Reema Shafi, Rehabilitation Sciences Institute

Student Name: Reema Shafi
Department: 3rd year PhD student, Rehabilitation Sciences Institute (RSI)
Research Title and Description:
Exploring alterations in large-scale neural organization following repetitive traumatic brain injury in women survivors of Intimate Partner Violence.
Supervisor:  Dr. Angela Colantonio; Director, Rehabilitation Sciences Institute

Why did you Choose this Department:
The choice to seek enrollment at RSI was a natural one given my academic and clinical background in occupational therapy and experience in rehabilitation.

Why did you Choose this Supervisor:
As an occupational therapist my clinical focus has been on assisting brain injured individuals return to pre-injury functional status, incl. community and work roles. Based on this mutual area of interest - traumatic brain injury - my supervisor’s outstanding
research/publication record and given the recognition and respect she has gained from the international research community for her contributions, the choice was a rather easy one.

When did you Start your Research Experience:
My research journey began during my Master’s program at the Ohio State University (OSU) where I worked on an animal model for Alzheimer’s Disease and explored the effects of cortical cholinergic de-afferentation on sleep/wake cycles as well as anxiety associated stimuli. My passion to explore and understand the neurobiology of behaviour stemmed primarily from my research exposure at OSU.

What’s your Experience with Research:
My academic/research experience at RSI has been quite rewarding. I am well supported by my supervisor, faculty and peers at RSI as well as the Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Lab. I am fortunate to be funded by CIHR and the Women’s College Hospital to pursue
my doctoral work.  The ABI Lab offers ample extended opportunities to acquire specific skill-sets that better position students for success as independent researchers. Personally, in addition to the doctoral focus, I have gained a host of complementing experiences, i.e., analysis of big data sets, systematic review of the literature etc. Academically, I have also been wellsupported
to develop an individually-tailored training program to meet my unique research goals, i.e., medical imaging. Also, the opportunities for collaboration and networking with leading researchers in the field are encourage and supported at the ABI Lab which is a bonus for any emerging researcher. I have chosen to work concurrently in both basic science and applied science projects to gain a better understanding of both sides of the research spectrum. I trust this integration and synthesis of knowledge is required to further our understanding of brain injury neuropathophysiology esp. as it correlates with community-based outcomes.

How’s the Social Experience with Research
The environment in the ABI Lab is quite conducive to learning and academic freedom; the latter is unprecedented from my past academic experiences. Information sharing and assistance from senior lab members is remarkable, making the enthusiasm both palpable and contagious.  We are encouraged to explore academically-oriented leadership positions to develop competencies across various academic arenas. Currently, I co-ordinate the monthly Gender, Work and Health journal club where we discuss emerging publications, critically appraise methodological choices, gain a broader conceptual understanding of the frameworks guiding research and examine implications of the findings on health service delivery. The ABI Research Lab also hosts multiple Gender, Work and Health speaker series throughout the academic year, whereby international researchers are invited to share their research with students and faculty and to foster opportunities for enriched partnerships.  From a personal growth perspective, there are ample opportunities for grant writing, presenting research and public speaking. I have also been successful in building a teaching portfolio while working as a graduate teaching assistant for the Department of occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. This has led to some mentorship opportunities that I have enjoyed and definitely learnt from. In addition, I have had the chance to give back by sharing my clinical experiences that are being incorporated through learning modules in the classroom.  At RSI, we have an active student body that promotes an inclusive culture. In fact, RSI’s first student-run peer-reviewed digital publication – RehabINK – began in 2016 and is growing strong!

Future Career Plans
My long-term objective is to advance the understanding of the neural organization of the brain and to explore therapeutic mediums/modalities that can restore connectivity in key neural regions as well as functionality within behavioural domains to facilitate recovery post-injury.

Favourite Quote
“Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” - Steve Jobs

One Advice/Tip
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” – Maria Robinson