Q: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?
A: I’m from North Bay, Ontario. I grew up and went to high school in North Bay, before moving away in 2011 to pursue a B.Sc. in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Ottawa. I’m currently doing my Master’s degree in Neuroscience under the supervision of Dr. Jean-Claude Béïque.
Q: What compelled you to pursue stroke research?
A: Throughout my undergraduate studies, I became very interested in neural physiology, in particular in the synapses that mediate the transmission of signals between neurons. I was further fascinated by the processes that dynamically regulate the function of these synapses, and how the resulting alterations in network function influence behaviour. While working under the supervision of Dr. Béïque, I was given the opportunity to further explore these processes and apply them to the very important, clinically relevant problem of stroke recovery. Now, my research allows me to apply my knowledge and curiosity to solve a problem that will improve the lives of patients and provide hope for full recovery.
Q: What is the focus of your research?
A: Following stroke, survivors’ hopes for full recovery are undermined by a remarkably high incidence (up to 50%) of post-stroke depression (PSD). The depressive symptoms experienced by patients with PSD severely impact final recovery outcomes by affecting their motivation to adhere to an optimally aggressive rehabilitation protocol. The focus of my research project is to determine, at a functional level, how a cortical stroke alters information flow in key mood-related brain circuits in the weeks and months following a stroke. Our team is using an optogenetic approach along with electrophysiological recordings in a rat model of stroke to functionally dissect the long-range synaptic connections between brain regions that are important in determining mood. Any stroke-induced alterations in information flowing through these pathways could be important in producing the depressive symptoms in PSD.
Q: At what stage are you in your research, and what are your current future plans?
A: I’m currently in my first year of my Master’s degree, and I’m expecting to graduate in 2017. After completing my Master’s degree I would ideally like to join an MD/PhD program. My dream is to treat patients in a clinical setting while also continuing my work in research and academia. This would allow me to provide care that is informed by cutting-edge research, while performing research that is driven by the needs of my patients.
Q: How do you and others benefit from being part of the National Trainee Association?
A: So far, I’ve been fortunate enough to hold a CPSR Trainee Award to help fund my Master’s degree. Being a part of the NTA I’ve had the opportunity to meet trainees from several other labs, learn about their research, and have constructive discussions about our projects and experiments.
Q: What other interests do you have?
A: I have many interests that keep me busy in my time away from the lab. First, I’m part of the Graduate Student’s Association within our department, where I serve as representative for the Neuroscience program. The GSA allows me to meet other students from the department, and address student concerns while organizing events aimed at improving the student experience. Outside of academia, I enjoy playing volleyball. This year I’ve played with the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees Men’s volleyball team in tournaments all over Ontario and Quebec. I also enjoy cycling and rollerblading during the summer and playing guitar. I believe it is important to maintain a healthy, well-rounded lifestyle in order to perform to my highest potential in the lab.