Professor Rosemary O'Connor, School of Biochemistry & Cell Biology

Rosemary O'Connor, Professor of Cell Biology

Rosemary O'Connor, Professor of Cell Biology

College: Science, Engineering & Food Science

School: Biochemistry & Cell Biology

Research Interests: Insulin & Insulin-like Growth Factors (IGF-I and II) & how IGFs may be manipulated in cancer, neurodegeneration & tissue regeneration

IRIS profile:

What first attracted you to your academic discipline?

Curiosity about how living things work.  I found Biology to be fascinating but too broad and general to be satisfying.  The idea of being able to understand how atoms and molecules inside a cell worked together to control life brought me to Biochemistry and Cell Biology.

How were you drawn to your current research interests?

This happened when I worked at a biotechnology company and was given an opportunity to start a new area of research that would hopefully generate a profitable target for drugs in different kinds of cancers.  The area I picked has turned out to be difficult to target with drugs, but is incredibly important for normal human growth, ageing and diseases including cancer.  It has kept me intrigued and busy for more than 20 years now!

What professional achievements do you consider particularly rewarding?

Bringing people and ideas together for funding applications, conferences and publications.  Actually getting funded or published is the icing on the cake.  Successfully navigating the transition from academia to industry and back to academia has also been a wonderful journey.

Have you had professional role models? What impact did they have on you?

I have been fortunate to have professional role models in three different countries.  Through them I've seen how very different attributes can be used to create success.  Use what you have and get help with the rest.  Also, as time goes on I appreciate more and more the role models who are generous with their time for others.  Science is a collaborative venture.

What aspects of your work do you find most rewarding?

Mentoring students and young researchers is the most rewarding aspect of my work.  Close to that is working with a great research team and many interesting people all over the world.

Any details you wish to share about how being female has impacted upon your career (positively or negatively)?

I don't honestly know how being female has impacted on my career.  On a few occasions I felt I had to work extra hard to make my case, and I don't know whether publications could have been in higher ranked journals if no biases existed.  But these are not uniquely female issues, and although I'll work to prevent them for others and me in the future, I don't look back too much.

Academic careers present specific challenges in achieving balance, whether between research, teaching and administration, or in work/life balance. What advice might you give a student/younger colleague/your 18-year old self?

Pursue what you are interested in and enjoy.  Don't worry about being impatient to proceed, or afraid to ask for help.  Everyone needs a bit of help with different things along the way.  If you find a life partner make sure they are supportive of your work and consider it as important as their own.  Also, no matter how busy, make time for a hobby or sport.

Athena SWAN

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