News Archive 2022

Double prizewinner Seán Ó Murchú completes Medical and Health Sciences BSc viva during 6-day charity cycle!!

30 Sep 2022
Dr Rachel Furlong, BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc., presenting the BioMarin Prize to Seán Ó Murchú. Also included from left, Dr Louise Collins, Professor Aideen Sullivan and Professor Ken O'Halloran

Congratulations to Seán Ó Murchú, who was recently presented with the BioMarin Prize by Dr Rachel Furlong for achieving first place in the BSc Medical and Health Sciences graduating class of 2022. Seán was also presented the best final year project award, and amazingly was also the first student to complete a BSc Medical and Health Sciences viva while on a 6-day charity cycle!!

The prize bursary presented by Dr Rachel Furlong, Process Steward, at BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc., is the first presentation of this annual award which is kindly sponsored by BioMarin Pharmaceutical, Cork. Dr Furlong, herself a UCC BSc Neuroscience graduate, congratulated Seán on his achievement and commented that she was very proud to present this, the first BioMarin Prize, to such an outstanding student. She added that the award not only recognised the academic excellence of the student but that it also reflected the scope innovation and relevance of the new BSc in Medical and Health Sciences, which is producing graduates of a very high calibre, with knowledge and skills which are highly sought in the pharmaceutical industry.

Photo: Professor Aideen Sullivan, Academic Director BSc Medical and Health Sciences, presenting Seán Ó Murchú with the Best Research Project Award 2022, and Research Project supervisor, Professor Ken O'Halloran

Seán Ó Murchú was also presented with the BSc Medical and Health Sciences award for Best Final Year Research Project. Presenting the award Professor Aideen Sullivan, Academic Director, BSc Medical and Health Sciences programme, commented that Seán’s final year project, reflected excellently the multidisciplinary content of the BSc Medical and Health Science programme and set a very high standard for future students. Professor Sullivan added that she is very proud to see the first group of students complete the new CK707 BSc Medical and Health Sciences Honours degree, and wishes them well in their future careers.

Photo: Professor Ken O'Halloran and Seán Ó Murchú

Seán explained how the multi-disciplinary and broad-ranging Medical and Health Sciences programme allowed him to develop a huge passion for human health and scientific research, which culminated in the conduction of a final year research project under the supervision of Professor Ken O’Halloran. Seán's research project focused on using acute intermittent hypoxia as a therapy to alleviate respiratory insufficiency in a mouse model of muscular dystrophy. Seán hopes that his work will lead to helping patients with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).

DMD is a fatal X-lined genetic disorder whereby patients suffer from both muscle weakness and wasting,and significantly disrupts ventilation, by affecting the muscles important for breathing. His research project investigated if acute intermittent hypoxia, a therapy whereby patients are subject to intermittent bouts of low oxygen exposure and which has been shown to ameliorate other diseases such as spinal cord injury and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, could be used in a pre-clinical model of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

Seán was selected to present his final year research project findings at the International Society for Arterial Chemoreception Conference in Lisbon in June 2022.


Another extraordinary achievement saw Seán complete his final BSc Medical and Health Sciences viva exam online while on the last leg of a six-day charity cycle ‘Cycle Against Suicide’ from Malin Head in Co. Donegal to Mizen Head in Co. Cork.

Taking a break during the last leg of his cycle, Sean attended his online viva where he defended his research project with External Examiner Professor Clare Stanford, Professor of Translational Neuropharmacology UCL and Professor Aideen Sullivan.

Photo: Seán Ó Murchú (centre) having completed his online BSc Medical and Health Sciences viva, smiles for a photograph with fellow cyclists on the last day of their 700km charity cycle. (photo courtesy of Seán Ó Murchú)

The cycle route totalled a distance of over 700 Kilometers with the aim of helping to spread the message that ‘it’s ok not to feel ok’ and ‘it’s absolutely ok to ask for help’. Cycle Against Suicide is an awareness charity, which through the implementation of programmes in schools and communities across Ireland, supports and encourages those who may be struggling with their own mental health.

Seán thanked Dr Rachel Furlong and BioMarin for their generous prize. Thanking Professor Aideen Sullivan and Dr Louise Collins, Seán complimented them on the development of the novel and highly innovative new BSc Medical and Health Sciences programme at UCC. He also thanked his research project supervisor Professor Ken O’Halloran and the many lecturers on the Medical and Health Sciences programme for having made such a strong contribution to his education.

Planning to combine a life in the clinic with a life in academic research following completion of an MSc in Physiotherapy at King’s College London, Seán commented that he believes that it is imperative that we seek to continue to improve the collaboration between clinicians and academic researchers to make best use of every individual skillset in the quest to seek the best possible patient outcomes for those who need it most.

For more on this story contact:

News story and photographs Bereniece Riedewald

Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience

Anatamaíocht agus Néareolaíocht

Room 2.33, 2nd Floor, Western Gateway Building, University College, Cork, Ireland