An Intersect Segment: Interviews with an eRA: 1

Holistically, Intersect’s mission is to help researchers to be more efficient and effective in their research. Our eResearch Analyst team at Intersect is specifically targeted at enhancing the capabilities of researchers in digital tools and technologies. The team supports the world-class research conducted at our member universities, providing expertise in various digital tools and technologies.

Aside from these ongoing research support services, the eRAs of Intersect dedicate themselves to specialised research projects created and implemented by the various member universities. Over the next few months, Intersect will be interviewing members of our eResearch Analyst team, getting to know them and the inspirations behind some of the astounding work that they do.

To kick off the segment, we interviewed Dr. Jerry Lai, who began his eResearch Analyst journey with Intersect in 2017 at Deakin University.

PhD, Behavioural Science, Master of Statistics, BSc (Hons I)

Personal Interests: Consulting, Statistical programming, Teaching Statistics and Research Methods.

Past Experience: 7+ years of experience in consulting, lecturing statistics and research methods at La Trobe University and RMIT University.

Behavioural Science.  My research was to explore how to better the way we teach,  do, and present statistics in the applied sciences; and to, more generally speaking, promote statistical thinking. I quite enjoy research methods, data analysis, and visualisation; I enjoyed these so much that I went on and did a Masters in Statistics after my PhD.  Ha 🙂

I’m passionate about working with people to solve problems. I love coming up with ways to address people’s questions and problems; to ensure that all my projects flow smoothly, from start to finish. It doesn’t matter what the solution is, it may be data, analytical, technological, or people, I’m interested in it. I have consulted in both research and industry-led projects. I have been quite fortunate to have worked with collaborators who are agile, straightforward, and always willing to trial new ideas and  solutions.

The willingness for everyone to contribute and to take responsibility when duty calls. When the timing is tight and the deadline is close, that’s when people come together. People are not going to let things fail. We will come together when it is necessary and get through it with teamwork.

There’s quite a few of them. There’s an ongoing project called the Educator Health and Wellbeing (EHW) project. In a nutshell, EHW is an industry and Government-funded initiative to develop an evidence-based program and App to help monitor and ensure the health and wellbeing, both mentally and physically, of principals and teachers in secondary, primary, and early education schools. Educators complete a yearly evaluation of their workload, stress, health, and wellbeing; all through the EHW App. This App essentially serves as a self-tracking device/dashboard and information hub for the participating educators.  

The project was live for a few years at ACU, and the Project Lead and Project Manager brought the idea over to Deakin University. At first, the team was small (3 members); the project was big, and the launch date was tight (2 to 3 months). The EHW Team made an urgent call, and thus I jumped onboard. It was quite a challenge but the three of us managed to develop the program and have it rolled out in time. The project has since grown (and we have adopted it for other populations of educators), and the EHW Team has expanded to 8 members.

After having worked as a data and research consultant for 6 to 7 years now, I have learned that there’s always a better solution to a problem or a better way to do things. Experience to me is to have the awareness and confidence to begin a project and quickly identify the suitable priorities, solutions, their pros-and-cons, ways to future-proof,  and most importantly, the wisdom to know which solutions to showcase to the stakeholders and to pitch them right!

When I did my Masters in Statistics I spent much of my time trying to learn and be good at everything. This, of course, had been an impossible and stressful task. One day,  my professor asked, “Jerry, why are you wasting all your time just to focus on your weakness? Spend more time to exercise and maximise your strength so other people can get the chance to exercise their strengths to help you.” I have remembered that for 7 years. It is something that I relate back to in my role and it has enabled me to assist my research and industry partners to the best of my ability.

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