Postgraduate Student Life @ CUHK
From Ireland
PhD Graduate in Education
HKPFS Awardee

Department of Sports Science and Physical Education,

Building a Career out of Passion

Career paths aren’t always a straight line and sometimes hobbies or interests may eventually turn out to be life-changing passions that lead to a different path in life. This was certainly the case for Dr. John O’Reilly, lecturer at the Department of Sports Science and Physical Education at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK).

Although Dr. O’Reilly did his first degree in accounting in Ireland, he was always passionate about sports science and health. He played a lot of sports and eventually decided to go back to university to get a degree in the field. Whilst he was doing a part-time job in Hong Kong after finishing his undergraduate degree in sports science and health, an opportunity came up.

“As it turns out, someone on my football team was working in the sports science department at CUHK and told me that his colleagues were looking for a junior-level assistant to help him with some projects in his lab,” he said.

With a keen interest in a niche subject area, Dr. O’Reilly applied and got the job as a research assistant.

Changing course

The rewarding research assistant experience at CUHK further fueled Dr. O’Reilly’s passion to consider research as his life-long career. He came to realise the high quality of research output that CUHK contributed to the subject area of sports science. He was further impressed by the quality of teaching, research and collaboration that CUHK did in the field that he was interested. So, he decided to apply for a master’s degree in science and exercise science which eventually led him to further his research and pursue a PhD at CUHK.

“I knew I needed to have a PhD if I wanted to set myself apart and build up my career,” he said.


That’s when he also learnt about the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme (HKPFS), and he applied and was successful. With abundant funding granted to finance major expenses such as tuition fees, travel expenses and housing, he was able to focus on his research wholeheartedly. “I didn’t need to worry about getting a part-time job, and I could live on campus to do my research,” he said.

Dr. O’Reilly then spent his professional life deep diving into his research on the important subject of nutritional and metabolic aspects of exercise, physical activity, health promotion and the innovative development of e-learning strategies. With his background, he now provides scientific services to professional soccer teams in Hong Kong and even riders at the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Unwavering support

He feels that he could not have done any of those without the support and the wonderful opportunities granted by CUHK.

“I’ve pretty much been at the university in all forms of life, from the most junior staff member to being a postgraduate student and now a faculty member,” he said. Recounting his last sixteen years on campus, he held every position and opportunity given to him with keen affection.


Whether it’s the resources, expertise and support from his professors and Faculty, or even the diversity and inclusion of its international student body, Dr. O’Reilly always felt that CUHK was a home away from home. And up until today, that support continues as he journeys on his career.

“When I finished my PhD, the department retained me as a faculty member so I was able to pursue my future goals to develop my academic career by continuing to teach and produce research, as well as engage a little bit more with the local community,” he said.

To this end, Dr. O’Reilly advises potential candidates who are interested in sports science to consider applying for CUHK. In terms of research contributions, he said the subject area opens the doors to many opportunities including contributions to public health, promoting physical activity and general health to the public, or sports management and sports administration. Graduates will always get plenty of support by being part of a high-ranking university.

“You will also be able to contribute towards a high level of research output that’s currently going on,” he said. So, his advice to candidates would be to reach out to potential research supervisors and see which area of expertise they might be interested in.

“Get an idea of what you want to focus on, check out the various research portfolios of the professors and lecturers and reach out to express your interest, that is the first thing to do to open the lines of communication,” he said.