Working Life: Professor John Nolan, WIT

Professor John Nolan, co-founder Nutrition Research Centre Ireland (NRCI), Waterford Institute of Technology.

Working Life: Professor John Nolan, WIT


I squeeze in an early run before organising breakfast for my wife, Jane, and daughter Penny, aged three. I love running — I clock up 50 to 60 miles per week, including half marathons at the weekend. I have a keen competitive edge which stands to me in the workplace.


I drop Penny to Montessori en route to work. She’s changed my day, in a good way. It doesn’t take long to get to the campus — a short commute and access to parking are among the luxuries of living in Waterford.


The first two hours are spent reading research papers and catching up on paperwork. Our research team recently completed a major two-year European Council-funded clinical trial involving 100 people diagnosed with early-stage, age-related macular degeneration, a disease that affects the back of the eye and one of the most common causes of blindness. Participants were given a dietary supplement of carotenoids — naturally occurring pigments that give fruit and veg their colour — and 40% had what is deemed to be a clinically meaningful improvement in vision after 24 months.


I meet up with my researchers — four PhD students and three post-docs. We discuss their research papers, approaches to problem solving and, my favourite bit, statistical analysis of their data.


Workload permitting, we all meet up for lunch which can turn into a brain-storming session. My students are never on the clock, but key to our research is an honest work ethic and enjoyment of what we do. Sometimes we get a negative set of results but we publish the negative as well as the positive.


I have research to do on behalf of our stakeholders — Enterprise Ireland and the European Research Council. We place huge emphasis at NRCI on having our papers published in journals, publishing 10 to 12 per year. The results of CREST (Central Retinal Enrichment Supplementation Trial) have just been published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, the most respected, peer-reviewed journal in eye science. Marigold petals from Mexico were used as the basis for the carotenoid supplement we used in the trial.


I head home for dinner with my family. After reading Penny her bedtime story, I work on research papers .

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