PhD Student

Brendan Pinto.

Experience, passion and program: Building the foundation for a career in research

Brendan Pinto’s pathway to doctoral studies started with a grueling athletic injury, and is exemplary of what can happen when personal experience meets passion and perseverance. Determined to embrace every moment of his degree and absorb every ounce of knowledge that he can, Brendan is motivated by his desire to prevent others from experiencing the same consequences of pain and injury that he did.

Brendan is a biomechanics researcher in the Department of Kinesiology and is investigating the neurological response to biomechanical forces to inform movement interventions prescribed for injury, pain and performance. In other words, he is working to understand how exercise can be used to improve health and performance.

Recently, Brendan was awarded with a prestigious NSERC doctoral scholarship. Being awarded an NSERC not only means three years of funding for his research, but it is also a vote of confidence in the work he is doing, “in the bigger context, it helped answer whether other people value this work and believe that this is important knowledge being built,” Brendan said.

Brendan’s research interests are motivated by personal experience. As a competitive swimmer, he was always curious about the human body, health and well-being. After suffering a major injury, he took it upon himself to learn more about these areas and gained practical experience as a strength and conditioning coach.

Brendan entered graduate school equipped with valuable insights from his personal and professional experiences and a desire to bridge the gap between research and practice. After earning a master’s from Guelph, Brendan put careful thought into where he would pursue his PhD. Ultimately, he chose Kinesiology at Waterloo for the comprehensive doctoral program, the professors that inspired him so deeply during his undergrad and the productive, interdisciplinary and collaborative culture.

Brendan with sensors attached to his body while he punches a punching bag.

During his undergrad, Brendan gained valuable exposure to research by volunteering to participate in studies conducted within the Department of Kinesiology.


Early in his degree, Brendan received some timely advice from his supervisor, Professor Jack Callaghan, Canada Research Chair in Spine Biomechanics and Injury Prevention. At a time when Brendan was feeling daunted by his looming workload, Callaghan reminded him to focus on learning as much he could. This perspective stuck with Brendan as he committed to building a solid foundation of knowledge to guide his research. Brendan embraced the comprehensive exam process and worked hard to gain exposure to the many facets of biomechanics and new ways of approaching a research question. Brendan emerged from his comprehensive exam with a new outlook: “I can’t be married to a specific discipline or technique; it’s more important to focus on answering the questions that can make an immediate impact in terms of application, but also push toward finding new knowledge.”

“I can’t be married to a specific discipline or technique; it’s more important to focus on answering the questions that can make an immediate impact in terms of application, but also push towards finding new knowledge.”

Now embarking on the next stage of his degree, Brendan feels prepared. The coursework, comprehensive exam and professional development aspects of the program have given him an extensive base to build upon. Guided by a philosophy of discovery and continuous learning, he is excited to see where his research question will take him.

University of Waterloo