Headshot of woman standing in a room
Tuesday, 9 July 2024

In the latest instalment of our Alumni Spotlight series, we speak to multi-award-winning entrepreneur Niamh Dooley from Athlone, Co Westmeath, co-founder of BiaSol, a highly successful food business creating nutritious and sustainable products now available in stores nationwide.

Niamh, who graduated with a degree in Food Science and Health from University of Limerick in 2016, has a lifelong love for food and is a champion of nutritional education.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I was born and raised in Athlone, County Westmeath, where I attended Our Lady's Bower secondary school. During my formative years, I was actively involved in sports, participating in both GAA and hockey at school and club levels. Additionally, I pursued show jumping and had the honour of representing Ireland in competitions at the under-16 level.

Why did you choose the BSc in Food Science and Health at UL?

I chose to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Food Science because Home Economics and Biology were my favourite subjects in school. I particularly enjoyed the practical aspects of cooking and baking, which provided a refreshing break from traditional book or screen-based learning. Additionally, I found the study of the body's functions and natural processes incredibly fascinating. This degree seemed like an excellent combination of my interests, even though I had not fully considered specific career paths at the time.

What did you enjoy most about the course?

I found the nutrition modules to be the most engaging part of my coursework. The opportunity to select electives in the third and fourth years greatly enhanced the program's appeal, allowing me to focus on subjects that resonated with my interests. One of the most interesting electives for me was Health and Exercise, which I found really fascinating.

What did you enjoy about UL? What is student life like here?

I really enjoyed the campus environment, which felt like its own community. The facilities are amazing and the cycle lanes and walkways are great for getting around the campus. The university offers a diverse range of social clubs and teams, ensuring that everyone can find their own tribe!

Are there any campus locations that hold special significance for you?

I lived in Drumroe village in my first and final year so I have many fond memories there. I can safely say I thoroughly enjoyed spending time in the Stables too!

Can you tell me about your Co-Op experience?

I gained valuable hands-on experience working in a laboratory at Teagasc Moorepark, where I participated in mastitis trials. This role provided comprehensive insights into the daily operations of managing samples, conducting tests, and collating data in a dynamic laboratory setting.

How did UL support you throughout your studies?

In my first year, I required additional assistance with chemistry and maths, as I had not previously studied chemistry and had taken ordinary level maths for the Leaving Certificate. The learning centres proved to be extremely beneficial in helping me attain the necessary proficiency in these subjects.

What career pathways can students expect from the BSc in Food Science and Health?

The program offers graduates numerous opportunities, particularly in large food companies where they can work predominantly in laboratory settings within quality assurance departments. Additionally, graduates can pursue careers in new product development within the food manufacturing sector. The degree's broad scope provides graduates with a wide range of career prospects.

What advice would you give to students considering a career in the area of Food Science?

In the first year, the course covers a broad spectrum of science disciplines such as chemistry, mathematics, physics, and biology to ensure all students achieve a foundational level. However, don't be deterred by this initial phase. I discovered the coursework became increasingly engaging from the second year onward, with modules centred on specific aspects of food and health, making the learning experience more focused and relevant to our field of study.

Tell me about your own career journey so far?

After completing my degree, I travelled to Canada. With my extensive hospitality experience I was presented with an excellent opportunity to serve as the restaurant manager for a newly opened vegan establishment. This role was both challenging and exciting, as I took great satisfaction in training the team and implementing new processes.

Upon returning to Ireland, I was hired as a project manager for Food Dudes, a healthy eating initiative for primary school children funded by Bord Bia. This position allowed me to merge my managerial experience with my passion for promoting healthy eating, which I found immensely rewarding. During the pandemic I founded BiaSol,
a business that upcycles spent grain from breweries into healthy food products.

This year myself and my business partner launched an ingredient company called Circular Food Co which specialises in upcycling plant-based foods creating great quality high-value functional ingredients. These ingredients help other food brands or companies address SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption & Production.

What are your hopes and plans for the future?

I hope to continue to grow BiaSol and the Circular Food Co. Success to us is about making real measurable impact. By choosing upcycled ingredients it can reduce water usage by 100%, land use by 99% and carbon emissions by 25%! We also want to fight back against ultra-processed foods by developing more clean label products for the market that are full of fibre and contribute to gut health.