Caryn Urbanczyk, Research Postgraduate, Departments of Bioengineering and Surgery & Cancer

I was awarded a President’s PhD Scholarship to pursue research in shoulder and spine biomechanics during rowing.” 

Before joining Imperial in 2017, I received my bachelor’s degree at the University of California San Diego, completed my Master’s at Duke University, and worked as a patent examiner for the US Patent and Trademark Office.      

I was awarded a President’s PhD Scholarship to pursue research in shoulder and spine biomechanics during rowing. My focus on performance assessment and mechanisms of injury saw me working with collegiate and national teams to improve biofeedback to athletes and coaches. 

I have spent two years as a PhD student representative in the Department of Bioengineering to bring together, support and advocate for postgraduate students in the department. Since the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, my colleagues and I moved regular social events online, helped the department safety committee organise a return-to-lab pilot program for research students, and ensured those working from home received the equipment they required.  

Several other lab members and I have taken to convening for a weekly thesis writing club on Microsoft Teams. It’s been a rather creative way to keep in touch with one another and encourage progress through what is (even under normal circumstances) an arduous part of the PhD life. 

I am fortunate that a large part of the biofeedback in my research involves 3-dimensional musculoskeletal modelling, which just requires access to a computer with some processing power. But I have done a lot of that since moving to work from home, and I miss being able to work closely with athletes and coaches in the lab during testing sessions.  

Outside Imperial, I serve as the President of the UC San Diego Alumni UK Regional Club, which has involved organising and hosting several online social events for alums all over Europe during lockdown.   

Rowing is what keeps me sane. I’ve been an avid competitive rower for many years, with some coaching thrown in for good measure. My saving grace over the summer was being able to go out for an early morning row in my single. I find sculling immensely cathartic – it helps put me in the right mindset to tackle the day.  

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