Q&A with Ben Schumacher, PhD, MPH

from the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Q: How long have you been a GSA member?

A: March 2021.

Q: How specifically has membership in GSA benefitted you?

A: First and foremost, the 2021 Annual Scientific Virtual Meeting is where I met Dr. Elsa Strotmeyer, Director of the Epidemiology of Aging Training Program at the University of Pittsburgh. This meeting gave rise to my current position as a Postdoctoral Scholar in that program. Additionally, I have met new collaborators and friends through my involvement at the Annual Scientific Meetings and Interest Groups.

Q: How did you get interested in the field of aging?

A: I was interested in physical activity (PA) epidemiology before I was interested in aging. When given the opportunity to work with Dr. Andrea LaCroix in the Objective Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health (OPACH) Study, I found myself captivated by physical activity intensity considerations in older adults—a lower resting metabolic rate coupled with an increased energy cost of movement means that activities of daily living may be closer to an older adult’s maximal capacity. This paradigm of measuring relative intensity of physical activity in older adults became my passion.

Q: What projects are you working on in your current position?

A: In my current position as a Postdoctoral Scholar, my projects are focused on the measurement and analysis of physical activity in aging adults (e.g. accelerometry), with specific focus on intensity of activity and perceived fatigability. As older adults will adjust their activity levels to minimize their feelings of fatigue (i.e., self- pace), I have developed an interest in researching perceived fatigability, the quantification of vulnerability to fatigue in relation to specific intensity and duration of activities.

Q: What do you love most about your line of work?

A: I love receiving a new dataset and trying to uncover the story that is hidden in the rows and columns! I love complicated data analysis and interpretation tasks.

Q: What was the best piece of advice you got early on in your career you’d like to pass on to emerging gerontologists?

A: A great mentor of mine early on in my doctoral training, Dr. Caroline Thompson, used to say, “Don’t get it right, get it written”. While not her original quote, I feel it is quite applicable to the journey of academia/science. I would tend to let my perfectionist tendencies get in the way of the timely progression of the work—sometimes even causing procrastination—but I learned that if you get it written first, it’s far easier to edit, and then it will be right.