Get to know our what our student affiliates are working on 

Institute on Aging and Lifelong health student affiliates include graduate students studying psychology, social dimensions of health, social work, education, nursing, and other related health disciplines. 

Drew Halliday

 
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Drew Halliday started his Ph.D. in Clinical Neuropsychology at the University of Victoria under the co-supervision of Drs. Stuart MacDonald and Mauricio Garcia-Barrera in 2016. Growing up in Abbotsford with both parents working as health care professionals steered Drew’s interest towards helping people at a very young age. While navigating back and forth through different social sciences courses in his undergraduate years, Drew saw psychology as a missing link that could connect his passion for helping people to an understanding of what makes individuals unique despite so many similarities.

In this ever-evolving field, Drew recognizes how our understanding of the human brain is still at the surface and strives to contribute to the knowledge of mental health through his research. Working part-time as a behavioural therapist, he realized that with the very data-driven field of behavioral therapy, he was not able to impact brain health as he desired, and therefore found himself drawn towards neuropsychology. When asked why neuropsychology, Drew explains how it is a comprehensive approach to understanding the super fascinating human brain while factoring in aspects like social context and genetics.

Drew studies how our early lifestyle influences our later life, and how brain and behavior are related. He is interested in identifying the neurophysiological changes that occur before neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative conditions manifest as behavior. According to Drew, identifying the early biomarkers of neurodegenerative conditions like dementia could help detect these conditions early, reduce health risks, and lead to effective interventions. 

Accompanying Dr. Stuart McDonald to England for a conference, Drew came across a great opportunity to join a global health project. He had no idea that reading what he called a very dry manual of a functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) for Dr. MacDonald would play a significant role in getting him this great prospect. The opportunity, which he grabbed with both hands, led him to sub-Saharan West Africa to collect the first functional neuroimaging data reported in African infants. The objective of the project was to investigate the effects of malnutrition on infant neurocognitive development.

Between traveling to Italy as a part of a university summer program, teaching English in Morocco and working for Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in England, the decision to come back to Victoria certainly did not seem alluring at a time. However, looking for a place to call home, Drew returned to the West Coast to pursue his masters under his former supervisor Dr. MacDonald.

Drew’s first-hand experience with the fNIRS serves as a forefront in his research undertakings. Drew points out how researchers often ignore the variability in neural activity and only focus on averages to derive results but this ignored information can have use of its own. The study conducted to find this difference showed that computing both mean and variability are associated with faster responding, through computation based on mean is more accurate.

Drawing on the results of his master’s thesis, Drew is currently using functional near-infrared spectroscopy to find alternative uses for cerebral oxygenation in older adults who are at risk for adverse age-related health outcomes. He believes studying these changes could contribute to early identification efforts, which could inform effective interventions.

While many of us find it hard to admit having a fear of failure, Drew acknowledges that with the satisfaction that he achieves from getting good results, fear of failure is also strong motivator when things get intense. Reflecting on the opportunities he had and things he learned along the way, he encourages his fellow students to take risks and to not shy away from exciting opportunities

Clarise Lim

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Lim is a Master of Science in Kinesiology student at the University of Victoria under the supervision of the Institute’s associate director, Dr. Ryan Rhodes.  Born and raised in Singapore, she taught fitness classes for 8 years prior to pursuing an undergraduate degree in Winnipeg, MB. Being a self-sponsored international student was never a smooth journey for her. During her undergraduate years, she often found herself burning the candle at both ends taking on additional part-time work hours to make ends meet, while juggling a full academic course load and taking time out for long runs, the latter of which offered her stress relief amid her busyness. After a series of detours and redirections, and following her late father’s passing back home, she moved to Victoria and completed her Bachelor of Sport and Fitness Leadership degree, graduating at the top of her cohort. 

As a child, Clarise found herself rescuing and bringing home stray puppies and adopting unwanted runts of the litter. Her dogs grew up to be her best friends and the most loyal family members, and they have enriched her life and heart tremendously. All these years of being a nomad on the road had left her missing the therapeutic companionship of a dog. Upon graduating from Camosun College, she could not shake off the call to adopt a dog. However, with graduate school just about to commence, she was unsure if she was ready to take on the responsibility, and so decided to give fostering a try instead. On the night she was waiting to meet the rescued puppy she was to foster, the moment she laid eyes on him standing in front of her apartment building doors, she knew he was hers to stay. Despite every mental fibre that discouraged her from committing to a dog, she took a leap of faith, and has not looked back since.

Connor, 5-year-old pit-bull, has been the driving inspiration behind Clarise’s graduate research interests. Having to keep up with Connor’s high energy levels and exercise needs prompted Clarise to think critically about how each individual dog’s energy levels and other characteristics, such as size and age, actually affect their owner’s physical activity levels. As part of her directed studies, Clarise launched a pilot study involving an online anonymous survey among dog owners in Greater Victoria, BC. The study applied the use of self-determination theory to examine the quality of motivation among dog owners, and the relationships between dog characteristics and the walking behaviour of dog owners in Greater Victoria.

The study found that owners of larger dogs walked more per week than owners of smaller dogs. Additionally, dogs with higher energy levels, regardless of breed size or chronological age, significantly influenced their owners’ walking amounts and intensities per week. Clarise’s study was the first to use self-determination theory to examine the quality of dog walking motivation among dog owners, finding that dog owners who intrinsically savored the dog walking activity, and who valued the benefits of dog walking for their dogs, walked more than owners who did not. According to Clarise, the results are interesting and novel because the study distinguished between guilt-based dog walking and intrinsically enjoyable dog walking. Notably, the study also found that 60% of dog owners in Greater Victoria who walked their dogs were still not walking at intensities and amounts sufficient to reap health benefits for themselves. Based on these findings, the recommendations to create sustainable dog walking interventions to increase dog owners’ dog walking amounts and intensity have lent support and rationale to her current study.

Interestingly, Clarise’s first-hand experience with scheduling in time and finding energy to walk Connor after a hard day’s work also serves as motivation for her current research. She vividly recalls the days when she was training regularly with a track coach and would often get home exhausted. She still had to walk Connor while chores and school work had to be done. She also remembers how much it saddened her to see that Connor missed running with her. It led her to contemplate the advantages of combining dog owner’s and dog’s physical activity in the same session to benefit the health and well-being of both, with the added bonus of strengthening the human-animal bond and partnership.

Her current study for her master’s thesis is based on a randomized-controlled trial involving the application of 6 weekly scheduled group dog walks led by a certified instructor, and the use of self-monitoring and behavioural regulation strategies among dog owners in Greater Victoria. The objectives of the study include examining the psychological processes involved in enacting dog walking behaviour, and the health and physical activity outcomes associated with dog walking. Clarise is hoping to find significant improvements in the health and behavioural outcomes among the experimental group participants, while comparing the experimental group against the control group over time.

Clarise explains that she does not measure success in terms of material or temporal things. She acknowledges that anchoring one’s identity in shaky foundations that will not hold up is unwise and will never provide true fulfillment and joy. According to her, living out one’s life purpose is a step-by-step journey, and running this long race well requires great faith and endurance. Reflecting on the seasons and intensity of trials and hardship she has had to go through over the years, she affirms that there are always blessings to be thankful for even when we find ourselves in the deepest valleys. For Clarise, the grand victory is seizing the everlasting prize at the end of her race.

Clarise is looking forward to analyzing the results of her current study, and plans to catch up on reading the many books she has been waiting to read upon her graduation. When asked about her long term plans, she smiles and asserts with quiet confidence, “I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know the One Who holds me, also holds my tomorrow.”