First Ph.D. Student to Graduate Under Bioengineering Supervision!

We are proud to congratulate Dr. Kyriaki Kostoglou, first Ph.D. student to graduate under Department of Bioengineering’s supervision! Kostoglou joined Prof. Georgios Mitsis’ research group in Fall 2014 and recently defended her thesis, “Identification of nonlinear, time-varying systems with multiple inputs and binary response systems for biomedical applications.” We met up with her to learn what it was like to be a Ph.D. student at McGill University.

On her decision to study at McGill

When Kostoglou completed her Bachelor’s degree in Greece, she pursued grad studies in Cyprus. At the time, Prof. Georgios Mitsis was also in Cyprus working on mathematical models of biological systems – a topic that interested Kostoglou – so she joined his group as a Master’s student. When Mitsis was hired to work in the Department of Bioengineering at McGill in 2013, she saw it as a great opportunity to join his group, both because the field of Biomedicine was more developed in Canada, and because of the working relationship she had already established with him. “Prof. Mitsis is a very good professor. He’s knowledgeable, helpful, and I like the way he has a big interest in what [his students are] doing. It’s difficult to find people you can work and collaborate with in such an efficient and effective manner.”  Kostoglou thus applied to McGill’s Electrical Engineering Ph.D. program under Mitsis’ supervision, as Bioengineering’s joint graduate program hadn’t been developed yet.

On being a Ph.D. Student

For Kostoglou, a Ph.D. is more than just a “paper on the wall…it’s a way of life” – one that requires dedication and passion for the subject, because research doesn’t end when you leave the lab: “You might be thinking all day about how you can solve a problem.” The experience for her was one that balanced independent research along with good guidance from her supervisor. She also saw it as the perfect chance to master a specific topic.

On her research

A key aspect of Kostoglou’s research is using mathematical models to represent and understand various physiological mechanisms under healthy and pathological states. These models have various health applications, one being enhancing the effectiveness of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) on individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD). DBS involves the surgical implantation of electrodes into the brain and the stimulation of targeted areas in order to alleviate PD symptoms. By analyzing the recorded brain activity, Kostoglou uncovers patterns in the data in an attempt to better predict effective target zones and, therefore, increase the success of DBS. 

Prediction of Clinical Improvement in Parkinson's Disease (PD) Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) from Intraoperative Microelectrode Reocrdings (MERS)

Best part of her time as a Ph.D.

Kostoglou’s favourite aspect of her studies was building strong relationships with her lab mates, both on an academic and a personal level. Spending so much time together in the lab permitted the group to continually exchange ideas, discuss experiments, and help each other find solutions to problems. It also brought them closer as friends, and allowed for some fun in the midst of research. “Lab mates become part of your life,” she reflects. Going to conferences and meeting other researchers in her field was another highlight for Kostoglou.

Advice to students wanting to do a Ph.D.

Because a doctorate degree is such a big commitment, sometimes taking over 5 years to complete, Kostoglou stresses that students should really want the challenge and love their research topic. Her final words of advice? “When you’re stuck, you should just try your best and be optimistic. At the end of the day, nothing is impossible.”

Kostoglou has currently returned to Europe and is looking into postdoctoral fellow opportunities.