Tianna Beharriell

Biomechanics PhD researcher, University of Ottawa


Make up your own mind about what you can do, and remember that you can achieve so much more than you think you’re capable of.

What do you do?

I’m interested in establishing relationships between patterns of movement generation at the muscle-level and whole-body movement patterns (mostly in the spinal region). Specifically, I’m interested in how these patterns can aid in sub grouping to identify areas for improvement either for injury prevention or rehabilitation.

Why did you choose this field?

I’ve always wanted to know why things happen, and I’ve loved problem solving from the time I was a little girl. Pursuing academia was not a traditional route, even in my extended family. I’m lucky to have such a supportive group of people who motivated and encouraged me to take my passion for inquiry as far as I could. I’ve been involved with sport (figure skating/track and field/dance) for as long as I can remember, so pursuing a degree in kinesiology to combine my love of sport with science was a natural choice!

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

I vividly remember sitting in a grade 10 math class and after asking a teacher to explain a concept in an alternate way, being told that I should probably never consider a career that involves math because I just wouldn’t be able to do it. Now, I’m doing my PhD in biomechanics which is not only heavily math-dependent, but also involves a ton of programming and coding. I couldn’t have pictured myself here, getting my work published in journals, but I’m so glad I didn’t listen to that advice!

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love the freedom to pursue questions that I think are important. There is a certain rewarding feeling when your research results can add a piece to a more complex puzzle, although I would be lying if I said it wasn’t discouraging, frustrating and downright agitating when your experiments don’t work and you don’t get the answers you want. I think that’s what makes it even more rewarding though, because without the struggle, any successes wouldn’t mean as much. The absolute best part for me though, is communicating research to people that can benefit from it and maximizing the impact that new findings can have. I love communicating science more than anything, and finding new ways to explain complex ideas.

Best advice for next generation?

Make up your own mind about what you can do, and remember that you can achieve so much more than you think you’re capable of. Don’t let others place limitations on you and internalize those. If you’re passionate about a topic in STEM, go after it! Following a passion will always make you more satisfied than a job that doesn’t set your soul on fire, no matter how much you’re getting paid to do it. Passion = power. If you pursue something with passion, you’re giving yourself the power to succeed in something you care about, and you’ll find a way to earn a living from it. You’ll have the motivation to pursue your passion and work will be something you want to do instead of something you have to do.

Inspo quote / fun fact / role model

“If people are doubting how far you can go, go so far that you can’t hear them anymore” -Michele Ruiz

NOMINATE a woman in STEM

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