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Training

Sonja Findlater

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from?
A: I’m a PhD Candidate in Neuroscience. I work with Dr. Sean Dukelow at the University of Calgary. I joined Dr. Dukelow’s lab in 2011 when I took a leave from my position as an Occupational Therapist to pursue a Master’s degree. I must have caught the research bug because I’m still here!

Q: What compelled you to pursue stroke research?
A: I worked as a therapist for 16 years in neurorehabilitation (mainly stroke rehabilitation).  Over the years, a few questions became so persistent that I eventually returned to school. Why weren’t the advances in stroke rehabilitation keeping pace with knowledge in the fields of neuroscience and medicine? Why didn’t the field of neurorehabilitation employ current neuroscience principles to guide our treatment strategies? Do the traditional treatment theories have unexplored scientific merit? Why do some people have substantial improvement post-stroke and others don’t?

Q: What is the focus of your research?
A: After a stroke, approximately 50% of individuals have sensory deficits, such as impaired awareness of the location or movement of one’s arm without vision (proprioception). Proprioceptive impairments have been associated with incomplete motor recovery after stroke. My research is focused on identifying the brain regions and connections associated with proprioceptive impairments as well as the impact of stroke location on the ability to use vision to compensate for proprioceptive impairments.

Q: At what stage are you in your research, and what are your future plans?
A: I am in the third year of my PhD. I hope to graduate in the spring of 2018. My future goal is to be able to combine clinical practice and research so that one area can inform the other.

Q: How do you and others benefit from being part of the National Trainee Association?
A: The SPiN course is really special. I love the concept of bringing trainees together from diverse backgrounds and seeing the similarities and differences between basic science and clinical research. This format is a great model for creating the foundation for collaborations between the two types of research.
The National Trainee Association is important for bringing trainees together from across the country (and beyond). I’ve been involved in the mentorship program for a few years now and love the opportunity to share our experiences and help each other out.

Q: What other interests do you have?
A: I spend most of my spare time in the mountains ice, rock and alpine climbing in addition to backcountry skiing. I also manage women’s ice-climbing and alpine climbing camps where the goal is to help individuals gain skills and independence. I find this incredibly rewarding.