Swallowing Rehabilitation Research Lab

SRRL Graduate Student Alumni

Helia Mohammadi, Ph.D.
Doctoral student, September 2014 – August 2017

Helia Mohammadi completed her PhD in Electrical and Computer Engineering with focus on biomedical signal and image processing and classification at the University of Toronto. Helia is currently the National Healthcare Chief Data Scientist at Microsoft Canada. With over 10 years of experience in research and applied machine learning, she leverages and extends machine learning models and cloud solutions that help process data into new tools and technologies, and aid with digital transformation in the healthcare domain.

Helia has received several scholarships and awards, including being named as “Top 30 Influential Women Advancing AI in Canada”, the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS). Additionally, she was selected as a Rogers Scholar during her PhD studies.

Helia’s LinkedIn Profile

Ashwini Namasivayam-MacDonald, Ph.D.
Doctoral student, September 2013 – June 2017

Ashwini is currently an Assistant Professor at Adelphi University located in Garden City, New York. Here Ashwini teaches Dysphagia and Advanced Dysphagia in the graduate-level program and also has started the Aging Swallow Research Lab. Her research primarily focuses on understanding swallowing impairments in older adults, particularly those with dementia. She also studies the impact of dysphagia on caregiver burden and other health outcomes, such as nutrition.

“Being a part of the SRRL will always be my single most career-defining experience. The mentorship provided by Catriona continues to be invaluable. Not to mention, I have benefited beyond measure from the exposure to her vast network, the engagement in various research projects, the autonomy given to me to assess and treat difficult clinical cases and, of course, the encouragement to realize that I was eventually ready to fly the coop. I am proud to be a part of the SRRL family and always look forward to reuniting at conferences throughout the year!”

Sonja Molfenter, Ph.D.
Doctoral student, September 2009 – June 2013

Sonja began as a clinician in the SRRL in 2007. After completing her PhD with Catriona (2009-2013), Sonja joined the Communicative Sciences and Disorders faculty at New York University. Sonja’s research focuses on natural changes to swallowing in the context of aging, with a particular focus on biomechanics and function on videofluoroscopy. Sonja teaches masters-level dysphagia courses both the online and residential modalities.

“I wouldn’t change anything about the path I took to get to where I am today. My training in the SRRL with Catriona solidified my skills, broaden my network and fueled my passion for deglutition research. I love reuniting with the SRRL family at conferences and conventions every year!”

Sonja’s NYU Steinhardt Profile

SRRL Internship Alumni

Julie Chan
Clinical Engineering Intern, May 2007 – September 2007

Julie is currently in her 4th year of Orthopedic Surgery at Queen’s University with plans to do fellowships in Trauma and Upper Extremity afterwards.

SRRL Staff Alumni

Andrea Guran, SLP
October 2017 – October 2018

Andrea is currently working at Providence Healthcare on the inpatient stroke and neuro units doing swallowing and communication assessment and therapy.

“From my time spent rating swallowing videos in the lab, I gained a better understanding of VFSS, and have improved my ability to read VFSS reports sent to me from acute care. I also learned a lot about a healthy swallow versus an impaired swallow, the IDDSI framework, and the hard work that goes into designing, implementing and completing a well designed research study. Thank you to Catriona Steele and her team of PhD students, it was a pleasure working with you.

Vivian Chak
December 2014 – September 2015

Vivian is working at Salesforce on bridging business and tech; driving business outcomes through analytical storytelling.

“SRRL gave me the opportunity to work as a biomedical engineer, straight out of university. I’m very grateful to SRRL for taking a chance on me, and to everyone in the lab for creating an environment of camaraderie and mentorship.”

Vivian’s LinkedIn Profile

Clemence Yee, OT
September 2010 – June 2013

Clemence currently works for Halton Region children’s services as an Occupational Therapist in the infant development program. She works with infants 0-2 years of age and often see infants who have just been discharged home from NICU. It’s a scary time for families when it should be the happiest time and she gets the honour to work with these families during a very crucial time. Clemence works with families on gross motor skills, fine motor skills, cognition and feeding. Her group also works in partnership with SLPs and PTs to provide services for families in Halton Region.

“I worked with Catriona and the lab for about 3 years. During that time, I was involved in many projects and given opportunities to shadow clinical work. I’ve used my knowledge on swallowing learned to further my understanding of OT and our role in paediatric feeding and when to refer to an SLP colleague. I had more confidence in my understanding of thickened fluids and feeding positions due to my time at the lab preparing barium samples for VFSS and shadowing clinicians during VFSS studies. Many of my feeding clinical skills and assessment skills come from my time at the lab. Catriona always provided me with many opportunities to learn and shadow clinicians and I am so grateful for my time with SRRL.”