our students

Fei Zhao

Rehab Science PhD student Fei Zhao.

Why did you choose rehabilitation science as a discipline?

The major of my undergraduate education was rehabilitation science emphasizing physical therapy. During the first year of the undergraduate study, I had no chance to get access to a rehabilitation/physical therapy department in any hospitals or clinics, and I knew little about what physical therapists do daily. At that time, I struggled with changing my major. To decide whether I would continue my education on Rehabilitation Science, I asked for help from my dean. He showed me around the physical therapy department at a local hospital, which enabled me to know what physical therapists do. They contributed to improving patients’ function with passion and responsibility. From then on, I had a huge desire to continue to study rehabilitation.

Why UB?

I chose UB because the on-campus and off-campus environment is safe, and the living expense in Buffalo is affordable. Also, the international student services of UB are accessible to me. In addition, I did research and found that there are several currently running grants, centers and labs at the Department of Rehabilitation Science, which shows a strong research background.

How has your work and/or experience of your discipline evolved at UB?

In my undergraduate education, I did a case study in the geriatrics field, which was a small-scale project and not systematic. After being admitted by UB, I had my first chance to learn a thorough research method and independently completed a large-scale research project with a scientific approach after the second year. The process of preparing the plan, collecting data and interpreting the results is a brainstorm. The research training motivates me to think logically and comprehensively about every single thing, including reading articles, finding out a problem for the target population, writing a paper and even small things in daily life.

What is your favorite part of your program?

People, including my mentor, other faculty and students. When I have questions or need help with courses, research or life, I always find the perfect person to ask. Before I implemented my research project, excellent suggestions from my mentor, committee, and faculty members strengthened the research idea. I consulted professors and other PhD students to improve my critical thinking, writing and public-speaking skills. Without them, I could not have come up with a good idea by merely struggling with myself.

Have you taken part in any clinical/field placements?

Yes, I have a one-year internship in the last year of my undergraduate study in China. The experience encouraged me to design a treatment plan in multi dimensions. For example, there was an assistive device newly developed then with a novel technology. I happened to find it worked well in stroke patients, which inspired me to dig up more about combining rehabilitation with technology in further education.

What advice would you give a student considering rehabilitation science as a program and/or career?

From a research viewpoint, the first step is to find a problem with importance. I highly recommend seizing any chances in clinical settings/fieldwork and get good use of them. Besides optimizing the treatment plan for each individual, observing the common problems in a specific population also matters. The issues you find could be extended to a research project, with more continued work needed to solve the problem. I believe the process from defining a problem to accomplishing a project is not easy at all. Communication with researchers in the same field is a strategy to improve the research project. Those top researchers are knowledgeable about what needs to be done and recent work.

What's next for you?

I am preparing my dissertation project now and quite looking forward to working on that. My career goal is to be a researcher after I acquire the necessary foundation and experience. China has a sizable aged population, and the number of people over 65 is continuously increasing every year. I desire to research function improvement for older adults to reduce the admission rates to nursing homes or assistive facilities. Instead, older adults without access to hospitals or rehabilitation centers should have the ability to live independently by doing daily exercise at home.

Anything else you’d like to mention?

I want to express my appreciation to my advisor. She is the most patient person I have ever met. Without her and other committee members’ guidance, I could not complete the previous pre-dissertation project. My parents are big supporters of me, financially and mentally. Whenever I came to a dead end of thinking about a research question, I always called my dad. Although he could not offer much help on the research project, my logic flow became clearer by telling him my thoughts. The past three academic years spent at UB is a treasure for me. I know rehabilitation better, know research better and know myself better.