Dana Swarbrick, Rehabilitation Sciences Institute

Student Name: Dana Swarbrick
Department: Rehabilitation Sciences Institute
Research Title: HIIT the Road Jack: The Effects of Exercise on Piano Learning
Supervisor: Dr. Joyce Chen

Short Description of Your research:
Research suggests that exercise can be beneficial for motor learning. To my knowledge, whether exercise can improve real-world motor sequence learning, such as learning how to play the piano, is unknown. Nonmusicians will learn a piano sequence and exercise immediately afterwards. Their performance will be measured an hour, a day, and a week later.

Why Did you Choose this Department:
I chose the rehabilitation sciences institute (RSI) because my supervisor Dr. Joyce Chen belongs to this department. I am grateful that Dr. Chen belongs to this department because the opportunities for student leadership and engagement are particularly excellent in RSI. For example, I have had the opportunity to be co-chair of the research day planning committee, serve on the faculty and staff development committee, and be an editor for rehabINK, a student-led magazine. I love being involved and have enjoyed getting to know my classmates outside the classroom.

How was Your Experience Looking for a Research Opportunity:
This research opportunity actually found me. A friend of mine passed on that Dr. Chen was looking for a graduate student, and when I read the description of the opportunity, I knew it was the perfect match for me. I conducted music cognition research in my undergraduate degree and sometimes lost sight of the broader implications of my research. With this project, I can clearly see how this basic science will eventually lead to broad clinical applications. 

When Did you Start your Research Experience:
I started at the University of Toronto in September 2016, however I began research in the second year of my undergraduate degree in the LIVELab at McMaster. 

Why Did you Choose this Supervisor:
During my first interview with Dr. Chen, she seemed more nervous than I was. Since then, I have learned that this is in fact simply her personality. Every aspect of her being is a demonstration of how much she truly cares about her students. Dr Chen was recently and deservedly awarded the RSI Early Career Excellence in Supervision and Mentorship Award.

How’s the Social Experience with Research:
I am so lucky to be supported by an incredible team as part of the PULSELab. Faryn Starrs, Nirsan Kunaratnam, and our research assistant Tim Lam have made me feel incredibly welcome. Our lab meetings are tons of fun and often involve snacks and catching up on the weekend's events. 

Future Career Plans:
I would love the opportunity to teach and conduct research at a university. However, I understand the importance of remaining flexible in the current job market. As long as I am continuously learning, challenging myself, and have a musical career on the side, I will feel fulfilled.

One Advice/Tip:
Don't compromise your passion for career. It is possible to combine your passions to create your dream career.