Chasing PhDs and Clarkson Cups


Markham Thunder teammates Fielding Montgomery and Karolina Urban may find themselves in completely different career fields outside the CWHL rink, but they also both certainly have one thing in common; a commitment to life-long learning.

The pair of Thunder forwards continue to expand on the definition of student-athlete as the two have parlayed undergraduate studies and U SPORTS varsity athletics into PhDs and professional women’s hockey.

Montgomery began her post-secondary education at Dalhousie University, completing an Honours Bachelor of Biology, with a minor in Psychology. While at Dalhousie, she played five seasons with the Tigers, was named the Atlantic University Sports and Dalhousie Tigers Rookie of the Year, and both captained the team and won the MVP award in her final season.

Courtesy of Fielding Montgomery

While completing her undergraduate degree, Montgomery also began working as a summer student at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

“I found a love for fieldwork and being in the ‘trenches’ collecting the data for the research I was reading and learning about,” she recalls. “I knew that I wanted an opportunity to do that on my own and contribute towards my own research.”

Montgomery then moved to the University of Toronto where she began her Masters looking at the impacts of agricultural drain maintenance on fish habitat, and upgraded her year of work to go towards her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

When she came to Toronto, Montgomery also began playing for the CWHL’s Brampton Thunder.

Meanwhile, Urban completed her undergraduate degree in Physical Education and Health, with a minor in Psychology, while playing five seasons with the U of T Varsity Blues. She served as captain with the team from 2009-2012 and earned a nomination for the school’s Female Athlete of the Year award in her final season.

For Urban it was a concussion in her third year that changed the course of her career path.

“I dealt with lingering symptoms, and as I followed the return to play protocols, I noticed large gaps between what was known about concussions,” she recalled. “I started to research more about identification, prognosis, and rehabilitation. It was then that I realized my interest in neuroscience and wanting to help unlock the mysteries of the brain.”

After playing for the Toronto Furies in the 2012-13 season, Urban moved West, playing for the Calgary Inferno the next season while completing her Masters of Science in Neurosciences at the University of Calgary.

Montgomery and Urban visit with STEM Kids Rock (@stemkidsrock on Twitter)

Now both living in the GTA, the pair are both working towards completing their PhDs at the University of Toronto along with fostering their passion for hockey.

“I know that the skills I’ve learned as a hockey player – teamwork, dedication, communication, sportsmanship, patience, commitment – have translated directly to my success as a PhD student,” Montgomery remarks.

“The skills transfer both ways” chimed in Urban, “Searching for understanding in my research is similar to being a student of the game, learning from my teammates and coaches.”

Montgomery has been studying the impact of human activity on specific species using fish in the Southwestern Ontario wetlands, and how the species can be managed and conserved. She recently published her first research paper, a task she had been working on for over a year.

Urban is currently with the Concussion Centre at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital under the supervision of Dr. Tom Chau (world leader in brain computer interfaces), and Dr. Nick Reed (leader in pediatric concussion research). Her study focuses on concussions in youth and the impact the brain trauma has on communication and activity patterns in the brain.

Fields apart – the duo shares a passion for learning and hockey. From PhDs to Clarkson Cups.


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