Research Trainees


Geoff Bostick
Marie-Michèle Briand
Jorge Fuentes
Maxi Miciak

Yue Wang

Postdoctoral Fellows
Riikka Niemeläinen

Prior Trainees (past 5 years)
Yoko Ikezawa
Curtis Hlushak
Christina Tomkins
Riikka Niemelainen
Holly Meyer

Annina Ropponen
Oana Smaranda Donescu
Eric Parent
Jason Giesbrecht

Research Trainees

Geoff Bostick PT, Ph.D. (candidate)
Geoff obtained a B.Sc. in Kinesiology (1998) and Physical Therapy (2001) at the University of Saskatchewan.  From 2001 to 2007, Geoff worked as a Physical Therapist invarious orthopaedic private practices in Saskatoon, Edmonton and Victoria.  During these practice years, he developed an interest in the cognitive aspects of pain, especially related to neck pain after motor vehicle accidents.  Upon entering the PhD program in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Science at the University of Alberta, Geoff’s research interests have become centered on pain beliefs as well as nocebo-related effects on pain perception.  Geoff’s thesis project is a prospective, mixed-methods (i.e. quantitative and qualitative) study examining neck pain beliefs after a motor vehicle accident. Geoff is financially supported by a University of Alberta Queen Elizabeth II Scholarship and the Alberta Provincial CIHR Training Program In Bone and Joint Health.

Marie-Michèle Briand, B.Sc., M.Sc. student
Marie-Michèle obtained a B.Sc. degree in Kinesiology from the Université de Montréal and she is currently completing a M.Sc. in Physical Activity Sciences - Biomechanics at the Université de Montréal. She came to the University of Alberta for several months to work with Dr. Crites Battié as part of an exchange program between the Alberta Provincial CIHR Training Program in Bone and Joint Health in Alberta and the MENTOR program in Quebec. Her M.Sc. thesis topic is asymmetry of pelvis and shoulder rotations during walking in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis patients. While in Alberta working in the Common Spinal Disorders Research Centre, she is working on a project to provide normative data on lumbar paraspinal muscle cross-sectional area, including measurements of muscle and fat content, in healthy adult men. Marie-Michèle is supported by CIHR and MENTOR, and the exchange program with Dr. Crites Battié is supported by a grant from REPAR-Quebec Rehabilitation Research Network.

Jorge Fuentes BSc PT, MSc RS, Ph.D student
Jorge obtained his Bachelor in Physical Therapy degree from Chile in 1996 from the Catholic University of Maule. A year later he joined the Department of Physical Therapy in the same university where he worked as an Assistant Professor for seven years in areas such as orthopedic assessment, clinical practice, and therapeutic physical agents.  At the same time he worked as a physiotherapist in a rehabilitation centre treating with patients with diverse painful musculoskeletal conditions. In 2005 he came to the University of Alberta to pursue a MSc in Rehabilitation Sciences. After finishing his Masters program in 2007, he entered the Ph.D. program under the guidance of Dr. David Magee and Dr. Douglas Gross. His area of interest is investigating the analgesic effects of physiotherapy therapeutic modalities in musculoskeletal pain. A parallel area of study is the role of non-specific treatment effects of physiotherapy interventions.  Jorge is supported by a University of Alberta Provost Doctoral Entrance Award and an Improvement of Quality in Superior Education (MECESUP) Scholarship from the Government of Chile

Maxi Miciak B.P.E., B.Sc.P.T., M.Sc. student
Maxi obtained her Physical Education (1992) and Physical Therapy (1996) degrees from the University of Alberta. She has worked in private practice and interdisciplinary settings treating a diverse range of musculoskeletal disorders. Her interest in the relationship between somatic and psychosocial components of chronic pain, traumatic stress, and mood dysregulation led her to take psychotherapy related courses and trainings.  Integrating this knowledge into clinical practice highlighted the relevance of therapeutic relationship as a critical and under-represented component of positive therapeutic experiences. Maxi began a Master’s degree with Dr. Douglas Gross in 2008.  She is applying a mixed methods approach to develop a working understanding of the construct unique to physical therapy.  She will use data from qualitative interviews to provide the foundation for an evaluative self-report tool of therapeutic relationship, to be used in clinical practice and in further research.  Maxi recently was awarded the Al Cook Graduate Scholarship in Rehabilitation Medicine for outstanding academic achievement as a first year Master’s student.

Yue Wang, M.D., M.S., Ph.D. student
Yue Wang obtained his M.D. in 1998. Following completion of his orthopaedic surgery residency training in the 2nd Hospital, Xiangya Medical School of Central Southern University, China and a Master of Surgery degree in 2001, he worked as an orthopaedic surgeon and a surgery instructor in the Department of Orthopaedics, 1st hospital of Zhejiang University, China. In 2008, he was awarded the China-Canada Norman Bethune Health Research Scholarship (a partnership program between the China Scholarship Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research) and came to University of Alberta pursuit his Ph.D. He also receives support from the Alberta Provincial CIHR Training Program in Bone and Joint Health and an AHFMR Studentship Award. Under the guidance of Dr. Michele Crites Battié, he is investigating the pathological role of the vertebral endplate in the pathogenesis of lumbar disc degeneration and low back pain, using MRI and other data from a general population sample of 600 men and cadaveric spines.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Riikka Niemeläinen , Ph.D., Postdoctoral fellow  
Riikka obtained her physical therapy degree from Finland in 1999 and went on to finish a Master of Science in Health Sciences from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland in 2003. While working towards her M.Sc. degree she was working as a physiotherapist in a rehabilitation centre dealing mainly with degenerative conditions of the musculoskeletal system. She completed a Ph.D in Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Alberta in 2008 under the mentorship of Drs. Tapio Videman and Michele Crites Battié. Her Ph.D. thesis focused on pain and MRI findings in the thoracic spine and their association. She is continuing on with a joint postdoctoral fellowship with the Common Spinal Disorders Research Group and Kuopio University Hospital, Finland. Riikka’s postdoctoral fellowship is supported by Dr. Crites Battié’s Canada Research Chair funds and the Finnish Academy. Her primary postdoctoral research project focuses on lateral lumbar stenosis. Her research interests involve examining the determinants of degenerative spinal conditions using MR imaging and quantitative measurements.

Prior Trainees (past 5 years)

Christina Tomkins & Riikka Niemelainen grad picture

Recent grads Riikka and Christina have a lot to smile about, they have just completed their PhDs.

Yoko Ikezawa, BScPT, M.Sc.
Masters’ in Rehabilitation Science, 2009
Title of thesis: Inter-rater reliability of clinician return-to-work decisions for workers' compensation claimants
Supervisor: Douglas Gross
Future plan is to work as a physiotherapist in Canada while looking for another future research topic from the clinical practice setting.

Curtis Hlushak MBBS (Hons), BKin, M.Sc.
Masters’ in Rehabilitation Science, 2009
Thesis title: The relationship between cardiovascular fitness and return-to-work in injured workers with upper extremity cumulative trauma disorder
Supervisor: Douglas Gross
Current Activities: Completing residency training in physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Alberta.

Christina Tomkins, M.Sc, Ph.D.
Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Science, 2008
Title of thesis: Measurement of Walking Capacity in Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Supervisor: Michele Crites Battié
Christy is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan, working with Andrew Haig and others at the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Riikka Niemelainen, PT, Ph.D.
Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Science, 2008
Supervisors: Tapio Videman and Michele Crites Battié
Title of thesis: Thoracic MRI Findings and Upper or Mid Back Pain in Men
Riikka is currently working as a postdoctoral fellow jointly with the Common Spinal Disorders Centre and the Department of Radiology of the University of Kuopio.

Holly Meyer, PT, M.Sc.
M.Sc. in Rehabilitation Science, 2007
Thesis title: The Association of Perception of Fault with Other Factors in Neck and Back Pain
Supervisor: Michele Crites Battié
Holly is currently Regional Project Manager at the Office for Health Innovation, Capital Health. 

Annina Ropponen, PT, Ph.D.
Ph.D. in Studies of Sport, Physical Education and Health (University of Jyvaskyla), 2006
Thesis title: The Role of Heredity, Other Constitutional Structural and Behavioral Factors in Back Function Tests
Supervisors: Tapio Videman and Michele Crites Battié
Annina is currently a postdoctoral fellow with the University of Kuopio, Finland and is supported by the Finnish Academy.

Oana Smaranda Donescu, M.D., Ph.D.
Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Science, 2006
Title of thesis: Biochemical Markers of Bone Turnover in Middle Aged Men
Supervisor: Michele Crites Battié
Smaranda joined the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute at the University of Toronto for a 2-year postdoctoral fellowship immediately following completion of her doctoral degree and is now completing an internal medicine residency in Germany, working toward a career as a clinician-scientist.

Eric Parent, PT, Ph.D.
Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Science, 2005
Supervisor: Michele Crites Battié
Title of thesis: Development of Quantitative Measures of Lumbar Disc Contour Abnormalities for MRI: Reliability and Validity
Eric completed two postdoctoral fellowship years, one in scoliosis research at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital and the University of Alberta and another with Julie Fritz at the University of Utah, before joining the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Alberta as an assistant professor.

Jason Giesbrecht, PT, M.Sc.
M.Sc. in Physical Therapy, 2005
Thesis title: A comparison of pressure pain detection thresholds in people with chronic low back pain and volunteers without pain
Supervisor: Michele Crites Battié
Following completion of his degree, Jason accepted a managerial position with Interior Health, B.C.