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Jamesy making his mark in American university

IT’S a long, long way from Douglas Bridge to Indiana. But for Jamesy O’Kane the decision to take up a post as a research associate at Indiana University has proved to be a life-changing opportunity.

For more than 10 years the Wells Centre for Paediatric Research in the Indiana University School of Medicine has played host to dozens of young researchers from the Ulster University. The graduate students work in labs, gaining research experience and technical prowess while networking with their Indiana counterparts.

Anthony Firulli, Professor of Paediatrics, initiated the programme at Indiana University after working with Ulster University students during the late 1990s and early 2000s when he was an assistant professor at the University of Texas Health Science Centre in San Antonio.

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Jamesy O’Kane discovered the Indiana University opportunity during his first year as a biomedical sciences student. After a few years at Ulster University he got his acceptance letter to Indiana in 2017. He successfully completed his year in Firulli’s lab, but a colleague and fellow Ulster student, Kevin Toolan, suggested he stay on as a research associate.

“This has been a great time to make contacts” Jamesy said. “I always wanted to come to the United States. It’s always been on my bucket list.”

The Douglas Bridge man joined the lab of Dr Matthew D Durbin, assistant professor of clinical paediatrics. Since last autumn, the 23-year-old researcher has been examining the cell lineage of congenital heart defects. He hopes to continue in the lab to gain more experience and eventually lead his own research projects in paediatrics.

Jamesy added, “The opportunity to work with very gifted individuals doing something meaningful and also being in close connection with hospitals – it helps you put your mark in the sand. This is definitely a life-changing opportunity.”

And away from the lab Jamesy is also fully immersing himself in Indianapolis vibes. In his free time, he is known to share a pint and follow football (soccer to his American colleagues) matches – although he does have to field numerous comments on his thick Irish brogue during his social time.

“People say to me, ‘You have an accent’,” Jamesy laughs. “Well, everybody has an accent. That’s what makes you where you’re from.”

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