College of Health and Human Services
George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Four Rehabilitation Science Doctoral Students Receive Fellowships

April 25, 2018   /   by Danielle Hawkins

Four doctoral students in CHHS's Department of Rehabilitation Science were awarded competitive fellowships this semester to support their dissertation research. Learn more about their research below.

Shipra Puri – 5th year doctoral student

Shipra Puri

Shipra Puri is in her 5th year and has successfully defended her dissertation on obstructive sleep apnea.  She received a Spring 2018 Dissertation Completion Grant ($10,000) from the Office of the Provost for PhD students finishing dissertations for their last semester of work. 

About the Research: Microvascular Reactivity and Fatigability in Patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common sleep breathing disorder affecting 5 to 14 percent of adults in United States. The primary aim of Puri’s dissertation is to determine if blood flow response to brief arterial occlusion and resting muscle oxygen consumption are abnormal 3in patients with OSA leading to reduced oxygen availability and utilization in skeletal muscle, and if OSA severity can predict increased fatigability in this population.

Puri also received the Department of Rehabilitation Science’s 2018 graduate student award for excellence in research.
 

Donal Murray - 4th year doctoral student

Donal Murray

Donal Murray, a fourth year student completing his dissertation in the next year on incomplete spinal cord injury (iSCI). He received a 2018 Summer Research Fellowship from the Office of the Provost ($7,000), which provides financial support to graduate students during the summer term, allowing students to devote significant time to their dissertation or thesis research.

About the Research: Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury (iSCI) and Locomotor Training

iSCI typically results in muscle weakness and restricted walking ability, and walking performance and physical activity tolerance can be indicators of quality of life and longevity in those with spinal cord injury. Characterizing the mechanisms by which walking performance and exercise tolerance are improved after a novel program of task specific locomotor training (LT) may therefore be essential to understanding critical physiological adaptations to LT and other forms of exercise rehabilitation. Yet, the mechanisms mediating improvements in walking performance and exercise tolerance in those with iSCI remain largely elusive.

Murray’s research aims to fill this gap in knowledge by examining the relationship between changes in muscle activation patterns and muscle oxygenation following participation in a novel LT program in individuals who have iSCI.
 

Brian Neville - Presidential Scholar, 3rd year doctoral student

Brian Neville was awarded a Presidential Scholar Fellowship ($7,350) for financial support during the summer 2018 term. The aim of this award is to allow students to make significant progress toward degree completion and to support students’ professional development goals.

About the research: Precision Medicine and Rehabilitation Science

Precision medicine has emerged in recent years to describe the application of genetic and molecular approaches to diagnosis and treatment of disease.  Genomic, proteomic, and other “-omics” have begun to be integrated into medical research and treatment and have the potential to revolutionize early diagnosis and prognosis of diseases and accompanying treatments.  The field of rehabilitation science has also seen the advent of significant technological advances that hold promise for rehabilitation applications. 

Neville’s dissertation research will incorporate elements of precision medicine to inform our understanding of human responses to aerobic exercise training in older adults, and begin to translate advances in precision medicine tools to improving rehabilitation prognosis and interventions. He is working with Mason’s Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular on the methods for his dissertation proposal. 
 

Andrew Pechstein - Presidential Scholar, 1st year doctoral student

Andrew Pechstein

Andrew Pechstein was awarded a Presidential Scholar Fellowship ($7,350) for financial support during the summer 2018 term. The aim of this award is to allow students to make significant progress toward degree completion and to support students’ professional development goals.

About the Research: Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and Fatigability

Individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD) experience increased difficulty with fatigability, a symptom that may affect as many as 70% of people with PD.  Fatigability has an extreme detrimental effect on the ability of these individuals to move, walk and function in everyday life.  Comprehensive clinical care for this issue requires an accurate identification of the degree and nature of fatigability of individuals prior to the delivery of therapeutic intervention.

Pechstein’s goal for the summer fellowship is to solidify his understanding of fatigability of individuals with PD and to collaborate with colleagues and faculty to advance the operational stance of the department on this perplexing issue.  He will do so by working with the cohort of subjects developed by Dr. Clinton Wutzke.

More information is available on graduate student fellowships and grants available through the Office of the Provost.