Aoife O’Donovan

Born in: Ireland
Primary research category: Psychoneuroimmunology
Research location / employer: THRIVE (Trauma and Health Research on Immunity, Vitality and Emotion) Laboratory, University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), USA
Fellowship dates: 2010-2015

Academic Career

  • Assistant Professor, UCSF Department of Psychiatry and San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC), USA, 2013-Present


  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Trauma Research, SFVAMC, USA, 2010-2013
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Health Psychology, UCSF, USA, 2009-2010
  • PhD, Clinical Psychobiology, University College Dublin, Ireland, 2004-2009
  • Visiting Graduate Student, Health Psychology, UCSF, USA, 2007-2009
  • MPsychSc, Health Psychology, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland, 2002-2004
  • BA, Applied Psychology, University College Cork, Ireland, 1997-2001

Fellowship Research

Dr. Aoife O’Donovan’s research is focused on uncovering how stress makes us mentally and physically ill. Her lab is particularly focused on traumatic stress, which is stress involving threat to life or physical integrity, and posttraumatic stress disorders. Using methods from psychology, immunology, cell biology and psychiatry, her lab aims to reveal the mechanisms of stress effects on health and to develop and test interventions that target these mechanisms. Some notable ongoing projects are focused on elucidating the boundary conditions of stress effects on health, revealing the effects of inflammation on the brain and behavior, and developing a mobile application to reduce threat sensitivity following trauma exposure.

Major Contributions

  • First to reveal associations of personality with accelerated biological aging as indexed by telomere length.
  • First to show associations of PTSD with accelerate biological aging as indexed by telomere length.
  • First to show increased risk for a range of physician-diagnosed autoimmune disorders in association with PTSD and military sexual trauma.
  • Linked anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, PTSD, trauma exposure, and pessimism with elevated inflammation.
  • Revealed threat sensitivity as a potential core psychological mechanism of stress effects on health

Major Awards

  • International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies Chaim and Bela Danieli Young Professional Award, 2018
  • University of California Hellman Fellows Award, 2017
  • Neal E. Miller New Investigator Award for Early Career Contributions, Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research, 2012
  • Fulbright Scholarship, 2007
  • Psychological Society of Ireland Postgraduate Student of the Year Award, 2007

Collaborative Projects with other Branco Weiss Fellows