A Year in the Life of Sara
Hi, I’m Sara.
I am pleased to share a year in my life at McMaster with you.
Scholarships have given me the opportunity to pursue my interests in kinesiology and more specifically healthy aging. I am hopeful that the work I do will have a large and meaningful impact on how aging adults, and hospital care, view nutrition and the importance of maintaining muscle for health and independence. Without additional funding, the decision to stay in graduate school may not have been so easy.
I have loved McMaster since attending Mini U camp on campus when I was 12.
I’ve always been active and love working with and talking to people. That’s why I was really excited when I applied and was accepted into McMaster’s Kinesiology Program. I’ve since completed my undergraduate and Master’s degrees in Kinesiology and now I’m working on my PhD.
I’m excited this year to complete data collection for my first PhD study.
I was lucky to have the chance to contribute to McMaster’s research environment after completing my undergraduate degree; a research position opened up and so began my post-graduate work. I have the opportunity to work with Stuart Phillips — one of McMaster’s highest-profile researchers — on the role of exercise and nutrition in the attainment and maintenance of lean muscle mass.
Here I am getting biopsy trays ready to finish up testing of 4 participants in my study.
I spend a lot of my time in our exercise lab.
I was recently doing training for high school exercise physiology tours and grabbed this photo. It’s exciting to teach high school students a bit about what we do and show off how great Mac Kin is!
When I'm not in the lab or working on my PhD (which is most of the time)
I can be found enjoying the Mac campus with my fellow Kin friends.
The other night was a beautiful fall night outside with the KGB (Kin Grad Body) crew playing 5 on 5 on Alumni field!
I love the McMaster campus because it isn’t huge but definitely has a huge heart.
I love the city of Hamilton as well. I look forward to enjoying another year full of Hamilton traditions like Supercrawl (an annual art and indie music festival), street festivals, and my favourite restaurants. Hamilton is such a beautiful and culturally diverse city. It has so much to offer and has so many interesting communities within itself.
I'm incredibly lucky
Our Protein Metabolism Research Lab has really grown this year. I am incredibly lucky to be working with such amazing and talented people. Our team took a new group photo - Dr. Stuart Phillips is on the far right.
I've been focused on finishing up data collection for my first study. Also, lots of TAing!
I am meeting my last participant this coming week and will finish up the data collection phase on December 22nd!
Another highlight - my team finished second in softball intramurals which is a KGB (Kin-Grad-Body) first!
Ivor Wynne Centre's east wing
I took this photo of the Ivor Wynne Centre, where our lab is located, after walking one of my participants back to their car following testing. It was one of those really warm days in October, and I was happy to see how beautiful our workspace is from the outside.
Fall on campus is always beautiful
The trees at the oval by Forsyth Avenue are beautiful at this time of year. This photo was taken on the way to the lab for early morning collection - the sights make the early mornings worth it!
My favourite campus places
One of my favourite places is The Pulse (the University's fitness centre) in the David Braley Athletic Centre. I love the spinning studio. Working as a spin instructor for the past 7 years has allowed me to meet some amazing people and make some really great friends. I also love having the opportunity to change someone's day with a good workout. Besides that, I always go to the studio when I need to blow off steam or have a moment to myself. It is definitely a special spot for me.
I also love the Ron Joyce Stadium, specifically at night when the stadium lights are on. It reminds me of watching the Marauders in the freezing cold and setting a record 22 wins in a row, the year of and after we won Vanier. I also love that from those seats you get a great view of the sunset in the evening, and that it sets behind Brandon Hall, my first home in Hamilton.
A walk down memory lane
In November, my old high school was playing in the Halton regional football finals at Ron Joyce Stadium. I had the chance to see some of my old teachers, especially some that sparked my interest in exercise physiology. This is the team warming up!
I’m doing analysis on my data collection that finished right before the Christmas break. I hope to get all my samples prepped and ready to run in the next couple of weeks! I will be starting my comprehensive exams, a 2-month process, in late February.
And I can’t stress enough that the support I have received from McMaster in regards to funding, as well as opportunity, has been enormous. Our lab facilities allow us to produce incredibly high-quality research and funding for my PhD has been instrumental for me to be able to pursue what I do. Thank you!
I qualified for a study!
This is me performing a V02 max test (the maximum rate of oxygen consumption as measured during incremental exercise) for a study I am participating in. It’s not often that I qualify for studies as we often conduct studies with older adults. The next step will be having my first 4 muscle biopsies done. It’s very exciting to be on the other side of research as well :)
In March, there was a Spin-a-thon at the Pulse. A fellow spin instructor, mentor and the upcoming Dean of Science, Maureen MacDonald, sponsored her whole lab to attend my spin class that was called “FUNtervals.” My class was interval based, where the workout alternated periods of high-intensity exercise with low-intensity recovery periods. The name of my class was taken from a study by a colleague looking at interval training in children.
My comprehensive exams
For the past 2 months, I have been spending most of my time studying for my comprehensive exams. The format for these exams varies by department but are standard for the completion of a PhD at McMaster. In the Department of Kinesiology, they involve an overarching topic that is an arm's length correlation to my PhD, as well as, 3 subtopics for which I am assigned readings. It is my responsibility to understand and integrate my assigned readings, and any additional information about the topic. The process culminates in a written and oral exam. The whole process is 9 weeks and is typically done halfway through one's PhD.
As this month wraps up
Over the course of this year, I have been growing my hair long. Once I finish my comprehensive exams, and my schedule frees up more, my colleague and I are planning to cut our hair and donate it to the Canadian Cancer Society.
I'm also looking forward to attending a week program at Concordia University in Montreal that will focus on research involving physical activity and aging.
I want to continually invest in my passion!
Thank you for reading about my year at Mac!
I'll share more in the next couple of months, so be sure to visit my web page again soon!