EASO Early Career News: August 2021

EASO Early Career News: August 2021

We are pleased to introduce Alice Kininmonth, a new member of the EASO Early Career Network (formerly the EASO New Investigators United - more about this in September)! Alice is a final year PhD student at the University of Leeds.

Alice, glad to meet you and thank you for connecting with the Network. Please tell us about your research and professional interests. How did you become interested in obesity?

It is lovely to meet you too Sheree and to be part of the Network, which is a great opportunity for early researchers to connect, share knowledge and collaborate.

My current research focusses on the obesogenic home environment and its role in appetite, health behaviours and weight during childhood. Prior to starting my PhD, I completed an undergraduate degree in Nutrition and Public Health and a Master’s degree in Health Psychology. This background really ignited my interest in obesity research and I became passionate about understanding how genes and the environment interact to influence our behaviours, and in particular, our relationship with food. Joining the Gemini team gave me a perfect platform to explore this interest further.

Can you share a bit about the Gemini project? What is your role within the project?

Yes, of course. Gemini is a longitudinal twin birth cohort of 2402 families, originally established in 2007 by Professor Jane Wardle. Gemini families have been followed for over a decade, providing information about the twins’ growth, eating behaviours, appetite traits, and the environment at home. Gemini is a hugely valuable, unique dataset that has led to important discoveries about how our genes and our environments influence our appetite and growth. Dr Clare Llewellyn (Director) and Dr Alison Fildes (Deputy Director) currently lead the Gemini team and the twins are turning 14 this year. My role within Gemini is multi-faceted. Alongside my PhD research, I am responsible for various administrative tasks such as responding to emails from participants, assisting with data management, managing the teams’ online data collection tools and study website, and co-supervising University College London (UCL) Health Psychology masters students for their final projects using Gemini data. In 2019, the Gemini team gave me the responsibility of redesigning and developing the study website (www.geministudy.co.uk). I used this as an opportunity to create an engaging platform for the Gemini families, as well as a resource for other researchers and the general public to learn more about the important work produced by the study. Gemini is a huge team effort and I really enjoy being part of it.

It looks like you have skill in communicating about science as well! Can you tell us about the infographic you’ve shared with us below?

Home Environment - PhD infographic

I am very passionate about science communication. I believe sharing your research in a way that is clear, creative and appealing is incredibly important and this is something I have worked to develop over the course of my PhD. I have been keen to improve these skills because they allow research to be accessed by a much wider audience than would normally be reached through traditional academic publications alone. Disseminating your work effectively is just as important as conducting the research itself, and it can be easy to forget that sometimes. This particular infographic was designed to inform both Gemini families, other researchers and the wider public about my PhD research in a way that is hopefully both eye-catching and easy-to-understand.

Thanks Alice, the infographic is great!

What are your present career ambitions?

I am currently in the final stages of my PhD so this is very much at the forefront of my mind at the moment. After my PhD, I would like to continue in obesity research as a post-doctoral researcher, and develop my knowledge and skills further.

Do you have any advice for people starting out in their post-graduate careers during this unusual time? Not everyone has the experience of starting post-grad work during a global pandemic.

My main advice would be to try to develop a support network, similar to what you would have had in an office environment and try to replicate this online as best you can. The way I tried to do this was having regular informal catch ups with other PhD students. This worked as a ‘safe space’ where we could discuss anything – things related to our work, our worries, or just random things that we fancied talking about. One of my closest friends is also in her final year of PhD and going through the process together has been extremely beneficial for me, doing a PhD is fantastic but it takes a toll mentally and it is important to have support from someone who understands what you are going through.

Connect with Alice: