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Cancer researcher uses MindManager to drive greater project efficiency, and stronger team collaboration

Tom O'Connell | MindManager Blog

“It’s like having a single control center where you can view everything that you need without the clutter of digging through files on your computer. It’s a lot more efficient to run a project when you can tell what’s been done, and what needs to be done. The efficiency gains are quite significant.”

Thomas O’Connell, PhD
Associate Professor,
Indiana University School of Medicine

Case Study Icon 1 | Tom O'Connell | MindManager Blog

Greater Project Efficiency

Easily manage 5-10 projects from a single dashboard

Case Study Icon 3 | Tom O'Connell | MindManager Blog

Easier Team Collaboration

Better brainstorming and planning for new research

Case Study Icon 2 | Tom O'Connell | MindManager Blog

Improved Resource Management

Maximizes the research output from a core laboratory

Case Study Icon 4 | Tom O'Connell | MindManager Blog

Enhanced Research & Writing

Reduced writing stress, clearer summary of results


The Challenge

As an Associate Professor and the primary investigator in the O’Connell Lab at the University of Indiana School of Medicine, Thomas O’Connell, PhD is at the forefront of cutting-edge cancer and metabolomics research. One of his recent areas of focus is analyzing how cancer and chemotherapy can cause muscle wasting in patients, with the goal of identifying ways to treat this condition.

O’Connell’s daily tasks involve managing a large number of collaborations. Each project might entail ordering supplies, conducting a variety of experiments, keeping track of completed and outstanding samples, analyzing data, and summarizing the findings. At any given time, O’Connell must manage five to ten of these active projects, and ensure that valuable research time isn’t wasted due to poor organization.

Additionally, O’Connell must also regularly produce research papers and grant applications related to his experiments and findings. This involves gathering large amounts of data from multiple experiments, analyzing and drawing conclusions from the results, and summarizing his team’s findings into a paper that can be submitted to a conference or journal for peer review.

The Solution

O’Connell has been using MindManager daily as his tool of choice for project and task management, and as a writing aid, for more than a decade.

For managing lab collaborations, O’Connell uses MindManager to create a central “master” dashboard for his weekly tasks. This dashboard connects to individual project maps for each project he is coordinating. When starting a new project, O’Connell and his team build out the full scope of work using a mind map. The project is broken into its primary sections, and subtopics contain detailed task information, linked resources, and staff assignments. As tasks are completed, they are checked off using MindManager’s task status feature, and new information and findings are stored within the core project map. By linking these project maps to his core MindManager dashboard, O’Connell has constant insight into where each of his projects stand.

“It’s like having a single control center where you can view everything that you need without having to dig through files on your computer,” explains O’Connell. “It’s a lot more efficient to run a project when you can tell what’s been done, and what needs to be done. The efficiency gains are quite significant.”

O’Connell also uses MindManager as his tool of choice for planning and creating the skeleton of research papers and grants application. The ability to link and attach findings and data from various experiments into a mind map allows O’Connell to draw connections between results, and form a clearer picture of the implications of the lab results. This is critical when planning and writing a complex research paper, explains O’Connell.

Starting with a central topic — the overarching theme of the paper — O’Connell adds subtopics, notes, data links, and attachments to his mind map to build out the structure and content of the paper. ““MindManager allows you to throw ideas out, move them around, and divide them into sections,” explains O’Connell. “By the time it’s all there, you’ve got such a detailed skeleton to work with that the writing becomes a lot easier.”

“It’s a lot more efficient to run a project when you can tell what’s been done, and what needs to be done. If you can look at that more efficiently and more dynamically than is possible with a traditional to-do list, the efficiency gains are quite significant. MindManager enables this type of project management”

Thomas O’Connell, PhD
Associate Professor, Indiana University School of Medicine

The Results

As an expert in the field of cancer metabolism, O’Connell’s ongoing goals include completing his experiments in an efficient manner, being an efficient and productive collaborator, and regularly writing papers and grant applications to secure funding for future projects.

“MindManager has definitely helped me attain those goals, and maintain a high level of productivity,” says O’Connell. “If I didn’t have MindManager, I would spend a lot more time collecting information from multiple sources, rather than having it all in a single dashboard.”

Being able to visualize and plan projects, track their progression, and easily access results and data dramatically improves the speed at which lab experiments can be completed. It also allows his team to brainstorm collaboratively, and draw connections between results that often lead to new ideas. Maintaining a high level of efficiency across all projects and experiments helps O’Connell and his team continue to pursue the goal of discovering medical breakthroughs that have the potential to save lives in the future.

About Thomas O'Connell, PhD

  • Associate Professor of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine
  • Head of the O’Connell Lab at the University of Indiana
  • Associate Member of the IU Simon Cancer Center
  • Member of the Center for Cachexia Research Innovation and Therapy
  • Research focuses on applying integrated metabolomics analyses to cancer-associated cachexia and other wasting conditions.

About Indiana University Medical School

  • Public teaching and research medical university
  • Principal research and medical center located in Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Founded in 1903
  • 2,000+ full time staff
  • 2000+ students

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