Naoimh O’Connor is the Research Careers Manager at University College Dublin.
Say hello to Naoimh!
What is your scientific background?
Personal Construct Psychology: an approach to exploring a person’s perceived reality using grids, matrices, laddering techniques to identify the questions that will matter to that person.
Why did you decide to leave academia (if at all)?
After a Research Masters in Psychology and lots of travelling, I became an Education Programme and Research manager with the National College of Ireland. Then I got offered a job teaching undergraduate Psychology to American study-abroad students in Italy so I moved there for six years, during which time I also completed a Masters in Creative Writing and started teaching Creative Writing as well as Cross-Cultural Psychology. I was also the college counsellor there and did a diploma in complementary health around that time. I continued to publish a bit and attend international conferences when I could and then when I came back to Ireland four years ago, Italian husband in tow, I took up an all-staff Learning and Development role in the University and then moved into this Research Careers role (about 18 months ago). Over the years I’ve toyed with many a PhD proposal, but nothing has been original enough to pursue so far.
I’m not sure if the leaving academia question is covered but I don’t know if I’ve ever mentally left actually!
Why did you decide to start working in the field you are in now?
I was so used to following multiple jobs so that I could maintain an interest in many different areas and in different geographical locations that when I moved into this field, I was actively looking for a role where I could integrate my skills and experience and become more specialist. I also consciously wanted to work in a job where I get to keep learning every day and meet interesting people who also care a lot about what they do.
How do you want to help scientists in their careers?
I’m not sure if ‘helping’ is the way I think about working with researchers. I have yet to figure out how to make a mortgage disappear, or a journal accept a publication or convince a whole sector to liaise with industry in order to make PhD recruitment practices slicker – but I do believe that if we can take people’s ‘thinking obstacles’ out of the way for them, it’s more likely they’ll find their own solutions.
Research by its nature requires you to be polymathic and so researchers tend to be multi-talented people who don’t always recognise their own strengths beyond their current job description. If I can open up the options for individual researchers and the people around them (not just scientists) so that they feel less ‘stuck’ in a single reality and start to see alternatives, then it’s been a good day at the office. I’d also like it if more people understand what exactly postdocs do in their work, and if postdocs feel more confident in communicating to people outside of their familiar environment as a result of my work.
Tell us something interesting about yourself.
I spend a good part of my imagination (and only a small amount of real-time) in a little white house by the Tyrrhenian sea, collecting Sicilian lemons and writing short stories that sometimes get published but mostly entertain the dogs.
So, what question would you like Naoimh to answer? Vote in this month’s poll to see the answer to your favourite question:
And, if you have any other questions for Naoimh, just put them in the comments section below and she’ll get back to you!