Thesis/Life Update

At the end of last summer I gave a quick update to let people know what Peter and I had been up to in our personal and professional lives in the preceding year, and I thought that this would be a good chance to do the same thing this year.  I don’t want to speak for Peter, so I’ll just focus on myself in this update, and he can give his own update on what he’s up to in a future post.

I got married last summer, so in comparison to that this year has been pleasantly quiet!  I’m now entering the 4th (and hopefully final) year of my PhD, with a goal of defending my thesis at some point in the spring or early summer of next year.  It will be a very busy fall – writing/submitting several papers, TAing, possibly taking a course on undergraduate teaching (I took one course last year and really enjoyed it), and heading to Australia for the International Congress on Physical Activity and Public Health.  That being said, the fact that I am now done data collection will free up a lot of time, and I’m planning to put in some long hours in the next few months.

Data collection = complete!

My thesis can be broken into roughly 3 projects.  Two of those projects will use large datasets to examine the association between sedentary behaviour and markers of disease risk in children and youth.  The third project is an intervention study looking at the impact of prolonged sedentary behaviour (with or without interruptions or physical activity) in children aged 10-14.

I began collecting some pilot data for our intervention in July of last year (pro tip: don’t begin data collection for your thesis within weeks of getting married… it can make life slightly hectic) and early this month we completed data collection with our full sample.

Data collection consisted mostly of making standardized meals for my participants, over-seeing their bouts of physical activity, and wheeling them to and from the rooms where they spent most of their day engaging in sedentary behaviours (watching movies, playing computer games, etc).  I’ve spent many weekends in the lab during the past year, but I  have been extremely lucky to have an excellent research nurse and several other labmates helping out as needed.

We were also very fortunate to receive some media coverage on our study early in the New Year, which was unbelievably useful in recruiting participants – in the span of one week we went from 10 participants to more than 20, which was our end goal.  I’m now in the process of entering data for our last few participants, and will be running the last assays on our blood samples in early September.  So with any luck the paper(s) from that study will be ready for submission in the fall.

While I was waiting for my intervention to be completed, I have also been working on my other papers looking at the larger datasets (the data has already been collected for those projects).  Those analyses are nearing completion as well, so the plan is to try to submit those papers for publication ASAP, hopefully in the fall.

Side Projects

As one colleague of mine is fond of saying, there really is no such thing as a “side” project – just because it’s not included in your thesis doesn’t mean it takes any less time or effort.  That being said, I have been involved in quite a few projects in the past year that won’t be officially part of my PhD thesis, but that nonetheless fit with my general research interests.

I have mentioned a few of these papers on the blog in the past, and hope to focus on each one at some point, but in the meantime here are the titles for anyone who is interested in checking them out (most are open access, and send me a note if you’d like a copy of those that are not).

Acute Sedentary Behaviour and Markers of Cardiometabolic Risk: A Systematic Review of Intervention Studies

Acute Exercise Increases Adiponectin Levels in Abdominally Obese Men

Is obesity prevention as simple as turning off the television and having a nap?

Bioenergetics of Obesity: Is Fat Gain a Problem or a Solution? (accompanying blog post here)

Video Game Playing Is Independently Associated with Blood Pressure and Lipids in Overweight and Obese Adolescents (accompanying blog post here)

A few other papers remain under review or in press, and I’ll hopefully get a chance to discuss them here on the blog as well once they are accepted.  I have also been actively involved with the ever-expanding Sedentary Behaviour Research Network, and was one of 50+ signatories on a recent letter to the editor promoting an updated definition of sedentary behaviour.  The definition that SBRN is promoting is already starting to be used in the published literature, so if you use the terms “sedentary” or “inactive” in your papers, I would strongly suggest you check it out.

Future Plans

For the past couple years it was very comforting to be able to focus squarely on the PhD without worrying too much about plans for what to do afterwards.  Now that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, I’ve been spending an increasing amount of time trying to determine what my wife and I want to do in the next few years.  The ideal goal is to have a faculty position in a spot close to our family in Eastern Canada, and while I’m actively applying for faculty jobs in my area, I’m also looking into post doctoral positions (there aren’t many faculty spots for people without a post doc in my area at the moment). So when I’m not working on my thesis in the next few weeks, I’ll likely be working funding applications and/or job applications.  If anyone comes across a posting in applied physiology and/or sedentary behaviour/physical activity, please send it my way!

Miscellaneous 

In addition to Obesity Panacea, Peter and I also blog from time to time on Science of Blogging (a site focused on science communication) and Phd Nomads (a site focused on Peter’s travels with his partner Marina).   If you are interested in either of those topics, I’d encourage you to check out our posts there.

Travis

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