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Kathleen Fifield

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?
A: I was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland and I am currently a PhD candidate at Memorial University of Newfoundland. I completed both my undergraduate degree in Psychology and Behavioural Neuroscience and my Master’s degree in Neuroscience at Memorial University. Currently, I am completing my PhD in Medicine (Neuroscience) under the supervision of Dr. Jacqueline Vanderluit.

Q: What compelled you to pursue stroke research?
A: Understanding how the brain functions under normal and diseased states is a great interest of mine. Researching the basic science underlying stroke progression and recovery will ultimately help people afflicted by this neurovascular disease. Since Newfoundland has one of the oldest and most obese populations in Canada, people living here are at great risk for developing stroke. I am therefore compelled to pursue stroke research at the basic sciences level to help stroke patients living with this burden.

Q: What is the focus of your research?
A: My research focuses on the progression of a small focal ischemic stroke within the brain during the acute stages of post-stroke recovery. Using a mouse model of ischemic stroke, I research the interaction of cells comprising the neurovascular unit, such as neurons, glial cells and blood vessels, following a focal ischemic stroke. I examine behavioural deficits resulting from ischemic stroke that are targeted to the anterior forelimb motor cortex. Since obesity induced by a high fat diet is an independent risk factor of stroke, I also examine the effect of dietary influences on post-stroke recovery. Obesity and high fat diet can lead to an increase in inflammation both in the peripheral and central nervous system and this can have detrimental effects on post-stroke recovery within the brain.

Q: At what stage are you in your research, and what are your future plans?
A: I am currently in the third year of my PhD and I am in the process of publishing some of my research. As well, I am in the process of data collection and analysis of continuing experiments. In the future, I plan to complete a post-doc specifically in stroke rehabilitation research. Ultimately, my goal is to become a primary investigator in stroke research at a university within Canada.

Q: How do you and others benefit from being part of the National Trainee Association?
A: The National Trainee Association provides great opportunities to interact with leading scientists and trainees within the stroke research field. Last year I had the opportunity to attend and present my research at the 2016 Stroke Program in Neurorecovery (SPiN) Workshop in Vancouver BC. It was at this workshop that I observed the new and exciting research in stroke recovery at both the clinical and basic sciences level. The best part of this experience was talking with stroke patients who reiterated the importance of stroke research. This motivated me and continues to inspire me to pursue a career in stroke research.

Q: What other interests do you have?
A: Other than my academic interests, I am an artist and enjoy painting and drawing. I also am an amateur pool player (8 ball and 9 ball) and I have won trips to both Las Vegas and Florida to play in amateur pool tournaments. Both art and pool are great outlets to spend time alone for contemplation and to spend time with friends, respectively.