STEMM PROFILE: Jessica Appleton | PhD Student | Faculty of Health | University of Technology Sydney | Sydney | NSW

Jessica Appleton
Jessica Appleton

“An unexpected highlight of doing a PhD is meeting so many people from diverse backgrounds”

Jessica Appleton is a registered nurse with postgraduate qualifications in children’s nursing and a fledgling public health researcher. She is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Health, University of Technology Sydney. She completed her Bachelor of Nursing with Honours in 2013, which focused on parent perceptions of childhood obesity, weight and feeding as expressed in online discussion forums and gave her an interest in both obesity prevention and research.

Jessica’s PhD research is focused on obesity prevention in infancy, specifically addressing the use of infant formula. She is exploring Australian parent’s knowledge, practice and use of infant formula and how health professionals advise and support these parents.

Highlights of this research so far include, learning many new research skills from supervisors as well as other students, and speaking with parents to understand their parenting and infant feeding journey. Another highlight has been the opportunity to work with a large research team as part of the Centre for Obesity Management and Prevention Research Excellence in Primary Health Care (COMPaRE-PHC), funded by the Australian Research Council. Jessica is also a recipient of an Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship to support her full time study. She has published in peer-reviewed journals and has presented her work at state and national conferences in Australia.

When not doing research Jessica enjoys a good story in any form (book, movie, television, audio, fiction, non-fiction), and spending time with her husband, friends and family preferably over a nice meal and a glass of good wine.

Did you do maths and science in high school?  

Yes, I loved maths and science in high school. I went to a small independent Christian country school which meant small class sizes (two students in my Year 12 Chemistry class!) and never any pressure to have to excel academically – the teachers encouraged students to do the best they could in the areas they were gifted. For me this worked, as I was very self-motivated, I achieved good grades and enjoyed all my school years.  

What motivated you to choose your degree?

I have always been inquisitive about the world and how people live in the world, I always wanted to ‘do health research’ but was not sure where to start. Nursing seemed like a broad health profession from which one could specialise and a good place to start, so that’s what I did. I have since specialised in children’s nursing and hope after my PhD to continue to do more research in public health.  

What made you decide to undertake (further) studies in your area? 

I was not always aware of this but looking back I realise now that doing further study and going into research was inevitable because I love learning new things. Since primary school, though high school I enjoyed leaning, in year 12 biology I self-taught a different elective (the genetics elective) to the rest of the class as I thought it was more interesting!  

What has been the highlight of your studies so far? 

An unexpected highlight of doing a PhD is meeting so many people from diverse backgrounds. I have met fellow PhD students from all over the world, who are studying and researching all sorts of interesting topics, with various methods and methodologies. From biological lab PhD students studying the effects of drugs on certain tissues, to social science PhD students studying the effects of technology on teaching and learning. It has been so interesting! 

What has been the biggest challenge of your studies so far?  

Staying motivated. Like many PhD candidates staying motivated to get the job done is one of the biggest challenges. I think no matter how interesting you find your topic there are always points where you just lose motivation. I have learnt to work through these times of low motivation; sometimes it means taking a break from work, sometimes it means setting small tasks to build motivation and other times chatting with fellow students can really help. 

Follow Jessica on Twitter: @jess_appleton1 

[Image attribution: Gabrielle Davis]

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