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Shane O'Donnell Has Out Of This World Ambition For Career

Shane O'Donnell Has Out Of This World Ambition For Career
By PJ Browne Updated

Well down the road of his career in science, Shane O'Donnell has an ultimate destination in mind: Space. The Clare hurler holds the ambition of becoming an astronaut.

"There’s a lot of things I would like to do," O'Donnell told the Sleep, Eat, Perform, Repeat podcast.

"I would definitely like to get involved in space travel and that kind of stuff, getting involved ideally in being an astronaut or something, that’s the end goal but I think that’s everyone’s end goal or a lot of people’s end goal.

"It’s definitely something that if you asked me what would be my legacy, in ideal circumstances, that would definitely be it."

The 24-year-old is in the last three months of a PhD in microbiology at UCC where he is focusing on gut bacteria and non-digestible carbohydrates. October is the deadline for his thesis.

Between late 2018 and early 2019, O'Donnell spent six months at Harvard on a Fulbright Scholarship. He applied simply thinking 'What's the worst that can happen?'

The opportunity was his first chance to spend time abroad. Hurling with Clare had taken up his summers. He'd never been away on a J1.


His time in the States gave him a renewed appreciation on a few fronts, firstly for the quality of life he has in Ireland, and secondly for the amount of time high performers in his field put into their work.

"[It gave me] a confidence that if I can be in Boston working with these people in these great labs, maybe what I'm doing here is pretty good," said O'Donnell.

They are amazing people that you're talking to but they're still the same as you and I. It instils you with a confidence that the best in the field aren't miles above you. They're just people who are willing to work hard and have good ideas. It's not this mystical thing that they're so good I could never attain that level.

Regarding where his future lies, O'Donnell isn't certain. It's something he thinks about a lot.

"Everyone, when they finish their PhD in science, has the option of staying in research or going to industry, they're the two completely opposite decisions you have to make," he said.

"At the moment I’d kind of be swaying towards going into industry which is working in pharmaceutical labs and that kind of stuff.


"I got offered a postdoc in the lab that I left from Boston so it’s definitely weighing on my mind, do I want to maybe, not give up, but put hurling on pause for a while and move there.

"My girlfriend is in Dublin for the next couple of years so that’s also something that I have to take into account. There’s so many things I’d be losing by going to Boston, even though it’s a great opportunity, it’s probably not something that I want to do really.

"Then it’s kind of looking at probably going into industry labs and working. As much as I love science and research, I’d probably be kind of more business-minded than I would pure research.


"So to get involved in a company and an industry side of things would certainly pique my interest. That’s probably where I’m leaning towards at the moment but it’s certainly not a foregone conclusion either."

The demands which hurling and Gaelic football put on the time of its players have continuously ratcheted up in recent years. O'Donnell likes being an example of someone who has been able to mesh his education with being an inter-county player.

"I’d try to encourage people to marry education and sport," he said.


"I like that people associate both things with me, or that they’d look at me and say, ‘Okay, you can do both’, or at least to some level, you can do both. That’s 100 per cent something I want, not so much to be remembered for, but something I would advocate."

Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

See Also: 17 Famous Irish People Who Played Minor GAA At County Level

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