UCL Ear Institute


Ear Institute student reaches Semi Finals of US Open

2 November 2018

Dana Mathewson Ear Institute Masters student, is a Paralympic tennis player currently ranked 10th (Doubles) and 11th (singles) in the world.

Dana Mathewson playing professional wheelchair tennis

Dana Mathewson profile picture

Dana has recently returned from the US Open where she reached the Semi Finals in the doubles and Quarter Finals in the singles to restart her studies.

After this very successful tournament, she took some time to discuss her study/career balance, reflect on studying as an overseas student and explain to us if Audiology and professional sport ever mix.

How do you balance your studies with your tennis career?

To be honest, I don’t really know how I do it! I’ve had a lot of practice balancing the two, since I’ve been playing tennis and competing since I was in high school. It’s forced me to learn to manage my time effectively, and that’s something I’m very grateful for. I think a big motivating factor is that I get to combine two facets of my life, which I love. I am passionate about my schooling and learning something new everyday, but am also passionate about staying active and learning new things on the court as well. They’re like two outlets that I use to decompress from the other, and both are vital to keeping me happy. I know that in order to be successful, I need to effectively manage both, so that motivates me to find balance between the two. I’m also very ‘Type A’ and love post-it notes, calendars, reminders on my phone, etc. and I rely on all of those to keep my life in order! 


How is it going from US Open success to then go back to studying?

It can feel a bit sad going back to real life after getting to jet set around the world for competitions. I have to admit that when I’m away, it’s the time of my life. I love competing, but I also love the opportunities it offers me such as the chance to see different corners of the world, and to see some of my best friends. Going back to studying is like going back to work after having a nice long weekend. It’s never an exciting prospect, but once I get back into the swing of things, I enjoy the routine of being home and going to classes, etc. 


Are there any considerations to the study/training balance being an overseas student?

I don’t think I’ve changed how I balance training and studying since I’ve moved here from America. I would say the only difference is the time I now need to factor into traveling from place to place. For instance, I now train out in Oxfordshire since that’s where my coach now lives. Since I don’t have a car here, I have to think about taking trains, tubes, and taxis to get places which I previously didn’t have to think about at home. When I have to travel with all of my gear (separate tennis chair, tennis bag, etc.) that can be a hassle. That’s probably the only downside I can think of with moving away from home. If I had a car here, my life would be much easier! But then again, I live in central London, so having a car might actually be a nightmare…


And finally we have to ask... Do your tennis and audiology studies ever combine or overlap?

They don’t overlap in the literal sense, but they do have traits that are similar. For example, audiology involves a lot of problem solving and determination. To diagnose a patient, you have to run a myriad of tests, think critically, and know that each patient you see is not going to be identical to the last. Tennis is very similar, in that it’s the same sport no matter who you play, but you have to tailor your approach to competition depending on your opponent. In the 5 minute warm-up prior to a match, I use that time to see what weaknesses a player might have and in a sense “diagnose” the situation. This diagnosis continues well into the match, but the way I’d play one person is different to how I’d play another and that problem solving aspect is very similar to audiology. 

I also get asked ear questions by my fellow athletes so I do get to practice my coursework on tour! They ask about why their ears are hurting, or explain a hearing problem a family member has, and it’s made me realise just how relatable the field is.


Dana Mathewson playing professional wheelchair tennis

Dana Mathewson playing professional wheelchair tennis

Are you a student with us who has achievements outside your field of study? We'd love to know! Email us at ei-comms@ucl.ac.uk .




  • Credit: Anna Vasalaki (US Open shot), Ben Hoskins/Getty Images