Tara MacDonald

 Tara - HK student profiles

Why she chose Human Kinetics

"I applied to university in grade 12 without a clue about what I wanted to study. Throughout high school I'd always been interested in biology and chemistry, so I applied to and accepted admission into the Biochemistry program at Guelph, which I thought was a pretty logical choice... turns out it wasn't! The combination of analytical and organic chemistry with oodles of calculus was not in my wheelhouse. I switched into Biology for a semester, and tried to figure out the next move.

As a competitive speed skater and track athlete, my heart (and brain) has always been pretty invested in skeletal muscle physiology, adaptations to exercise and and understanding how the body works. I decided to take Human Physiology, Applied Human Biology and Anatomy in third year to shadow the HK program and I was hooked. It was like an academic endorphin rush. I loved all three courses and switched into HK in the second week of that semester."

What she liked most about the program

"There are two specific experiences that really stood out for me. Applied Human Biology in third year had me reading tons of papers for my own interest, fuelling my curiosity in exercise physiology. I had a lot of questions about muscle fatigue and recovery post-exercise that provided a good segue into a fourth year project with Dr. Coral Murrant. I loved being able to ask a question, design an experiment, and get an answer through the scientific process. She remains one of my favourite people and greatest mentors so far. That was hands-down my most positive experience in undergrad and allowed me to hit the ground running into a Master's project.

Since finishing my HK degree, I have gained an appreciation for the diversity of Human Kinetics. I wasn't a fan of molecular biology at the time, but in hindsight the breadth of courses required to complete an HK degree is a definite strength of the program (and molecular biology has proven to be extremely useful day-to-day). There are opportunities to take everything from cell biology, to biomechanics, to metabolism, and even some clinically-focused classes within HK. It gave me the chance to figure out and narrow down what I was actually interested in through exposure to a ton of different subject areas."

Some Interesting things Tara was a part of at Guelph

"I was lucky to be involved in a bunch of extracurriculars during my undergrad. I ran on the varsity cross country and track and field teams and had the opportunity to captain the women's side in fourth year. During that time I was able to help with some of the student referendum committees and set up plans for the new athletics facilities, which are currently in progress. I've learned a lot from coaches along the way, so for the past few years I've been involved with Guelph Youth Soccer and the Speed River Sprints & Hurdles group in coaching roles. For a few years I volunteered with two great programs called "Xtreme Team" and "Run and Read" which focused on physical activity and literacy for elementary-aged kids.

I had great experiences working as an instructor and Co-director with Creative Encounters (a children's science camp) through the Engineering department for three years, and spent a good chunk of time working and volunteering at St. Joseph's Long Term Care hospital in rehabilitation. In 3rd and 4th year I tutored a few students in some of their science classes and continued this throughout my M.Sc. I have also worked as a student representative at Alumni House, which was an interesting window into the inner workings and administration within the university."

Her favourite class during undergrad

"Nutrition, Exercise & Energy Metabolism (NUTR*4210), which was taught by Dr. Dave Dyck in my 4th year. He was an outstanding teacher, and I loved the material."

What Tara's currently up to, and what she's has planned for the future

"Since January 2012 I've been working as a PhD student in Dave Dyck's lab, which has been awesome! I've had the good fortune of working with Dr. David Wright as well, and plan to be kicking around HHNS for a few more years. Eventually I'd love to transition to a post-doctoral fellowship and then venture into academia, although I'm not 100% sure where research will take me."