Student & ECR Spotlight – Sam Cassar’s PhD research aims to understand the scale-up and implementation of a school-based physical activity intervention

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

I am a final-year PhD candidate at Deakin University’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN) in Melbourne, Australia. Initially I completed a double Bachelor’s degree in Sport Science (Human Movement)/ Sport Management from Victoria University in Melbourne before moving to Germany to undertake a Master’s of Physical Activity and Health from the Friedrich-Alexander University in Nuremberg.

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?

My current research focuses on making sure that effective physical activity and sedentary behaviour programs are scaled-up and become part of every day practice in the settings where they do the most good. My PhD research aims to get kids moving more and sitting less when in classrooms. We have an evidence-based primary school program called Transform-Us! that we are trying to get into as many schools across the state of Victoria, Australia as possible. To do so we have partnered with several organisations and government departments to help spread the word. My main research interests are to find ways to translate all the fantastic work being done by the scientific community to make sure that this knowledge is used and applied as often as possible.

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

Anyone who has worked with schools for their research will sympathise when I saw it is hard to find time in their tight schedules to conduct research. Schools are incredibly busy places and often see participating in research studies as burdensome.

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

Connecting up with other students and ECRs in my area of research is always helpful, and with 2020 calling for a pause in in-person conferences this has been a noticeable absence. I think there is great value in opportunities to collaborate and learn from researchers in other institutes and around the world. A closer link to practitioners and policymakers would help me in my career both in the short and long-term as they are essential partners in any scale up attempt.

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

I am hopeful that public health and nutrition + physical activity will be prioritised as we collectively rebuild and recover from the global COVID-19 pandemic. My hope is that through collaborative, systems-based approaches which bring together multiple sectors and engage with policy makers, practitioners, and researchers we can move beyond traditional approaches and see population-level change.

You can get in touch with Sam via email [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @samuelcassar