Shelley KeatingYour name and position?
Dr Shelley Keating, NHMRC Early Career Fellow, School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences.

What have been your key career achievements?
My program of research examines the role of exercise in the management of obesity and related conditions, notably non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and type 2 diabetes. Obesity represents a major challenge for health worldwide, and recent evidence shows that NAFLD is an emerging threat significantly contributing to the risk of liver disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Given the current lack of effective pharmaceutical therapies, or lifestyle therapies outside of weight loss, my research explores the application of exercise without weight loss for the management of obesity and NAFLD.

My key career achievement since completing my PhD in September 2015 was being awarded a NHMRC Early Career Fellowship to further examine personalised exercise strategies for the management of cardiometabolic risk in adults with NAFLD. I was also awarded a Diabetes Australia Research Program grant to examine the health benefits of high-intensity exercise in patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (a progressive and aggressive form of NAFLD). My work has been cited in international guidelines for the management of NAFLD and ultimately has potential to change clinical practice for the management of obesity and related conditions.

Have you faced any barriers as a woman?
To date, I have been privileged to work in two excellent schools and research labs across two Universities in Australia (The University of Sydney and The University of Queensland). I have had strong support as an early career researcher from both male and female mentors. I feel that I have had equal opportunity to express my ideas and conduct my research, and equal access to initiatives and granting/fellowship programs. I am soon to take my first maternity leave, and am fortunate that both the University and the NHMRC, who support my current position, have systems that allow me to transition back to work when I am ready. While there will be a transient decrease in my productivity and research output during this time, most granting bodies and academic institutions assess applications relative to opportunity. There are also initiatives in Queensland (e.g. Advance Queensland Women) that seek to support women returning to research following maternity leave.

What areas are you particularly passionate about that you would like to see change for women in the future?
Gender parity across all levels of academia is important. This ensures that there is a balance of ideas and approaches to both teaching and research. I would like to see more women represented at the higher echelons of academia, e.g. in Professorships. I believe with the changing face of academia and the growing support for women in research, that this will occur in the not-too-distant future. 

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