My postgraduate study: Monika Ehrensberger, PhD Researcher, IT Sligo

Monika Ehrensberger followed up her degree in Sports Science in Germany by coming to Ireland to conduct doctoral research into neurorehabilitation and 'mirror therapy' for stroke patients.

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Primary Degree Bachelor Degree Sport Science, University of Freiburg
Job title Quality Control Microbiologist
Postgraduate study PhD Research, IT Sligo, ‘Mirror Therapy’ and neurorehabilitation.

Give us some background on your third
level education and what you sought
to achieve by pursuing postgraduate
study?

I have always enjoyed staying
physically active and understood the
importance of it on my physical health,
so the choice of Sports Science with
Exercise Therapy was easy. After
graduating in 2010, I moved from
Germany, where I had grown up, to
Ireland where I had spent a gap year
after my Leaving Cert. It was daunting
from an economic point of view,
Ireland was in the middle of a financial
crisis, but I was determined to give it a
go. The area of exercise and it’s
benefits to people with chronic illness
is something I’m passionate about.
After 4 years of working as a Sport
Scientist and Exercise Therapist, I
decided to further my career, I felt a
desire for a new academic challenge.
When the postgraduate research
position in stroke rehabilitation and
exercise was advertised, I felt it was the
ideal next step for me and I applied.

What are the challenges/benefits of
working as a researcher?

The research project I am involved in
aims to identify the effectiveness of
two novel treatment approaches for
stroke rehabilitation, which are crosseducation
and mirror therapy. during
the fieldwork phase, I visited every
participant on numerous occasions to
guide them through a strength
training programme. During the visits,
participants would tell me about their
grandchildren, the hobbies they used
to be involved in and about all the
aspects of life they can’t enjoy anymore
due to suffering a stroke. Working with
the participants on this level is very
enjoyable and provided the best
motivation possible to keep striving for
improvements in stroke rehabilitation
through research.

Generally, research work is very
versatile and every phase of the
research project offers new challenges,
which keeps it interesting. I also enjoy
the teaching hours which
postgraduate students get assigned as
part of the education pathway. It is a
great opportunity to get involved with
undergrad students and to gain
experience tutoring.

As a Phd student,
the management and the organisation

of the research project is your
responsibility, this can be a benefit as
well as a challenge. Personally, I like the
fact that working hours are flexible,
but it requires a great deal of self-discipline.
I was very fortunate to be
funded by the IT President’s Bursary at
first and to secure Irish research
Council funding at a later stage,
nevertheless the change in income was
the most challenging part of being a
research student for me. However, with
the right adjustments, it is definitely
possible to remain in research and for
me the benefits outweigh the
challenges by far.

What advice would you have for
potential PhD students?

You need to have a deep and genuine
interest in the area of research and be
100% committed to the project. Your
relationship with your supervisor is
also very important. I have been very
fortunate to work with Dr. Kenneth
Monaghan who is highly enthusiastic,
supportive and built my confidence in
all aspects of research work. It is crucial
that the project is well planned and
structured and that you follow the
outline as closely as possible.

What are your plans for the future?

Ideally, I would like to secure a post in IT
Sligo or another third level institute to
continue researching and teaching.

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