Maria O'Connell

  • 1.06 Chemistry

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Applications to study a PhD or MSc by Research in inflammation, cancer or natural products are welcomed. Examples of research areas include: Nrf2 and related proteins in chronic age-related diseases, including cancer; plant bioactives as nutraceuticals or therapeutics.

Personal profile

Key Responsibilities

Associate Dean for Research, Faculty of Science

Head of Pharmacology, School of Pharmacy

Module Co-ordinator for PHAP 6015B (Advanced Drug Discovery, Pharmacology and Toxicology) 



Maria obtained a BSc in human nutrition at Trinity College Dublin and a diploma in dietetics at Dublin Institute of Technology. She then undertook a PhD and post-doc position in Trinity College investigating mechanisms of action of tumour necrosis factor alpha. She moved to The Scripps Research Institute in California as an American Heart Association research fellow in Nigel Mackman's lab, studying gene regulation in inflammation.

From 1999-2006, Maria was a senior research scientist and deputy head of the Micronutrient Research Section at the Medical Research Council’s Human Nutrition Research Centre in Cambridge, working on the regulation of gene expression in inflammation and vascular disease and the role of cellular and dietary antioxidants in disease.

From 2006-2016, Maria was a Senior Lecturer in the School of Pharmacy at UEA and her research focused on preventing and treating  inflammation and cancer. In 2016, she was promoted to Professor of Cell Biology.  


Areas of Expertise

Maria has studied: regulation of pro-inflammatory mediators (cytokines, adhesion molecules, coagulants, growth factors and matrix metalloproteinases) in chronic inflammation and age-related diseases; characterisation of the NFkappaB, Nrf2 and Egr-1 signalling pathways in inflammation; mechanisms of action of micronutrients and phytochemicals; novel therapeutics and therapeutic targets in age-related diseases and cancer. 


Key Research Interests

Natural products and age-related diseases: characterising the mechanisms of action and investigating the potential of plant and marine-based compounds and their derivatives as nutraceuticals and therapeutics  

  • Bioactive peptides, triterpenoids, organosulfur compounds, flavonoids, vitamins, novel leads from natural product libraries, biosynthesised phytochemicals 

Targeting inflammation - regulation of gene expression and novel therapeutics targeting these proteins:

  • Nrf2 and other NFE2 family members
  • DJ-1   
  • TREM-2
  • NFkappaB family members
  • Egr-1 

Novel therapeutics in cancer:

  • Metal-based compounds
  • Novel leads from natural product-based libraries
  • Targeted peptides disrupting protein/protein and protein/DNA interactions

Research Group or Lab Membership


Jasmin Staples

Megan Williams

Emily Hobson 

Ellie Hyde (with A Beekman)

Salonee Banerjee (with A Sobolewski) 

Daria Golubova (with N Patron) 

Rebecca Casson (with A Osbourn)

Sherif Hamdallah (with S Qi)


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or