by Meredith Dault
February 7, 2011
“My mom always impressed on me as a kid that the more you have to do, the more you’ll get done,” says Tom Flynn. It’s a message he has taken to heart. Currently pursuing a Master’s degree in rehabilitation through the HMRC-CREATE program, (see http://www.queensu.ca/sgs/news/archives/2010news/hmrc.html )Flynn also plays rugby with the varsity team. “Sometimes at the end of the season you get pretty tired,” he laughs, when asked on how he manages to stay on top of everything, “but you always find time to get your work done.”
Flynn, 24, first came to Queen’s as an undergraduate, earning a degree in Mathematics and Engineering in 2008. Though he had played rugby for the local men’s team during high school in Windsor, he didn’t join the varsity team. “I had surgery right before I started at Queen’s, and it took me almost two years to get steady again,” he says. Though his heavy course load kept him from picking it up midway through is degree, he knew he’d have another chance to play at the varsity level.
Though he took a couple of years off at the end of his degree to work in Vancouver, Flynn says he had always planned on pursuing a graduate degree. “I just didn’t know how long it would take,” he says with a smile. Flynn knew he wanted to do prosthetics and orthotics research, and managed to connect with a professor [Dr. Lucie Pelland] doing work along the lines of what he was interested in. “It was a good set-up,” he says, “I would be closer to family, I liked my undergrad here, and I still had a lot of friends in the area.”
For Flynn, prosthetics and orthotics research was the perfect place to combine his interests and experience. “I had always been into sports, and I like engineering -- I had even thought about being a doctor. So I threw it all into a pot, and this is what shot out the other end!” His current work is focused on making a mathematical model of the lower half of the human body, exploring all muscle and joint contact forces, with a long-term goal of helping children with Cerebral Palsy. “We’re looking at the real-time effects of wearing an ankle or foot brace, particularly as it relates to knee loading,” Flynn explains.
Working through the interdisciplinary HMRC-CREATE program gives Flynn all kinds of opportunities to broaden his knowledge and experience. “The big emphasis is placed on learning how other medical fields work,” he says, “because what they’re trying to do is bring people together from different disciplines to sort out problems that we may not even know exist yet!” He is expected to present his research at different stages, explaining it to both clinical students and to surgeons.
Flynn says that playing rugby gives him a chance to recharge his batteries and to be part of a strong Queen’s community. “Queen’s rugby has such a long history, and a lot of traditions, and songs that have been passed down and are still sung. There’s been a lot of good rugby played here, and it’s really nice to be part of that tradition. And one great thing about rugby is that they don’t care how old you are. You can keep playing as long as you want, because there is no age eligibility.”
That’s a good thing for Flynn, who is slated to continue with his research in a PhD program at Queen’s after he earns his MSc in late 2011 or early 2012. Down the road, he hopes to work in a clinical research setting, or in a hospital administrative role, but for now, he’s enjoying what he is doing. “I have a lot of control over my own work,” he says enthusiastically. “If I screw up it’s my own fault, but if I do well, it’s all my own work. I’m an independent thinker, and I like being able to do what I like to do, and to just get it done.” Flynn plans on staying active on the rugby pitch for the rest of his time at Queen’s, too. “I might as well!” he laughs. “I’ll see when the joints start breaking down, but that’s definitely the plan.”