Continuing our Researcher Profile series for 2022, Dr Camila Shirota and Kelsey Chapman spoke with the Library about their research and their advice for early career researchers.   

Camila and Kelsey are both researchers with The Hopkins Centre, a nationally recognised hub for rehabilitation and resilience research. The Centre is renowned for using research methods that bring service users, clinicians and researchers together to develop practical solutions that promote measurable improvements for recovery and resilience. 

Kelsey is the Dignity Project Research Lead, while Camila is Research Lead and Advance Queensland Fellow with HabITec. 

What is the focus of your work? 

Camila: My research has been on using technology for a range of disability and rehabilitation applications.  

My most recent work, with HabITec, has been around the poor uptake of technology in disability and rehabilitation. This is despite its increasing availability and potential. My team seeks to improve access to well-designed technologies that can improve the lives of people with disability. Our work involves bringing together diverse teams of stakeholders to co-create practical and meaningful solutions to issues people with disability are facing. 

Kelsey: I am Research Lead for The Dignity Project. This is a research and advocacy initiative committed to embedding dignity in the way we work, build things and treat people. We seek to disrupt ‘business as usual’ for people with disability.  We partner with citizens with lived experience of disability to drive and lead our research initiatives. This ensures we are solving the problems that are most important to the community. We do this through co-design and extreme citizen science methods. 

We are currently researching dignified rehabilitation experiences for in- and out-patients at Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service. We are also working with the Department of Transport and Main Roads to understand how accessible public transport intersects with dignity for people with disability. 

What sparked your passion for this area of research? 

Camila: When I was young, I had two close figures who had limb amputations. One did not use their prosthetic device at all, while the other preferred to use a purely cosmetic prosthesis (It looked like an arm but did not provide any other function; it could not move or actively do anything). I always wondered if we could provide better prostheses, and why they did not have—or want—more functional devices. It turns out that is a very complex and multifaceted problem, not only the technical challenge that it may seem to be at the surface, and a journey that I am still on today! 

Kelsey: My passion for dignified interactions with services and systems was sparked during a close family member’s terminal illness. I understood first-hand the power that dignified treatment can have and the devastation and derailment that indignity can cause.

‘… being part of a bigger team that is working toward a common goal can be very energising and rewarding. You cannot know everything yourself… so finding partners you can collaborate with and gain different perspectives from is really important’

You’ve co-authored many research papers. What advice do you have for students about working as part of a research team? 

Camila: It’s great fun! Of course, it’s challenging and difficult at times, but being part of a bigger team that is working toward a common goal can be very energising and rewarding. You cannot know everything yourself, and there would not be enough time anyway, so finding partners that you can collaborate with and gain different perspectives from is really important.   

Kelsey: I haven’t co-authored many papers just yet, it is something I’m working on. My advice would be that you probably know enough. Stop reading and start writing, even if it is just headings, table of contents, an abstract—get your thoughts clear on paper and build your confidence from there. 

Do you feel you have moved into a mentor role? 

Camila: I have mentored and continue to mentor many students and junior researchers. I really enjoy working with them; they tend to be very energetic, enthusiastic and ready to take on the world! I try to help them focus that energy and support them in developing their careers. 

Kelsey: I just started to mentor my first students. I am enjoying that role, but I also learn as much from them as they are learning from me. My goal is to always be a learner and pass on any useful or helpful advice that I can to support others. 

Who has inspired you?  

Camila: I take inspiration from the people that came before us, who trained us and laid the groundwork for us to continue building on, and especially from the lived experts we get to interact with along the way. They always remind me of why we do what we do. 

Kelsey: My co-researchers Angel Dixon, Kevin Cocks and Dinesh Palipana inspire me with their tireless commitment to advocacy and disruption. I am also inspired by my mentor, Elizabeth Kendall, who is as compassionate as she is prolific.