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Student story

Kristin Gozdzikowska

20 July 2023

"UC provides an outstanding group of mentors from which to learn..."


PhD in Speech and Language Sciences

Research Fellow, Laura Fergusson Trust

After having studied a Bachelor of Science in Communication Science and Disorders at the University of Missouri-Columbia and later a Master of Science in Medical Speech Language Pathology at the University of Washington, Kristin understands and emphasises the importance her research has on health.

"In addition to basic human functions such as survival and nutrition, eating and drinking play a great role in our day to day lives and relationships," she says. "Whether it's morning tea at work, toasting with bubbles at a wedding, lamb and roasted veg for the holidays – eating is an integral part of how we connect with our friends and family. Losing the ability to safely and effectively swallow therefore will not only have substantial health risks, but can be socially isolating leading to a profound deficit on a person's quality of life."

It is this level of effect swallowing disorders have on people's health that lead Kristin to travel down from the USA to research communication science and disorders at UC.

"I enjoyed studying at Canterbury because the Department of Communication Disorders and specifically the UC Swallowing Rehabilitation Research Laboratory encourage a lot of collaboration between students. For example, our swallowing lab has a standing lab meeting every Friday where we update on progress, talk about current articles or topics of interest, and generally learn together."

Kristin especially enjoyed the support she received through her mentors who are highly regarded in their field.

"I chose to study at Canterbury because of my mentor, Dr Maggie-Lee Huckabee. Dr Huckabee is a world-renowned researcher in the field of swallowing, and her research laboratory is arguably the most sophisticated of its kind in the southern hemisphere. But above and beyond that, Dr Huckabee is an incredible teacher, and caring supervisor. Her passion for her work is contagious.

"Additionally, my co-mentor Prof Richard Jones (who recently won the UC Supervisor of the Year award) is a Biomedical Engineer and brings insight to my field of study from another field and viewpoint. Having two such supportive mentors made this PhD programme better than I could have hoped!"

Kristin's research led her to work with a number of organisations, including work overseas. Previously, Kristin had the opportunity to travel to Singapore to work with clinical researchers at Singapore General Hospital in preparation for her international research project. Her study also involved working with patients at the UC Rose Centre for Stroke Recovery and Research. She presented her work at national and international conferences. Her research gave her many scholarship grants through UC.

Having now completed her PhD, Kristin completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the UC Rose Centre for Stroke Recovery and Research. Additionally, she worked as a lecturer at the University of Canterbury in the Department of Communication Disorders. Now, she is a Research Fellow at the Laura Fergusson Trust, providing evidenced-based, intensive rehabilitation to individuals following Traumatic Brain Injury.

"There is such a need for quality research and the professorial staff at UC provides an outstanding group of mentors from which to learn. Plus – I get to live in New Zealand while I'm at it… can it get better than that?!"

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