Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight – Phelim Bradley, Co-founder of research start-up, Prolific

29 Apr 2019
Phelim Bradley, BSc 2012

UCC Physics graduate, Phelim Bradley’s ground-breaking research on DNA hit the headlines recently when it was featured on the cover of Nature Biotechnology. Influential U.S. magazine, The Atlantic, describes the project developed by Phelim and his colleagues as a ‘Google of sorts for bacterial and viral genomes’. The former UCC Science Graduate of the Year has just completed a PhD at the University of Oxford and has embarked on a start-up called Prolific, an online platform which enables researchers to quickly find participants for their surveys. We chat to Phelim about his student days at UCC.

It is heartening to learn that Phelim Bradley’s fondest memories of UCC revolve around the experiences he shared with his classmates.

There was a great camaraderie in our group, and we spent a lot of time together between classes, helping each other out on problem sets, and preparing for exams (especially in final year!). 

It is clear that the people he met in college left a lasting impression, and he is appreciative of how the many supportive students and faculty he met influenced his student journey.

‘I had some fantastic opportunities outside the course, including internships at Tyndall and a study abroad in the U.S. and I’m incredibly grateful to UCC for making these available as they (and the people I met there) have shaped my future trajectory hugely.’

Some of these supportive figures include Professor Stephen Fahy, who introduced Phelim to the renowned Professor Seamus Davis, leading to a summer internship at Cornell University. He also credits Professor Fahy for introducing him to programming through his module on computational physics and is enthusiastic in his praise for the academic.

I’m very grateful for the time he (and other members of faculty) spent writing reference letters, without which I may not have been able to visit UC Berkeley during my third year, or get into my Masters program after I graduated UCC.

Phelim’s natural aptitude and passion for physics shone through, culminating in him being named the university’s Science Graduate of the Year in 2012. His studies were to prove an invaluable resource in his future endeavours with the skills he developed aiding in areas as diverse as computational biology, software engineering, and even entrepreneurship.

Studying physics at UCC didn’t just teach me physics, but how to take an intimidating problem, break it down and work on it from its basic principles.

Reflecting on his own experience as a student, he reminds today’s scholars that ‘the access to internships, study aboard opportunities, clubs and societies and freedom to try things out is something that’s hard to find after you graduate, so make the most of it while you can!’

Phelim is currently based in Oxford, where he is the co-founder of a start-up called Prolific, with the tag line, ‘bringing people together to power the world's research’. While relishing the opportunities presented to him in the UK, there is one pursuit he misses from his time in Cork.

I was involved with the Sailing club, competing in team racing competitions around the country. I now live far from the sea and miss the option to take part in water sports! 

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