Student & ECR Spotlight – Ekta Jain shares her career journey into epidemiology and using inter-disciplinary knowledge to aid public health research

Please tell us about your career pathway to date (positions and institutes). 

I am a Bioinformatician by training with a Masters in Research in Bioinformatics, University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom. I worked for around 9 years spanning domains of cancer research, setting up databases, experimental data analysis in the UK and India, to transition to population-based public health research. I am currenting a PhD student at the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, National University of Singapore.


How would you briefly describe your current research/job to someone who is not familiar with your field of study/work? What is your main research interest? 

Currently, I am pursuing a PhD in Epidemiology with a focus on physical activity and sedentary behavior in peri-urban populations in India and how these effect biomarkers of cardiovascular disease risk as well as diabetes. My main interests include to assess how urbanicity influences the same – if more urbanised settings are healthier than less urbanised ones, in native Asian populations.


What are the main barriers you encounter/experience when conducting research, or what information/skills do you lack to conduct high quality research?

Currently, there are limited resources available for the use and analysis of Built Environment data in the context of physical activity research especially for Low-Middle Income countries (LMICs). It would be beneficial to learn of other similar studies planned in LMICs (such as India). I would greatly benefit with both theoretical and hands on experience for studying urbanicity in LMICs and its associated effects on aspects of public health. When conducting research in an LMIC setting, more often one is constrained to use guidelines that were originally laid down drawing references to western populations. For instance, thecompendium of physical activities enlists several different types of physical activities and even among the activities that would essentially be performed in a rural or semi-rural or periurban setting is meant for westernised settings. This makes it difficult to relate activities in rural/semi-rural or peri-urban settings in LMICs to a MET value for better assessment of physical activity in such settings.


What could help you as a student/ECR to further develop/grow in your current


Access to funds to carry out pilot studies or small-scale population-based data collection in LMICs (such as India). To have international collaboration to drive such studies and its consequential analysis.


What do you think will be the next most important development in the nutrition and/or

physical activity field?

I think, more and more studies will focus on physical activity in conjunction with an individual’s sedentary behavior and sleep duration for a comprehensive understanding of either of their effects on an individual’s health outcomes.



You can get in touch with Ekta via email [email protected] or [email protected]

Follow her work on Twitter: @ek1jain