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Marie-France Paré

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?

I grew up in Kitchener, Ontario. My father is a French literature professor and my mother is an elementary school teacher, so my brother and I always understood the importance of education and hard work. Prior to beginning my university studies, I worked as a paramedic.

What compelled you to pursue stroke research?

My research background is in muscle and exercise physiology. When I started in Dr. Jasmin’s lab at the University of Ottawa, he wanted to start exploring the mechanisms by which the muscular benefits of exercise can also improve brain health. We know that stroke survivors benefit greatly from rehabilitation and physical activity, so we wanted to explore this relationship. On a more personal level, I’m motivated to do research in this field by the memory of multiple patients I encountered while working as a paramedic. It’s fascinating to be involved in the opposite end of the stroke care spectrum – from hyperacute care to basic research.

What is the focus of your research?

I’m interested in understanding how exercise and exercise-adapted muscle can benefit brain health. We know that muscle releases molecules during and after exercise that communicate with the rest of the body. We think that these molecules may be responsible for the beneficial effects of exercise on the brain. We’re especially interested in drugs known as “exercise mimetics”. These compounds activate the same pathways in muscle as exercise and could be an important tool for stroke survivors whose ability to exercise is reduced.

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

I started my PhD at the University of Ottawa in January 2015 after completing my undergraduate and Masters degrees at the University of Waterloo. I plan to continue in research when I complete my PhD, and I’ll be looking for post-doctoral fellowships in a few years.

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

The National Trainee Association is a great network to connect with other students and post-docs involved in stroke research. We get the opportunity to keep each motivated, exchange ideas, and give each other tips.

What other interests do you have?

I’ve really involved myself in student activism since beginning my studies at Ottawa. I think graduate student researchers’ voices need to be heard when it comes to the importance of publicly accessible and publicly funded research. For fun, I like to run, do yoga, and watch TV with my cat.