Grad student awarded TD Grant in Medical Excellence, again

York PhD psychology student Stefania Moro (BSc ’10, MA ’12) is the first student researcher to study auditory and visual processing in a rare group of patients – those whom have had one eye surgically removed at a young age due to cancer.

She is also a winner of a TD Grant in Medical Excellence: A Scholarship in Rehabilitation – Related Research for People with Disabilities for the second consecutive year.

“This award will allow me to investigate the underlying neural correlates of losing one eye with the new MRI scanner at York University,” says Moro.

StefaniaMoroFrom left, Tina Murphy, manager, community relations, TD Bank Group;  recipient Meagan Warnica, University of Waterloo; recipient Ivan Solano, University of Toronto; Stefanie Marinich-Lee, senior manager, corporate diversity, TD Bank Group; Amy Hanen, assistant vice-president diversity and employee experience analytics; Geoff Fernie, institute director, Research, Toronto Rehab – UHN;  and Stefania Moro of York University

The scholarship was created by the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (Toronto Rehab) and its foundation. “Our job at Toronto Rehab is to level the playing field,” says Dr. Geoff Fernie, director of research at Toronto Rehab. “We want to encourage people with disabilities to work in rehabilitation research because we value their knowledge, talent and perspective.”

Moro won the scholarship last year to help support her master’s degree research. This year, it will go toward her continuing research at the doctoral level under the direction of York psychology Professor Jennifer Steeves in the Perceptual Neuroscience Lab in the Faculty of Health.

She has first-hand experience in losing vision in one eye having been hit in the left eye with a defective firework at the age of five. Moro believes that people with a sensory deficit can be trained to adapt, which in turn will result in richer perceptual experiences and less stress on their remaining senses.

Her research explores cross-modal plasticity – or how people with one eye adapt – and whether or not other senses are enhanced to compensate for the loss. Her own experience in slowly losing the ability to see in that one eye is what sparked her interest in the plasticity of the brain.

Moro is one of three recipients of the scholarship this year, which is open to students from McMaster University, Ryerson University, the University of Toronto, the University of Waterloo, York University and Sir Wilfrid Laurier University.

A former recipient of the Dean’s Award of Appreciation for Excellence in Student Leadership and the Walter and Wayne Gretzky Scholarship, Moro has received a host of other awards for her impressive academic achievement and extensive community service. She has already presented her findings at the highly prestigious international conference of the Vision Sciences Society in Naples, Florida, the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans, as well as at the International Multisensory Research Forum in Fukuoka, Japan, and Liverpool, U.K., and at the International Conference on Plastic Vision in Toronto.

For more information, read the Feb. 12, 2012 YFile story or visit the Toronto Rehab website.