ESR 5 Deborah O’ Sullivan

Deborah O’ Sullivan

Previous training and experience

My studies at University College Cork have undoubtedly shaped my unwavering quest for knowledge and the topic of the human microbiome has been a consistent source of fascination, study and discovery. Having recently graduated with a first class honours MSc degree in Molecular Cell Biology with Bioinnovation following a BSc in Microbiology, my pursuit of a higher degree through research has been inspired by my progress thus far. Representing the School of Microbiology UCC at the Microbiology Society Conference 2018 ignited my desire to achieve fruition of a project and envision a future in research that would contribute innovative solutions for challenges facing society. The gut microbiota has been at the forefront of my research in UCC and APC Microbiome Ireland. Under the supervision of Professor Paul O’Toole, I investigated the link between microbes, the human host and disease using a RAPD-PCR technique to produce DNA fingerprints of bacterial species isolated from colorectal cancer patients. Under the supervision of Professor Douwe van Sinderen, I have delved into the genetic and metabolic diversity of B. adolescentis using a gene-trait matching approach with the aim of advancing the characterisation of the species with applications in the broader context of probiotics. My experience as a laboratory demonstrator in the School of Microbiology has complimented my thirst for knowledge with a flair for communication and collaboration.

Why you wanted to join the project

I was enthused by the opportunity to pursue further research with world-renowned institutions in the area of gut-microbiota researching colonization resistance. I relish the opportunity to bring a research proposal to fruition and disseminate findings that could potentially impact science and society. Working in such an enriched environment will not only advance my academic knowledge but will also benefit my career prospects as I will experience inter-sector relationships by integrating with international research institutions and industrial partners. Engagement and networking are essential for knowledge transfer within the scientific community, institutions and society and will benefit my research and relationships beyond academia particularly as industry adapts and commercialises innovative research in line with EU outlooks for the future of research funding. Research in such renowned institutions with experts across disciplines and training provided by industry-academia secondments will allow me to evolve as a researcher and hone an extensive skill set complimenting my personal development.

About your research project
Based primarily in Université Clermont Auvergne, Clermont-Ferrand, France, I will investigate the role of the microbiota in resistance to enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC). The work will identify specific commensal taxa influenced by antibiotics and diet which affect EHEC pathogenesis in an ArCOL (Artificial COLon) fermentation system which mimics the human colon. The research is expected to identify key commensal species required for colonization resistance against EHEC and to test the application of next-generation probiotics to protect against EHEC infection. The work will contribute data which can be integrated into a mathematical model of colonization resistance.

Other interests
Following the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic I am keen to take this opportunity to travel and embrace various areas of interest including art, history, photography, food, fashion and nature. The location of my host institution in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France will undoubtedly support my ambitions and personal wellbeing, as a platform for me to explore French cuisine, art galleries, nature walks and heritage sites while acting as a gateway to travel across Europe.

Email contact details: