Kimberley Blackwood

Kimberley Blackwood  PhD

I did my undergraduate degree at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia in Applied Science with a focus on exercise physiology. An upper level course sparked my interested in molecular cardiology and introduced me to the concept of stem cells which ultimately led to an invitation to attend a graduate level course in the same subject. That was my first exposure to graduate level work where the undergraduates had the chance to schmooze with the graduate students about their projects, as well as present and critique scientific papers. I think that experience really set the stage for my future in scientific research. Deciding on Western for my graduate studies was a bit serendipitous. I had graduated from SFU with individuals who became graduate students here at Western. I didn't know much about the University of Western Ontario or what kind of research was being done here, but after visiting, I remember being impressed by the level of research and how clinically relevant it was. Although I had interviewed with other investigators, Medical Biophysics at Western was always in the back of my mind.

Since I came to Western and started my research at Lawson Research Institute, my experience at Western was and continues to be enriching. Not only did I get to work with scientists and physicians who are leaders in their respective fields, I felt that their dedication to teaching and encouragement allowed graduate students to grow with their projects. I was given opportunities to present research at high calibre conferences, travel, work with other students from different academic disciplines, and develop networks for further career opportunities afterwards. My time as a graduate student also saw participation in the Society of Graduate Students as well as involvement in other committees and the organization of a student-run conference. For me, graduate school became more than just my project as there is much one can get involved with to develop other skills that are just as important. 

One highlight I remember was when I had started doing experiments in vivo after intense in vitro experimentation. What made it particularly memorable was that my supervisor came in and said that I was doing work that probably no one else in the country was doing at that time. I was very excited by that. Another highlight was the first time I was asked to speak at a symposium. Truthfully, one of the great aspects of graduate school is the ability to develop public speaking skills and as I hadn't done much of it, I felt a lot of anxiety. Ironically, my fear and anxiety of public speaking turned into something that I actually now enjoy, and it has had a positive effect by making me feel more confident in general.

I successfully defended my Doctorate in 2009 and am currently in the second year of a post-doctoral fellowship at Lawson Health Research Institute and in the midst of making decisions on my next career move. I am interested in the innovation in medical technologies and commercialization of those technologies that are ready for the clinic.

My advice to prospective students would be to realize you have experts at your fingertips and that you can and should probe the depth of their knowledge by asking lots of questions. I would say that if you are a motivated person the sky is the limit and there are dedicated individuals here who will support your ideas and help to nurture your growth as a scientist. There are many opportunities for those willing to benefit from them. Additionally, if you get the opportunity to come and visit, come in and speak with the students of the investigators you are interested in working with.