Choose a discipline that you are passionate about…

We are delighted to be partnering with Athlone Institute of Technology this year in order to deliver a range of high value career talks to second level students across the Midlands. We caught up with one of our key speakers, Ciaran O’ Cathain of the AIT department of Sport and Health Sciences. Ciaran will be addressing students in Athlone next week during the Midlands Science Festival.

Ciaran, can you tell us a little about your role at AIT?

I am a lecturer in the department of Sport and Health Sciences and teach on the Sport Science with Exercise Physiology course and the Athletic and Rehabilitation Therapy course. I deliver modules mainly in the areas of Biomechanics and Strength and Conditioning. Outside of teaching I am primary investigator across a variety of sport science research projects, most of which are targeting the development of novel approaches for maximising sporting performance. I have also been actively involved in the development of the undergraduate courses we currently deliver in the department of Sport and Health Sciences.

What is your background/academic experience?

I went to secondary school in the Marist College and then completed my undergraduate degree in DCU where I studied Sport Science and Health. Upon completion of this I was awarded the O’Hare Scholarship from DCU to complete a PhD. For my PhD I developed a novel technology that allowed runners to intuitively change their running technique to reduce their risk of sustaining running relating injuries. I then took a lecturing position in Athlone IT and have been working here for the last three years.

What inspired you to pursue a science related field?

During my teenage years and early-to-mid-20’s I competed in track and field as a sprinter and hurdler. During this time I competed both nationally and internationally and subsequently became fascinated by the science behind improving sporting performance. What was initially a thirst for knowledge to improve my own performance developed overtime into an interest across a broad range of sport science related topics. This manifested in the completion of the above mentioned degree, PhD, and continued work as both a researcher and practitioner.

We want to spread the message that science is so diverse and there are so many different avenues that someone can do down if they pick STEM! What advice would you give students in secondary school considering a science course at third level?

I often find that one of the big barriers to choosing a STEM course is the dreaded requirement of mathematics. However, if you choose a discipline within STEM that you are extremely passionate about the context in which mathematics is employed becomes much more interesting. It is much easier to study maths when you see how useful it can be in an applied setting. For example, I did honours level maths and applied maths for my leaving cert and I hated both. However, once I started my degree and identified how I could use maths to improve sporting performance my opinion completely reversed and I loved it. I now specialise in the area of biomechanics which is essentially the application of physics and mathematics to gain a better understanding of human movement.

What are some of the exciting jobs someone can expect to apply for if they complete a sports science course at AIT?

Sport Science is a great discipline to study as it gives you a broad range of expertise and provides you with the opportunity explore multiple avenues once you complete the degree. Across the 4 years you will study modules in Physiology, Biomechanics, Coaching, Nutrition, Psychology, Strength and Conditioning, and Performance Analysis. From this you can choose to pursue careers or further study in one of these areas or a combination of them.