Niroshica Mohanathas @TeamUHN

Home page Description: 
Graduate student in psychology at the KITE Research Institute.
Posted On: September 15, 2022

Tell us about your role at UHN.

I am currently a PhD candidate in psychology at the KITE Research Institute. I have been at UHN since 2017 under the supervision of Dr. Jennifer Campos in the Multisensory Integration in Virtual Environments (MIVE) laboratory. My day-to-day job varies and includes planning research studies, working with research participants, teaching, communicating study findings at conferences and manuscript writing. I also take part in extracurricular activities, some of which include promoting science to youth, organizing conferences and mentoring new students.

What are you working on at UHN?

I am currently pursuing a PhD in psychology. My research explores the impact of age-related hearing loss on balance in older adults. To carry out this research safely, we use virtual reality simulators—for example, StreetLab—which enable us recreate real-world environments. The goal of this research is to investigate the association between hearing loss and falls-risk to prevent falls-related injuries and increase social participation for older adults.

Aside from research, I am also the KITEC Vice President of Events. In this role, I assist in planning and leading social, professional development and networking events. Some of these events include, but are not limited to, women in science webinars, statistics workshops and trainee orientations. In addition, I have volunteered for a KITEC virtual symposium in collaboration with Ontario Hospital Association’s Health Research and Let’s Talk Science. This event promoted science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics studies and careers to under-represented high school students.

Some of my volunteering activities are listed below:

Member of the KITE Young Innovators (KYI): This organization is dedicated to inspiring young students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Through KYI I have presented my research at scientist panels for under-represented or racialized communities and promoted ongoing team initiatives via social media platforms and newsletters.

Campus Representative for Hospitals for Psychology Graduate Student Association (PGSA) at the University of Toronto: As a campus representative, I acted as a liaison between students at hospitals and the PGSA executive team to voice students’ academic or personal questions or concerns.

Volunteer for Lake Ontario Visionary Establishment (LOVE) Conference at KITE: As a volunteer of past LOVE Conference organizational committees, I assisted in promoting the conference, judging posters and organizing networking events. Also, I presented my undergraduate thesis project looking at the Effects of Subthreshold and Suprathreshold Noise on Audio-Visual Perception in Younger and Older Adults.

Mentor for KITE Peer Mentorship Program: This program creates opportunities for both new and returning students to benefit from the experience of upper-year students. As a mentor, I have met with trainees to discuss matters related to adjusting to graduate school, course selection, etc.

How do you help to advance research? What work are you most proud of at UHN?

I help advance research that explores the intersection between hearing loss, cognitive decline and mobility impairments in older adults. Through my national and international knowledge translation activities (e.g., poster presentations, publications, focus groups, etc.) I am most proud of supporting older adults in aging well by developing studies that may improve hearing loss and mobility to prevent falls-risk. Our findings may help to inform current rehabilitation therapies and policies related to sensory, cognitive or mobility declines in older adults.

What makes UHN an ideal place to advance research?

The KITE Research Institute at UHN is an ideal place to advance research. The institute is home to the KITE Labs (commonly known as CEAL—the Challenging Environment Assessment Laboratory). Our research leverages four KITE labs: StreetLab, DriverLab, StairLab and Perception Lab. These labs allow us to assess hearing, cognition, mobility and driving using an immersive, interactive and multisensory experience. To learn more about these labs, please visit:

Photo of Niroshica Mohanathas standing in front of StreetLab.
Niro Mohanathas standing in front of StreetLab—a state-of-the-art simulation lab that allows researchers to safely test sensory, cognitive and mobility challenges associated with everyday life.

Specifically, I use the StreetLab to examine the impact of hearing on balance and walking. Future projects include exploring whether hearing and mobility can be improved using at-home computerized cognitive training.

Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of work?

Outside of work, I am a content creator alongside my twin sister Nila on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. Some of my non-academic achievements include working alongside 65+ companies to promote and/or sell products in the beauty, food and clothing industry. As a result of working with many different large and small businesses, we have grown our social media pages (i.e., 13K+ following on TikTok, 5k+ following on Instagram, and 500+ subscribers on YouTube), which has resulted in many new opportunities in a paid and unpaid capacity.

Although, balancing a career in research and social media can be quite challenging, I am passionate about pursuing both of my interests. I often use transferable skills from one area (i.e., time management, planning, execution, pitching, etc.) to advance the other. Through my experience as a researcher and content creator, I hope to encourage other trainees to pursue their hobbies and interests alongside their research endeavours.

What do you see for the future of health research, and what gets you excited about it?

In the next 5 to 10 years I hope to apply my knowledge to work with the aging population to create health care solutions that enable older adults to improve their sensory, cognitive and mobility functioning. I am very enthusiastic about working within this area of research and looking forward to seeing more advancements in the field.

Connect with Niro on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Related story: Read about how Niro was one of two recent recipients of a prestigious scholarship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.


How to Participate in You @TeamUHN

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