Staff Spotlight: Aine O’Connor

Hometown: St. Louis, MO

Undergraduate school: Washington University in St. Louis

Majors: Political Science and Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology

Minor: History

Graduate school: Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis

Program: MPH (Graduated May 2021)

Three things you have with you at all times: A good pen, a notebook or scrap of paper, and a hair tie. Ideally this list would also include chapstick, but I am forever misplacing it when I need it most.

What are your hobbies or activities when you aren’t studying or working? Reading, long walks and hikes, cooking, video games, and crossword puzzles.

What would people be surprised to know about you? I sing! I was a choir singer for most of my life. Now I scratch that itch with shower and dish-washing karaoke and jamming in the basement with my partner and, occasionally, friends. After putting in so many years singing, I’m pretty lazy about learning instruments, but I’m determined to contribute something else to jam sessions and so am (very) slowly working on becoming a serviceable bass player.

Where do you see yourself doing long-term? What is your dream job? I love research and thinking about big, complicated problems, so I expect I’ll keep working in that vein for a long time, hopefully folding in public health principles and tools no matter the particular field or focus. As for a dream job, I’m pretty evenly split between doing Big Important Things in community research and advocacy and owning a neighborhood pub/coffee shop/some other gathering place related to food and good times. Maybe that’s the retirement gig.

What first made you interested in studying public health? I’ve always been interested in the ways that people’s spaces and places impact their lives. Before starting at the Brown School, I was working in economic development; after a few years, I realized that I really didn’t have the tools I needed to answer the questions that were being asked, or to measure the things that I wanted to measure. I looked into a few different programs besides the MPH, especially urban planning and public policy. At the end of the day, though, public health was the field that struck me as providing the most nuanced, principled, and expansive tools to understand and work for peoples’ wellbeing.