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  • Holland Bloorview’s research institute welcom...
  • September 28, 2018

    Holland Bloorview’s research institute welcomes new students; says goodbye to its alumni

    With the start of any new school year, it’s a bittersweet time for Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital’s research institute to say goodbye to the many students it has grown accustomed to seeing in its hallways – some for many years. Yet it is also a time to greet the new ones joining its incredible team of senior clinician scientists, senior scientists, clinical team investigators and many others who are dedicated to guiding and mentoring each student that walks through their doors.

    The Bloorview Research Institute (BRI) prides itself in its capacity to train and celebrate the next generation of childhood disability researchers. Last year we trained 170 research students, which included masters and PhD students, as well as post-doctoral fellows. As a top 40 Research Hospital in Canada, we are proud to collaborate with the University of Toronto to support the academic and research growth of future childhood disability leaders.

    Good luck in your future endeavours, Ward Summer Student researchers!

    On July 24, a full house of Holland Bloorview’s staff, families, trainees, researchers, and clinicians celebrated the work of Canada’s best and brightest undergraduate students in childhood disability research at the 12th annual Ward Summer Student Research Day. A total of 22 students presented their research through engaging oral and poster presentations that summarized the impact of their work toward a meaningful and healthy future for all children and their families.

    Holland Bloorview’s 2018 Ward summer research students with Colin Ward

    The 2018 Ward Summer Student Research Day winners are:

    Best Oral Presentation

    Gayatri Sivaratnam, McMaster University (for her talk titled Evaluating the tolerability of transcranial direct current stimulation in children with hemiparetic cerebral palsy)

    Best Poster Presentations

    • 1st Place: Helena Kita, Queen’s University (for her poster titled Social support in the concussion recovery process of youth)
    • 2nd Place (tie): Josh McGillivray, McMaster University (for his poster titled Audio-visual speech and face gesture recognition for personalized access technology for children with cerebral palsy and complex communication needs)
    • 2nd Place (tie): Hilary (Anya) Friesen, Acadia University/Dalhousie University (for her poster titled Custom video game for performance testing of a personalizable access technology for children with cerebral palsy & complex communication needs) 

    Every year, the Ward Summer Student Research Program attracts top talent from across the country. This year, over 1,600 applications were received for a unique interdisciplinary mentorship experience at Holland Bloorview's research institute. The program is made possible through the Ward Family’s generous support.

    Welcome, new students!

    In September we welcomed 35 new masters and PhD students to our research teams, and welcomed back 31 students for another year of training with us.

    The Bloorview Research Institute is proud to offer several graduate student awards to encourage young researchers to pursue an exciting and rewarding career in the field of childhood disability. The Graduate Student Scholarship Awards include the Kimel Graduate Scholarships (available from the generous contributions of the Kimel Family Fund), the “Whipper” Watson Graduate Research Studentship Award (funded in the memory of Whipper “Billy” Watson, a Toronto wrestler who is known for his charitable work for children with disabilities), and the Graduate Student Scholarship Awards.

    Congratulations to the 2018 recipients who will be joining us for the 2018-2019 year:

    Kimel Graduate Student Scholarship in Paediatric Rehabilitation (2 awards)

    Carly Cermak, PhD student, Rehabilitation Sciences Institute, University of Toronto

    Stephanie Cheung, PhD student, IBBME, University of Toronto

    Kimel Graduate Student Scholarship in Paediatric Disability Research (2 awards)

    Erica Floreani, Masters student, IBBME, University of Toronto

    Eric Wan, PhD student, IBBME, University of Toronto

    “Whipper” Watson Graduate Research Studentship Award (1 award)

    Donya Mosleh, PhD student, Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Toronto

    Graduate Student Scholarship Awards (2 awards)

    Ali Mojdeh, Masters student, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Waterloo

    Mahan Malihi, Masters student, IBBME, University of Toronto 

    We asked some of our graduate student award recipients to share a bit about their story and aspirations in childhood disability research. Here is what they had to say:

    What got you interested in childhood disability research?

    “Prior to pursuing a doctoral degree, I worked full-time as a clinical speech-language pathologist with children in early intervention services. It was during these years that I realized how many questions I had regarding the neurobiology behind language delays and disorders including traumatic brain injury. I wanted to be at the forefront of research to try and tackle some of the questions I had.” – Carly Cermak

    “Eight years ago, my youngest cousin was born with cerebral palsy. As my cousin grew, I was fascinated by the many different technologies that were incorporated into his life to help with his vision, hearing, mobility and communication. Seeing the impact that technology has had in my cousin’s life inspired me to focus my career in engineering towards researching and developing new technologies that can further improve the lives of children with disabilities.“ – Erica Floreani

    What inspires you?

    “I am drawn to technological ideas for people with disabilities. From my professional experiences, I have learned and realized the potential of technology in restoring and enhancing a functional life for individuals with disabilities. This is what motivated my career as an engineer.” – Eric Wan

    “What inspires me is the strength and determination of children with disabilities. These children are constantly working hard to show what they are capable of and exceed the expectations that society has of them. They challenge me to work harder, pushing beyond the expectations I have of myself.” – Erica Floreani

    What aspects of the field of childhood disability interests you most and why?

    “With the rapid advancement of technology, we now have new engineering methods available to address some important research questions in childhood disability, development, and health. I am interested in and excited by what these new opportunities can offer for the advancement of knowledge in the field.” – Stephanie Cheung

    “I find the neurobiology of language disorders fascinating. Researching the interplay between brain and behaviour provides a better understanding of potential challenges that need to be considered when working with children who have communication disorders.” – Carly Cermak

    What do you want people to know most about real-life implications that research – including yours – can have?

    “People should know that the effort researchers put behind their research; that research has real life applications, and that trusting researchers will lead to great results. Especially in the field of childhood disability people should know that the research is very practical and can have tremendous implications in the lives of their children. We are trying our best to make kids’ lives easier and more comfortable.” – Ali Mojdeh

    “Imagine a world with highly available knowledge and insights. The families of children with disabilities can conveniently choose services to best meet their needs. Service providers can use information to maintain a high-quality standard for their care. It can be achieved by childhood disability research. I believe research has a potential to deliver ideas that can immediately improve quality of care as a short-term view, and further study disability conditions as a long-term view. It is my goal to achieve both.” – Eric Wan

    What are you career aspirations?

    “I aim to continue targeting important questions about communication through my research career: How are we equipped to communicate, and how can we improve access and opportunities for children who communicate differently? It is an exciting time to apply engineering approaches to these questions, and I am hopeful that my work in this area can drive meaningful impact in the field.” – Stephanie Cheung

    “I aspire to excel in many aspects of research and teaching during my tenure as a PhD student at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. I aim to excel in my competency as a student with the hopes to fulfil my dream of becoming a professor and researcher after graduation.” – Ali Mojdeh

    Have a great year, everyone!