ONDRI Scholars leveraging learning for continued career success

Dec 20, 2021 | Blog, ONDRI Stories

You’re at an early stage of your career and the world is full of possibilities. You may be particularly interested in certain aspects of both your educational and work experience; or you may not yet be sure what area to hone in on or to specialize in. You want to keep increasing your exposure to new things, trying to find your focus, your passion. You are not alone.

Over the past 8+ years, ONDRI has provided a stimulating environment for junior scholars and scientists, at the start of their career.

Where they go following this exposure can depend on what aspect of the work they found particularly invigorating, on circumstance, or even on luck. We’ll focus on two such people, Beth Godkin and Vivian Chau.

“I’ve loved my time at ONDRI so far because it represents a collision space of innovative scientists and clinicians who are tackling the study of neurodegenerative disease from diverse perspectives. There are new opportunities every day to roll up your sleeves and get involved in virtually every aspect of the research, learning from the many experts that are involved in the project”, said Beth, who is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Waterloo.

Beth has been involved on the logistical side of study coordination, the scientific side of protocol development, the engagement side with participants and care partners, and more. Every part of the work she has been involved in has made it feel like she is part of a team that is striving to make a difference.

Beth studied Kinesiology at Queen’s University, before completing her MSc in Exercise Physiology at McMaster University.

She was driven by an interest in improving quality of life for people living with chronic disease, with a focus on understanding behaviours and evaluating interventions using tools deployed outside of the clinic or laboratory.

She then had the opportunity to join the University of Waterloo’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences as a laboratory demonstrator, before serving as the research and operations manager within the Centre for Community, Clinical and Applied Research Excellence (CCCARE).

Through these experiences, Beth was exposed to the ONDRI@Home work being led by Bill McIlroy PhD and Karen Van Ooteghem PhD, eventually joining their lab as a Research Coordinator. This work continues, through Beth’s decision to pursue a PhD under the supervision of McIlroy.

person exercising with another person recording

This similar thirst for knowledge and desire to just jump in and do it resonates with Vivian as well. She earned Bachelor of Science and Master of Public Health designations through the University of Waterloo, focusing on public health, analytics and quantitative data to inform policy. She joined ONDRI for a one-year contract through the Neuroinformatic & Biostatistics (NIBS) group housed at Baycrest.

As part of the NIBS team, Vivian worked on ensuring that the ONDRI data coming from both from the Foundational Study and the ReMiNDD Study were managed and planned with the utmost rigour and care, so as to be of greatest utility to researchers and scientists.

This important work took a big picture perspective along with great organizational and technical skills.

These skills and experience served her well as Vivian continued her career trajectory, first through a stint in a private research company and now through her current position in distribution logistics and planning at Ontario’s Ministry of Health.

Being back in a public health environment feels right to Vivian, and ties in well with her experience and passion.

“I worked remotely on ONDRI’s ReMiNDD study, with the team from the University of Waterloo. Even though I was offsite, I felt a strong connection to the study participants when working with the data”, said Vivian. “We were using participant IDs, so we didn’t know their names, of course. But poring over data and reflecting on what was going on in their daily lives, in the context of test results and continuous remote activity monitoring, made me feel like I was helping people, working on improving their quality of life somehow” she continued.

Aside from the hard skills of data governance, designing databases, and improving their quality, which are so important in healthcare of the 21st century, Vivian felt that personal connection through ONDRI, which kept the work very meaningful.

ONDRI brings its funder the Ontario Brain Institute (OBI’s) “open science” mantra to life, exposing groups of people to areas that are typically siloed, across platforms, across diseases, and across disciplines. This cross-silo exposure can lead to many different career trajectories. This story focused on two rising ONDRI stars. More to come in this series.

For more on ONDRI’s work in remote monitoring.

For more on career impacts through ONDRI.

OBI through its Brain-CODE neuroinformatics platform has released the baseline data from ONDRI’s deeply phenotyped, cross-disease Foundational Study. More here.