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Faculty of Health Sciences project summaries


JoAnne Arcand Shilpa Dogra Manon Lemonde Syed Qadri
Ginny Brunton Nick La Delfa Bernadette Murphy Paul Yielder



Supervisor name:  JoAnne Arcand, PhD

Project title: Evaluating the relationship between sodium intake and sodium knowledge, attitudes and behaviours among patients with hypertension

Summary of research project:  Excess dietary sodium is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. While Canadians overall consume excess sodium, it is unclear if there is a relationship between sodium knowledge, attitudes and behaviours (KAB) and the amount of sodium consumed. In this cross-sectional study, the student will analyze the amount of sodium patients with hypertension (n=150) are consuming with urine collections, food records and surveys, and determine if this is associated with sodium KAB. This is the first study of its kind in Canada. It will inform nutrition policy and educational initiatives. Funded by the Heart & Stroke Foundation.

Student responsibilities/tasks:

The student will join a collaborative team of research assistants, graduate students, physicians and Faculty. This project is part of a larger study, and data collection is ongoing (until August 2020). The student will meet with patients in the clinic to obtain informed consent and explain study procedures. They will also meet with patients at follow-up appointments (held in the clinic), which includes reviewing food records and administering surveys. The student will participate in nutritional analysis using a software program. Students will be encouraged and supported in publishing their findings.

Student qualifications required (e.g. courses completed, minimum grades, skills):

A successful candidate will: 

  • Be able to work independently, as part of a collaborative research team, and with clinic staff and patients.
  • Be self-directed.
  • Demonstrate exceptional analytic and critical thinking skills.
  • Be professional and have excellent email, written and verbal communication skills.
  • Have the ability to commute to a primary care clinic in Bowmanville.
  • Have achieved a minimum grade of A- in an introductory nutrition course.
  • Have a GPA of at least 3.8.


Supervisor name: Ginny Brunton, PhD

Project title: Indigenous women’s perspectives of positive birth: A systematic scoping review

Summary of research project:  Canadian Indigenous women are at high risk of problems during childbirth. These are associated with pre-existing health conditions, social vulnerability and a lack of culturally safe care. However, little is known about the factors women identify that support a positive childbirth experience. Previous research suggests fragmented and potentially conflicting evidence. This project aims to conduct a systematic scoping review of Canadian research to characterize the research about Indigenous women’s perspectives of a positive childbirth experience. As a secondary analysis of peer-reviewed published research, ethics review is not required.

Student responsibilities/tasks:

Students will be supported by the Faculty member to assist in the scoping review process. This could include: searching multiple databases and websites; downloading identified references into EndNote software; and the screening of identified references, full-text retrieval and/or data extraction using bespoke systematic review software.

Student qualifications required (e.g. courses completed, minimum grades, skills):

This is a project best suited to students who can demonstrate an interest in research, close attention to detail, and can work on their own while regularly consulting with the Faculty member. A 75+ average in an introductory research or statistics course is required. Students must be able to demonstrate they know how to access and search at least one electronic database (e.g., MEDLINE, CINAHL, ASSIA, etc.). Prior use of EndNote or other citation software is desirable; training will be given to use specialist systematic review software (EPPI-Reviewer©).


Supervisor name: Shilpa Dogra, PhD

Project title: Sedentary time and hospital-associated deconditioning

Summary of research project:  Hospitalization is associated with significant deconditioning due to sedentary time, particularly among older adults. We will be collaborating with Lakeridge Health to try and reduce sedentary time by introducing an "end PJ paralysis" intervention. Data will be collected before and after the intervention to determine effectiveness.

Student responsibilities/tasks:

Students will be responsible for assisting with recruitment and data collection at the hospital. They may also be involved in the qualitative components of the study.

Student qualifications required (e.g. courses completed, minimum grades, skills): 

  • Completed courses in ethics and research methods.
  • Have the ability to commute to the hospital in Bowmanville.
  • Have excellent communication skills.

Supervisor name: Nick La Delfa, PhD

Project title: Exploring the interaction between cognitive and muscle fatigue on upper limb neuromechanics

Summary of research project:  Both muscle fatigue and prolonged mental exertion are individually linked to deficits in motor performance and strength. However, the combined effects of these exposures are relatively under-explored, which can have tremendous consequences in certain occupations (e.g., dentistry, surgery, etc.). Using a neuro-mechanical, laboratory-based approach, this research project will explore the individual and interactive effects of these occupational exposures on upper limb task performance and muscle capacity.

Student responsibilities/tasks:

For this research project, the student will work with a Master’s student and Dr. La Delfa to design and test an experimental protocol in the Occupational Neuromechanics & Ergonomics Laboratory. Your main focus during the summer will be data collection for the study described above. As such, you will be trained in the use of surface electromyography, force/strength measurement and psychophysical rating scales. This skill set will also allow you to help with other studies being collected in the lab. Other responsibilities and tasks will include: initial stages of data analysis, literature integration and manuscript preparation.

Student qualifications required (e.g. courses completed, minimum grades, skills): 

  • A- or higher in Musculoskeletal Biomechanics (HLSC 4471U) and Occupational Ergonomics (HLSC 4475U).
  • Students currently enrolled in HLSC 4475U will still be considered for this project.


Supervisor name: Manon Lemonde, PhD

Project title: Readiness for Palliative Care in Durham Region

Summary of research project:  This project will allow researchers to gain a better understanding of palliative care, and augment strategies for bettering comfort care. As the Durham Region will be acquiring 25 new hospice beds at the Whitby, Clarington and Oak Ridges locations, it is imperative that we increase the readiness of individuals caring for patients and families. This project will explore the attitudes of palliative care in interdisciplinary health care team members, and what is recommended to ensure they are ready for this orientation. Based on this information, we will determine what interventions are needed to enhance patient and families experiences.

Student responsibilities/tasks:

As a student participating in the research awards program, your focus will be on understanding the importance of palliative care in the Durham Region; placing emphasis on comfort care. With a specific focus, you will be working to gather qualitative data, and discover innovative ways to promote readiness in the community. Throughout the duration of the project, the successful applicant will conduct a literature review and participate in background research. It is the responsibility of the student to assist in developing awareness of the topic, uncover current perspectives of palliative care, and find an interesting way to present the acquired information.

Student qualifications required (e.g., courses completed, minimum grades, skills): 

  • Ability to be autonomous, and detail-oriented with a strong sense of responsibility.
  • Self-motivated, goal-oriented, and well organized.
  • Hardworking, reliable, and punctual.
  • Seeks new challenges and willing to accept accountability.
  • Competent in research aptitudes, have the ability to work with qualitative data.
  • Passionate about the area of work, and eager to learn.
  • Completed the third year of Health Science or the BScN program.
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA.


Supervisor name: Bernadette Murphy, PhD

Project title: The effect of recurrent neck pain on upper limb sensorimotor integration

Summary of research project:  Sensorimotor integration (SMI) is the ability of the central nervous system (CNS) to integrate sensory information from different body parts and formulate appropriate motor outputs to muscles. The internal representation of our body map, or body schema, is essential for accurate motor performance. The neck is linked biomechanically and neurologically to the upper limbs and yet, we know very little about how altered sensory feedback from the neck affects upper limb SMI and motor performance. This project will measure changes in electroencephalography (EEG) signals when participants with recurrent neck pain learn novel motor skills.

Student responsibilities/tasks:

The student will assist in recruiting and testing participants, as well as performing data analysis. Specifically, they will assist in: 

  • Acquiring electroencephalographic (EEG) and somatosensory evoked potential (SEP) data.
  • Using electrical stimulation to excite the median nerve to evoke SEPs.
  • Data analysis of EEG and SEP data.
  • Statistical analysis and data presentation of EEG and SEP data.

Student qualifications required (e.g. courses completed, minimum grades, skills):

  • Kinesiology major with a minimum A- grade in Intro to Movement Neuroscience;
  • Enrolled in Human Motor Control and Learning.


Supervisor name: Syed Qadri, PhD

Project title: Influence of blood bank storage on red blood cell quality

Summary of research project:  Red blood cell (RBC) lifespan is affected by multiple pathophysiological cell stressors in vivo. This project aims to identify the molecular mechanisms that influence the quality of RBCs during storage in Blood Bank conditions causing morphological and biochemical alterations.

Student responsibilities/tasks:

For this project, the student will assist in the preparation of different buffers required for RBC sampling and subsequently subjecting them to different treatments; the RBCs will be of transfusable quality directly obtained from blood bags. The student will further help in the age-dependent isolation of human RBCs and perform their phenotyping by analyzing cell surface markers as well as cytoplasmic and membrane proteins using flow cytometry and immunoblotting, respectively. In parallel, the student will also be expected to perform thorough literature reviews to understand pertinent research questions and methodologies for this project.

Student qualifications required (e.g. courses completed, minimum grades, skills):

The student must have completed the following courses and have achieved the noted grade, respectively: 

  • BIOL 2030U – Cell Biology (B; GPA 3.0)
  • BIOL 2020U – Genetics and Molecular Biology (B; GPA 3.0)
  • BIOL 2080U – Biochemistry I (B; GPA 3.0)

Basic laboratory skills required: Pipetting, preparation of simple solutions, preparation of samples, and using basic lab equipment such as water baths, pH meter, microcentrifuges, etc.


Supervisor name: Paul Yielder, PhD

Project title: The effect of recurrent neck pain on the vestibulo-ocular reflex

Summary of research project:  Because of the particular role the cerebellum has in modulating eye movements, it has provided us with a unique way to directly measure cerebellum function, using measures such as the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR). The VOR keeps the eyes on target despite head and/or body movements that include the head, whether these movements are self-produced or externally imposed. This research uses a state of the art eye-tracking system to measure changes in the way the output of the cerebellum is affected by recurrent neck pain. This work will measure the vestibulo-ocular reflex and hand-eye coordination in individuals with recurrent neck pain.

Student responsibilities/tasks:

The student will assist in: 

  • Recruiting participants and obtaining informed consent, statistical analysis and data presentation of collected data.
  • Collecting and analyzing the vestibulo-ocular reflex using the Eye-Link II eye-tracking system.
  • Using 3D motion analysis to measure the spatial and temporal error in maintaining target fixation throughout the head movement.

 Student qualifications required (e.g. courses completed, minimum grades, skills):

 Kinesiology Major, minimum A-grade in Intro to Movement Neuroscience; enrolled in Human Motor Control and Learning.