"Having those people around you to help celebrate the highs and give support through the lows is so important in grad school, and it makes the process of research that much more enjoyable."

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Student Profile: Erin Williams

Master's student in the Faculty of Science

December 15, 2020
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Erin is an MSc student in BPK’s Cardiovascular Physiology Laboratory where she investigates syncope (fainting) disorders under the supervision of Dr. Victoria Claydon. First taking an interest in this population while completing her BSc (Honours) Degree at SFU, Erin was keen to continue her studies upon graduation, where she was selected as the Faculty of Science Convocation Speaker. When she’s not measuring your blood pressure, Erin can be found at the pool coaching Artistic Swimming, playing piano, or cuddled up with her two cats.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

It was the sense of community I found in research that really made me want to stay at SFU for my Master’s degree. Within our lab, and the BPK department as a whole, there is a culture that heavily values connecting with others. Having those people around you to help celebrate the highs and give support through the lows is so important in grad school, and it makes the process of research that much more enjoyable.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH AND/OR PROGRAM.

My Thesis is on fainting, which happens when there isn’t enough blood getting to your brain. While lots of people might know someone who has fainted, for some it is a big problem - they might faint a couple times a week or even a couple of times a day. This can really affect someone’s quality of life, as fainting could prevent them from being able to work, drive, or function independently throughout the day.

My research looks at ways to prevent fainting by trying to stop the pre-fainting dizziness that most patients experience. This feeling is an early warning sign that someone is about to lose consciousness, so by finding some key strategies to get blood back to their brain in that moment, we can stop a faint from actually happening. This will reduce the risk that someone hurts themselves when they collapse after losing consciousness, and will also enable them to participate more in daily activities. Ultimately, this will help patients regain their independence and improve their quality of life.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?

I have always loved being able to figure out how the human body works. The way that these orchestrated physiological processes work together to enable even the simplest things, like your heart beating or getting blood to your brain, is fascinating. Once I got involved in research, I realized how much we have yet to learn about the body, and how to stop things from going wrong. Especially when my eyes were opened to problems I didn’t know existed, like fainting disorders, it felt so rewarding to be able to direct this passion of mine toward improving the lives of others.

HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR FUNDED AWARDS?

I was awarded the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) Canada Graduate Scholarship - Master's program (CGS M) scholarship. I am incredibly grateful for this financial support, as it allowed me to fully focus on my research throughout the first year of my graduate studies.

SFU 3MT Second Place Winner 2021

Contact Erin: elwillia@sfu.ca

Twitter: @eerinwilliams