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Ranil Sonnadara, PhD

Associate Member of ARiEAL

Director, Education Science, Department of Surgery, McMaster University
Associate Professor, Department of Surgery, McMaster University
Artistic & Creative Director, LIVELab, McMaster University
Associate Member, Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour, McMaster University
Associate Member, School of Computational Science and Engineering, McMaster University

A.N. Bourns Science Building, Room 131B, McMaster University
1280 Main Street West


Office Phone: (905) 525-9140 x24156



A behavioural neuroscientist by training, Dr. Sonnadara’s current research interests lie in music cognition, skill acquisition, and assessment of performance. His graduate work focused on the neuroplastic changes that take place in the brain as a result of practice and expertise.  

Dr. Sonnadara’s first academic appointment was as an Education Scientist at the University of Toronto’s Surgical Skills Centre, where he was one of the architects behind the implementation of the University of Toronto’s pilot Competency-based Curriculum in Orthopaedics. His team’s work won the Association for Surgical Education’s inaugural Excellence in Innovation in Surgical Education award in 2012, and has helped to shape the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada’s new approach to medical training, Competence By Design. Dr. Sonnadara returned to McMaster in 2012. His primary academic appointment is as Director, Education Science & Associate Professor of Surgical Education in the Department of Surgery. He also holds associate appointments in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behaviour, the Department of Linguistics and Languages, and the School of Computational Science and Engineering. Much of Dr. Sonnadara’s recent research has focused on more effectively integrating feedback and assessment into surgical training, with a recent focus on Competency-based Medical Education. He is also very interested in applying data analytics techniques to surgical training, in understanding the changing relationship between expertise, sensory, and information processing. Additionally, Dr. Sonnadara continues to explore how the role that music plays in neural development.

Representative Publications

Fahim, C., McConnell, M., Wright, F.C., Sonnadara, R.R., & Simunovic, M. (in press). Use of the KT-MCC Strategy to Improve the Quality of Decision Making for Multidisciplinary Cancer Conferences: A Pilot Study. BMC Health Services Research.

Acai, A., Mahetaji, K., Reid, S.E., & Sonnadara, R.R. (in press). The role of gender in the decision to pursue a surgical career: A qualitative, interview-based study. Canadian Medical Education Journal.

Smail, L. C., Dhindsa, K., Braga, L. H., Becker, S., & Sonnadara, R. R. (2020). Using Deep Learning Algorithms to Grade Hydronephrosis Severity: Toward a Clinical Adjunct. Frontiers in Pediatrics, 8(1), 1.

Dhindsa, K., Cook, O., Mudway, T., Khawaja, A., Harwood, R., & Sonnadara, R. (2020). LFSpy: A Python Implementation of Local Feature Selection for Data Classification with scikit-learn Compatibility. Journal of Open Source Software, 5(49), 1958.

Mueller, V., Ellis, S., Murray-Davis, B., Sonnadara, R., & Grierson, L. E. M. (2019). A multiple-trainee, multiple-level, multiple-competency (multi-TLC) simulation-based approach to training obstetrical emergencies. Perspectives on Medical Education, 8(5), 309–313.

Dhindsa, K., Acai, A., Wagner, N., Bosynak, D., Kelly, S., Bhandari, M., … Sonnadara, R. R. (2019). Individualized pattern recognition for detecting mind wandering from EEG during live lectures. PLoS ONE, 14(9), e0222276.

Boshra, R., Dhindsa, K., Boursalie, O., Ruiter, K. I., Sonnadara, R., Samavi, R., Doyle, T. E., Reilly, J. P., & Connolly, J. F. (2019). From Group-Level Statistics to Single-Subject Prediction: Machine Learning Detection of Concussion in Retired Athletes. IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, 27(7), 1492–1501.

Connolly, J. F., Reilly, J. P., Fox-Robichaud, A., Britz, P., Blain-Moraes, S., Sonnadara, R., Hamielec, C., Herrera-Diaz, A., & Boshra, R. (2019). Development of a point of care system for automated coma prognosis: a prospective cohort study protocol. BMJ Open, 9, e029621.

Acai, A., Sonnadara, R. R., & O'Neill, T. A. (2018). Getting with the times: A narrative review of the literature on group decision making in virtual environments and implications for promotions committees. Perspectives on Medical Education, 7(3), 147-155.

Acai, A., Steyn, C., Reid, S. E., & Sonnadara, R. R. (2018). The solution to gender inequity in surgery? Better caregiving policies. Canadian Journal of Surgery, 61(1), 6-7.

Fahim, C., Wagner, N., Nousiainen, M. T., & Sonnadara, R. R. (2018). Assessment of technical skills competence in the operating room: A systematic and scoping review. Academic Medicine, 93(5), 794-808.

Kalun, P., Wagner, N., Yan, J., Nousiainen, M. T., & Sonnadara, R. R. (2018). Surgical simulation training in orthopedics: Current insights. Advances in Medical Education and Practice, 9, 125-131.

McKinnon, V. E., Kalun, P., McRae, M. H., Sonnadara, R. R., & Fahim, C. (2018). A shift on the horizon: A systematic review of assessment tools for plastic surgery trainees. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 142(2), 217-231.

Current Graduate Students / Postdoctoral Fellows

  • , Postdoctoral Fellow, Performance Science Lab , McMaster University
  • PhD CandidateDepartment of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour, McMaster University (*on leave)
  • , PhD Student, Department of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour, McMaster University
  • , MSc Student, Department of Surgery, McMaster University