Dr Alison O’Mahony - Vice President for Research Biology at Eurofins DiscoverX,
Dr Alison O’Mahony is Vice President for Research Biology at Eurofins DiscoverX, San Francisco. As Head of R&D, Alison leads efforts on the development, validation and utilization of BioMAP systems in the areas of autoimmunity, inflammation, fibrosis, immune oncology and tissue remodelling. She has published multiple peer-reviewed papers and invited book chapters and has received a number of international and national awards for her work. Alison talks to us about her time at UCC and her memories of the Hockey Club!
Course/subjects studied in University College Cork
Undergraduate (BSc) 1984-1988 in Microbiology and Biochemistry. Postgraduate (PhD) 1988-1993 in Immunology
Best memory of UCC
As an undergraduate, I have wonderful memories of friends and classmates but my favorite is that first walk across the Quad on Graduation day, 1988. The social life around classmates and hockey club members was also a lot of fun.
As a post-graduate, I remember the fantastic camaraderie and collegiality of everyone in the Microbiology Dept. It was simply the best environment to learn and one Christmas party out in the Greyhound track will remain one of the best parties I’ve ever enjoyed.
How has your time at UCC helped you to get to where you are now?
Apart from a solid education and many dedicated and brilliant teachers, I appreciate that people were not isolated off into our individual discipline, you got to hang out with people in every degree course from every background and experience. I think the smaller size of the college back then allowed for people to connect more across the campus. The old buildings around the Quad always reminded me that there was a time that I, as a women, would not have been allowed to walk the halls and certainly not have the opportunity to study and that has always inspired me to succeed.
What is your advice to current UCC students?
Be authentic. The pressure to conform, to belong, to fit in is enormous but if its forced, then its fake. Be true to yourself and you will find your own path and your journey will be more rewarding. Also don’t be afraid to fail, it really can be a great learning experience. I failed Physics in 1st year and it was such a wake-up call. I really credit UCC with allowing students to re-take any exam in the Autumn so one could make up for a bad exam. I recall the shock of failing and the gift of a “second chance”. I never risked failing an exam again….best lesson ever! One of the best skills one can have is the ability to try and try again.
What person/people at UCC had the most positive influence on you?
Oh this one is easy, Professor Gerry O’Sullivan, was my mentor, my teacher and my friend. Gerry was the single biggest influence on my career from my days at UCC where he was my PhD supervisor right up to the time he passed away a few years ago. Gerry taught me that if you work hard, you will reap rewards, he demanded excellence but was generous in his praise and promotion. He made us feel like our work was critically important and helped patients. He believed Cork could be a hub for world-class cancer research and dedicated his life to that goal. I’m so happy to see how his family and team have brought his dream to reality with the fantastic Cork Cancer Research Center (CCRC). I’m proud to carry his legacy with me every day.
Were you involved in any Clubs or Societies?
I belonged to the Hockey club and played (appallingly) for a few years. Enjoyed the social side more than the playing side and am thankful for the friends and memories of that time.
Favourite UCC legend or superstition
I would never, ever walk across the Quad as an undergraduate. Legend has it that if you did so then you would never graduate. That first walk across on graduation day was made more special because of that superstition.
Catching up for few drinks in The Western Star after training in the Mardyke or after a game was a beloved tradition. I am also amazed that even though there were no cell phones back then (thank God), everyone knew what, when and where stuff was happening. I guess word-of-mouth worked well enough for us and we never had to worry about pics posted on Facebook.