Prestigious award latest in long list of accomplishments for grad student

Rebecca MacPherson is finishing her PhD in Health Bioscience. She recently won a prestigious graduate student award for her research.

Rebecca MacPherson is finishing her PhD in Health Bioscience. She recently won a prestigious graduate student award for her research.

It’s been an exciting finale for Rebecca MacPherson as she completes her PhD studies in Brock’s Faculty of Applied Health Sciences.

MacPherson was recently recognized nationally for her work in exercise and muscle research. Her PhD thesis involved three separate studies and each study has been published in a peer review journal. She’s counting down the days to her thesis defence in mid-November. And she’s started her post-doctoral work at the University of Guelph.

But that’s not all.

Last month, MacPherson was chosen, based on an abstract submission, to be one of four finalists in the graduate student research showcase at the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) annual conference held Oct. 16 to 18. CSEP is the principal body for physical activity, health and fitness research and personal training in Canada. The conference attracted 700 delegates.

It was in front of this crowd of experts that MacPherson gave the winning research presentation in the graduate student competition.

“It’s very prestigious to be a finalist and Rebecca gave an outstanding presentation before all of the conference delegates to be selected as the winner,” says Prof. Sandra Peters who has supervised MacPherson throughout her doctoral work.

MacPherson’s doctoral thesis investigates the regulation of metabolism. Specifically her study focuses on how a family of proteins, know as PLIN protein, may or may not be involved with storing fat in muscles.

“The work is important in understanding how muscles use fat for energy and how changes in storing fat in muscles can lead to adverse effects such as type 2 diabetes and obesity,” she explains.

MacPherson came to Brock after completing a master’s degree at Western University. She and two other students were the first to be accepted into the Faculty’s launch of its PhD in Health Bioscience program in 2009-10. As a PhD student at Brock, MacPherson received an NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship and a Queen Elizabeth II Scholarship in Science and Technology.

“A professor at the University of Guelph told me that I would be a fool not to jump at an opportunity to go to Brock and work with Prof. Peters,” MacPherson says. “I’m glad that I listened to that advice because I’ve had a great experience as a graduate student at Brock and a lot of that is due to the mentorship of Prof. Peters.”

MacPherson will continue her research career as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Guelph under the supervision of Prof. David Wright. In 2010, Wright was awarded a tier II Canada Research Chair in lipids, metabolism and health.

“It’s been a gift to be Rebecca’s supervisor,” Peters says. “Rebecca has been a quiet leader in the lab and has set a great example for other students. This is an excellent opportunity for Rebecca. She’s making a mark in a very competitive field of research and it’s clear that she’ll continue her success in her post-doc career.”

Rebecca’s research life is a natural extension of the value she places on maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle.

“Exercise has always been a part of my life,” she says. “I have developed an appreciation and understanding of the impact that exercise has on our lives and I am fortunate enough to be able to combine my passion for healthy living with my research.”

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