Graduate Research: Investing in the Future
New funding from the Quebec government has made it possible for the Faculty of Medicine’s Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office to support dozens of graduate students to travel outside of Canada for the purpose of research, field work or training. This summer, Medicine Focus sat down with a couple students to discuss their research projects abroad.
Phil Dickinson, BSc’89, MSc’11, a student working toward a PhD in the Integrated Program in Neuroscience, landed in Berlin to begin his research project on modes of reasoning and framing with the goal of having a better understanding of the neurological factors that may impact decision-making related to illness susceptibility and health-seeking behaviours. “There is a tremendous amount of exciting research here and great facilities,” he wrote from Berlin.
He says that one of the most exciting aspects of his stay in Berlin is working with researchers that are leading the push towards an “open” neuroscience, in which researchers make their datasets and analytic techniques freely available for others to use. “This opportunity to be involved with and work with the individuals that are pushing this cutting edge approach to collaboration and sharing, along with their technical and analytical expertise is, quite simply, invaluable.”
Kate Zinszer, MSc’04, a PhD student in epidemiology, will be travelling to Kampala, Uganda this fall as part of her thesis project to work on the Uganda Malaria Surveillance Project, an initiative created jointly by the Uganda Ministry of Health, the National Malaria Control Programme in Uganda and the University of California, San Francisco. There she will help with analyzing data collected from six diverse sites around Uganda to understand, from a population health perspective, the major factors driving malaria in Uganda. “We want to examine trends, through time, to help target more efficient resource allocation,” she says.
Her research project is three-pronged. During the first phase, she will develop prediction models to forecast malaria. She will then conduct qualitative interviews with people from public health agencies within Uganda as well as international organizations to tailor the models to be feasibly implemented in public health. When she returns again next spring, she would like to share some of the benefits of her research by conducting a two-day workshop to improve the analytical capacity of epidemiologists and analysts in Uganda.
Hiba Zafran is working towards a PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences. This month, she is travelling to Copenhagen, Denmark, for 10 days to participate in the Copenhagen Summer School in Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind. She is excited to be able to exchange ideas with other students but also to meet and speak with Dr. Dan Zahavi, and Dr. Josef Parnas, two major players in the field of phenomenology and psychopathology.
Hiba is an occupational therapist who has been working in the field of psychiatry for 10 years. Her current research study involves looking at the use of art as an interviewing tool with help-seeking youth in the early phases of psychosis, as a different way of understanding them and their experiences, in contrast to exclusively verbal psychiatric interviews. “Denmark has a huge tradition in this philosophical approach [phenomenology] so it’s an amazing opportunity,” she says.
What is Phenomenology?
“The discipline of phenomenology may be defined initially as the study of structures of experience, or consciousness. Literally, phenomenology is the study of “phenomena”: appearances of things, or things as they appear in our experience, or the ways we experience things, thus the meanings things have in our experience. Phenomenology studies conscious experience as experienced from the subjective or first person point of view. This field of philosophy is then to be distinguished from, and related to, the other main fields of philosophy: ontology (the study of being or what is), epistemology (the study of knowledge), logic (the study of valid reasoning), ethics (the study of right and wrong action), etc.”