After completing her master’s degree in medical biophysics at the University of Toronto, Professor Rebecca Fahrig, PhD’99, took some time off. She travelled for a year, and put a lot of thought into what she wanted to do next.
“I had some deep conversations with my mother, and she thought I would be very disappointed if I didn’t complete my PhD,” Professor Fahrig said. “When I came back from my travels, I decided it would be a really great opportunity for me.”
She decided to attend Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s Medical Biophysics program. Her supervisor was David Holdsworth, PhD, who she described as especially supportive, creative and innovative.
Professor Fahrig said the greatest skill the Medical Biophysics program gave her was the ability to design an experiment that would test a hypothesis — a skill she still uses in her work today as a professor in the Department of Radiology at Stanford University in California.
Her current research involves x-ray imaging technologies, with the goal of primarily improving the image guidance of minimally invasive procedures. She considers herself to primarily be a hardware person — she loves working in the lab and testing out and developing new detectors.
“One of the things that I’ve realized is that I really love the process of doing research, and I would probably be happy doing research in almost anything,” she said. “Being able to learn new things all of the time is what I find really fun.”
On top of the skills and abilities Professor Fahrig acquired from Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s Medical Biophysics program, she also commends the department for ensuring it was an inviting and positive space for female researchers.
She explained that there is a positive message coming from the top down, and the department also made an effort to have female role models, like Maria Drangova, PhD, available for its students.
Professor Fahrig now acts as a mentor for some of her own students. When they ask her for advice about their future careers, she tells them the same thing: try to figure out what you’re good at, and try to understand what your weaknesses are.
“If students know what they’re good at, they can become even better at those things. If they can understand what their weaknesses are, they can figure out how to get the help they need to work with their weaknesses,” she explained.
For those interested in applying to the Medical Biophysics program, Professor Fahrig said they should only complete a PhD because they want to — not because everyone else is doing it or because it will help them make more money.
She advises students to take some time to think about the decision, like she once did, to ensure it is the best next step for them.