Philippe D’Onofrio, Rehabilitation Science Institute

Name: Philippe D’Onofrio
Department: Rehabilitation Science Institute
Research Title: Ph.D. Student
Supervisor: Dr. Paulo Koeberle

Description of your Research:
I am looking at the molecular mechanisms that cause neurons to die during neurodegenerative disease or after an injury such as a stroke or traumatic brain/spinal cord injury. I am improving our understanding of these processes, and looking for ways to block them. Hopefully my work will lead to future drug therapies that can save neurons from death or be used in conjunction with other therapies, such as an exercise regime, to improve rehabilitation after an injury.

Why Did you Choose this Department?
The RSI is the best department for me because it’s full of excellent professors and students who unite a variety of experiences and points of view to study injury and rehabilitation from many different angles. Bringing together such a range of perspectives makes for a really fascinating graduate experience as it really encourages you to examine your own work and makes you aware of possibilities you may have never considered.

How aas your Experience Looking for a Research Opportunity?
I started looking for a research opportunity during my undergraduate degree – it was nerve wracking and involved knocking on a lot of researcher’s doors, but it payed off in the end. I was very fortunate entering grad school because I knew that I wanted to stay in the same lab.

When Did you Start your Research Experience?
I started doing research in the last year of my undergraduate degree through an undergraduate thesis project

Why did you choose this supervisor?
I have always had an interest in neuroscience, and Dr. Koeberle’s work seemed really interesting and important to me. I had just lost my grandfather, who had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, and so the idea of studying the processes of neurodegenerative diseases and contributing to research combating them was really appealing. As well, Dr. Koeberle seemed like a really great guy, something my friends who’d already gone through grad school assured me was extremely important in a supervisor. Fortunately, both they and I were absolutely right

What’s your Experience with Research?
Research is very different than many other pursuits, because the world of topics to pursue is so vast. It can seem overwhelming at first, but it also has the potential to be extremely rewarding. I see a lot of similarities between it and another passion of mine: endurance sports. The worlds of racing and research are both wide open and full of possibilities, and results require planning, dedication, and time.

How’s the Social Experience with Research?
Research tends to be thought of as a solitary pursuit, but nothing could be further from the truth. The quantity of knowledge continually being generated is such that no one person could keep up with it all, making collaboration necessary. That being said, many scientists are extremely interesting people and any reason to get to know them is a good one.

What are Your Future Career Plans?
After finishing my Ph.D., I plan to find a post-doc position and eventually become a researcher/professor. I am interested in many aspects of my field, however, so I’m not yet sure what my exact route will be.

“You will never know your limits unless you push yourself to them.”

Tip: Enjoy and appreciate whatever you are working on. There are often many obstacles to success, but taking them in stride and having confidence that you can overcome them make the journey much more enjoyable and improve your performance.