The MiNDS of our Students

AUTHOR: Shawna Thompson (and Chris Rowley)

Chris Rowley

Tell us about your research project.

My research started with developing a new technique to analyze myelin that is in the cortex of the brain using magnetic resonance imaging. Now that the technique is published, I am moving to apply that technique to investigate how intracortical myelin develops into adulthood, and then how it is affected in bipolar disorder. 

Why did you want to get into research?  

I wanted to do research because I enjoy critical thinking. In grade 3 I actually wanted to be an explorer when I learned about the likes of David Thompson. It took me a little bit to realize there wasn’t much exploring left to do. Research is how I found a way to keep my childhood dream alive of being able to explore for new scientific findings! 

You have recently successfully completed your comprehensive exam. How did you find the process as a whole?  
The process was great! It helped that I had a big travel conference to look forward to at the end. I love to learn about new things, and picking something new and close to me made it actually enjoyable.  

What did you choose to research as your comps topic, and why? 
The idea came about while I was out riding my bike when it was -10 degrees. I looked at the snow covered fields and thought “Why am I doing this?”. Despite not feeling very warm and fuzzy at that moment, I knew that exercise helped me feel better everyday, but why was this so? I decided then that I wanted my comps project to focus on depression and exercise (completely out of my normal MRI research). 

What part of the comps process did you find most difficult? 
I went into this blind, so the beginning was most difficult. I started with just the idea of linking exercise and depression. So I had to do a lot of reading to find links between the two, come up with awesome research questions, read the next paper and find that was already done, then come up with a new question, repeat, repeat, repeat.  

What was the most enjoyable part of your comps experience? 
(Spoiler alert) When I heard those three beautiful words, “Chris, you passed.”

Any tips or advice for those approaching their comprehensive exams?  
Make sure you are doing it on something of interest to you. You have to do a lot of reading, and it can already be hard enough as it is to focus on reading. If it is a topic you have interest in, then you will be less likely to procrastinate when it comes time to read.  

What do you like to do when you aren’t doing research? 
Well I already said I like to ride my bike, so I won’t say that again… Outside of research I do like playing video games, and playing intramural sports with SOMA like sweet, sweet dodgeball and hopefully inner tube water polo! I also like taking on little projects to learn new skills. My last one was making a master chief (re: video game Halo) helmet out of paper and Bondo. That will help me if I ever need to do some body work in the future. Next one I am planning is hand engraving, to turn a skeleton watch into a piece of art. All of the watches like this are 5+ figures and I can’t quite do that on a student budget.