Occupational Health and Performance Researcher, Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services

Michael Cao

An exciting future, right out of the gate

Having just graduated with his MSc Kinesiology, Michael is ecstatic to have landed his role as an Occupational Health and Performance Researcher with the Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services just months after graduating. In this role, he analyzes jobs within the Canadian Armed Forces (CF) and works with his team to create unique physical tests that measure the fitness and specific skill levels of applicants to the CF. Although his job focuses more on testing the physical aspects of their employment standards, Michael’s specialization in neuroscience during his Master’s allows him to offer a perspective beyond physiology and biomechanics in performance research. For example, some of the tests may require an understanding of the cognitive demands of a task. With the wide range of occupations within the CF, it’s the variety of projects that he works on and the practical application of his role’s research that Michael really enjoys.

Changing direction to a better suited path

When Michael started his undergraduate degree in Kinesiology he – like many others – had his sights set on medical school. At the University of Waterloo’s Department of Kinesiology, he quickly discovered there were many occupations with an impact on health that he was more passionate about. Reaching out to some of his professors, Michael struck up a conversation with Professor Ewa Niechwiej-Szwedo that would influence the course of his education, and his future. He wanted to learn more about neuroscience – and even though he was daunted at the complexity of the brain – he took it on and was hooked.

In addition to the knowledge he learned in his field, Michael also attributes some of the other skills he learned during his graduate studies to his career:

“A Master’s also teaches you a way to think and organize your thoughts to come up with a program or strategy to test it. I think that’s important not only in the scientific field – it’s important in business, it’s important as a manager, it’s important as a policy maker.”

Michael Cao, MSc Kinesiology Alumnus

Michael draws on all of his experiences from his undergrad and Master's at the University of Waterloo. With a handful of ergonomics experience under his belt, critical thinking skills, neuroscience and experimental design skills, Michael was the perfect all-around candidate for his current position at the Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services. He credits his experiences at the University of Waterloo for helping him find the best career path for him and is especially grateful for the guidance and mentorship of his supervisor, Professor Ewa Niechwiej-Szwedo.

Michael Cao working

University of Waterloo