Student & ECR spotlights – Anne Chu on finding a niche to establish in academia post PhD

Please tell us about your career pathway to date. 

Upon receiving my Bachelor’s degree in biotechnology in Malaysia, there was a very important intellectual shift in my expertise. After having attended public health seminars, I learned more about fundamental research methods, the high rates of obesity in Malaysia, and the current lack of evidence with regards to physical activity as a key modifiable risk factor related to obesity. It was through these stimulating series of events that I became interested and decided to take a step further, which has led me to pursue a Master’s degree to work on a project primarily on physical activity using self-report questionnaires.

On completion of my Masters, I joined the National University of Singapore (NUS) and completed my PhD in 2018 under the supervision of Dr. Falk Müller-Riemenschneider. I now work as a Research Fellow at the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS), the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). 

I am a member of the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (ISBNPA), and the International Society for Physical Activity and Health (ISPAH).

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

My research interests lie primarily in the area of physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and health outcomes among the adult population – with a particular focus on the measurement properties of the instruments (accelerometry and self-reports), understanding the relationship of these health behaviours and mental health, and making recommendations upon evaluating the effectiveness of interventions to reduce sedentary behaviour via systematic reviews/meta-analysis.

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

Lack of time can be a major barrier to effective publication writing and sometimes, to conduct research. I have learned that I should make a list and stay focused on priorities for effective time management to get through my busy schedule.

Another issue for me is to pick a niche in which I can make a difference and thereby offer something new to the field. For the time being, I feel like my interests are too broad to narrow it down.

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

I have room for improvement in building my skills in networking and relationships to exchange new ideas and knowledge, and for potential collaborative work to improve health and well-being for all. 

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

I have used the accelerometers (triaxial ActiGraph) and Fitbit in my works, and I think that technological advancements such as the development of mobile applications, wearable technology to collect objective data could help improve our understanding of physical activity / sedentary behaviour.

You can reach Anne on her email address: [email protected] or on Twitter: @annechy