Research Fellow, New Zealand College of Chiropractic
Doctor of Philosophy candidate
As one of New Zealand’s leading universities in the field of physiotherapy, AUT was the perfect place for her doctoral study, says Nitika Kumari who came to AUT as an international student from India and is graduating with a PhD in August.
“My doctoral research focused on exploring the effect of cerebellar transcranial direct current stimulation (ctDCS), a non-invasive brain stimulation technique, on motor learning. I chose this topic as this is a fairly accessible and low-cost technology, which could be used as an adjunct intervention for maximising stroke rehabilitation.
“My research provides the first comprehensive evidence for the long-lasting effect of cerebellar transcranial direct current stimulation. Exploring its long-lasting effect was important because successful rehabilitation outcomes depend on the persistence of gains beyond the intervention.”
Nitika’s doctoral research was supervised by Dr Nada Signal and Professor Denise Taylor.
Becoming a researcher
She would highly recommend a PhD to other students, says Nitika who is now a research fellow at the New Zealand College of Chiropractic; a role she was offered soon after submitting her PhD thesis.
“Each phase of the PhD equips you with the skills to become an independent and rigorous researcher. I enjoyed being a part of my supervisors’ multi-disciplinary team, which included physiotherapists, engineers, occupational therapists and other professionals. The team provided a supportive environment to challenge my thinking and provide constructive feedback.”
Throughout her studies Nitika had a number of achievements she is particularly proud of.
“I was one of the finalist at the AUT Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, and I also had the opportunity to lead the AUT quantitative methodology peer mentoring group. Another thing I’m especially proud of is completing my PhD without any amendments required. I’m so thankful to my supervisors for providing the best guidance, support and constant motivation throughout my PhD.”
Advice for other students
Make the most of the opportunities available at AUT is Nitika’s advice for other postgraduate students.
“I would advise students to make the most of the support and opportunities provided by AUT in the form of workshops, peer support groups, writing retreats, symposiums and networking events.”
It’s important to look after yourself throughout your studies, she adds.
“I would suggest celebrating small wins throughout the PhD journey and investing some time in developing your physical and emotional fitness, so that you can maintain a good relationship with your thesis and research.
“Towards the end of my studies, I realised that doing a PhD is like solving a jigsaw puzzle where you have to keep putting the pieces together one at a time to be able to look at the overall picture more clearly. In this process, sometimes the pieces won’t fit and you may feel stuck, and that’s the time to be okay with taking a break or reaching out for support.”