Life after PhD: A Researcher’s Personal Journey

Life after PhD: A Researcher’s Personal Journey

Thu, Feb 26, 2015
Life after PhD: A Researcher’s Personal Journey



 Zhen-Bo Cao
Ph.D., Faculty of Sport Sciences


Time flies like an arrow; 12 years have passed since I arrived in Japan, and more than five years have passed since I completed my PhD. At this stage in my life, I reflect on my work since then. Following the completion of my PhD program in 2007, I gained employment at the National Institute of Health and Nutrition. At the time, Dr. Izumi Tabata, who was the leader of the Health Promotion and Exercise Program and was pivotal in the formulation of the “Exercise and Physical Activity Reference for Health Promotion 2006 (EPARHP2006),” established a major project for the EPARHP 2006 revision. As a participant in this project, I engaged daily in studies in the fields of physical activity/fitness along with nutrition and health, which involved scientific evaluation methods and evidence-based studies for health promotion. While in graduate school, I learned much about exercise and health through my research on the effectiveness of exercise and nutrition intervention for middle-aged and elderly people. However, participating in this project equipped me with a diverse range of hands-on experience in the fields of exercise, nutrition, and health. During this time,the project provided an environment that offered me the opportunity to fully utilize the research resources,enabling me to make good propositions and execute them with the confidence that I would be second to none. By the time I left the National Institute of Health and Nutrition, I had had five papers published in international academic journals, which enabled me to improve my research performance. Furthermore, I was afforded the honor of presenting at international conferences and formulating research plans and annual reports for the projects. This experience provided me with a firm foundation for my present standing in my research life. In addition, during my second year at the institute, I was given the chance to work as a part-time instructor at a university. This experience also significantly contributed to my current education and research activities as a university instructor.

In the fall of 2009, I transferred to my current position at the Faculty of Sport Sciences at Waseda University,which was selected for the Global COE Program: Sport Sciences for the Promotion of Active Life. My work as part of the Global COE Program has involved conducting my own research, educating PhD students in the Graduate School of Sport Sciences, constructing educational systems for PhD students, planning and running international symposiums, summarizing research achievements, and proposing and implementing international exchanges. In addition to bearing the responsibility for this major program, I have obtained important practical experiences. Since teaching staff and students on the Global COE Program work closely with one another, students often approach me with questions, consultations over research and overseas study, and occasionally even for counseling. While this is a lot for a young teacher such as myself to deal with, whenever one of my PhD students publishes a paper, I feel happy and satisfied at being able to help.At the same time, largely through my own initiatives, I have acquired the ability to create a coherent research flow, from planning to the acquisition of research funding, experiments, data analysis, and publication of the results. All this has allowed me to believe that, for the first time, I have truly become an independent researcher. Although I consider my life as a university instructor to be completely different from my tenure at the National Institute of Health and Nutrition, I am frequently reminded of how much the “discipline” I cultivated at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya and the National Institute of Health and Nutrition continues to support me. Overall, the past five years have been a busy but extremely rewarding period in my life.

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