A physiotherapist who values both research and teaching

Breiffni Leavy is a physiotherapist who comes from Ireland but has made her home in Sweden. She is one of four researchers at NVS who received a larger grant from The Kamprad Family Foundation for Entrepreneurship, Research & Charity.

Breiffni Leavy. Photo: Sara Appelgren.

You have recently received a grant from The Kamprad Family Foundation. What does it mean to you?

Receiving the grant from The Kamprad Family Foundation is a really positive push in the right direction for my current research project and for me as a junior researcher when making the transition from post-doc to PI.

What is this research project about?

The project focuses on developing and testing a way to deliver home training for people with Parkinson’s disease, using eHealth technology. We want to help support and motivate this group to be physically active in their everyday lives, possibly when they are in-between rehabilitation periods in the clinic. That way we can prolong the benefits of rehabilitation in the clinic and hopefully improve health by providing them with a means by which to remain active.

Was it obvious that you would become a physiotherapist and that you would do research?

I chose to study physiotherapy when I was 18, I remember also thinking that I would like to be a journalist, so I must have had a pretty open mind at the time. It’s a decision I’ve never regretted though, I found the clinical side of the job extremely rewarding. My decision to move into research, came later, after I had worked clinically and moved to Sweden and had my children. I certainly didn’t plan on working in research from the start, I don’t think that I could even have envisioned what the job involved.

When did you decide to do that?

I got a taste for research, so to speak, by doing a masters project and publishing the study in a scientific journal. I guess that experience opened a door for me. I remember that as a doctoral student in the early days, that I couldn’t believe my luck that I was getting paid to read research articles and dig deeper into a certain research area.

You are also a lecturer and teach physiotheray students at basic and advanced level. Do you divide your time between both jobs?

Exactly, I divide my time between teaching and research. At the moment I spend a greater proportion of my time on research, so it’s not exactly 50/50, it can change from one term to the next.

Do you think one job is more enjoyable than the other?

The nature of both jobs differ to such an extent that it’s hard to compare them, to be honest. I enjoy them both in different ways. Research is a more of a ‘slow-burner’ with longer timeframes and projects that you can plan over several years. You get a lot of time to think and re-think and formulate and re-formulate your analysis. Teaching feels like a faster more on-the-spot process, obviously with more interaction and immediate feedback from students and colleagues. If a student asks me a question, I can’t say that I’m going to review the literature and get back to them in 3 weeks, which is a good thing!

How long have you been at KI?

I came to KI in 2015 for the first time as a post-doc. I had studied at Trinity College in Dublin before that and then at Uppsala University for my PhD.

What's your background? Where are you from?

I come from Ireland, where I grew up and have all of my family. When I get the chance I spend it by the south coast of Ireland, with my feet up, looking out over the cliffs at the Atlantic ocean, it’s beautiful there.