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A Human Movement Science Curriculum (HMSC) PhD student, Rachana Gangwani, was recently awarded the program’s Duquette Scholarship. Gangwani is a 4th year graduate student studying under the guidance of Division of Physical Therapy faculty Dr. Jessica Cassidy.

The Duquette Scholarship was created in honor of Louis and Eleanor Duquette to reflect their commitment to higher education by aiding a doctoral student in the field of human movement science, by their son, Colonel Thomas L. Duquette, who was a 1991 graduate of the MS program in physical therapy. The mission of the award is to recognize and celebrate a student who shows excellence in both research and academic scholarship and whose research will lead to reduced injury and/or improved health. To be eligible for the award, candidates must be doctoral students within the HMSC program who have passed the comprehensive examination.

Research Focus: Post-Stroke Motor Recovery and Neuroimaging

Gangwani is studying motor recovery in adults post-stroke using neuroimaging and has a research interest in neuroimaging, neuroplasticity, and neurorehabilitation. Working in Cassidy’s lab allows her to pursue and focus on her interests as they primarily use multi-modal neuroimaging techniques to develop brain-based measures in individuals with neurological conditions across the lifespan. Their work focuses specifically on individuals with sub-acute stroke and on developing neuroimaging-based measures that have the potential to predict their recovery and treatment response, thereby enabling a more personalized approach to rehabilitation.

Additionally, Gangwani’s dissertation will focus on determining the interaction between cognitive and motor function post-stroke, a crucial avenue for stroke research in enhancing motor relearning and recovery outcomes. Specifically, her project will identify functional connections in the brain that subserve cognitive-motor interaction. These functional connections can be utilized by clinicians in the future to assess cognitive-motor interaction post-stroke and tailor rehabilitation interventions accordingly. Further, these connections have the potential to serve as possible targets for brain stimulation to enhance recovery outcomes post-stroke.

Upcoming Presentation and Future Plans

The award will allow Gangwani to travel to the American Society of Neurorehabilitation conference in San Antonio, Texas on April 11-13, 2024 to showcase her dissertation work among fellow neurorehabilitation researchers. She will also present at the conference and plans to use it as a unique opportunity to share her research findings, engage with experts in the field, and contribute to the collective knowledge and advancements within neurorehabilitation.

Following the completion of her PhD, Gangwani envisions securing a postdoctoral position that will help her continue developing her expertise in neuroscience and neurorehabilitation. Her ultimate goal is to be an independent stroke rehabilitation scientist dedicated to developing pioneering, innovative, and personalized treatment approaches that facilitate recovery in individuals with stroke.

“This achievement serves as a milestone that reaffirms my commitment to making a meaningful impact in the field of stroke rehabilitation,” said Gangwani. She sees the recognition as a testament to her past achievements while also showing that she has support and encouragement from those advising her, like Cassidy, to propel her to future academic and research endeavors. The scholarship will aid in her overall professional profile in her future career in physical therapy in terms of stroke rehabilitation.

“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my PhD advisor, Dr. Jessica Cassidy, for her unwavering support and encouragement throughout my academic journey,” said Gangwani. “Her guidance has been invaluable in fostering my growth as a researcher.”