Researcher wins national science competition
Supported by the Wellcome Trust (www.wellcome.ac.uk/), the three times annual award-winning competition 'I'm a Scientist, Get me out of here', is a free online event where school students, aged 9-18, meet and interact with scientists.
Students challenge the scientists over fast-paced online text-based live chats, ask them anything they want and then ultimately vote for their favourite scientist to win a prize of £500 to communicate their work with the public.
Katie, who is undertaking her sports science PhD in the University's Carnegie Faculty, specialises in exploring the effectiveness of smartphone technology and social media in encouraging inactive adults to become active and reduce lifestyle-related conditions. She commented: "The fact that this brilliant science outreach and engagement competition was voted for by pupils with a real interest and love for science makes winning this all the better. I am thrilled!
"There are 10 different sections to the competition and the one I took part in was called the Body Zone relating to science of health and tackling obesity, which was sponsored by the Physiological Society. I competed against four other scientists in this area from around the country. We were asked to create a Facebook-style profile page with a picture and information about ourselves for the students to read and ask us questions: http://bodyn14.imascientist.org.uk/profile/katiepickering/.
"The competition lasted for two weeks and, during the second week, students voted each day for their favourite scientist. The one with the fewest votes was evicted with the winner at the end of the week having the most votes.
“I will put my winnings towards promoting my research to the public. I plan to design a technology-based interactive physical activity workshop for school children that took part in the competition and also around the Leeds area.”
Other work Katie is currently involved includes an evaluation of the 'Couch to 5K' running app. Having gathered the experiences of people who have used it, her aim is to establish how cost-effective such apps are for getting inactive people to meet current guidelines for exercising.
Couch to 5K is a nine-week running programme for beginners. Over the nine-week duration, the app guides users through a mix of running and walking on three days per week. This continues until the participant can comfortably run continuously for 30 minutes or complete a five kilometre distance.
Katie said: "The overall aim of the project is to determine the feasibility of the app. We want to establish how cost-effective it might be, as a stand-alone intervention for individuals who do not meet current guidelines for exercising. It is particularly important to determine if this technology, and specifically when it is used via a smartphone, can help to alleviate the costs of health conditions attributable to physical inactivity, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and certain cancers.
"Face-to-face staffed interventions are extremely costly to design and implement. Therefore, the project will examine how well this technology reaches at-risk individuals. With 91% of the global population now owning a mobile device, using them to deliver effective interventions makes real sense."