• Dominic O'Connor

3 Months with CATCH: The beginning, the present and what's to come

My journey to CATCH occurred mostly by chance in that my MSc supervisor at the time had been sent an advertisement looking for suitable candidates for a PhD opportunity in Dublin. I applied and before I knew it I had been offered an interview. Some weeks later I was offered the role, resulting in a manic Christmas and new year, which saw me completing my MSc thesis whilst packing my stuff and making the arrangements for my move to Dublin.

Since I started I have become orientated with the university and Dublin, and making the transition from MSc to PhD has been fairly smooth. Having just completed my MSc thesis, beginning a literature review (the first thing which should be done prior to completing a body of research) has been straight forward. With direction from my supervisor I began my reading and compiling relevant literature almost immediately. Although my first 3 months has involved mostly organising, planning and writing my literature review, I feel there are 3 main areas which I should highlight:

1) Reading. A day in the life of a CATCH ESR currently revolves around a lot of reading. My MSc supervisor instilled in me that there is no substitute for reading and no matter how much you think you may know, you can always learn. Never have truer words been said. Although coming from an exercise physiology background and having a good grasp on the fundamental science of my area, cancer is a complex issue, affecting sufferers and survivors in a plethora of ways. My reading has been based around understanding the complex nature of the disease and understanding the physiology of neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES). Having little experience in NMES, I’m lucky to have a supervisor who has published extensively in the area, and I’m excited to learn as much as I can over the next 3 years.

2) Experimentation. At UCD we are lucky to have access to the multiple NMES units. Recently I set them up and played around with them to understand the sensations which my study subjects may experience when it comes time to test the NMES protocols.

3) BMR visit. Along with my supervisor and an MSc student we visited the offices of Biomedical Research (BMR) in Galway. BMR is responsible for the stimulation units I will be using for my research over the coming years and this meeting was set up so I could introduce myself to the director and outline my project to him, along with any concerns or questions I may have currently. This may prove very beneficial having the BMR experts on hand for when (and I definitely will) I have any questions regarding stimulation or the units themselves. This meeting also got me interested in the business side of stimulation and identifying how such a product may be brought to market.

In addition to my PhD work, I have travelled to Scotland to complete my MSc viva which has been great preparation for what to expect in 3 years time upon completion of my PhD. In the coming months my MSc work will allow me to travel to the European College of Sports Science conference in Essen, Germany in July. Along with a conference in June for Computer Based Medical Systems (CBMS) in Greece, the next few months look exciting and I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth stuck in. Now I’ll be honest, I’m currently writing this blog whilst in New York...I know, it’s a tough life as a PhD!! But I am actually currently on honeymoon and writing my blog in the big apple amongst the rich and successful of Wall Street has given me an additional drive to succeed and although I have some days left here I can’t wait to get back to UCD and get stuck into my work.

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