Q: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?
A: I was born and raised in Australia – living the life of sunshine and warm days all year long, plus great espresso coffee! I went to high school on the coast of the Whitsunday Islands – gateway to the Great Barrier Reef! I then moved to Townsville and trained as a Physiotherapist at James Cook University. I subsequently left the tropics for Brisbane, where I worked as a Physiotherapist whilst completing my PhD at The University of Queensland.
Q: What compelled you to pursue stroke research?
A: I had an amazing neurology mentor, Dr Ruth Barker, who had a passion that was contagious! During my neurology training I was inspired by how much a stroke survivor could go on to achieve in their recovery, and that I could play an influential role in that journey. I did a research honours project with Ruth during my physiotherapy training. This experience ignited my passion to understand upper limb recovery (focusing on people with severe impairment) after stroke. I have been researching this group of stroke survivors ever since.
Q: What is the focus of your research?
A: My research focuses on people with severe upper limb impairment early after stroke. Our arms and hands are key to what we do and how we do it. But for 3 to 4 out of every 10 stroke survivors, severe impairment is a devastating reality that often persists. This group of people have the scope to make the largest improvement during rehabilitation. How we optimally facilitate such recovery remains unknown. My research attempts to fill this gap by exploring biomarkers of recovery, as well as response to novel rehabilitation approaches that attempt to harness an individual’s neurobiological potential for recovery.
Q: At what stage are you in your research, and what are your future plans?
A: I am an early career researcher currently doing my postdoctoral training. I have an International Early Career Fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia. I am fortunate to spend 3 years with Professor Lara Boyd and her team of researchers in the Brain Behaviour Lab at University of British Columbia exploring biomarkers of recovery. At the end of 2017, I will return to Australia to work with Professor Julie Bernhardt and the AVERT team at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, where I will focus more on rehabilitation and training approaches.
Q: How do you and others benefit from being part of the National Trainee Association?
A: The National Trainee Association is a pioneering program that provides opportunities for research trainees to network, learn and receive funding support. I have benefited by attending the annual SPiN event, presenting my work to the trainee collective and have received a travel award to support a visit to Associate Professor Nick Ward at University College London.
Q: What other interests do you have?
A: I moved from Australia with 2 suitcases and my road bike! So clearly I love cycling! I have enjoyed clocking up the kilometers in Vancouver – albeit more from a stationary bike inside thanks to those rainy Vancouver days! I also love good coffee, red wine, hiking and spending quality time with family and friends.