Student Researchers

The Independent Research in Science course assigns students to specialists in various domains to assist them with their research. This semester, some of the students will share their progress, findings and overall thoughts regarding their projects in this bi-weekly column. The students will have a chance to display their final analyses in the Science Symposium on April 28th, 2016.

Discovering the World of Research in the Neuroethics Department!

with Stephanie Huang

To get a feel for what it’s like to work in academia, I joined the Independent Research Course. The caveat? After three semesters of unsuccessfully doing titrations, failing to pipette solutions properly and breaking glassware, I couldn’t even imagine doing that kind of lab work. In the end, I was placed in the Neuroethics Department at the Institut de Recherches Cliniques de Montréal (IRCM), under the supervision of the postdoctoral researcher Veljko Dubljević.

Source: The Tech Journal
Source: The Tech Journal

The ambitious project underway seeks to understand how an action, the people involved in that action as well as its consequences affect others’ moral perception of the situation. The end goal is to produce a survey that will help researchers at the IRCM have a better understanding of these effects.

As for me, I’m involved in a couple stages of the process. For example, a preliminary survey was written and edited by experts. I read their comments and applied them as necessary. I even had the chance to conduct interviews in order to evaluate the respondents’ understanding of the questions, and even gave some personal comments about the interviews!

Seeing this project progress over the past ten weeks has been extremely rewarding. Furthermore, due to the importance of critical thinking in this research unit, I’ve been able to express my ideas, which was equally constructive. Combining fields of philosophy, moral psychology and neuroscience, the domain of neuroethics is still in its infancy, but I am honoured to have contributed (at least a little) to its development!

Thrown off Balance: The Amputee Dynamic Balance Control Project

with Aveen Mahon

As someone who wishes to pursue a career in research, this class was the perfect opportunity for me to explore the inner workings of this domain. I was assigned a project in the Exercise Science program of Concordia University: helping a Masters student with her project.

This involves evaluating the components of dynamic balance in lower limb amputees and comparing them to that of able-bodied people. These components include muscle reaction time, muscle strength, their foot sensations and their upper body movements when exposed to a perturbation.

Source: Australian Sports Commission
Source: Australian Sports Commission

Simple, right? Wrong. The amount of specialized equipment needed to evaluate these components requires us to continuously move between three different facilities. On top of that, not everything works perfectly on the first try. On many occasions, we discovered problems with the machinery, which then needed to be fixed, resulting in a delay.

Subjects can also be hard to come by; can you think of anyone you know with an amputated leg? Basic things like this can often end up being problematic in the long run, which is why research takes a lot of time and patience.

The lesson learned is that research isn’t straightforward; it is common to run into obstacles that cause unplanned complications. I am glad to have been able to experience this, as it is a good idea of how life in general works outside of a school lab environment in which everything is already perfectly planned out. Life is always going to throw something unexpected at you; all you need to do is learn to roll with it.

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