Connected Conversations | Ryan Dorrian
By day, Ryan Dorrian is a happy-go-lucky PhD student looking to improve spinal cord injury treatment. By night, he’s on the hunt for the best ramen restaurants the world has to offer, and cheering on Liverpool for another Premiership victory.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hey! My name is Ryan and I have just started as a PhD student at the University of Adelaide this year. I also completed my honours degree in health and medical sciences at the University, so I am starting to get pretty familiar with the place! Outside of studying, I keep myself pretty busy competing in decathlons and playing soccer for a local club in the northern suburbs, where I live. I also regularly get whooped by my mates around the golf course, but I’m a bit less proud of that one! Despite this, I love hanging out with friends and have been lucky enough to spend a lot of time travelling around the world with them. We are working hard towards our goal of finding the world’s best ramen restaurant, so stay tuned!
What was your first area of study and what drew you to this space?
After finishing high school, I was tossing up between a few ideas of what I wanted to do with my life; take a gap year, do engineering with my mates, or go into health sciences. I ended up studying health and medical sciences because I loved the idea of an exciting career where I could apply my love for science in a creative, meaningful way. I would say it has been a pretty great decision so far!
What has been your journey to get where you are today?
Like a lot of people, I started undergrad with absolutely no set plan on where I wanted to go. Because of that, I kept myself pretty open in regards to the courses I would take, and tried to experience as many areas of health as possible. In second year, I really started to gravitate towards the neuroscience-focused courses, and finally decided to major in this topic. Third year really gave me a chance to explore a wide range of neurological disorders, and I ended up really interested in spinal cord injury after a pretty inspiring lecture from a person impacted by the disorder. So, I did my honours in this area, loved it, and here I am now!
What are you working on now?
I am currently beginning my PhD, looking at traumatic spinal cord injury and the neuroinflammatory response following injury. Spinal cord injury is an exciting area to work in, and I feel like we are just around the corner from making some major improvements for a condition that is severely lacking effective treatments. I strongly believe that, in my lifetime, we will have a robust understanding of the pathophysiology of an injury, and hopefully be able to alleviate a lot of the major issues these people face
What do you love most about the University of Adelaide?
For me, Adelaide has the perfect balance between the academia and the social side of university. There’s a club for almost everything you could imagine, and there are always events going on around the campus. Having this work-life balance installed as part of the way the University functions is one of the best aspects of studying here, and it really teaches you great habits for a career in health. Also, free pool at the UniBar is pretty great!
What opportunities do you see for the future?
I can see the shift to online learning opening up a lot of opportunities for people. Hopefully, the opportunity to work and study from anywhere will make university more accessible for people living in different circumstances. Also, I can see a lot more research being presented online, hopefully making it accessible to people who are impacted by or interested in the conditions we research but may not be able to attend in-person events.
What inspired you to pursue a career in health?
Definitely the people! I find the attitudes of a lot of people who are impacted by the conditions we research incredible. They remain so positive and live life to the fullest despite everything, which it is really inspiring to see. Also, there are some amazing people who devote their lives to researching or working in health care, and you can’t really help but be inspired when you see how hard these people work for the benefit of others.
Health is such a unique area where you get to work in a team of dedicated, passionate people who are all working towards a greater goal. You get to think outside the box and apply a wide range of skills to solve problems, so every day is unique. There are a lot of different directions you can take within health, so I really think there is a place for any sort of person. It can be stressful at times for sure, but it’s really easy to love what you do, and that makes it pretty awesome.
What are the top three most defining moments of the past year for you?
- Finishing my honours was pretty great—that was an intense year!
- Liverpool winning the English Premier League after 30 years was a major highlight, and the end of Bojack Horseman on Netflix was incredible.
- I guess you can’t avoid the global pandemic being a defining moment–not necessarily a good one, but it’s probably something we won’t be forgetting any time soon.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Play sport, travel, hang out with mates, try out different restaurants, listen to live music, watch shows on Netflix — I guess that generally sums it up.
How do you relax or switch off?
Sport is the best way for me to switch off for a bit. It’s a few hours each night where I can destress and not think about solving problems or meeting deadlines. I also tend to be a lot more productive after I have exercised, so I end up getting just as much work done than if I hadn’t played sport but feeling a lot better about myself while doing it.
Which destination is at the top of your list of places to go when international travel returns to normal?
Easy one! Liverpool, of course! Being a massive Liverpool fan, I wake up in the early hours of the morning to watch every match. As you can imagine, this can be a bit of a pain–particularly when they lose, and I have to spend the rest of the day tired and thinking about it. So, it would be great to go there and watch them play at a decent time of day, particularly while they have a good team (shoutout to Jurgen Klopp for making my dreams come true).