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Huong Ly Tong

Research Officer & PhD candidate at Centre for Health Informatics, Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University 

 

The knowledge we have today would not have been possible if it had not been for the countless scientists working together, and bravely asking difficult questions.  

What do you do?

I am a researcher in Health Informatics. I am part of a team that looks at how we can use technology such as mobile apps, wearable trackers, social media and artificial intelligence to encourage people to lead an active and healthy lifestyle.

Why did you choose this field?

I was often asked who I wanted to be when I grew up. Though my answer has varied anywhere from “hairdresser” to “teacher”, the two constant things were my natural curiosity, and my burning desire to help improve people’s lives. To be honest, I did not strategically choose my field of work. Quite the opposite – I happened to stumble into the field of Health Informatics during a summer internship as an undergraduate. I picked the internship because I was interested in the cool technology and wanted to find out how technology that seemingly made people be sedentary (like social media), can encourage people to be healthier! As time goes on, I grow to love research more and more, because it allows me to seek answers to my many questions, produce and spread knowledge that will benefit human life. In other words, it was not “love at first sight”; it was a love that grows throughout time. I feel very privileged and grateful to be in a position where I can actively pursue my passion for learning, as well as contribute to building a better society for us all.

What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?

When I was growing up, I was often told that “girls are not good at science”. While it was challenging for young girls to fight and ignore the ingrained culture (even more so if you are a person of colour), I am grateful for everything that happened because it gave me the motivation, drive and encouragement to be who I am today. If I could go back in time and talk to younger me, I would thank her for not being bitter, and encourage her to go on, even when the going gets tough. One day, she will get the opportunities to travel to different countries and meet amazing people to do research! 

Why do you love working in STEM?

I love being a part of the collaborative effort to advance science and technology. All the knowledge that we have today, all the medical advances that save millions of lives would not have been possible, if it had not been for the countless scientists working together, building on existing knowledge, and bravely asking difficult questions.  

Best advice for the next generation

Find people that believe in you, lift you up, and support you. Good mentorship and friendship will make the hard work a lot more fun and meaningful!

Fun fact

I love Harry Potter and one of my favourite quotes from Albus Dumbledore is “Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”