Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in St. Thomas, just north of Lake Erie in Southern Ontario. I went to the University of Guelph and Queen's University for my undergrad and master's degrees respectively, plus moved from Toronto to London to Guelph to Ottawa to Vancouver for work before, between, around, and after that schooling.
How long have you been at the U of L and what do you do here?
I came to the U of L in late 2001 to start PhD work under the supervision of Dr. Lesley Brown and Dr. Ian Whishaw, looking at real-world situations that increased or decreased movement problems amongst people living with Parkinson disease, and how that evidence might improve how we understand and manage how PD progresses.
I was finishing my PhD in 2005 at the same time the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, then chaired by a wonderful academic and leader named Dr. Hart Cantelon, was hiring new faculty in biomechanics. I was lucky to get an interview and then an offer, and I have been a faculty member there since July 1, 2005. My teaching in the department is primarily on the science side, in our introductory biomechanics course, plus upper year courses in occupational biomechanics and bioinstrumentation. My earlier degrees were in engineering and I have continued to maintain my professional engineering licensing, and that opens the door for me to teach engineering design every year in our engineering transfer program as well. I also instruct numerous independent and applied studies — many of our kinesiology students are very interested in connecting their classroom work with human movement and health and I'm happy to see those experiences evolve. On the research side, I am still very focused on occupational biomechanics and pathological biomechanics. My grad students and I are busy looking at ways we could use simple and complex augmentations of the work environment to help drive safer lifting and handling behaviours. And I still stay active with research amongst people living with Parkinson disease, concentrating on vigorous exercise forms like ice skating and boxing as activities that deliver big benefits for physical and mental health.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is the people I meet and the people I work with. It is really exciting to hear the interests and the experiences the students arrive with in their first year, and it is equally rewarding to see the way the students can both evolve and target those interests as they get exposed to the theories and the arguments and content we can work with in our classes and labs. It's equally exciting to meet people through my research activities — so many people living with Parkinson disease and their families, across North America, have intersected with parts of our research program and I really enjoy seeing their experience and their perseverance reinforced when we get a chance to talk about vigorous exercise as a way to maintain health and knock down stereotypes. These positive experiences in teaching and research are really predicated on working with great people — we have a positive and collegial academic and academic support group in kines who really work hard to engage our students, to encourage them, and to connect them with information plus the opportunities that are going to be their future. Our department is also really well networked with the campus community, with Lethbridge and area groups and citizens, and with academic opportunities and organizations around the world, so I am regularly hearing about exciting discoveries and collaborations that help inform what I am thinking and talking about in my work. All of this I think is built on the unique foundation that is the U of L. For a long time, the University of Lethbridge was both a size and a structure that really lent itself to easy networking and nimble, enjoyable progress — you could always know the person to talk to if you needed a specific material for a class, or instrument for the lab, or opportunity for a student or for yourself.
I always tell my classes that university is about literal and figurative doors, reminding them that they came here to get access to what was behind our thousands of doors, the ones on every classroom and lab and library space and student activity, and now that they are here, they need to knock on those doors, open them, and walk in. The best part of my job is opening the doors I can for students and colleagues and welcoming them in, plus continuing to knock on lots of doors myself.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Outside of work, I really like to stay mentally and physically active. I like to participate in sports and activities with friends and my family, and I like to watch my kids develop through sports as well. I really enjoy volunteering as well, whether it is activities on campus or in the community and beyond. These are often around sports, too — things like Lethbridge Lacrosse Association and Alberta Senior Games and World Curling Championships, but include duties with groups like the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association and Branch Out Neurological Foundation. Overall, I find this kind of active involvement a great way to meet people from and learn stories about a community I didn't grow up in, but that I am working hard to make a happy home in.