Student & ECR Spotlight – Meet Gwenn Porter, implementation scientist studying weight management

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

I completed my Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology at The Pennsylvania State University in 2014, where I worked as an undergraduate research assistant in a kinesiology lab and found my passion for research. I went on to get a Master of Science in Kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2016 and then pursued a PhD in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. On June 3rd, 2020 I successfully defended my dissertation!

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?

The goal of my work is to move evidence-based practices and programs into typical clinical and community practice to make an impact on population health. Weight management can have positive impacts on many aspects of a person’s life, so that’s the outcome I primarily study. I work with clinical and community partners to study how we can work together to connect effective weight management programming to a large and representative number of people who can benefit from it.

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

Finding common ground when working with clinical and/or community partners can be a challenge, due to varying demands, incentives, value systems, and decision-making structures. It’s an unavoidable challenge with any kind of participatory research, but it’s also one of the fascinating things about the work I do. Bringing people together and finding that shared value is time consuming and laborious, but worth it.

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

I have been fortunate throughout my training to have many incredible mentors and a growing network of collaborators and peers. Learning from them and their experiences has been, and continues to be, enormously beneficial. More access to conferences (e.g. travel awards) and student/early career networking opportunities (e.g. at conferences and throughout the year) are tangible facilitators of expanding my network and professional development.

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

I don’t think we have fully tapped into the potential of technology to make physical activity/nutrition behavior change easy, accessible, and enjoyable. Technology advancements move so fast, so I don’t think anyone can predict what will come next, but I am interested in finding ways to continue to harness technology to improve health.

You can get in touch with Gwenn Porter via email [email protected] or on Twitter @gwennporter22