Faryn Starrs, Rehabilitation Sciences Institute

Student Name: Faryn Starrs
Department: Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Medicine. Collaborative Specialization in Neuroscience
Research Title:
A Personalized Approach for Motor Recovery using Non-invasive Brain Stimulation Post-stroke

Supervisor: Dr. Joyce Chen

What is Your Research: Her research evaluates and develops therapies and principles that optimize rehabilitation post-stroke. Her research contributes to the understanding of how movements can be re-learned and improved using non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) and neuroimaging techniques.

Why did you Choose this Department:
It allowed for me to conduct research in both rehabilitation sciences and neuroscience. RSI is a very diverse department with students and experts from a wide range of rehabilitation science domains including; psychology, OT, PT, kinesiology and neurosciences.

How was your Experience Looking for a Research Opportunity: Going into my second year of my MSc at McGill under the supervision of Dr. Caroline Paquette, I realized that my passion for research was just beginning and that I wanted to pursue a PhD. During my MSc I developed a passion for neuroimaging as a technique to assess, and tailor therapy to an individual with a clinical pathology, such as a stroke. I began a side project with stroke patients and went to the 2015 Canadian Stroke Congress in Toronto. My supervisor at the time, Dr. Paquette, introduced me to Dr. Chen. They had both met during their Graduate studies at McGill and conducted research using neuroimaging as a tool to examine neuroplastic changes after a stroke. Dr. Chen mentioned her interest in using brain biomarkers and brain stimulation to excel recovery after a stroke. I was very intrigued and began reading a lot of her previous publications and future research projects. I contacted Dr. Chen 1 week after the conference and she offered to meet me at Sunnybrook for an informal interview. Our discussion revealed that our research interests aligned and complimented one another. We also discussed what she expected form a PhD student and what I wanted to get out of a PhD. I was very impressed with Dr. Chen’s education, research experience and open communication with me which lead to me applying to become her first PhD student. The process was smooth and Dr. Chen was there to help from a distance with applications for grants and funding while I was finishing my MSc at McGill.

When did you Start your Research Experience: I started volunteering at a lab at the University of Western Ontario at the beginning of my fourth year of my bachelor’s degree. I worked alongside a PhD student and had the opportunity to be a co-author on a published paper from this work. This experience allowed me to see how a graduate degree is pursued and carried out while providing me with hands on experience in the lab and scientific writing.

Why did you Choose this Supervisor: I choose Dr. Chen because of her research interests, education, research experience and her mentorship skills.

What’s your Experience with Research: Research allows me to come up with questions that intrigue me and I believe are important to neuroscience and health care. I have the freedom to answer these unique questions while collaborating with internationally known researchers in rehabilitation, physiotherapy, neurology and neuroscience. I enjoy learning from others and taking their experiences and expertise into consideration throughout my degree.

How’s the Social Experience with Research: Within RSI there is the Rehabilitation Sciences Graduate Student Union. I am a member of the social and service committee and mentorship committee’s which provides several opportunities to meet other grad students outside of my lab and engage is fun activities ranging from social gatherings to projects to spread awareness for a good cause. My lab also has gatherings every few months which allows us to bond outside of the lab and maintains our group cohesiveness within the lab environment.

Future Career Plans: To become a scientist with a focus on neuroimaging at a research intensive hospital, university and/or industry.

Quote: The brain is the organ of destiny. It holds within its humming mechanism secrets that will determine the future of the human race. Wilder Penfield

One Advice/Tip: Perseverance and resilience are essential to succeeding in graduate school because long as your moving forward, then you’ll get there eventually.