Discovering the love of body and nature

    In her four and a half years at the University of Alberta, Sarah Rintoul has taken full advantage of the opportunity to learn about the human body and explore the great outdoors.

    By Lauren Walter on June 12, 2017

    Sarah began her journey with the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation in the Bachelor of Physical Education degree program. After just one year she decided that the Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology program concentrated more on physiology and anatomy courses, which she both loved and excelled at, and decided to make the switch in her third year. “I loved learning about the human body. It’s such an amazing area of study. Every time you delve back into learning about one system, you are finding something new about another. Your body is the point of interest; you are the lab”.

    Inspired by one particular professor, Dr. Dave Collins, and his research on motor control systems, Sarah decided to pursue the Research Certificate in Kinesiology. Under his guidance, she investigated neuromuscular electrical stimulation, which was the basis of her research for the certificate. “The more I learned about neuromuscular electrical stimulation and its potential to help those with spinal cord injuries recover, the more enthralled I became with its intricacies.”

    Sarah put together a poster summarizing her research and presented it at the inaugural Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation Undergraduate Research Revealed. Presenting research posters is something most undergraduates don’t often get to experience. To be able to display her work and present her research during her undergrad degree was a significant for Sarah. “It was definitely the climax of my research.”

    Always one for adventure and challenging herself, Sarah decided to do a semester abroad at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Norway. Through the combination of lectures, practical experiences and camping and hiking trips, Sarah immersed herself in “Friluftsliv”, a Norwegian term meaning “open, air, life”. She also had her very first experience solo-camping, an activity that she describes as very memorable. “It really summed up a lot of what I had learned throughout my exchange. Being by myself and having to be independent and aware of my surroundings”.

    Amidst all the action in Norway, Sarah made time to complete a final research essay on adapted physical activity. Nature and physical activity are often seen as tasks that favor “survival of the fittest” and requires an individual be “strong and physical”. Sarah admired Norway’s efforts to make nature more accessible described in her essay how Norwegian infrastructure has evolved. “You can go out on a Sunday walk with your grandparents, or use a wheelchair paved pathway, and it doesn’t take away from your experience of nature”.

    Sarah in Norway, where she spent a term abroad at the Norwegian School of Sport Science.

    Sarah’s time with the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation has been packed with meaningful experiences. She looks back on four and a half years as a defining period of time in her life. “My experiences and degree have taught me to make the best out of every situation, and have prepared me for whatever comes my way.” 

    Recently completing her practicum in Dr. Collins’ lab, Sarah found being surrounded by Masters and PhD students a humbling experience and encourages any current or potential students to take full advantage of these unique undergraduate research experiences found at the University of Alberta. “Research is an area that allows you to be curious and ask questions—that is what we should be doing all of the time; absorb all you can and ask lots of questions”.

    Sarah continues her UAlberta journey this fall as a Masters student in the Physical Therapy program at the University of Alberta Augustana Campus. “I am just going for it,” says Sarah, “and I am excited to see where it takes me!”