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Q&A with Shannon Ang, PhD from Singapore, Singapore. Affiliation: Nanyang Technological University

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Q:Tell us a little about what you are doing right now? (If in a PhD program—year, dissertation stage, qualifying exam, internship, what degree/program type, research interests, etc?)
A: I recently completed my doctoral training in Sociology at the University of Michigan, and am currently an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. I am primarily interested in the health and social lives of older adults, especially in the Asian context.

Q:Tell us about your most recent activities and accomplishments? (project completions, papers, presentations, awards, grants, etc?)
A: My most recent paper, done with brilliant colleagues at the University of Michigan, was recently accepted for publication at the American Journal of Epidemiology. We were interested in how women’s work and family life histories could affect their cognitive performance in later life, and found that partnered mothers who were mainly unpaid caregivers fared worse than full-time working mothers. We intend to extend this project by looking at the role of state contexts in these relationships.

Q: Have you had an important mentor(s) in your career? If so, how did it make a difference? 

A: If “mentor” refers to people who have contributed meaningfully in my growth as a researcher/scholar, I have had lots of mentors! If I had to name a few, I would start with Angelique Chan and Rahul Malhotra at Duke-NUS Medical School for first showing me the ropes, by giving me the opportunity to write and conduct research with them. At the University of Michigan where I received my doctoral training, my advisor Sarah Burgard would often listen and patiently work through my many new and often silly ideas with me. Lois Verbrugge modelled lifelong inquisitiveness for me, and was a constant reminder to always consider the big picture in my career. These mentors have influenced not just my scholarly work, but more importantly, the kind of academic community (i.e., productive and welcoming) that I wish to build going forward.

Q: What are your motivations (inspirations) for studying aging
A: I grew up in Singapore, where rapid economic progress in the past few decades means that generational gaps are perhaps more pronounced than in most countries. For instance, many people in my grandparents’ generation are not well-educated and speak only Chinese dialects (e.g., Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew, etc.). However, largely due to the state’s education policy, those in my generation speak primarily in English and Mandarin, and do not understand the Chinese dialects used by older adults. This inevitably leads to difficulties in communication between the generations (i.e., grandparents and their grandchildren) at a basic level, notwithstanding the ‘digital divide’. These experiences and observations of my life in Singapore nurtured a natural interest in the social relationships of older people, both among themselves and across generations.

Q: What has been your most memorable experience in gerontology and aging research? 
A: My most memorable experience has to be getting my first paper (which happened to be my undergraduate honors thesis) rejected many, many times before it was finally published in a journal. It was my first exposure to the kind of rigor that is expected of research and the (sometimes) harsh criticisms people can sometimes give.

Q: Tell us about your involvement in GSA. (How long have you been a member, why did you become a member, how has GSA benefited your professional development, etc?). Which Section do you belong to?
A: I’ve been a GSA member in the Behavioral and Social Sciences Section since my first year in graduate school, and I try to attend the Annual Scientific Meetings whenever possible.

Q: How do you feel GSA serves the field of gerontology and aging research?
A: GSA provides a great platform to meet like-minded people and share research from many different disciplines. The opportunity to make good friends and collaborators that GSA offers is invaluable to the gerontological community.

Q: Do you have any tips for emerging gerontologists
A: Research is not a zero-sum game. Collaborate with lots of people and celebrate everyone’s achievements!

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