I am from the UK and completed my Honours in Nutrition, Exercise and Health at the University of Plymouth, qualifying as a registered nutritionist. I have worked in different sectors including sports nutrition, healthcare, research ethics and a variety of different jobs whilst travelling to different parts of the world.
Originally coming to Australia roughly 9 years ago, I began working in health research, after a few years residing in New Zealand I returned to Sydney 4 years ago where I began working as a research assistant at the Matilda Centre on the Health4Life project. The Health4Life project is a multiple-health behaviour change prevention program we built for adolescents, an area I feel very strongly about.
After working on this project for a couple of years, I was totally encompassed by the incredible Matilda Centre spirit and realised this would be the most supportive environment to take on the enduring task of a PhD. I was given the freedom to plan a PhD in the topic I am passionate about and given options to best support my plans, whilst still working on and utilising data from the incredible Health4Life project.
The Health4Life project was a new and exciting project within the prevention stream at the Matilda Centre when I joined the team.
I feel lucky to be working as a Research Officer on this project alongside an incredible Australian-wide team of researchers. The project aims to improve diet, exercise, sleep, reduce screen time, delay uptake of alcohol and prevent uptake of smoking in adolescents via a multiple-health behaviour change eHealth and mHealth program delivered in schools. Collecting data from nearly 6,600 adolescents Australia-wide gave the Health4Life team vital information on health behaviors and mental health in an important age group, as health behaviours adopted at this age commonly track into adulthood and ultimately lead to chronic disease.
Historically my passion has been in nutrition, exercise and other health behaviours leading me to learn more about their biological impacts on the body and ultimately the impact this has on chronic disease prevalence. My PhD project is titled 'Investigating the relationship between adolescent nutrition and other lifestyle behaviours on the onset of chronic inflammation'. Chronic inflammation increases the risk of many chronic diseases and can be caused by poor lifestyle behaviours, mental health and socio-demographics. There has been little research looking at the effects of these factors on adolescents, which is important to prevent the ongoing trajectory towards chronic disease.
The freedom and flexibility! Imagine having something you are really passionate about and being told you can spend your days learning about it and asking questions about the areas we do not know enough about?
The opportunities during a PhD can be endless if you want them to be. If there is a statistical analysis you are unfamiliar with you can take a course in it.
If, like myself, there is a Professor in Spain that has done some incredible work in your area and you could learn from them, you can go and visit them for 5 weeks!
Whilst a PhD is no walk in the park, the autonomy of your own work allows you to adapt to your strengths at any given time (outside of times of deadlines of course):
The Matilda Centre has an intangible spirit, one that everyone who visits or works here talks about! I feel very lucky to have found such an incredible research centre, and team. When I first started here the environment felt so welcoming, and I was made to feel comfortable to approach anyone at any professional level with a question. Amongst a team of world-renowned academics, I was still encouraged to contribute in meetings, put ideas out there for papers and query protocols which helps give you an immediate sense of their ethos. There is so much support here, and for a PhD student there are so many groups, meetings and resources available to help you through your candidate.
I feel lucky enough to have travelled 26 countries and my highlights are hiking Machu Picchu, volunteering on a lion conservation park in South Africa and volunteering in a medical hospital in rural Philippines.
Animals, the gut microbiome, travel and being outdoors!