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Professor Aideen Sullivan chats to Narrowing the Void podcasters Brian Curtin and Mark Vesey

23 Jan 2023

In their new podcast series Narrowing the Void, Brian Curtin and Mark Vesey, UCC Translational Medicine Society founders and UCC students, chat with Professor Aideen Sullivan, Head of Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, about her career path, her research focused on novel approaches to the treatment of Parkinson's disease, developing the BSc Medical and Health Sciences degree programme and how she manages to do it all!

In this Narrowing the Void podcast, Mark begins by asking Professor Sullivan about her early interest in science, her academic path, and how following her interest in medical research led to her career in Neuroscience, and to her subsequent research work into human neurodegenerative diseases, especially Parkinson’s disease.

She describes her Parkinson’s disease research in detail and chats about working with patient groups and in particular Cork Parkinson’s Association. She explains the origins of a recent study exploring a potential link between Parkinson’s disease and pesticide use in Ireland. Biomarkers of disease, and a potential link between gut microbiome and Parkinson’s disease, are also discussed.


The interviewers who are founding members of the UCC Transitional Medicine Society then explore the translational aspect of Aideen’s Parkinson’s disease research and the importance of patient involvement in the design of trials and the ‘lived experience’.

Brian and Mark , who are current and past students of the BSc Medical and Health Sciences degree in UCC, ask Professor Sullivan about her drive and inspiration in founding and developing the BSc Medical and Health Sciences degree which had its first student intake in 2018 (at 25 mins). Aideen describes how she identified the need for a more ‘focused science degree’ ‘for students with a definite interest in medical or health related sciences’, ‘and by focusing on human biology from year one and by honing in on the fundamentals of human anatomy physiology and biochemistry pathology and some public health in the early years of the degree give space for students to focus on translational medicine’ – a core objective of the course. ‘Research is a really important part of this degree programme and students will gain research related competencies and skills from day one which is different from other science programmes’.   

Explaining that 'Translational medicine is how scientists or researchers translate or progress findings in the lab - basic science findings, towards improving outcomes, healthcare or options for patients'. Professor Sullivan describes how 'all disciplines contributing to the programme are involved in translational medicine, and academics lecturing on the programme or leading the different years on the programme are involved in research which can be classified as translational medicine. They are working either with genetics or cell lines or animal models in the lab but their focus is always to develop new treatments or understand more about human diseases in order to improve patient outcomes’.

Mark comments that this aim of improving patient outcomes and narrowing the void was the inspiration of these very podcasts.

Back to the topic of Aideen’s research into Parkinson’s disease (at 30 min) the interview continues with a fascinating discussion about Parkinson’s disease and the profound effect of exercise on Parkinson’s patients.

Mark then asks Professor Sullivan about the social context of medicine and research, and she speaks about visiting local primary and secondary schools, the promotion and awareness of science, and the importance of cultivating a scientific literate society, accessing information from reliable sources and how learning is for life. (34 mins)

Mark wonders what strategies Professor Sullivan, as Principal Investigator, Head of Department, Course Director and Editor-in-Chief of an academic journal, has developed to manage and deal with stress! (39 mins). To finalise the interview other regular podcast questions are then posed to Professor Sullivan, bringing this very engaging and informative podcast to its conclusion.  

Link here to listen to the Narrowing the Void with Professor Aideen Sullivan podcast


Photo: Brian Curtain and Mark Vesey at work on their Narrowing the Void podcasts

Narrowing The Void podcast was set up and is run by Brian Curtin, 4th year BSc Medical and Health Sciences student, and Mark Vesey, 4th year medical student, to raise awareness of important topics in medical research and clinical practice and to also promote public and patient involvement by speaking with patient advocates, inspiring scientists, doctors and patients.

Now in their second season the Narrowing the Void podcasts are very well established, and this interview with Professor Aideen Sullivan is the first podcast of the new season.

The UCC Society of Translational Medicine was set up in 2020 by students of the new Medical and Health Sciences BSc degree programme in UCC. It is an exciting student-led opportunity focused on encouraging students to create change in the world of human health through translational medicine, with a principal objective of sparking interest and supporting the next generation of students in bridging the gap between medical science and clinical needs.

To achieve this objective, the Society of Translational Medicine operates various initiatives including Reading Research Workshops and Translational Medicine (TM)Talks on topics ranging from meditation to the gut microbiome. It runs an annual Narrowing the Void conference which will take place on Wednesday 25th of January 2023 with invited speakers and panel discussion sessions, and a very successful Life Sciences Careers Fair and Women’s Health Conference. The weekly ‘Narrowing the Void podcast’, hosted by the society Education Officers, Brian Curtin and Mark Vesey, is central to the success of the society. ‘Narrowing the Void’ podcast has been shortlisted in the National Student Media Awards in the ‘Best Podcast’ category.





Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience

Anatamaíocht agus Néareolaíocht

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