Meet Emily Rosenich! – recently awarded her PhD specialising in clinical neuroscience and neurorehabilitation from the University of South Australia. Here she talks about her PhD journey, love of vinyl records and advice for other HDR students.
What is your current role and how did you get to be there? I’m a psychology graduate turned neuroscientist, awarded my PhD last week (!) from the University of South Australia and a soon-to-be postdoctoral research fellow. I specialise broadly in clinical neuroscience and neurorehabilitation following stroke. I first dabbled in neuroscience in 3rd year undergrad after (accidentally) taking a course on cognitive neuroscience (it turns out that I enrolled in a course I was apparently not supposed to be able to enrol in). Cliché – but the rest is history. After attending the first few weeks of lectures and workshops for the course, I applied to intern at a cognitive neuroscience laboratory within my division. I ended up scoring a position as a research assistant working with clinical populations alongside a few fantastic mentors, and that solidified my choice to pursue psychology honours and then a PhD.
How does your work contribute to the field and/or the overall health and wellbeing of the community? The overarching aim of my research is to understand why some people recover better than others following a stroke, so that everyone has the opportunity to recover to their full potential.
Individual differences are serious business in stroke recovery. Two people with similar clinical characteristics, in terms of where a stroke occurs in the brain, its severity and how quickly it is recognised/treated, can (and often do) have very different outcomes and recovery. As many of you will already know from your own clinical/research work, this phenomenon isn’t unique to stroke. Check out the infamous ‘Nun Study’ that really solidified that brain pathology doesn’t always equal cognitive impairment.
Since then, the concept of ‘cognitive reserve’ was born out of an attempt to explain the fascinating disconnect between pathology and performance, and the good news is that cognitive reserve is modifiable across the lifespan (meaning it may be possible to intervene). Increasing our cognitive reserve may be as simple as engaging in new tasks often and sticking with the activities and hobbies we enjoy. However, evidence for the impact of cognitive reserve on stroke recovery is sparse, disjointed and methodologically limited (I won’t get into that here). That’s the gap my research is trying to fill.
What is a project you would love to get off the ground or a skill you would like to develop, if you had the opportunity? Anything related to cognition, cognitive intervention and neuroimaging following stroke really lights that spark for me. One big goal for me is to one day run an intervention study focused on reducing/minimising post-stroke cognitive impairment and dementia, and what changes occur in the brain as a result. It’s hard to speculate what the intervention might look like, and what the ‘active ingredient’ of the intervention might consist of, but I would love to maintain my focus on cognitive reserve.
What are your loves outside of work? I’ve recently gotten into cooking and collecting second-hand vinyl records (tip: garage sales are the best places to find second-hand records and are often hidden treasure troves). I can confirm that there’s nothing better than mindlessly filling homemade veggie dumplings in the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon while listening to a Frank Sinatra or Metallica LP with a gin and tonic. Other than cooking (and eating), I love getting my dose of vitamin D by heading outdoors. The beach with my partner and our dog is a personal weekend favourite.
What is one piece of advice you could pass onto others following their own career in the health and medical research sector? I’ve always resonated with the quote: “No one is you and that is your power”. So, my advice would be to spend time thinking about, finding, or creating, your niche (whether it be a methodological skill or a research area) and own it.