Irene is Professor of Microbiology and Food Safety within the Institute for Global Food Security. Her long time research interest has been Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis, its heat resistance, presence in milk and dairy products, and methods for its accurate detection and enumeration in milk and faeces. She has published extensively on this subject and is recognized as an international authority on this potentially foodborne and zoonotic bacterium. More recently, her research has expanded to include Mycobacterium bovis, the cause of bovine tuberculosis. Irene manages Containment Level 2 and 3 pathogen laboratories within the Institute, where research on a range of foodborne pathogens – Salmonella spp., Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes, and Escherichia coli - is undertaken.
Her main interest is in developing improved methods to detect the above range of foodborne zoonotic pathogens, principally by generation of novel pathogen-specific binders (antibodies and phage-display derived peptide binders) which are then evaluated for application in magnetic separation, ELISA, lateral flow devices, or other biosensor platforms.