Position: Research Associate Professor, Field: Childhood obesity, Organisation: University of Otago.

Research Associate Professor Rachael Taylor didn’t follow a traditional path into a science career. She didn’t study science after year 11 and instead chose accountancy, economics, art, technical drawing and maths, with the aim of doing accountancy at university. She completed the 1st year of a commerce degree but didn’t enjoy it and decided on a career change.

Her mother was a home economics teacher, and nutrition looked like an interesting topic so she changed to science and spent 4 years studying nutrition. After finishing her degree, Rachael got a job as a university lecturer and completed her PhD on a part time basis.

Research is fun and exciting. You get to think of an idea, work out how best to tackle it and hopefully get the answers you are after. You are learning all the time, but in a really interesting and challenging way.

Rachael has always been passionate about the research aspect of her work and now has a full-time position as Research Associate Professor based at the Edgar National Centre for Diabetes Research. She is one of the investigators of several large trials aimed at determining different ways of effectively preventing children from becoming overweight or helping them reduce their weight in an appropriate way.

Some of the projects include changing school playgrounds to see how that might affect physical activity and weight, helping parents develop good sleeping and eating patterns in their babies and toddlers to see if that affects how they grow and working with families to encourage healthy eating and having fun being active together. Rachael’s role in these trials is to develop the ideas, design the projects, obtain research funding, get ethical approval to do the studies, employ and supervise staff to undertake the research, write it up for publication in journals and present the results at conferences. Sometimes she also gets involved with advisory groups at the Ministry of Health that discuss the best ways to reduce obesity in our population.

In her free time, Rachael really enjoys spending time with her family. Her 3 young boys keep her fit with plenty of bike riding, exploring and playing games. Rachael also likes playing netball and spending time in her garden.

Useful links

Visit the Edgar National Centre for Diabetes Research website to learn more about Rachael and her colleagues’ research.

This article is based on information current in 2011.

    Published 10 June 2011