Last summer, Victoria Chambers sat alongside small children and coached them as they tested motion-sensing video games. There was Ball Roll. Whack-a-Mole. Row Boat. And Giant’s Teeth, where the kids moved their wrists in a circular motion to brush plaque from a behemoth’s smile.
Games like these weren’t just for fun; Chambers, a UW senior, saw that repetitive movements, such as brushing teeth, help rebuild neural connections and restore strength and mobility. As a Mary Gates Innovation Scholar, she spent three months as an intern with UW startup MultiModal Health researching and developing games that help young victims of neuromuscular trauma get better.
“You can’t just look at a child as a victim of trauma, or a person who can’t move his or her hand. You have to look at a child as a person with a brain, a heart, a hand. A whole person.”
Having grown up in the Yakima Valley, a region long plagued by gangs, Chambers knows firsthand how violence destroys lives and families. She came to the UW to lay the foundation for a career as a child psychologist, and through her experience at MultiModal Health, she developed a more nuanced understanding of trauma of all kinds.
“I learned a lot about the actual, physical brain connections you make while playing these games,” says Chambers, a double major in psychology, and early childhood and family studies. “It also helped me understand on a deeper level how any kind of traumatic experience can affect a child’s development.”
Her internship experience included researching occupational therapy techniques, examining family influence on the rehabilitation process, experimenting with new devices and even creating virtual illustrations.
Through the process of working with colleagues in neurobiology and rehabilitative medicine, she simultaneously sharpened and expanded her focus.
“I’m now interested in how the whole realm of development comes together: socioemotional, cognitive, memory and physical.”
Since her internship ended, Chambers has taken the reins on a research project of her own. Under the mentorship of Dr. Kate McLaughlin, principal investigator of the UW’s Stress and Development Lab, she is currently analyzing how stress influences emotional development in children—and how that, in turn, influences depression and anxiety.
As she prepares for the rigors of graduate studies in the fall, Chambers is grateful for the scholarship-supported experience that helped pave the way to her future.
“The CoMotion Mary Gates Innovation Scholarship gave me the push I needed to launch myself into research,” she says. “It helped me realize that this is what I want to do.”
This story was originally published on the UW's Be Boundless website. View the original story for more information about Chambers, including an audio interview in which she discusses her inspiration, motivation and goals for the future.
Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications