Building her confidence and discovering her strengths

Kathryn Manning

Kathryn Manning always knew she wanted to pursue a career in research, but never had a clear idea of what field that research would be in. After completing her undergraduate degree in math and physics at Memorial University in her hometown of St. John’s, Newfoundland, she began searching for programs in Canada that had to do with one or both of those fields.

“While I was frantically searching, I discovered Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s Medical Biophysics program,” Manning said. “It had the word physics in it so it sparked my interest.”

With more research, Manning discovered the program was exactly what she was looking for, as it would allow her to work on research that had real-world applications.

She recently completed a master of science medical biophysics degree, and then decided she would continue on in the program’s Commission on the Accreditation of Medical Physics Educational Programs (CAMPEP) program. She is currently working on obtaining her doctor of philosophy medical biophysics degree.  

Manning worked with Ravi Menon, PhD, in his lab throughout her master’s degree, and decided to continue on in his lab for her PhD. She is currently doing research that involves analyzing resting-state functional brain imaging data of hockey and rugby players who have had concussions.

When a player has possibly had a concussion, they go through a series of clinical tests to help make the diagnoses. Then, after the clinician follows up with the patient, they will determine when they can return to the game. That’s where Manning’s research comes into play.

“We think there might be some biomarker we can isolate that will predict when they should return to play, which is extremely important with younger players to ensure they do not experience multiple concussions,” she explained. “Research tends to agree that early concussions can cause long-lasting cognitive effects, and cause young players to experience side effects like depression.”

Manning explained it has been quite a journey of self-discovery for her to feel confident about both herself and the work she is doing.

Reflecting on her years in high school, she never would have imagined doing brain research, but she finally feels like she has discovered what she is passionate about.

“When you’re picking out a project to work on, I think the most important thing is to find something that will make you want to come back and do all of the tedious work,” she said. “I think it is so cool that I get to do brain research, especially in this environment with access to the facilities at Robarts Research Institute.”

While Manning loves spending time working on her research, she has found it equally important to make time for her hobbies. When she’s not hanging out with family and friends, she enjoys singing, drawing and poetry.

She also likes to help motivate other women to go into science, as she has noticed male trainees and faculty members dominate the field she is working in.

“I am so thankful for the women who helped motivate me to get to this point, and I would like to do the same for others,” she said. “I think a lot of women shy away from things like science and math, but with the right amount of support and hard work they can earn respect and succeed.”