"Upon deciding to pursue graduate studies, I chose to stay at SFU to continue my work in the same research field, and equally important, to remain in the supportive culture of the Cardiovascular Physiology Lab and research community in BPK."

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Student Profile: Rebekah Lee

October 15, 2021
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Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology master's student in the Faculty of Science

Rebekah is a MSc student in BPK’s Cardiovascular Physiology Laboratory, supervised by Dr. Victoria Claydon. Interested in the under-appreciated autonomic consequences of spinal cord injury (SCI), Rebekah’s research addresses the impact of SCI on cardiovascular and respiratory physiology. Outside the lab, you can find Rebekah hunched over, eyes fixed on her sewing machine or a good book.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

During my undergraduate studies in BPK, I began volunteering in the Cardiovascular Physiology Lab and quickly developed an interest in SCI research. Upon deciding to pursue graduate studies, I chose to stay at SFU to continue my work in the same research field, and equally important, to remain in the supportive culture of the Cardiovascular Physiology Lab and research community in BPK.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?

Most people will associate SCI with motor impairments and wheelchair use, but there are numerous non-observable consequences to SCI that can profoundly impact day-to-day life. My research focuses on these “invisible” impairments: As SCI affects the muscles responsible for breathing, individuals with SCI tend to breathe in rapid and shallow breaths- a breathing style that is thought to contribute to impaired cardiovascular control. My thesis project will explore the interactions between breathing patterns and the reflexive tuning of heart rate and blood pressure. Subsequently, I want to examine how these relationships might contribute to sleep-related breathing problems that are highly prevalent in the SCI population. Ultimately, I hope that my graduate research will provide a better understanding of the SCI-associated risks of developing devastating cardiorespiratory complications.

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

In addition to conducting research, I’ve enjoyed a breadth of opportunities to engage in community and complete my education. As a graduate representative on the BPK communications committee, I’ve enjoyed connecting with the students, faculty, and staff of the BPK department. This semester, I am also a teaching assistant for an introductory BPK course. While the perspective shift from student to instructor has been challenging, the experience of teaching continues to be incredibly rewarding; I get to return the support I received as an undergrad to the next cohort of BPK students.

HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR-FUNDED AWARDS? IF SO, PLEASE TELL US WHICH ONES AND A LITTLE ABOUT HOW THE AWARDS HAVE IMPACTED YOUR STUDIES AND/OR RESEARCH.

I am immensely grateful to hold a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Canadian Graduate Scholarship – Master’s Program (CIHR CGS-M). Securing funding for the first year of graduate studies has allowed me to focus my time and effort toward my research.

 

Contact : rebekah_lee@sfu.ca

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