How many years have you been working at UNI?
Beginning year 3 this semester
Briefly describe your educational background.
Undergraduate degree (BSc) in Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Limerick, Ireland, master’s degree in exercise physiology at Central Michigan University, Mt Pleasant, MI and a PhD in exercise physiology from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
Briefly describe your career background.
Growing up, I did a wide variety work-wise, from caddying on a golf course to strength and conditioning to being a waiter in a hotel bar and restaurant. Once I made it to the University of Limerick and across to the US thereafter, I always knew a future in academics (specifically exercise physiology) was what the end product would be. Since then, I've really immersed myself in exercise physiology, and over the past few years made my dream become a reality at UNI.
Why did you choose this career path?
I've always enjoyed all sports and played club and collegiate level soccer in Ireland. This interest, combined with a love for all things academia, has brought me to where I am today.
What brought you to UNI?
Everything fit my interests and desires. I completed an on-campus interview in the Fall of 2018 and I knew right away it was the place for me. The community vibe, the people, the students, the exercise lab, everything aligned with my goals, and I knew I could help achieve a lot here if given the opportunity.
What's your favorite part about UNI?
There are many. I think both the students and all my colleagues are top notch, and for me, that makes the most wonderful working environment. A 12 or 13-hour working day at UNI is not overly excessive to me since I love what I do here and view it as very enjoyable. I also really like the combination of teaching and research that we engage in, and I feel so honored to work hard to get UNI's name out there in the exercise science field.
What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
Outside of representing UNI on multiple academic articles since arriving here and loving to teach in every UNI classroom, I think it has to be this past Spring semester when I had the chance to be the chair of two masters theses projects. Having completed the process not so long ago myself, it was an incredible feeling to give back and be their chair. I not only had a chance to guide two students through the process over the past few years, but I was able to see them grow, graduate, and get their projects published in academic peer-reviewed online journals, which was an unbelievable step. Now they are on to bigger and better things, but with their UNI master's experience always behind their backs to support them.
If involved in research, what is your area(s) of interest, and what drove your interest in this area?
Over the past number of years, I have developed a huge interest in how different areas of the brain are activated following a single exercise session or a longer exercise intervention. As such, I focus on research related to aerobic exercise and its impact on cognition and brain oxygenation. I think the brain is such a driving force in exercise and plays a superbly important role in varying populations' everyday lives. My dissertation advisor was also a huge driver in me sticking with this interest area. One ongoing research project we have is a collaboration with the music department. In this project, we are investigating the impact of different intensities of exercise on motor cortex activation during a piano performance. We are hoping it will be published in the Fall. We have also completed an undergraduate research experience with four UNI undergraduate students where we collected brain oxygenation data on older adults during cognitive testing and then introduced a six-week multimodal exercise intervention before re-testing. We hope this project will also be written up and published in the Fall semester.
What does being student-focused mean to you?
In short, it means putting everything and everyone else aside for the student. I always try to reply to emails at all hours and spend extra time ensuring quality materials, as well as working outside of office hours with students who ask for extra sessions. At the end of the day, in my opinion, they are what's most important.
We talk about helping students realize or even exceed their expectations and potential. What does it mean to you to be part of that process and see the outcome?
Honestly, it means everything to me. I grew up in Ireland in a time when some people just never gave themselves a chance to rise above what the ordinary man in the village or town did. Proving others wrong and proving yourself right is very important to me. I tell students to always believe in themselves, and when I see students think about this and realize that every person can exceed expectations and become what no one thought they could be is awesome to see. Helping guide a student to a great outcome is a special feeling.
What do you hope students learn from you?
Most of all, I want students to know that I believe, with all my heart, that they have the potential to be successful. Success looks different to different people, and the success of others may look different than your own. That’s okay. Students will always have different strengths and different challenges. That’s also okay. Keep working HARD, and you will find success. Remember, there is no secret to this. Hard work always pays off.
What advice do you have for prospective/current students to make the most of their time at UNI?
Try to learn as much as possible from every teacher and student/colleague that you engage with. In addition, keep working hard. Finally, have fun and enjoy your time here!!