Meet Rebeca — A music lover who is committed to advancing research in dementia prevention.
Q: What is your role in health research?
A: I am a third-year doctoral student in rehabilitation sciences at the University of British Columbia, conducting research at the Aging, Mobility, and Cognitive Health Lab under the guidance of Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose.
Q: What is your research area of interest, and what led you to that interest?
A: I research the impact of lifestyle interventions, particularly exercise training, on the cognitive function and brain health of older adults. I have always been passionate about physical activity and healthy lifestyles. While training as a psychologist, I explored subfields like health, sports, developmental psychology and neuropsychology. Later, I gained clinical experience working with older adults living with dementia, which solidified my commitment to dementia prevention. The combination of these interests led me to pursue my doctoral studies.
Q: What is the best part about your research job?
A: Reaching those “eureka” moments is particularly rewarding. As a graduate student, you continuously collect new data without seeing immediate results. Despite this seemingly slow progress, the pieces eventually come together and the big picture is revealed. It is so exciting to see how all the effort pays off in the long run.
Q: What is one of the biggest accomplishments of your career so far?
A: I was deeply honoured to receive the Alzheimer Society Research Program Doctoral Award this year. It felt like a validation of my hard work and also reinforced my commitment to dementia prevention.
Q: What would you do if you were not in health research?
A: In an alternate universe, I would be a rock star. I love playing guitar in my free time and think it would be incredible to pursue a career in music.
Q: What was your first job?
A: I worked as a cheerleading and gymnastics coach for eight years. The skills I developed through coaching have transferred well into my academic life, especially discipline, communication and resilience.
Q: Who inspires you?
A: My lab mates are my main source of inspiration. We have a very collaborative and supportive environment led by a brilliant supervisor. Witnessing the high-quality work coming out of our lab motivates me to reach my goals and pursue new challenges.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?
A: I would love to visit Italy — mainly for the food, but also for the history, beautiful sights and the fun environment.
Q: What is your favourite TV show?
A: I am a huge fan of “Friends.” I rewatch the whole series numerous times per year and have seen so many episodes that I often speak in Friends references!
Q: What is your healthiest habit?
A: Balance. I strongly believe in promoting healthy behaviours that are realistic for one’s lifestyle, and I try to apply this philosophy to most of my routines. For example, regular exercise is key to mental and physical health, but I also recognize the need to rest and recharge. Similarly, while it is important to eat a nutritious diet, the emotional and social nourishment of food is equally important.
Q: What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
A: Remember that everything is temporary. Enjoy the ebbs and flows that come with life and embrace change as it comes.