Category Archives: Researcher Spotlight

Researcher in the Spotlight June 2016

Lisa at Merton

Dr Lisa Heather PhD, is a Diabetes UK RD Lawrence Fellow in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford. Her research revolves around metabolism and energy generation in the heart.

Lisa will give The Physiological Society Bayliss-Starling Prize Lecture ‘Cardiac metabolism in disease: All fuels are equal, but some fuels are more equal than others’ at our main meeting P16 in Dublin, Sunday 31 July 9:00 am.

 

 

What is your research about?

I study energy metabolism in the heart. Metabolism explains how we extract energy from the fuels we eat: how we convert glucose and fatty acids into ATP via a series of chemical reactions within the cell. When this process goes wrong the cell can become starved of energy, and ATP dependent processes – such as contraction – will be impaired. Abnormal cardiac energy metabolism occurs in a large number of diseases, including diabetes and heart failure. Understanding why these metabolic abnormalities occur and whether changing metabolism is beneficial for cardiac function is my area of research.

How did you come to be working in this field and was this something you always wanted to do?

My undergraduate degree was in Medical Biochemistry at the University of Surrey, and I had an amazing lecturer, Dr Jack Salway, teaching metabolism. He made the subject exciting and relevant, and made me want to pursue it further to become a ‘die-hard metabolist’. I moved to Oxford in 2003 and joined the lab of Professor Kieran Clarke, studying the effects of disease on cardiac metabolism. Kieran was (and still is) an excellent mentor, providing support whenever I needed it, but equally allowing me freedom to explore my own directions and stand on my own two feet.

When I first started in the field of metabolism it wasn’t a particularly fashionable field – everyone was focused on genetics, and metabolism was viewed as a subject where all the questions had already been answered. Scientific fashions change, and in the last 10 years metabolism has had a huge renaissance, mainly driven by discoveries in the cancer field. It’s an exciting time to be working in this area, new collaborations are emerging between diverse fields that have realised metabolism is influencing or being influenced by their disease or cellular process. Suddenly, having a good understanding of the fundamentals of metabolism is a powerful tool.

I have never considered leaving the field of metabolism as it’s the area I love, and when I set up my own group in 2011 I decided it was the field of diabetes, the ultimate metabolic disease, that I wanted to specialise in.

Why is your work important?

Metabolism underpins all cellular processes. It provides ATP for all active processes to occur, it provides the building blocks and intermediates for diverse chemical reactions, and provides substrates for post-translational modifications. Changes in metabolism have been implicated in many diverse diseases of all organs in the body. As stated by Steven McKnight in Science in 2010 “One simple way of looking at things is to consider that 9 questions out of 10 could be solved without thinking about metabolism at all, but the 10th question is simply intractable…. if you are ignorant about the dynamics of metabolism”.

Do you think your work can make a difference?

I really hope so. Understanding how a disease develops and progresses is the first step to working out how to prevent or reverse it.

What does a typical day involve?

A typical day can involve any combination of lab work, discussing data with students, planning new studies, writing and rewriting papers, teaching undergrads, and meetings. Each day is different and that’s one of the things I really enjoy about being an academic.

What do you enjoy most in your job?

I love the ‘Aha!’ moments. When you have been busy trying to work out why something has changed or the mechanism involved, and suddenly everything fits together and makes sense. When you have discovered something, however small, that wasn’t known before. It reminds me of those “magic eye” pictures, when you stare at it long enough that the blurry 2D pattern finally turns into a beautiful 3D image. The “Aha” moments are the reward for all those times the experiments didn’t work.

 What do enjoy the least?

On a day to day basis, I really hate having to collect liquid nitrogen from our outside cylinder! It’s the worst job! I generally really love my job and feel grateful that I get to do this every day.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us…

I really really really like designer shoes. If only Manolo Blahnik could make mitochondria-inspired pumps!

What advice would you give to students/early career researchers?

Do what you love. Being a scientist is a tough career, so you have to love it to deal with the challenges, such as paper rejections and lack of job security. Have faith in your own abilities. Be nice to people and help people when you can, people are then more likely to come to your assistance when you need them. Smile :)!

Researcher in the Spotlight May 2016

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Julia Attias, Msc, BSc, is a PhD Researcher at the Centre of Human and Aerospace Physiological Sciences, King’s College London.

What is your research about?

I’m a PhD student at King’s College London researching into ways that will help to protect astronauts’ bodies in space. I research with a SkinSuit that has been designed to recreate gravity in order to help protect the health of astronauts when they go in to space. The SkinSuit may maintain the integrity of many physiological systems and processes, and it is my job to attempt an understanding of this. I am particularly interested in how the loading provided by the SkinSuit interacts with human movement and exercise, with emphasis on any changes it may incur to our energy expenditure or muscle activity. It’s also important that we understand this, in the hopeful eventuality that the SkinSuit is integrated with future space missions. It has already been integrated into International Space Station missions in 2015, and we hope for many more.

How did you come to be working in this field and was this something you always wanted to do? 

I have always been interested in extreme environmental physiology; that is, how the body functions in hostile environments. When I saw there was such a thing as an MSc in Space Physiology and Health, I jumped at the chance and pursued it in 2011-2012. During this time I started researching with the SkinSuit for my summer project. I then quickly realised how much I enjoyed doing research because it was the method by which to find out information that doesn’t currently exist. The project was (and still is) in collaboration with the European Space Agency, and thankfully the findings were of interest, and more research was warranted. I applied for funding for a PhD and two years later, I was fortunate enough to get awarded with a scholarship from the EPSRC, through King’s College London to continue researching with the SkinSuit and human movement. 

Up until university level, I actually wanted to be a TV presenter! After undertaking my BSc in sport science, I realised that I wanted a profession in physiology, and after my MSc, I realised I wanted a profession in space physiology/research. 

Why is your work important?

Plans for human space exploration on a far greater scale than what has been achieved before are on the agenda globally. Visits to Mars are expected within the next 20-30 years. In order to do so effectively, maintaining human function from lift off to landing is of utmost importance. The ideal recipe of countermeasures to tackle longstanding physiological de-conditioning associated with reduced gravity environments is yet to be determined. My work will hopefully go some way towards this, and if I can help even 0.0001%, I’ll be over the moon (no pun intended). 

Do you think your work can make a difference?

I really do believe so. The beauty of the research field I am in is the applicability of the findings to many other populations. Although I research with a countermeasure primarily designed for astronauts, populations such as those that are bed rested/immobilised for long periods of time, those that suffer from disuse atrophy, and those that have suffered from sustained injuries could all benefit from any positive research findings, owing to the analogies in physiological de-conditioning between these populations.

What does a typical day involve?

 A day in the life of me changes every day! It’s one of the things I like; every day is relatively unpredictable, though has its stable duties. I check emails continuously throughout the day as I work with international collaborators and we are all on different clocks. In addition, I will be working on whatever study I currently have running. So it may entail writing the ethics application, planning the study, testing subjects in the lab, analysing the data, or writing the results up and drawing some conclusions based on reading literature. Often I will create an abstract or presentation for a scientific conference. I have regular meetings with my supervisors/colleagues and peers and I also help to teach undergraduate physiology laboratory practicals, so based on the time of the year that could take up a chunk of my day too.

What do you enjoy most in your job?

Being a scientist is hugely beneficial to us all, as breakthroughs – whether about space, cancer, nutrition, exercise, plant biology, etc. – are found primarily through scientists working to tackle the world’s problems, and it feels great to be a part of that. It’s also hard not to enjoy meeting astronauts from time to time! 

What do enjoy the least?

Sometimes it can be disheartening when you didn’t find what you expected to find with your results, or similarly when you find something you didn’t expect to. Although on the flip side, I guess that’s what makes science science, and that’s what makes us as scientists curious to find out why that may have happened. After all, some scientific theories came through unexpected findings! It’s also not the most enthralling job in the world sitting in front of thousands of rows of numbers on an excel spreadsheet ready to analyse! But it’s all part and parcel of the job, and the end result of understanding your findings is always worth it.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us…

I used to dance as a teenager, and performed twice on the BBC show Blue Peter. And of course, I have two badges to show for it!

What advice would you give to students/early career researchers?

Be curious. Don’t settle for knowing ‘that’ something happens; you need to want to know ‘why’ it happens. This curiosity will inadvertently cause you to be inquisitive, creative and determined. Don’t let the word ‘can’t’ live in your vocabulary and don’t take no for an answer if your gut tells you otherwise. I believe we can do anything we set our minds to, if we want it badly enough. Find something you feel passionate about – this will fill you with the motivation you need to work hard, be determined, and succeed.

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Researcher in the Spotlight April 2016

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Dr Melitta McNarry is a Senior Lecturer, College of Engineering at Swansea University and specialises in cardiorespiratory fitness across the health, fitness and lifespan with a particular interest in paediatric populations. 

 

 

What is your research about?

My recent work has focused on the development of non-pharmacological intervention strategies, such as inspiratory muscle training and high intensity interval training, for people with asthma and cystic fibrosis. I specialise in cardiorespiratory fitness across the health, fitness and lifespan with a particular interest in paediatric populations. Recent work has focused on the development of non-pharmacological intervention strategies, such as inspiratory muscle training and high intensity interval training, for people with asthma and cystic fibrosis.

Furthermore, I am interested in the role of pulmonary rehabilitation for patients with respiratory disease, especially Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, and the potential modifications that can be made to traditional strategies to optimise the outcome for the patients. With regards to such patient populations, I have recently begun to investigate the relationship between rheological parameters, namely blood clotting, hypoxia and exercise. Finally, following on from my PhD work, I continue to investigate the interaction between training and maturity on the bioenergetics responses of children and adolescents.

How did you come to be working in this field and was this something you always wanted to do?

While studying for my Biology degree at the University of Exeter, I realised that I was more interested in human physiology than plants or microbiology, so when a conversation at training one evening led to the offer to complete my dissertation in the School of Sport and Health Sciences I jumped at it! Little did I know this was just the start as following the success of my undergraduate dissertation I was offered a scholarship to complete a PhD at the University of Exeter. Whilst not something that I planned to do when I was “older”, I have been brought up in an academic family so it wasn’t a foreign concept when the opportunity arose.

Why is your work important?

My work unites theory with application, aiming to provide real-world solutions to pathophysiological conditions that do not revolve around pharmacological interventions. I therefore believe that my work has the potential to improve patients’ quality of life on a daily basis – even if this is only one patient I would count this as an important impact from my work.

Do you think your work can make a difference?

I think my work has the potential to make a difference on the individual patient level, improving the functional capabilities and enhancing their quality of life.

What does a typical day involve?

I would say that the joy of this job is that there is no such thing as a typical day, every day differs with the only common features being that they are generally too busy and that I never get what I planned to do that day done but a thousand other things instead! Nonetheless, a ‘typical’ day involves getting to work early in the morning to try and fight a rising tide of emails before numerous meetings with everyone from undergraduates to internationally renowned professors. This is then combined with giving lectures and running lab sessions for our undergraduates and, on the good days, with conducting testing to advance our studies and research.

What do you enjoy most in your job?

I enjoy working with children and patients in the lab and field, interacting with them and seeing research translated into real-life. The mundane (aka, admin-related) elements of the job often make you wonder why you continue working such hours but the rare moments you get to run physiological tests with participants reminds you why you started.

What do enjoy the least?

The requirement to be a jack-of-all-trades from teaching to research to administration, resulting in you being a master of none.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us…

I am not formally trained in Sport Science or Exercise Physiology! My undergraduate degree was in Biosciences.

What advice would you give to students/early career researchers?

Working hard is more important than intelligence, but sometimes things will happen at their own pace and nothing you can do will speed it up; be patient as if it is meant to be, it will be.

Researcher in the Spotlight March 2016

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Hans-Christer Holmberg is Professor of Sport Science at the Department of Health Sciences, Mid Sweden University, Sweden. He is also director for Research and Development at the Swedish Olympic Committee and the Swedish Winter Sports Research Centre. His research has mainly focused on cross-country and alpine skiing.

Hans-Christer will give a plenary lecture at our BBEP meeting, 6-8 March 2016 in Nottingham, UK on Monday 7 March from 18.00 GMT. You can watch the live steam here.
Physiological limits to human performance: insight from the elite cross-country skier

What is your research about?

My research mainly focuses on cross-country and alpine skiing, and uses an integrative physiological and biomechanical approach. However, we also study other sports (such as cycling, running, swimming and rowing) and more general topics such as the effects of different types of endurance training and environmental factors (hyperoxia/hypoxia) on performance. Because of my position on the Swedish Olympic Committee, I am able to coordinate sport scientists from a wide range of disciplines and direct their expertise to helping elite athletes.

How did you come to be working in this field and was this something you always wanted to do?

I have always been interested in sport and competed in several sports myself. My educational background and work experience, before I started my research, was working with elite athletes as a chiropractor and as a coach for world-class endurance athletes (in cross-country skiing and kayaking). It was through this that I met Professor Bengt Saltin. After many hours of interesting discussions, he said to me, “HC, you ask so many interesting questions – you should be a sports science researcher”. Prof. Saltin’s knowledge and enthusiasm inspired me to change course and, after studying at the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, I got my Ph.D. in Medical Science from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Overall, my great personal interest in sports has stimulated numerous ideas that we have applied to help athletes and enhance performance.

Why is your work important?

My main aim has been to contribute to the development of cross-country skiing as a sport. In parallel, I have also exploited cross-country skiing as a unique experimental model that allows insights about exercise physiology and locomotion/kinesiology. Cross-country skiing uniquely has numerous techniques and sub-techniques (classic vs. skating, diagonal stride vs. double poling etc.) that differentially involve the upper and lower-body, and all at or above the extremes of our aerobic capacities. Our scientific work involves extensive international collaboration and I am proud that the Swedish Winter Sports Research Centre has become a hub, not only for researchers interested in winter and snow sports, but also for physiologists who study basic mechanisms using cross-country skiing as a model system.

Do you think your work can make a difference?

Absolutely. Our work has made significant contributions to developing the sport and had an impact on general practice/training, as well as helping to improve performance. Cross-country skiing is a popular recreational sport in many parts of the world and some of our research has also raised public awareness of the many positive training adaptations and health effects of this type of exercise. Scientifically, our studies have hopefully also contributed to enhancing the general understanding of exercise physiology. Additionally, our approach of combining physiological and biomechanical measurements has inspired other sport scientists to perform integrated multidisciplinary studies.

What does a typical day involve?

I almost always begin my day with some exercise, which varies with the seasons. For example, this morning I cross-country skied for 90 minutes on trails that lead from my home. In the summer, I enjoy running on the special soil called muskeg that we have in Sweden.

My work involves many different things. As a researcher, I write scientific articles, meet with other researchers and students, supervise Ph.D. and postdoctoral students, organize projects, analyse data, apply for grants, visit collaborating international research groups and make presentations at conferences.

As a Director for R&D at the Swedish Olympic Committee, I meet with coaches and athletes, initiate and lead projects, identify trends and topics of interest for coaches/athletes that could possibly impact performance; supervise support staff and participate in training camps and events/competitions. I am also involved in planning for upcoming Olympics (Rio 2016 and PyeongChang 2018) and meetings with the Olympic organizations from other nations around the world.

What do you enjoy most in your job?

I enjoy trying to find solutions and transferring knowledge to athletes, coaches and the research community. As an entrepreneur, I love developing environments and coaching people, initiating and finalizing a range of projects and having an impact on sport performance. My job allows a high level of flexibility and the great variety of tasks gives me energy. I am never bored, there are so many challenges.

What do enjoy the least?

Meaningless meetings.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us…

Well, I like going out in the mountains around where I live in Åre to blow my birch trumpet (näverlur) and I’m very interested in wine, especially from the European regions around the 45th parallel north. 

What advice would you give to students/early career researchers?

Don’t think too much about your goals. Instead, enjoy your work and the results will come.

See challenges as something positive and make the most of them.

Researcher in the Spotlight February 2016

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Dr Michael J. Joyner, M.D. is interested in how humans respond to various forms of physical and mental stress during activities such as exercise, hypoxia, standing up and blood loss. Dr Joyner will give a plenary lecture at our BBEP meeting, 6-8 March 2016 in Nottingham, UK on ‘Physiological limits to exercise performance: Influence of gender’. You can watch the live steam here.

 

What is your research about? 

I do integrative physiology studies in humans. My main interests are exercise physiology, blood pressure regulation, and regulation of metabolism. I am also interested in what world records in sport can tell us about physiology and also how the interplay between reductionism and holism in research informs science policy. 

How did you come to be working in this field and was this something you always wanted to do?

I started in the late 1970s as a human subject in a study on the lactate threshold and distance running performance, and was hooked from day 1. A career focused on physiology research hit me like a thunderbolt at age 19. Until then I had been an indifferent student. The investigators in that original study were extremely encouraging and set the stage for what has followed.

Why is your work important? 

The work on exercise largely focuses on the regulation of skeletal muscle blood flow. The mechanisms that evoke the massive vasodilation during exercise are only now beginning to be understood and this has been one of the great intellectual puzzles in biology over the last 150 or so years. The work on blood pressure has shown that women and men regulate blood pressure very differently and that especially for women things change dramatically with age. This work has relevance for the understanding, prevention and treatment of hypertension. My interest in blood pressure also extends to clinical monitoring (I am an anaesthesiologist) and how it can be refined to improve patient care. The studies on metabolic regulation focus on the non-oxygen sensing role of the carotid bodies and how they might contribute to things like the diabetes frequently seen in patients with sleep apnoea. The world record stuff is just plain fun and my interest in science policy is about trying to move the scientific and medical communities away from their current DNA centric world view.

Do you think your work can make a difference?  

Yes, there is a translational element of almost everything my lab does and I like to think we can help link basic science observations to the whole human. By understanding physiological regulation in humans, we can then see how it goes off the rails in disease states and think about how to intervene to essentially restore homeostasis.

What does a typical day involve? 

I get up early around 5AM and answer my e-mail and read the New York Times, at about 6 I exercise for 30-60 minutes and then head to St Marys Hospital which is part of the Mayo Clinic. My house is only about 2km from the hospital and usually I ride my bike. Four days per week, I am in the lab working with my staff and fellows. I am lucky to still participate in the data collection in our invasive studies but beyond that it is a lot of editing, discussing ideas, generating proposals etc. Over the years, the Fellows in the lab have been superb and almost all now run independent programs at “Research” Universities. My technical staff and research nurses have all been with me for years and the team is very strong.

What do you enjoy most in your job? 

Almost everything! The interactions and chance really to learn from the students and fellows is the gift that keeps giving.

What do enjoy the least?

The compliance bureaucracy can get a little convoluted and frustrating at times. 

Tell us something about you that might surprise us…

In high school I was an all-state French Horn player.

What advice would you give to students/early career researchers? 

Do what you are interested in and don’t buy into the idea that a fulfilling life is a linear engineering exercise. It is nine-ring circus.

 

 

Researcher in the Spotlight January 2016

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Dr Timothy West is Chief Technician and Laboratory Manager at the Royal Veterinary college and his research focuses on skinned muscle fibre mechanics and energetics.

What is your research about?

The mechanics and energetics of vertebrate striated muscles.

How did you come to be working in this field and was this something you always wanted to do?

I didn’t always know that I wanted to work specifically on muscle.  I did know, however, that I wanted to work on animal (fish) energetics. I was led to muscle mechanics along a fairly logical path.  My MSc at Dalhousie University was on effects of sub-lethal heavy metals and acidity on fish swimming performance. It was a fun time, as I had free rein to design the study and to construct a swim-tunnel respirometer. This work led to my PhD at the University of British Columbia on in vivo glucose utilisation during sustained and exhaustive swimming in fishes. Again, this was an exceptionally fun and productive period with a great mentor, Peter Hochachka. Peter’s team was heavily oriented towards understanding the physiology of ‘making muscle slow (hypo-metabolism) and making muscle go (peak performance)’; it was a fascinating research environment. Post-doctoral work at Cambridge and Imperial College London focused on cellular and molecular studies of (i) anoxia tolerance mechanisms in frog muscle and (ii) crossbridge turnover during contraction in isolated intact and skinned muscle fibres. These days, most of my research meshes with the interests of Profs Alan Wilson and Nancy Curtin in the Structure & Motion Lab (SML) at the Royal Veterinary College – we are comparing muscle force, velocity, power and fibre-types in skinned and intact muscle preparations, partly with the aim of verifying that skinned fibres from biopsies of wild animals are a robust surrogate for intact and in vivo muscle power. 

Why is your work important?

A key challenge is to integrate muscle mechanics studies with whole animal kinematics and behaviour in order to reveal the physiological limits and environmental constraints on the locomotion of animals living in diverse, and changing, ecosystems.

Do you think your work can make a difference?

Yes, especially since we work on endangered species that live in threatened habitats. Investigating the mechanisms and adaptive capacity of muscle power in animals, especially when combined with observations of locomotor behaviour of the same animals in the wild, will advance our understanding of factors that underpin the diversity of animal performance, and can help to address how environmental change might impact on aspects of migration and conservation of animals in the wild.

What does a typical day involve?

Up at 0530 to make it to the lab by 0730.   I have an early ‘emails period’, as I call it, which involves an essential coffee and, if I’m organised, a seat in the café overlooking the central lawn of the RVC Hawkshead campus.  From this point, not much can be called ‘typical’, as my days presently can involve everything from co-ordinating with the team constructing the new SML lab building, to training new lab-personnel, to report writing, to data analysis and interpretation for MS’s, to commentary on new SML grant submissions, to some essential bench time (just as essential and satisfying as the morning coffee!!) chiefly with skinned muscle preparations from a range of SML projects.

What do you enjoy most in your job?

Being at the bench, data analysis/interpretation, training/mentoring, and all the discussion and banter that goes with MS and grants preparation.

What do enjoy the least?

Admin and paperwork.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us…

The bosses might call be a BOGOF: As well as being a muscle physiologist, I’m SML lab manager. Although it isn’t essential to have or to hang on to a research background to be a good lab manager, it does have the useful extra dimension of adding to the group’s strengths and critical mass.  I’m fortunate that my expertise aligns well with the research aims and goals of the SML team that I support; it means that I can remain fully involved with many aspects of the lab’s research output.

What advice would you give to students/early career researchers?

To find out whether you are passionate about research you need to jump in with both feet. Lots of experiments will ‘fail’, but there will always be something learned; e.g., knowing when/how to change direction in a study can be almost as valuable as the eureka-experiment. It helps greatly, I believe, to find a mentor who has a team-approach and who, at the same time, encourages independent exploration.

Researcher in the Spotlight December 2015

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Dr Peter Francis, BSc, BSc, PhD, is an expert in health and performance physiology, physical activity across the lifespan, and chronic lower limb injury.

What is your research about?

My research broadly focuses on muscle function. This includes the measurement of age-related change in muscle quality, injury related change in muscle function and response to therapeutic intervention.

How did you come to be working in this field and was this something you always wanted to do?

I wanted to be an exercise scientist from age 16. I was running a high volume of miles at the time and was fascinated by changes in fitness and injury incidence. After completing a BSc Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Limerick in 2009, I applied for a physiology internship at the Australian Institute of Sport and for a PhD bursary. Unfortunately, I could acquire either at the time. Subsequently, I travelled to the Middle East (Qatar) and taught English for a year. During this time, I acquired the Roadbridge Medical Research Scholarship to support my PhD entitled ‘Age-related change in muscle quality’ at the University of Limerick. I completed my second BSc in Physical Therapy on a part-time basis (weekends) over a period of 4 years. In 2013, I took up a lecturing role in sport and health science at the University of St. Mark and John. In 2014, I was appointed senior lecturer in rehabilitation and health science at Leeds Beckett University where I am based at present.

Why is your work important?

The measurement of age-related change in muscle function is important as it is contributing to a body of knowledge attempting to develop diagnostic criteria for sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is to muscle what osteoporosis is to bone, yet diagnostic criteria for muscle lags far behind the well-established criteria for the assessment of bone health. Our work is also starting to move into assessing the muscular health of retired rugby players due to IRB (International Rugby Board) concerns about player health after what is becoming an increasing traumatic and injurious career since professionalism arrived in the early 2000’s.

Our work in relation to muscle injury focuses on footballers and endurance athletes. Muscle injury is the most prevalent injury in football, and contributes to the greatest amount of time missed from training and matches. Furthermore, muscle re-injury leads to significantly greater muscle damage than the initial injury. Deficits in muscle function can remain even when MRI imaging appears clear which suggests imaging alone cannot govern return to play criteria. Our work aims to chart muscle function pre, during and post injury.

Do you think your work can make a difference?

Sometimes I wonder. So much time and effort is required to contribute such a small piece of information to the existing knowledge base. The time it takes to trickle down to applied practice is a real issue for scientists. Sometimes when I conduct applied work such as improving a group’s fitness or helping an athlete return to sport I wonder where I make greater difference. I think the immediate impact of applied science is very satisfying but I hope that the combined efforts of all research scientists means our work does make a global difference even if progress is slow.

What does a typical day involve?

A typical day involves lecturing BSc or MSc students studying Sport & Exercise Therapy, Physiotherapy or Sport and Exercise Medicine. I normally will have some MSc or PhD student meetings to attend to as well as trying to find time for my own writing. I try to keep involved in some applied practice over the course of the year so as not to lose my skills. I am often involved in exercise science/physical therapy related roles for the Athletics Association of Ireland. Sometimes this involves coach education or athlete support on training camps or at major championships.

What do you enjoy most in your job?

I am not sure where my hobby ends and my job begins, both focus on some form of sport or exercise. My favourite aspect is without doubt the variety! I am thinker who gets bored easily, the variety in my job combined with the intellectual challenge means I never get bored, there is always another goal to achieve or something new to learn. I particularly enjoy working with people and like to help students think independently.

What do enjoy the least?

Administration and related tasks that have little to do with sport or exercise and often are unnecessary.

Tell us something about you that might surprise us…

I was the manager for the Irish team at the European Junior Athletics championships in Sweden, July 2015.

What advice would you give to students/early career researchers?

Follow your interests not what society or your academic peers expect of you. Stay true to yourself and your values, do not feel the need to compete with others trying to climb the greasy pole, they do not have a real passion for the area. If you do try and compete your work will become meaningless and you will not enjoy it. Following your interests with passion will take care of your progression. Remember quality is important not quantity. Complete all of your tasks well: be prepared for teaching as well as research, listen to interested undergraduates the same as you do colleagues, help other colleagues who are less confident. Be a person first and academic second. Have a successful mentor who exhibits these traits.