Danaka M. Porter M. Eng is a PhD Candidate in Cardiovascular and Respiratory Sciences at Libin Cardiovascular Institute, studying under Derek Exner. Danaka completed her Bachelor of Arts at the University of British Columbia (2010) while being a Canada’s National Bobsled Team member. She has also completed a Masters of Engineering in Systems and Supply Chain (2018) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
After graduating from MIT, Danaka co-founded a fertility company in California (VitaNova Technologies LLC) and continued consulting. She is currently a partner at iota consultants. From here, she was interested in combining her engineering background with her love of process, math, and hearts, and she began her PhD in cardiology on July 1, 2020!
When asked what inspired her career in research, Danaka shares that her “lived experience with cardiac issues inspired my career in research. I realized there was a lack of data on how cardiovascular issues presented in women, and the software to locate these issues is also lacking. I always try to be the change I want to see, so this PhD is me trying to be that change.”
Danaka’s research focuses on arrhythmias, specifically how Heart Rate Turbulence (HRT) and T-wave Alternans (TWA) present in patients. She is looking at the differences in sex and age and hopes to explore race if there is enough data. “Currently, the cut points for abnormal HRT and abnormal TWA are based on a homogeneous population, which is not reflective of the diverse global population,” Danaka comments.
Additionally, part of Danaka’s research is geared towards process optimization and algorithms in cardiac software. She uses her engineering background to improve cardiac software by streamlining the user interface and improving how algorithms read and label the beat morphology in ECGs. The user interface adjustments have been launched and are currently being tested. Her next iteration will include the algorithm optimizations. Danaka’s goal is that the improved software allows cardiac technicians to calculate HRT, TWA and label beats and other cardiac issues faster so the patient can be diagnosed sooner and given the proper treatment.
When discussing her experience as a CHAT Trainee, Danaka notes that she enjoys being part of chat because “I get to know and collaborate with other members who I would otherwise not meet. We get to trade and share knowledge and connections and complain about being in grad school, ha! It is also great to be around people studying and interested in the same topics I am! I am currently writing a paper with another CHAT member that I met through CHAT! It’s a great group to join.”
In addition to Danaka’s professional interests, she enjoys drawing, painting, reading, exercising, and volunteering. Danaka is the director of Volunteer Relations for motionball, an organization which exclusively raises money for Special Olympics, and she is involved in starting a women in tech group in Calgary to provide mentorship and information about STEM careers to girls in both middle and high school. Danaka also works as an Educational Counselor for MIT, helping with undergraduate admissions. She is an appointed officer of her sorority, Pi Beta Phi, where she leads the data subcommittee for a research committee and teaches at the University of Lethbridge every semester.
When Danaka is not doing any of the above, she likes to go skiing or hiking in the mountains!