Staff Spotlight: Eleanor Wood

For Eleanor Wood, every day is arm day. As a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) technician in the lab of Noreen Bukhari-Parlakturk, MD, PhD, she helps keep 10 pound TMS coils within half a millimeter of their target range. Wood also works in Duke University’s Opti Lab and Brain Stimulation Research Center where she helps conduct other TMS research and engineer new TMS technologies. For this week’s spotlight interview, the recent Duke graduate talks to us about what she enjoys about each of these jobs. She also discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic gave her a new perspective on life and her plans for a career in medicine.

What are your current responsibilities within the Bukhari lab?
Currently I am working with Dr. Bukhari-Parlakturk as a Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) technician through the Brain Stimulation Research Center. I work with Dr. Bukhari and other researchers in neurology, psychiatry, and psychology looking to study potential applications of TMS therapies. Specifically, Dr. Bukhari-Parlakturk is investigating applications of TMS in patients with dystonia.

You are also a member of the Opti Lab and the Brain Stimulation Engineering Lab in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. What work do you do there, and how does it compare to your work in the Neurology Department?
I split my time between working as a TMS technician through the Brain Stimulation Research Center, as a clinical research coordinator for the Opti Lab, and as an engineer in the Brain Stimulation Engineering Lab to assist in the manufacturing of new TMS technologies. I have the exciting opportunity to see TMS technologies from the research and development stage all the way to human subject studies and applications.  

What do you enjoy most about your work?
The most exciting part of my work is the opportunity to be a part of a diverse set of studies here at Duke. In the Opti Lab, we study anything from visual-motor expertise in athletes to noninvasive neuromodulation for working memory enhancement or surgical skill learning. In the Brain Stimulation Engineering Lab, I learn about groundbreaking engineering techniques in building advanced brain stimulation technologies and in modeling neuron activity and responses to stimulation.

What’s the hardest part of your job?
It’s probably having the stamina to hold the TMS coil while administering TMS. The coils can weigh up to 10 lbs and must be kept within 0.5 mm of a specific target so every day is arm day as a TMS technician!

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your work and life outside of Duke? What’s one positive strategy or resource you’ve found that helps you cope?
As it has for everyone, the COVID-19 pandemic shuffled many of my plans including celebrating my commencement as a Duke 2020 grad. This experience has taught me to actively practice gratitude for the opportunities that the pandemic has created. While I make time to mourn what we’ve all collectively lost, I also practice gratitude for the opportunity I had to spend more time with my family, shift my focus to be more selfless in support of my community, connect with far-away loved ones (now that we all have Zoom accounts), and pursue new, socially-distant hobbies.

Where do you see yourself in five years? If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
In five years I hope to be pursuing a career in medicine. That being said, if you would have asked me a year ago what my dream job right out of college would be, this is it. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be at Duke, surrounded by world class researchers, exploring my passions in studying the brain and engineering new technologies.

What other passions or hobbies do you have outside of the Department?
Outside of work, I am an avid foodie and sports fan. I love exploring the Triangle’s food scene and trying to master new cuisines at home. Pre-pandemic, my weekends were filled with NC Courage matches, Durham Bulls games, and Duke (men’s and women’s) basketball games in the student section.

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Wood attends a Duke-UNC game right before Zion Williamson’s infamous shoe blowout.