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PROFILE: Academic All-Canadian Keili Shepherd

Keili Shepherd runs cross country.

The Gee-Gees will celebrate the 2018-19 class of Academic All-Canadians on Wednesday, November 20. The annual reception celebrates the student-athletes on varsity, varsity club, and competitive club teams who competed for uOttawa while also achieving an annual GPA of 8.00 or higher, or studying at the graduate level.

In 2018-19, over 220 student-athletes achieved this prestigious recognition. Each one represents a story of commitment, dedication, and passion for athletic and academic success. For Keili Shepherd, a member of the cross country and track and field teams, it is a story of loving what you do and following your path.

Now in her third year at uOttawa, Keili Shepherd has an incredible academic transcript. Her AGPA last year reads 9.91 and she has switched her academic program from Biotechnology to Biomedical Mechanical Engineering. After two years of chemistry-based research, Shepherd realized she wanted more mechanics in her research analysis. 

Describing her research work though, Shepherd lights up. "I got the undergrad research scholarship with the Faculty of Science so I did two years of biochemistry research in a lab that studied cellular respiration. My favourite part of that trial was that we were working with people directly, looking at how exercising affects people at the cellular level. I enjoyed interacting with people and that's something I want to make sure that my future research would include as well."

Fortunately for this process-oriented student-athlete, her future research is already underway. This summer she found a placement with a professor working on flax fiber research, testing the use of that fiber instead of carbon fibers in prosthetic sockets for use with lower-limb amputees. Shepherd worked on developing a better manufacturing process for the composite prosthetic sockets. The goal of the research though was to produce a socket that is better at dampening vibrations.  Shepherd says she enjoys exploring the practical applications of her knowledge. "Right now my plan is to do a Master's which would combine a clinical internship with graduate coursework," she explains. 

"The combination of my academics and my sport go together very well. For example, I chose to study patellofemoral syndrome for a project in my biomechanics class this year because it's a really common injury amongst runners and I have that extra background of knowing about how your body moves while running. Knowing those kind of things first hand helps me understand the material better and I am definitely more interested in the human body and how the body moves because I run."

Shepherd has represented uOttawa at the National Championships for cross country running, with distances commonly set at 8km, and also has been a part of a bronze medal-winning relay team with the Gee-Gees track and field team, running a leg of the 4x800m relay squad. 

"I am passionate about doing my best in all aspects of my life. The main reason I run is because I love it. And then the reason that I keep working harder and harder is to see the improvements." Shepherd began running competitively after initially starting the training as a way to improve her soccer game in high school.

She also volunteers her time with the Grasshoppers community running group, helping to encourage kids in the neighbourhood to practice active habits and share her love of running.

"I've always just felt super lucky because I truly love learning and I truly love running," says Shepherd. "People ask how I do so much, but I've never felt that it was a burden in any way. I wouldn't want to be doing any less because I love the stuff that I do. Sometimes I might feel overwhelmed about deadlines and getting things done in time but in general I enjoy doing the work along the way. If I remember to pace myself, then I'm good."