Margaret O’Hara completed a BSc in Applied Physics at the University of Strathclyde in 1990. She did teacher training and taught secondary school physics in Scotland for two years before taking a teaching post in Botswana, where she taught physics and occasionally maths, music and Scottish country dancing. Deciding on a career change, she completed an MSc in Medical and Radiation Physics at the University of Birmingham in 2002.
She trained as a junior medical physicist at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham for a further two years specialising in radiotherapy, nuclear medicine and diagnostic radiology. Her MSc project was in monte carlo (MCNP) simulations of photo neutrons from a 15 MV clinical linear accelerator. She then did her PhD in the Molecular Physics Group in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Birmingham measuring VOCs in human breath using Proton Transfer Reaction Mass Spectrometry.
During her PhD and for several years afterwards, she tutored on the Medical and Radiation Physics MSc course. Following her PhD she worked briefly at University Hospital Birmingham radiotherapy physics department running monte carlo simulations of electrons in a linear accelerator, before taking a career breakShe is now working as a Daphne Jackson Trust Fellow as a postdoctoral researcher in the Molecular Physics Group headed by Dr Chris Mayhew.
Margaret’s research focuses on the measurement of volatile organic compounds in breath for medical applications. She is involved in a clinical trial in collaboration with hepatologists at University Hospital Birmingham to use breath analysis to diagnose advanced liver disease and related side effects.
She is also collaborating with Dr Shazia Zafar on a study on breath analysis for assessment of ketosis in patients suffering from hypermesis gravidarum.