1. What inspired you towards neuroscience? My first clinical research experience was with MS patients at the University of Calgary, so starting a masters in neuroscience felt like a natural progression. I have always been interested in the brain, and having a neurologist as a father didn’t hurt either!
2. Why stroke? My grandmother passed away from a stroke when I was a little girl. I knew I wanted to research something that I had a personal connection with. I am also very interested in researching neurological diseases that affect young adults. I wanted to focus on this younger population because stroke is generally considered a disease of the elderly. I was thrilled to find a project on stroke that involved working age adults, specifically those individuals working in occupations where critical attention is required such as airline pilots, railway engineers and commercial vehicle drivers.
3. What have been the highs so far? I think the most amazing part is seeing how far I have come. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer when I was three years old. I was lucky to survive but never thought I would be able to have children. I had my first daughter as a teenager in my first year of my undergraduate degree. I didn¹t think I could continue with school, let alone graduate with first class honours and go on to do a masters in neuroscience. I love breaking the stereotype of the teen mom and showing other young moms what can be accomplished. I am extremely honoured to have a publication in the International Journal of Stroke. It is an amazing feeling seeing your hard work pay off.
4. What have been the lows? Now a mother of two little girls, the entire idea of a full eight hours of sleep a night is not my reality. Fortunately, I have a constant supply of coffee. I am also a runner so I can be hard some days to put down the running shoes and pull out the laptop.
5. How do you balance work life with the needs of home life? Being a mother of two very active little girls is a full time job in itself. My husband is also a firefighter in Fort Macmurray and works away from home half of the time. It is definitely a balancing act trying to complete my degree, but my girls give me a reason to work hard. I love showing them that women can have children and continue to pursue a career in science. I would never be able to continue with my education if it weren¹t for my supportive parents who have encouraged me every step of the way.
6. Who are your most important mentors and how did you find them? Dr. Michael Hill is the most supportive supervisor that a graduate student could ask for. He leads by example and is the type of researcher and clinician that I aspire to be. It is very evident that he actually cares about his students and pushes them to succeed. I approached him after speaking with a pHD student who highly recommended him as a mentor. I am also fortunate to have had the support of Dr. Bill Stell during my education. He mentored me during my undergraduate degree and has been a constant support ever since. Dr. Doreen Rabi is also an important mentor to me because not only is she a well respected physician, researcher and professor, she is also a mother of two children. Her success is truly inspirational. Dr. Bijoy Menon is also an amazing mentor who has been very supportive of my project and is always around to give me input and answer my questions.
7. What are your most important collaborations and how have you built them? I am very fortunate to be able to collaborate with the stroke team at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary Alberta. I was introduced to this team of amazing physicians, researchers, students, and health care staff though my supervisor and thesis committee. I am learning from experts in a very exciting field.