Dr Danielle Schoenaker is in for the long haul, whether it’s training to run in her first half marathon this year, or moving across the world to pursue her research passion in epidemiology and big data.
She is currently based in the UK as a Research Fellow in the School of Primary Care, Population Sciences and Medical Education at the University of Southampton.
She worked in Australia for almost 10 years, moving from Queensland to Victoria to New South Wales, before taking up her current role in 2020.
Dr Schoenaker’s interests centre around using big datasets to study the health and wellbeing of people who may become pregnant in the future, and how this relates to their risk of developing adverse health outcomes in pregnancy and beyond.
“I am fascinated by a concept called Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD),” she said.
“This theory describes how health behaviours and environmental factors during early life, from as early as before pregnancy, can affect growth, development and disease risk in childhood and adult life.
“My research aims to inform how we can best support young people to be the healthiest version of themselves.
“This is both to improve their own lifelong health and opportunities, and to create the best possible start in life for their children.”
Dr Schoenaker loves to keep learning and building her research skills.
“While I love putting my head down to analyse big datasets, what keeps me motivated in my research career is that I learn something new every day.
“Through reading research articles, applying new skills and collaborating with a range of experts in the field, my ideas and thoughts are constantly challenged. This helps me improve and grow as a researcher.”
She is inspired by conversations with those whose health her research aims to improve – members of the public and particularly young people.
“Finding out what support young people need, and where and how they would like to receive this, is really the most important motivation driving my research,” she said.
To unwind from her busy professional life, Dr Schoenaker enjoys being active and outdoors.
“Since moving to the UK, going out to exercise is now more often complicated by bad weather. But even a run in the cold and rain gives me lots of positive energy!
“As with my research, I like to challenge myself when it comes to exercise. To combine my passion for exercise and travelling, I will be running my first half marathon in Venice this year.”
Her current position is the high point of her research career to date.
“While settling in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic has been the most challenging time in my life, I think I can now call it a career highlight.
“I love the research I do and the collaboration with incredibly knowledgeable, supportive and respectful colleagues across the country. Recently I was fortunate to be awarded a fellowship to continue my program of work.”
Her top tip for students considering a career in research is to “see it as a journey.
“It is most likely going to be a winding road, but this means you’ll see and learn a lot. So get started and enjoy your adventure!”
Dr Danielle Schoenaker chairs the UK Preconception Early- and Mid-Career Researcher Network. She is also a member of the Executive Committee and Social Media Co-Lead for the Health in Preconception, Pregnancy and Postpartum Early- and Mid-Career Researcher Collective International (HiPPP EMR-C).