16 April 2020

My UEA Story: Fiona Ellis

Fiona EllisName: Fiona Ellis

School: Health Sciences

Research area: Stroke rehabilitation

Bio: Fiona completed a BSc in Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, and an MSc in Rehabilitation Psychology at the University of Nottingham prior to starting her PhD at UEA. She is investigating the potential of delivering stroke rehabilitation via a virtual reality device (Xbox Kinect) and has recently finished the first year.


Fiona‚Äôs life as a UEA postgraduate research student



I'm looking at stroke rehabilitation, so I'm working with a company to use a virtual reality device to help patients do their exercises in their homes.

Why is your research important?

At the moment when you've had a stroke, you get a certain amount of rehabilitation. We know that this rehabilitation has the potential to be great, but because of the lack of resources, funding and strain on the NHS,  what we really hope is that from creating such a device we can put it in someone's home and it can give them a better chance at practising these exercises in a more comfortable and interactive way.

What fascinates you about this research area?

What really fascinates me is the way the brain recovers after it's been injured, such as from a stroke. In rehabilitation we're really aiming to help this natural recovery process and understand more about it, and that's really fascinating for me.

What motivates you?

What really motivates me is having that real-world impact on people who've been through such a life-changing event and knowing that you can, in a small way, do something to potentially help them one day.

What do you love about your research?

With research it's your own work, you shape it, what you put in is what you get out and you can just do so many different things with it and learn so much.

Find out more about Postgraduate Research degrees




I usually manage to get from my bed to the car before 7am . . . on most days. I would love to get some exercise done at this time and imagine at some point throughout the next three years I will manage at least once!



I live in Cambridge and commute to the campus daily, it takes around an hour to drive. On my way I get a chance to relax, practice my tone deaf singing and consider what I need to get done in the day. Every day is a different mixture of: meetings, training, writing and data collection.



At the moment I am preparing for my probationary review. Nine months into the PhD you present your ideas for the next three years in a report and then defend them to a panel- which is a great time to get feedback from the experts. I work best in the morning so try to get some writing done early on and inevitably emails will pop up throughout the day to distract me.   



The building I work in has coffee morning every day. It is a great place for cheap, but quality, coffee (and a cheeky biscuit of course), while catching up with everyone I may not see otherwise.



I have regular meetings with my supervisor to discuss progress and future plans. If there is no meeting I would be writing the protocol for upcoming studies at this point of the day. My project is in collaboration with Virtualware - a company who create technology based rehabilitation systems. The system we are refining currently is aimed at stroke survivors. To include participants in the studies I need to apply to the NHS for ethical approval, which is where my protocol comes in.



Lunch! By the time 11.30 arrives the office is talking about how hungry we all are and what foods sound good! I usually go to lunch with friends but if it gets too busy work-wise a few of us will eat at our desks working/catching-up.



The rehabilitation system my PhD is centered on primarily uses the Xbox Kinect. We have the system set up in the lab connected to a TV, at this point in the day I would go over and ensure it is working for my upcoming study.



Throughout a PhD you carry out training to enhance your professional and personal skills. Today I am attending a session for teacher training, which has refreshments luckily!



The end time of my day varies depending on what I managed to accomplish. Usually I aim for a 5pm finish but sometimes it can be up to 8pm (although I will migrate to the Library for quality writing time). My evenings often consist of meeting up with friends and eating a ridiculous amount of pizza! The University has quite a few postgrad specific events, such as pub quizzes and weekly yoga sessions which I try to attend as often as I can.



By the time I get back to my flat I am usually ready to call it a night. I like spending some down time catching up with the TV.


School of Health Sciences

Postgraduate Study