.”
Read on to learn more about Siobhán and her sustainability journey below!
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Siobhán Gaughan and I grew up in the North West of Ireland in Co. Donegal and now live with my family, husband Paul, son Dannan, and daughters Éabha and Charlotte in rural North Co. Galway. Living among the beautiful hills, valleys and coastal regions of Donegal I have always had an appreciation of nature and an understanding, passed down through generations, of the cycles of nature, the value of land, and how if managed properly it will sustain us and future generations.
It was no surprise that I developed an interest in biology at school and throughout my undergraduate degree at the National University of Ireland Galway. After graduating, I spent a number of years working in technical roles in research laboratories in Scotland and Ireland. I then completed a PhD programme at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin.
After graduating in 2005, I have worked as a Laboratory Manager at the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) and a project manager on a number of EU funded programmes. My current role as a laboratory manager with the Molecular Parasitology Laboratory in NUI Galway is a new direction with a dynamic team working on designing strategies to diagnose parasitic infections and to develop new treatments.
What drives you to be more sustainable in the laboratory?
Starting work in laboratories in the early nineties, resources were not plentiful. Scientists were mindful of the consumables they used for experiments and re-used them where possible. Glass pipettes were washed, sterilised by autoclaving and used over and over again. Cell culture media made from powdered ingredients was dispensed into glass bottles autoclaved and batch tested. Glass vials were commonly used instead of polypropylene tubes for dispensing solutions. Gloves were often used again when safe to do so.
From the year 2000, onwards more and more plastic consumables replaced glass as a convenient faster method of working, but with the downside of more and more plastic waste produced. NUI Galway’s medical device laboratories in CÚRAM, was the first Green Lab certified laboratory in Europe, awarded in 2019. Dr Úna Fitzgerald first introduced the NUI Galway community to the My Green Labs Program, which provides a step-by-step guide to becoming more sustainable in the laboratory. Inspired by this, it is now my goal to search for answers on how to approach problems such as plastic waste, sustainable water, and energy consumption. With help from My Green Lab, mentorship from Dr Fitzgerald, and support from Prof John P Dalton, I established a Green Team in November 2020 among the brilliant team of researchers in the Molecular Parasitology Lab. The Team have enthusiastically taken all actions on-board and are pursuing a Green Lab Certification with My Green Lab.
What is the most interesting thing you learned while becoming a My Green Lab Ambassador?
The most interesting, and surprising, thing I’ve learned is the fact that research laboratories in third-level institutions are one of the most resource-intensive spaces in any industry. Laboratory buildings can consume up to ten times more energy and at least four times more water than office spaces and are estimated to discard more than five billion kilograms of plastic every year. A dual approach is required to implement successful sustainability actions at both a laboratory level and at a facilities management level. In cooperation, action must be taken on areas such as energy, waste reduction and recycling, chemical management, efficient use of equipment, procurement and resource conservation. The stories of the My Green Lab ambassadors and the reach of the community have and continue to inspire me.
How has the My Green Lab Ambassador Program enriched your sustainability journey?
The My Green Lab Certification is the global gold standard for laboratory sustainability best practices and has clear, measurable goals that enable system changes. The information and step-by-step guides provided by the My Green Lab Team and continuing support from the My Green Lab Ambassador community have made it possible to ‘green’ our laboratory. Via courses such as the ”Green Lab Principle and Practice” graduate module, developed by Dr FitzGerald and now offered to 10 MSc programmes and 8 structured PhD programmes on-campus and outside Ireland, we’re able to start collecting data on various aspects of lab greening, that could be publishable. It is a great method to trigger engagement with practical solutions and new approaches to lab greening.
What are your 2021/2022 sustainability goals?
My 2021/2022 sustainability goals are to gain My Green Labs certification with the cooperation from all the members of the Molecular Parasitology Laboratory in NUI Galway. I’ll help to encourage researchers and their colleagues to change their habits with regard to energy, water, and resource consumption. Continue to work with Irish Green Labs (currently under development), Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), CirulÉire, and others who are assisting scientists across Ireland to make a positive change to their work and create a culture of sustainability in the laboratory.
Ready to become a My Green Lab Ambassador? Sign up today!