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 Current Lab Members

Dr. Trish Tucker

Faculty, Lab Director

Dr. Trish Tucker is an Associate Professor in the School of Occupational Therapy and the Director of the Child Health & Physical Activity Lab at Western University. Dr. Tucker’s expertise are in the broad areas of health promotion, physical activity, and childhood obesity prevention. Her primary area of research is the measurement and promotion of physical activity with a particular focus on preschool-aged children.


Trish’s current research includes:

(1) identifying and modifying environmental influences on young children’s physical activity and sedentary time at childcare;

(2) exploring the effects of introducing physical activity policies in childcare centres; and

(3) developing and testing an online physical activity training module for implementation during early childhood educators’ pre-service schooling.


Dr. Tucker’s research potential has been recognized by an Ontario Early Researcher Award (reserved for emerging scholarly leaders within their respective fields) and the Petro Canada Young Innovator Award at Western University, and in 2020 she was designated Faculty Scholar in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Western. Trish has two young kids who keep her very active.


Dr. Trish Tucker

Monika Szpunar

3rd year PhD Student

Monika recently completed her Master's thesis in Health Promotion, which explored the feasibility of a written physical activity policy for increasing young children's physical activity levels in childcare. Prior to starting her graduate work, she completed her Bachelor of Health Sciences at Western University. Her PhD work involves exploring parents' perspectives on their child(ren)'s return to play and sport following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. In her free time, Monika enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, exploring the outdoors, and spending time with her dog.

Funding: Mitacs, YMCA of Southwestern Ontario, New Digital Research Infrastructure Organization


Dr. Brianne Bruijns

Adjunct Professor (Research)

Brianne Bruijns serves as the Grants Officer for the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and is an Adjunct Professor in the Child Health and Physical Activity Lab. She completed her MSc ('18) and PhD ('21) degrees in the field of Health Promotion at Western University, and completed her undergraduate degree in Physical Education at Brock University ('16). During her SSHRC-funded doctoral studies, her research focused on developing and pilot testing an e-Learning course in physical activity and sedentary behaviour for pre-service early childhood educators to supplement their college/university education (The TEACH Study). She is also a collaborator on the Return to Play study. Brianne continues to inform research projects in the lab, and will be an active contributor to the full-scale launch of the TEACH study across Canada. She loves to travel, and always finds a hiking trail wherever she goes!


Emma Ostermeier

3rd year PhD Student

Emma is a PhD Candidate in Health Promotion at Western University. Recently, she completed her Master’s in Geography at Western exploring children’s perceptions of, and access to, a free physical activity intervention for elementary school children. She also received an undergraduate degree in Human Biology from the University of Toronto in 2017. Emma’s research interests include promoting physical activity and supporting health lifestyles amongst children. Her thesis focuses on examining the impact of free recreation programming on children’s physical activity levels, as well as identifying the factors that complicate and/or facilitate the implementation of physical activity interventions for children. In her spare time, Emma enjoys playing soccer, cooking, and spending time with friends and family.

Kendall Saravanamuttoo

2nd Year MSc Student

Kendall recently graduated from Western University with an Honours Specialization in Health Sciences. She is a second year Master of Science student specializing in Health Promotion. Kendall’s research interests include the promotion of physical activity and finding ways to motivate children beyond sedentary activities. In her thesis, she plans to explore parent perspectives on their child(ren)’s return to play and sport beyond the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. In her spare time, Kendall loves making her favourite pizza and sourdough recipes, biking, hiking and spending time outside with her Aussie shepherd puppy.


Dr. Leigh Vanderloo

Post-Doctoral Associate and Adjunct Professor

Having received her PhD in Health Promotion from the University of Western Ontario in 2016, Dr. Vanderloo’s area of research focuses on the objective measurement of young children’s physical activity levels and sedentary time. Her research interests also extend to the impact of the outdoor environment on young children’s activity behaviours. Dr. Vanderloo has published some of the first national and international papers examining the variability in young children’s activity levels across various early learning environments as well as exploring approaches for improving objective measurement in this population. She recently completed a CIHR Research Fellowship with SickKids Hospital where she examined the association between physical activity and sedentary behaviours and cardiometabolic risk in children. Currently, Dr. Vanderloo is working as the Knowledge Translation Manager at ParticipACTION and is also a Post-Doctoral Associate in the Child Health and Physical Activity Lab. In 2021, Dr. Vanderloo was awarded the Children’s Health Research Institute (CHRI) Trainee Award.

Funding: Children's Health Research Institute


Leah Taylor

MScOT/PhD Student

Leah is completing a combined MScOT/PhD degree (Health Promotion stream) through the School of Occupational Therapy. Leah's background includes a BHSc (honours Health Promotion) at Western University graduating in 2016, and a MSc in Geography from Western University. Leah's masters research focused on children's physical activity behaviours related to their environments. Leah’s current PhD research focuses on practical applications of the Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines as a tool in early intervention occupational therapy when working with young children (age 0-5 years) with developmental disabilities. Leah enjoys spending all her free time outdoors - hiking, camping, gardening, and running.

Funding: Sir Fredrick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship Doctoral Award (Canadian Institute of Health Research), Ontario Graduate Scholarship

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Matthew Bourke

Post-Doctoral Associate

Matthew works as a Postdoctoral Fellow Physical Activity Promotion in Childcare Settings and is responsible for the management of the Training Early-Childhood Educators in Physical Activity (TEACH) study. He received his PhD in Human Movement in 2021 from Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia. Matthew’s post-graduate research focused on the relationship between physical activity, mental health, and wellbeing in young people. In his PhD thesis, Matthew used Ecological Momentary Assessment to explore how the social context, the physical environment, and domain of physical activity, moderated the association between physical activity and subjective wellbeing in adolescents. In his spare time, Matthew enjoys hanging out with friends and family, cooking his favorite vegetarian meals, and watching his favorite Aussie rules team play.

Aidan Loh

Research Assistant

Aidan Loh is a third-year undergraduate student at Western University working towards an Honours Specialization in Clinical Kinesiology. Aidan assisted with activities related to the Act-i-Pass program as well as work with Dr. Vanderloo to advance the knowledge translation (KT) practices. He is now managing creative KT initiatives (e.g., creating infographics, social media posts, and a research summary video) for the TEACH study, and he was recently recognized as a Top 25 Finalist in the SSHRC Storytellers competition for this work. Growing up actively involved in a variety of sports, Aidan has seen how his physical involvements at an early age contributed to a physically and mentally healthy lifestyle. Through his work with the Child Health and Physical Activity Lab he is looking forward to contributing to the promotion of children’s physical activity in and around the community. In his spare time, Aidan enjoys running, spending time with his friends, and exploring the outdoors. 


Ameena Haddara

Undergraduate Student Research Internship

Ameena is entering her fourth year of Kinesiology at Western University and is working towards completing an Honors Specialization in Clinical Kinesiology. She is interested in pursuing future studies in Occupational Therapy. Ameena's interests include working with young children with disabilities in school settings. She currently carries the role of an Academic Tutor with the Learning Disabilities Association, which has opened her eyes up to a new population she would like to work with in the future. She has always been passionate about being involved in her community, specifically leading youth sport initiatives. In her free time, she enjoys listening to podcasts, going to the gym, and spending time with friends and family. Ameena looks forward to being involved in the Child Health and Physical Activity Lab this summer, and especially learning more about the relationships between young children in school settings and physical activity.

Mara Primucci

Undergraduate Volunteer

Mara is a fourth-year undergraduate student pursuing an Honours Specialization in Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences at Western University. She has previous work and volunteer experience in many child healthcare settings. Her interests involve working with youth and young adults with disabilities and improving the inclusiveness of environments for young children. She has also worked in therapeutic recreation programs for children, along with child disability research. She looks forward to contributing to research in the Child Health & Physical Activity Lab, and learning more about the impacts of physical activity on children’s health and the community. Mara enjoys reading and spending time with her family and friends in her spare time. 


Kshitija Mundle

Work Study Student

Kshitija Mundle is a fourth-year undergraduate student working towards an Honours Specialization in Health Sciences at Western University. During her Undergraduate Student Research Internship in Summer 2021, Kshitija worked under Monika Szpunar to explore parent perspectives on their child(ren)'s return to play and sport following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. She is continuing with the lab for the 2021-2022 academic year as a Work Study student to assist with administrative and research-related tasks. As a former camp counsellor and the proud daughter of an Early Childhood Assistant, Kshitija is passionate about working with and for children. She looks forward to learning more about the research process and how information learned in the lab can be applied to improve the lives of all of those involved in childcare. In her free time, Kshitija enjoys writing poetry, spending time with her family and friends, and watching Bollywood movies.

Funding: Undergraduate Student Research Internship, Work Study Program

Leann Blake

Undergraduate Student Research Internship

Leann Blake is an incoming fourth-year student at Western pursuing an Honours Specialization in Health Sciences. As an Undergraduate Student Research Internship (USRI) recipient, Leann will be working with Dr. Leigh Vanderloo on a systematic review of screen-viewing among preschoolers in childcare. Her passion for the health of children and youth stems from her experience as a dance camp counsellor and as a tutor for young children during the pandemic as they shifted to online learning. Leann remembers how influential playing sports such as hockey was for her growing up. She believes that being encouraged and supported in physical activities as a child can help one build the self-efficacy and confidence necessary to remain active in adulthood and promote healthy lifestyles that improve their wellbeing. Leann is looking forward to working in the Child Health and Physical Activity Laboratory to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to contribute to research improving the health of the next generation. In her free time, Leann enjoys finding new trails to hike and baking for her friends and family

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Rosa Nguyen


Rosa Nguyen is a second-year undergraduate student pursuing an Honours Specialization in Rehabilitation Sciences. She is passionate about the impact of physical fitness and its influences on the health and well-being of children. Rosa understands that an individual’s early life and health behaviours will direct their health outcomes in the future. As a result, she wishes to reduce the burdens of the Canadian healthcare system by advocating for health promotion and disease prevention, among young children. Rosa hopes to apply her acquired experiences in health research to contribute to the advancements in the field and optimize the health and well-being of the community.

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