- Course: CDT for Data Analytics and Society
- PhD title: Evaluation of smartphone data in physical activity research; the spatial, temporal, socio-demographic and behavioural application
- Nationality: British
Fran Pontin is studying for an integrated MSc and PhD in Data Analytics and Society, delivered by a Centre for Doctoral Training at Leeds. She investigates the potential for data generated by fitness tracking apps to give insight into the behaviour of people, on a larger scale, in relation to physical activity. Her PhD is part-funded by Active Inspiration, a technology company which aspires to encourage people to lead more active lifestyles.
Fran said: “With the ever-increasing popularity of fitness tracking apps on smartphones and wearable devices my research investigates the potential of the – currently under-utilised – data generated by these apps in providing insight into activity behaviour.”
Fran’s study has been supported by her partnership with Active Inspiration, giving her the chance to take a proactive approach to her research.
“My PhD is part funded by the ESRC in partnership with Active Inspiration, who develop mobile app technology to help people get more active,” Fran explained.
“Utilising historic data from one of their previously commercially available apps, my PhD aims to look at the utility of such secondary app data in providing insight into physical activity behaviours and evaluates the suitability and representativeness of said secondary data in capturing the physical activity behaviours of the population.”
Working in a data partnership with Active Inspiration has allowed me to develop my understanding of the data generation process.
She added: “Working in a data partnership with Active Inspiration has allowed me to develop my understanding of the data generation process. The partnership enabled me to carry out a short internship with Active Inspiration to gain experience in the commercial side of app development.”
Leeds Institute for Data Analytics
Interdisciplinary working is at the heart of Leeds’ research community, which is supported by strong networks of postgraduate researchers through Leeds Doctoral College. Though part of the Centre for Spatial Analysis and Policy, Fran conducts her research within Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA).
“Though I am a PhD student within the School of Geography I sit within Leeds Institute for Data Analytics,” Fran explained.
“This also affords opportunity for interdisciplinary research development as I sit with researchers from lots of different departments and schools across the university, all with the united aim of data analytics. Through being a part of LIDA I became involved in running Leeds Data Science Society as treasurer and running training events for students at the university and members of the public who want to improve their data science skills.”
Through LIDA I became involved in running Leeds Data Science Society as treasurer and running training events for students... and members of the public.
Deciding to study a PhD
Studying for a bachelors in Food Science and Nutrition at Leeds led Fran to investigate her passion for tackling non-communicable diseases, such as obesity, through further research.
“Having completed my undergraduate degree in Food Science and Nutrition (BSc.) at Leeds I was interested in research and keen to go into further education,” she said.
The PhD... combined my research interests with the opportunity to acquire new skills in data analytics.
“My undergraduate degree sparked my interest in the complexities of tackling non-communicable diseases such as obesity, in particular finding new ways to monitor and promote healthy behaviours. When I saw the PhD post advertised I applied as it combined my research interests with the opportunity to acquire new skills in data analytics.”
Working in an interdisciplinary way has opened up new opportunities for Fran, who explained her journey from food science to spatial data analytics.
“Though it might seem like a fairly big jump from Food Science and Nutrition to Spatial health data analytics I am lucky enough to have supervisors who sit in both Geography (Nik Lomax, Graham Clarke) and Medicine (Michelle Morris).
“I find it incredibly useful to have interdisciplinary supervisors as this has allowed me to develop my research scope and use methods from health, data analytics and geography to ensure my research is robust and translatable to both research fields.”
I find it incredibly useful to have interdisciplinary supervisors as this has allowed me to develop my research scope and use methods...
Fran continued: “My supervisors are extremely supportive of not only my PhD research but my wider development as a researcher encouraging me to develop wider professional development skills in teaching, presenting and networking. For example, through presenting and gaining feedback from researchers in CSAP.
“My supervisors and CSAP have both also supported me with opportunities to present my research internationally and created networking opportunities which culminated in me making an overseas institutional research visit to the University of Canterbury in New Zealand earlier this year.”
My supervisors... have also supported me with opportunities to present my research internationally... at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.
Fran explained that, in the future, she would like to further her research into the prevention of disease. She said: “I plan to stay in research and hope to play a role in realising the utility of technological developments in prevention of non-communicable disease and obesity”