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Rebecca Williams

All my education was completed at The University of Queensland, Australia. I moved to Calgary in 2014 to complete my post-doctoral training at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, where I currently work as a Senior Research Associate. I started my position as a Teaching Faculty at City University in September 2020, where I teach Research Methods and Statistics. 

Research

The focus of my research is understanding how cognitive functioning is supported by brain physiology, connectivity and cerebral hemodynamics. I employ advanced functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and analytical techniques to probe neural function, brain connectivity and cerebral metabolism. The aims of my research are to improve our understanding of healthy brain functioning throughout life, and to improve neurological and neurosurgical treatment with brain imaging. 

Publications
  1. Hocking, J., Thomas, H., Dzafic, I., Williams, R.J., Reutens, D.C. & Spooner, D.M. (2013). Disentangling the cognitive components supporting Austin Maze performance in left versus right temporal lobe epilepsy. Journal of Epilepsy and Behavior, 29(3):485-91. doi:10.1016/j.yehbeh.2013.08.020.
  2. Williams, R.J., Hocking, J., McMahon, K., & Reutens, D.C. (2014). Comparisons of block and event-related experimental designs in diffusion-weighted fMRI. Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, 40(2):367-75. doi:10.1002/jmri.24353.
  3. Williams, R.J., Reutens, D.C., & Hocking, J. (2015). Functional localization of the human colour centre by decreased water displacement using diffusion-weighted fMRI. Brain and Behavior, 5(11): e00408. doi:10.1002/brb3.408.
  4. Beers C.A., Williams, R.J., Gaxiola-Valdez, I., Pittman, D.J., Kang, A.T., Pike, G.B., Aghakhani, Y., Goodyear, B.G. & Federico, P. (2015). Patient Specific Hemodynamic Response Functions Associated with Interictal Discharges Recorded via Simultaneous Intracranial EEG-fMRI. Human Brain Mapping, 36(12):5252-64. doi:10.1002/hbm.23008.
  5. Williams, R.J., Reutens, D.C. & Hocking, J. (2016). Influence of BOLD contributions to diffusion fMRI activation of the visual cortex. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 10:279. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2016.00279.
  6. Williams, R.J., Goodyear, B.G., Peca, S., McCreary, C.R., Frayne, R., Smith, E.E. & Pike, G.B. (2017). Identification of neurovascular changes associated with cerebral amyloid angiopathy from subject-specific hemodynamic response functions. Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, 37(10):3433-3445. doi:10.1177/0271678X17691056
  7. MacDonald, M.E., Berman, A.J.L., Mazerolle, E.L., Williams, R.J. & Pike, G.B. (2018). Modeling hyperoxia-induced BOLD signal dynamics to estimate cerebral blood flow, volume and mean transit time. NeuroImage, 178: 461-474. 
  8. MacDonald, M.E., Williams, R.J., Berman, A.J.L., McCreary, C.R Frayne, R. & Pike, G.B. Inter-Database Variability in Cortical Thickness Measurements (2018). Cerebral Cortex. doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/cercor/bhy197
  9. MacDonald, M.E., Williams, R.J., Rajashekar, D., Stafford, R.B., Hanganu, A., Sun, H., Berman, A.J.L., McCreary, C.M., Frayne, R., Forkert, N.D., & Pike, G.B. Effect of aging on cerebral blood flow and cortical thickness: with application to predictive modelling (2020). Neurobiology of Aging, 95: 131-142. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2020.06.019
  10. Williams, R.J. & Pike, G.B. Cerebrovascular reactivity and cognition: Implications and future directions for functional MRI. Frontiers in Physiology (in press). 
  11. Williams, R.J., Brown, E.C., Clark, D.L., Pike, G.B. & Ramasubbu, R. Early antidepressant treatment functional MRI changes associated with clinical response in Major Depressive Disorder. Brain and Behavior (Under review).

Conference proceedings

  1. Williams, R.J., Specht, J.L., Luh, W., Mazerolle, E.L. & Pike, G.B. Regional effects of caffeine on BOLD fMRI calibration constant M. International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM) Annual Meeting, Sydney. April 18-23, 2020.
  2. Williams, R.J., Brown, E.C., Clark, D.L., Pike, G.B. & Ramasubbu, R. Early neural responses as treatment markers in depression with combined structural and functional fMRI. 25th Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) Annual Meeting, Rome. June 9-13, 2019.
  3. MacDonald, M.E., Rajashekar, D., Williams, R.J., Sun, H., McCreary, C.R., Frayne, R., Forkert, N.D., & Pike, G.B. Comparing machine learning methods for age prediction using cortical thickness and cerebral blood flow features. 25th Organization for Human Brain Mapping (OHBM) Annual Meeting, Rome. June 9-13, 2019.
  4. Specht, J.L., Williams, R.J., Mazerolle, E.L. & Pike, G.B. Hypercapnic normalization to correct for caffeine-induced changes in task-based BOLD fMRI responses. 27th International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM) Annual Meeting, Montreal. May 11-16, 2019.
  5. Williams, R.J., Specht, J.L., MacDonald, M.E., Lebel, R.M., Mazerolle, E.L., & Pike, G.B. Accounting for vascular reactivity to clarify the role of the subcortical regions in attention. 24th OHBM Annual Meeting, Singapore. June 17-21, 2018.
  6. MacDonald, M.E., Forkert, N.D., Hanganu, A., Ma, Y., Williams, R.J., Sun, H., Stafford, R.J., McCreary, C.R., Frayne, R., & Pike, G.B. Cerebrovascular Brain Aging Examined with Arterial Spin Labelling and Applied to Age Prediction. 26th ISMRM Annual Meeting, Paris. June 16-21, 2018.
  7. Williams, R.J., Mazerolle, E.L., MacDonald, M.E., Berman, A.J.L., Luh, W.M. & Pike, G.B. Flow and metabolic coupling associated with positive and negative BOLD responses across retinotopic early visual cortices. Proffered Paper, Imaging Cerebral Physiology Symposium, Cardiff. June 8-9, 2017. 
  8. MacDonald, M.E., Williams, R.J., Forkert, N.D., Berman, A.J.L., McCreary, C.R., Frayne, R., & Pike, G.B. Consistency of inter-database cortical thinning with age. 25th ISMRM Annual Meeting, Hawaii. April 22-27, 2017. 
  9. Williams, R.J., Mazerolle, E.L., MacDonald, M.E., Luh, W.M. & Pike, G.B. Positive and negative BOLD and cerebral blood flow (CBF) responses across the early visual regions. 22nd OHBM Annual Meeting, Geneva. June 26-30, 2016. 
  10. Mazerolle, E.L., McLean, M., Williams, R.J., Berman, A.J.L., Luh, W. & Pike, G.B. Revisiting the effect of visual attention on the flow-metabolism ratio. 22nd OHBM Annual Meeting, Geneva. June 26-30, 2016. 
  11. MacDonald, M.E., Berman, A.J.L., Williams, R.J., Mazerolle, E.L., & Pike, G.B. Modeling Resting Cerebral Perfusion from BOLD Signal Dynamics During Hyperoxia. 24th ISMRM Meeting, Singapore. May 7-13, 2016.
  12. Williams, R.J., Goodyear, B., Peca, S., McCreary, C.R., Frayne, R., Smith, E.E. & Pike, G.B. Identification of neurovascular changes in cerebral amyloid angiopathy by modelling subject-specific hemodynamic response functions. 23rd ISMRM Meeting, Toronto, Canada. May 30-June 5, 2015. 
  13. MacDonald, M.E., Berman, A., Williams, R.J., Mazerolle, E. & Pike, G.B. Blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM) with different head orientations. 23rd ISMRM Meeting, Toronto, Canada. May 30-June 5, 2015.
  14. Williams, R.J., Reutens, D.C & Hocking, J. Functional localisation of the human colour centre using diffusion-weighted functional MRI. Presented as an Oral Session (Proffered Paper) at the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM) Workshop on Advanced Functional MRI, Charleston, USA. June 22-25, 2014. 
  15. Williams, R.J., Hocking, J., & Reutens, D.C. Spatial linearity of diffusion-weighted fMRI in human retinotopic V1. 19th OHBM Annual Meeting, Seattle, USA. June 16-20, 2013. 
  16. Williams, R.J., Hocking, J., McMahon, K., & Reutens, D.C. Analysis of the diffusion-weighted fMRI time-series: Comparisons of block and event-related designs. Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, New Orleans, USA. October 13-17, 2012. 
  17. Williams, R.J., Sullivan, A.A., Lander, C. & Reutens, D.C. Comparison of the 1989 and 2010 ILAE classification of epilepsies in patients referred to a public hospital clinic. 25th Epilepsy Society Australia Annual Meeting, Brisbane, Australia. November 2-4, 2011. 
  18. Williams, R.J., Sullivan, A.A., Lander, C. & Reutens, D.C. Comparison of the 1989 and 2010 ILAE classification of epilepsies in patients referred to a public hospital clinic. 20th Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Annual Symposium, Brisbane, Australia. October 17-21, 2011. 
  19. Thomas, H., Spooner, D., Williams, R. & Hocking, J. The Austin maze: A marker of right temporal lobe function in epilepsy patients? 20th Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Annual Symposium, Brisbane, Australia. October 17-21, 2011. 
Teaching

Teaching is an important component of my academic life. I believe that good teaching is underpinned by three pillars: first, that the use of different approaches to convey important concepts is essential; second, that critical thinking must always be encouraged, and third, I dedicate myself to improving my teaching and class content through student feedback.

Pillar 1: Different approaches to teaching

A philosophy such as mine requires an interactive teaching style that utilizes different modalities and tools. When I develop a syllabus or a lesson plan, for example, I always begin by asking myself what my students should know at the end of the class, and then move on to designing the actual class content. I use different modalities such as visual aids in the form of videos and diagrams. To reinforce learning objectives and engage students, I utilise internet-based interactive questions and polls (such as ‘mentimeter.com’) throughout my lectures. I find that asking questions through these interactive polls allows for whole class participation rather than singling out individuals, and also is visually appealing.

Pillar 2: Critical thinking

Critical thinking is essential for all fields of study and careers, and I always support and promote this in my classes. For instance, when discussing research papers- even my own- I encourage healthy criticism and promote discussion on how research can be improved. I ensure my lesson plan for each lecture and workshop allows adequate time for student contemplation and problem solving. At the end of each class, I provide follow-up readings from different sources and ask students to think about out-of-field resources that may promote their learning. 

Pillar 3: Dedication to improvement

Ongoing assessment is critical to improve both learning and teaching. Asking the students questions in class has helped me to assess their progress in learning and allowed me to immediately adapt my instructions and give additional information needed for the respective tasks. It is equally important that I learn how I am doing as a teacher. Student evaluations allow me the opportunity to assess and possibly adjust my level of instruction and guide time management. It helps to inform whether my teaching philosophy based on taking multiple different approaches to teaching a concept (Pillar 1) and the encouragement of critical thinking (Pillar 2) is working. 

Courses

CPC514 Research Methods and Statistics

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