Cian O’Donnell grew up in Donegal, Ireland. He obtained a B.S. in applied physics from Dublin City University (2005), then an M.S. (2007) and Ph.D. (2011) in neuroinformatics from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, under the supervision of Mark van Rossum and Matt Nolan. His Ph.D. work was on computational modeling of calcium signaling and ion channel dynamics in synapses and dendrites of neurons. In 2012, O’Donnell moved to San Diego, California, to work as a postdoctoral researcher with Terry Sejnowski at the Salk Institute, where he used computational simulations to study the role of protein synthesis in synaptic plasticity and long-term memory. After being awarded a postdoctoral fellowship from the Fragile X Syndrome Research Foundation, O’Donnell continued at the Salk Institute to study cortical circuit abnormalities in mouse models of fragile X syndrome.
In 2015, O’Donnell moved back to the United Kingdom to take up a lecturer position in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Bristol. Today O’Donnell’s research group uses computational modeling and machine-learning data analysis methods to study the biophysics of synaptic plasticity and to understand brain circuit alterations in animal models of autism, fragile X syndrome and related brain disorders.