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Andrew Robertson

Robertson ATell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?

I grew up on my family’s apple orchard just outside the Village of Iroquois in Eastern Ontario. In 2013, I completed my doctorate from the University of Waterloo in an interdisciplinary program called Aging, Health and Well-Being. While the focus of my graduate work studied the effects of vascular aging, working with Dr. Richard Hughson gave me the opportunity to participate in two studies with the Canadian Space Agency. This work assessed the effects of long-term missions to the International Space Station on baroreflex sensitivity and cerebrovascular health. Currently, I’m a Postdoctoral Fellow supervised by Dr. Bradley MacIntosh at Sunnybrook Research Institute in Toronto.

What compelled you to pursue stroke research?

My interest in the cardiovascular system stems from a senior-level high school project on the heart. Over the course of my graduate training, I became increasingly curious about the complexities (and mysteries) of the brain. With the brain seemingly still very much like a black box, I felt that brain-related research would lead to a stimulating and ever-changing career path. Given my interests and past experiences, I was compelled to pursue stroke research because of its interconnectedness with both brain and cardiovascular health. Ultimately, I hope to make a difference in the recovery trajectories of patients.

What is the focus of your research?

At Sunnybrook, our research examines the role of aerobic exercise in stroke recovery. Specifically, I focus on the acute and longer-term training effects of exercise on cerebral hemodynamics using a combination of transcranial ultrasound and MRI perfusion techniques. In a recent contribution to Experimental Brain Research, we reported that moderate intensity exercise was better than low intensity exercise at increasing cerebral blood flow to regions associated with sensorimotor network, which may help to support motor recovery following stroke.

At what stage are you in your research, and what are your future plans?

I’m in my third year as a Postdoctoral Fellow. As I continue to expand my tool set to include structural and functional neuroimaging, I’m currently focused on developing my portfolio with sights set on a future academic appointment.

How do you and others benefit from being part of the National Trainee Association (NTA)?

I have attended the Stroke Program In Neurorecovery (SPIN) twice and have been paired as a mentor in the NTA mentoring program. SPIN was extremely valuable to me as I transitioned from my graduate work as a Vascular Physiologist to my current position in stroke research. It provided a well-rounded glimpse into the world of neuroscience and a peak into current state-of-the-art research. In addition, meeting other trainees and researchers at SPIN has led to relationships that may develop into future collaborations. The mentoring role in academia is something that I have really enjoyed as a senior graduate student and now as a postdoctoral researcher. I think this NTA program has the potential to be extremely helpful for new students navigating the sometimes murky waters!

What other interests do you have?

I’m getting married later this summer, so recently I’ve enjoyed planning for the big event with my fiancée – especially sampling the menu! I also like to try to stay as active as I can outside the lab. This includes playing softball and volleyball, as well as going for the occasional run to clear the mind.