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New space adds capacity for research students

February 13, 2013

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Each year, Sunnybrook welcomes nearly 400 research trainees: post-doctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students, and summer students.

And with one-and-a-half new floors dedicated to image-guided research as part of the Centre for Research in Image-Guided Therapeutics (CeRIGT), more students will now have access to the latest technologies and the opportunity for collaboration.

"We have facilities that are unique among Toronto's hospitals. Actually, they are unique across the country," said Stephanie Roberts, Sunnybrook Research Institute's director of communications.

She said while it's the world-renowned researchers who attract trainees to Sunnybrook, the new labs will help.

"It's a cumulative effect," Roberts said. "CeRIGT will help attract leading scientists and enable those already here to expand and accelerate their research, which in turn will help attract the top students."

The new facility was designed and built to promote collaboration, something that post-doctoral fellow Dr. Jonathan Singer is already finding beneficial to his research within the Heart and Stroke Foundation Centre for Stroke Recovery on M6.

Dr. Singer's expertise is in the biomechanics of balance control. He is working with Dr. George Mochizuki to look at the effects of post-stroke spasticity on balance and gait, and to develop interventions to try to improve the deficits in mobility that are prevalent after stroke.

"In school, the biomechanics group used essentially the same types of tools and analyses," Dr. Singer said. "Here, there are other researchers doing slightly different - or sometimes wildly different - work just two doors down. You can speak to them and run things by them for an entirely different perspective on what you are doing."

The new space really does foster collaboration, Dr. Mochizuki said.

"There's an opportunity for the students to gain exposure outside their main research interest," he said. "They can interact with clinicians, researchers, and other students to learn about new techniques, develop new skills and to get a bigger picture perspective on stroke recovery."

With a blend of clinical studies and basic science all within the same physical space, researchers can understand what's happening on a physiological level as well as the impact of stroke on the individual, Dr. Mochizuki said.

"The access to patients gives perspective: how has this affected the patient's daily life?" Dr. Singer said. "We can interact with patients, find out the important questions, then measure the daily effects of the stroke and the intervention."