Here are some questions and answers from our interview with TOS Fellow David B. Allison, PhD, FTOS, Distinguished Professor, Quetelet Endowed Professor of Public Health, Associate Dean for Science of the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Q: What is your title and organizational affiliation?
A: I am a Distinguished Professor, Quetelet Endowed Professor of Public Health, Associate Dean for Science of the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I am also the Director of the Office of Energetics at the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I received my BA in psychology at Vassar College, and obtained my MA in clinical psychology and PhD in clinical psychology at Hofstra University. I also received my post-doctorate in behavioral pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Q: Please tell us about your current work and your professional developmental trajectory?
A: I began my career as a psychologist and have, over the years, gradually learned more about other disciplines and expanded my work into fields as diverse as genetics, evolutionary biology, clinical trials, policy, epidemiology, statistical methods, and basic animal work. I enjoy approaching obesity from many different conceptual, methodological, and disciplinary angles. In recent years, I have been particularly active in trying to promote the rigorous development of and reliance on scientific evidence within both the field and my own research.
Q: What is one of your professional or personal qualities that has contributed to your success?
A: I do not believe that there is any single quality that makes a scientist successful. Tenacity (incidentally identified by Pasteur as the single secret to his success), hard work, the ability to think outside of convention, the joy of wonder, and the ability to work with and listen to others, have all seemed vital to me.
Q: What advice do you have for today's junior obesity researchers?
A: Pick topics that really matter. Work on things that turn you on and will contribute to real advances in our knowledge or understanding. Stay away from repetitive "me too" research. Have fun.
Q: What aspects of obesity research are the most exciting to you right now?
A: There are so many aspects that are fun and exciting, it is hard to choose. That's part of why I study so broadly. One of my biggest projects that I find especially interesting involves studying how perceptions of the energetics of the environment affect organisms' efforts to store bodily energy and longevity. Through a transformative R01 from the NIH, we are studying such perceptual effects in drosophila, mice, and humans.
Q: What are your favorite things to do when you're not at work?
A: I enjoy the outdoors and going hiking, biking, fishing, and canoeing with my family, postdocs, students, and dog. We hope you come visit us in Alabama.