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Queen's grad earns Gates Cambridge Scholarship

[Rebecca Love]
Rebecca Love (Artsci’12) will pursue a PhD in Medical Science at the University of Cambridge after receiving a Gates Cambridge Scholarship. (Supplied photo)

During her time at Queen’s University, Rebecca Love (Artsci’12) studied Kinesiology and Health Studies. She then spent two years working in health and education development in the Caribbean as a Pathy Family Foundation Fellow before continuing her Master’s studies at the University of Oxford.

Earlier this year, Ms. Love was awarded a prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship that will see her pursue a PhD in Medical Science at the University of Cambridge.

Created by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the scholarships are awarded to outstanding applicants from countries outside the UK to pursue a full-time postgraduate degree in any subject available at the University of Cambridge.

Andrew Carroll: At Cambridge you will be researching “descriptive epidemiology of physical activity behaviour in children” as you pursue your PhD. Can you explain what drew you to this and why you feel this is an important area of study?

Rebecca Love: Interest in my PhD project grew out of experiences I had during my undergraduate degree at Queen’s and as a Pathy Family Fellow in the year following my graduation. Studying in the Kinesiology program at Queen’s stimulated my interest in public health and chronic disease prevention. Following my undergraduate degree, I was fortunate to receive a Pathy Family Community Leadership Fellowship to spend a year developing and implementing a health and education project focused on children in Trinidad & Tobago. This work later expanded to include other islands in the lower Caribbean. Working in partnership with a number of local organizations and governmental ministries greatly stimulated my interest in intervention and program development.

Growing evidence links physical inactivity with a wide range of chronic and life-threatening diseases. In many countries a decline in the physical activity levels of children has resulted in increased obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, which is leading to increased disease and disability in adult populations and huge burdens on health care systems. Evidence indicates socioeconomic differences in morbidity and mortality from chronic disease are widening across populations.

I am fascinated by research that suggests behaviours formed in childhood and adolescence directly influence adult behaviour and health and by the opportunity to develop preventative programs that have the potential to change future health outcomes. My research at Cambridge will investigate how determinants of physical activity in children differ by social class and ethnicity with the aim of informing the future development of interventions that reduce inequalities in health and physical activity. With rapidly rising rates of chronic disease in populations globally and governments realising the long term advantages in investing more time and resources in preventative programs, it’s a really exciting time to be entering the field. 

AC: At Queen’s you studied Kinesiology and Health Studies. What did you gain from your time at the university? Any special memories of your time at Queen’s that has led you on your current path of study?

RL: Studying in the Kinesiology program at Queen’s was an unparalleled undergraduate learning experience. For me, being immersed in a program with small class sizes, supportive professors and regular opportunities to gain practical experience in the local Kingston community was extremely influential in shaping my academic and professional interests. Studying at Queen’s, surrounded by the Kingston community, provided opportunities to become engaged locally which added significantly to my university experience from both an academic and a social perspective. I have fond memories of working with fellow students to run Camp Outlook, a student-run charity providing youth from the Kingston area the opportunity to experience wilderness camping.

A big part of my undergraduate experience was also the opportunity to play varsity water polo. Queen’s provides a unique and supportive environment to be a student-athlete. 

AC: In attaining this scholarship you are one of only 55 out of thousands of applicants. How do you feel about that? Is there a pressure that comes along with that?

RL: I feel extremely privileged and honored to have been presented with the opportunity to study at Cambridge as a Gates Scholar. I think the scholarship offers a tremendous opportunity to work at the Centre for Diet and Physical Activity Research (CEDAR), a leading research group in shaping public health practice and policy. At the same time, I think it does come with a responsibility to work toward making a contribution to one’s field of study, and I’m happy to accept that challenge. I look forward to taking advantage of the wide range opportunities the University of Cambridge offers.