A Q&A with Paul O'Shea, associate dean, research

Earlier this summer, the Faculty welcomed Dr. Paul O’Shea in the role of associate dean, Research. Dr. O'Shea joined us from the United Kingdom, where he was Chair of Biophysics at the University of Nottingham for 16 years. He has worked at the interface between the life sciences and physics and chemistry throughout his career.

Where are you from originally?

PO: The northeast coast of England.

What do you think of Vancouver so far?

PO: As a city, Vancouver has everything and its physical location is just amazing.

For the most part Vancouverites seem pretty friendly, and after travelling over much of the world, Vancouver has the best example I have seen of multiculturalism working well.

What makes you laugh?

PO: Lots of things – people mostly. Usually something bathed in irony although not cynicism.

Tell us about your area of research interest.

PO: I seem to have collected several areas that on the face of it are not at all connected. They include membrane biology/biophysics and systems medicine. What they have in common however, are big questions of molecular and physiological complexity, and how their rules manifest as life.

How do you hope to effect change in your role as associate dean, Research?

PO: I hope to be able to help shape the Faculty’s research missions to prepare for future challenges, as well as helping faculty release their potential more effectively. As a newcomer to UBC, I hope I can be objective.

I am a strong advocate for breaking down barriers between research disciplines. I aim to promote a research culture that just sees research questions that can be addressed in an interdisciplinary manner, not constrained by historical boundaries.

In the short-term I hope to put some structures in place that will help research progress more effectively and build coherency and connectivity between primary investigators.

I also believe that the coexistence of teaching and research should be symbiotic, not competitive, and I will try to develop a research culture that promotes both.

What are you most excited about in this new role?

PO: Unlike many of the other associate dean research roles across the university where the research culture is in the hands of individual departments, our Faculty has no such divisions. I think I can make use of what skills I have to make an impression.

What’s the best piece of advice you’d like to share with us?

PO: Trust people. Personal responsibility can often be eroded in large institutions but our workforce is outstanding, so allow people to shine. 

Image Credit: Justin Lee Ohata, UBC Pharm Sci.