Dominic O'Connor, Insight Alumnus

Insight Alumni: Dominic O’Connor, Assistant Professor, School of Health Sciences, University of Nottingham

Submitted on Thursday, 20/07/2023

Dominic O’Connor is orginally from Scotland, and he completed his undergraduate (2010-2014) and postgraduate (2016-2017) studies in Dundee. He joined Insight in January 2017 as PhD researcher (MARIE SKŁODOWSKA-CURIE ACTIONS – European Industrial Doctorate (ITN)) following the completion of his MSc. His PhD research aimed to design, develop, implement and evaluate an neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) training program in adult cancer survivors. He worked with Prof. Brian Caulfield who was his primary supervisor. As part of his PhD he spent 18 months in Dublin and the remaining time in Seville, Spain. He completed my PhD in December 2019.

‘My daughter was born in August 2019, whilst I was completing my PhD. Although Seville could have been an option after my PhD, my lack of Spanish and the birth of my daughter (we wanted to be closer to family), made me look for postdoctoral positions in the UK and Ireland. Before completing my PhD studies I was offered two postdoctoral positions; one in Dublin at Trinity College with Professor Juliette Hussey’s exercise oncology group, and one at Queens University Belfast with Dr Gillian Prue as a postdoctoral fellow, funded by Pancreatic cancer UK. Although I loved my time in Dublin, and it remains fondly in my heart, Belfast was a more financially feasible choice with a young family and the research project excited me.

‘I began my time in Belfast in January 2020, where I managed and delivered the PRECISE trial which aimed to establish the feasibility of delivering a prescribed, individualised supervised aerobic and resistance exercise programme during adjuvant therapy, to improve survival and reduce symptom burden in pancreatic cancer. However, shortly after starting the Covid-19 pandemic struck. This delayed the project until later in the year and recruitment did not open until October 2020. I remained in Belfast until April 2021 until I moved to Nottingham where I began a full-time permanent position in the School of Health Sciences as an Assistant Professor.

‘To date I am still at the University of Nottingham, where I an Assistant Professor. My other roles within the school include Senior Tutor for Physiotherapy and Sport Rehabilitation and Deputy Director of Postgraduate Research where I am involved in the strategic development, maintenance and management of postgraduate education in the School.

‘From a research perspective I am a co-investigator on a large NIHR funded project -Evaluation of PeRsOnalised PrEhabilitation in acute myeloid Leukaemia (PROPEL) (Award- £2,581,442.34). I am also involved in local research investigating the impact of prehabilitation exercise on cancer related health outcomes in a variety of cancer types.

‘Being based in Insight as part of my PhD exposed me to a large number of different specialities. As part of this multidisciplinary team, this benefited my PhD research as it allowed me to look at the problems I faced through different lenses.

‘I worked closely with other members of the CATCH team (3 other PhD students from the project were located in UCD), which allowed us to develop our projects in a synergistic manner. Being able to do this in person in the Insight office really benefitted the trajectory of my research and made the experience very enjoyable.

‘However, the biggest benefit was being able to complete my PhD under the guidance of Brian, who instilled a particular work ethic in me which I still follow today. Work habits of PhD student can be unhealthy. However, the work ethic I picked up from Brian included focused work but with a clear work / life balance, something of which is still lacking in many academic institutions. I believe this is what made my PhD experience so enjoyable. For this I am extremely grateful to have spent time in Insight with Brian and all the other wonderful PhD and postdoctoral researchers he has working hard with him.’