Melisa Gumus, Institute of Medical Science

Melisa Gumus

Name Melisa Gumus (MSc Candidate)
Department Institute of Medical Science, Faculty of Medicine
Research Title Identifying Clinical Subtypes of Post-Concussion Syndrome by Evaluating the Relationship between Subject Specific Functional-Structural Connectomes and Neuropsychological Measures Using Computational Models
Supervisor  Dr. Carmela Tartaglia
Collaborators: Drs. Michael Mack & Robin Green

Description of your research
Post-concussion syndrome is defined as having persistent symptoms 3 months-post injury, and, currently, its diagnosis relies on patients’ self-reports of symptoms. In my thesis, I aim to identify potential subtypes of Post-Concussion Syndrome such that patients that belong the same subtype would show similar structural, functional connectivity and neuropsychiatric profiles. Such subtypes would allow us to move towards precision medicine of the patients and better understand the heterogeneity in presentation and recovery. In order to do this, I create whole-brain functional and structural connectomes based on resting state functional Magnetic Resonance (rs-fMRI) and Diffusion Weighted Imaging (DWI), respectively. Then, I run various machine learning tools and computational models to link these connectivity measures to behaviour.

Why did you choose this department?
I studied mathematics and neuroscience in my undergraduate at UofT and was very lucky to find my research passion in computational neuroscience earlier in my studies. I have been interested in better understating the complicated behaviours of the brain and, also, combining my computational skills and knowledge with medical science to improve people’s lives. The Institute of Medical Science with its leading clinician scientists and investigators as well as interdisciplinary research seemed to be the best place, and it did provide me an amazing opportunity to pursue my passion.

What’s your experience with research?
I had my very first research experience in my second year of undergrad, where I realized I really liked being in research; dealing with unknowns, asking questions, and getting surprised by science every day. My research project was about Alzheimer’s disease, and with this experience, I developed a strong interest in neurodegenerative disease research. Meanwhile, I was looking for unique ways to combine my interests in neuroscience and mathematics and found out about the fascinating field, computational neuroscience. Since then, I have been involved in various fields of computational neuroscience/cognitive neuroscience. I worked on several projects from understanding how individual differences in white matter tracts influences learning to investigating how theta oscillations in microcircuit models of hippocampus CA1 link to neurobiology.

Why did you choose this supervisor?
With my very first research project on Alzheimer’s Disease, I have become interested in dementia/neurodegenerative diseases. In my master’s, I was looking for an opportunity to study and learn more about such diseases and combine my computational skills and knowledge with medical science. I chose to work with Dr. Carmela Tartaglia because she is an expert in neurodegenerative diseases, and her work seemed really interesting. In my master’s, I started really appreciating the data I worked with because each subject is not just a number but a patient with a unique story, medical history and life style. Also, she was really open to the idea of combining computational approach with dementia and concussion research, which provided me an amazing opportunity to study what I was excited about.

What are your future career plans?
I am really passionate about continuing to combine math and medical science to improve patients’ lives. I plan to continue my research career with PhD, post-doc trainings, and I am deeply interested in medicine.

There might be obstacles in life, challenges we all face, but, no matter what, never give up fighting for what you are passionate about and what you believe in because each difficulty you overcome will make you stronger.

I gained most of the skills, that I use every day in research, through volunteering, work and research activities that I have been involved in outside of the school. To be better prepared for your future career, take advantage of the amazing opportunities and resources that UofT offers from the coordinators in your department to the writing centres. Lastly, always ask for help! Throughout my years at UofT, I have met such great mentors, supervisors and professors who really helped shape my future.