Richard Nichols, PhD, chair of the School of Applied Physiology at Georgia Tech University, wants young investigators to know that research can be as much about ideas and relationships, as it is about science.
“The greatest assets in building a career are the people in your life: your mentors, students and post-docs, colleagues, and partners. All of these people are absolutely essential and you must not take them for granted,” said Nichols, a 1974 graduate of Harvard University. “Given the difficulties in developing a career in this day and age, you have to discover and maintain a big idea. If you have an idea you are trying to develop, you can calibrate all of the information you take in, rather than grasp at seemingly random opportunities.”
Closing the second annual Movement and Rehabilitation Sciences (MRS) Training Day on Friday, September 7, Nichols’ presentation was the end of a busy morning.
What came before was a showcase of MRS research at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine that brought together medical students, post-docs, and faculty from various departments within the University and affiliated institutions. Zev Rymer, MD, PhD, professor in physical medicine and rehabilitation and physiology, began the event with a discussion on funding sources for the many audience members seeking to establish and maintain careers in research.
Ranked among the top 10 U.S. physical therapy (PT) schools by U.S. News & World Report, MRS Day highlighted the Department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Science, with student presentations providing a window into the distinct training environment at Feinberg.
Laura Miller, a DPT/PhD (Eng) student entering her seventh year, will earn a doctorate in physical therapy (DPT) as well as a PhD from the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. Having finished her DPT in spring, she is now returning her attention to research.
“I am looking at using engineering techniques to understand upper-limb motor control after stroke, and will use what I learn to develop better PT intervention,” she said. “That’s where the dual-degree program comes in as an important training opportunity, because we are trained both as clinicians and engineers.”
Other presentations discussed the Neuroscience with specialization in Movement and Rehabilitation Science (NUIN-MRS) program, which combines training in fundamental neurobiology with basic quantitative methods, and the NIH-funded T32 training grant focused on Pathophysiology and Rehabilitation of Neural Dysfunction (PRND).
Beyond hearing from Rymer, Nichols, and about the various educational opportunities at Northwestern, attendees also had the chance to view more than two dozen abstracts submitted for the annual MRS poster session.
“I think MRS Day is really important because there is such a community of rehabilitation research on the Chicago Campus, but we don’t often get to see what is going on beyond our own labs,” Miller said. “It’s really great to see all of the different projects and how they range from the cellular/molecular level up to clinical application.”