Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Anastasia Zinchenko. I recently learned about Anastasia, scientist, vegan and powerlifter, so I knew I wanted to interview her and learn more about her science and the combination of science and elite sports (and general badassery).
Anastasia works as a researcher for Bayesian Bodybuilding. Earlier this year, she completed her PhD research at the University of Cambridge. During her PhD, she developed a user-friendly high-throughput screening system in microdroplets for the selection of efficient biocatalysts. She studied Chemistry at Saarland University and Biosciences at the University of Exeter. Prior to starting her PhD, she researched at the California Institute of Technology on bacterial N-linked glycosylation for her diploma thesis.
Outside research, she is a competitive powerlifter, expert for the Men’s Fitness magazine and entrepreneur, focusing on scientific writing, coaching and online consultations.
In her free time, she moderates a 18,000 member science- and evidence-based facebook group – “vegan bodybuilding and nutrition“. She became vegan when she started strength training. Many people who transition to vegan lifestyle look for information on how to combine veganism with their athletic goals. She loves sharing her experience and knowledge on this topic with others.
Experiments are an essential component of her life – no matter if she conducts them in the lab or in the kitchen. She love combining science, sports nutrition, veganism and creativity in the recipes she creates for her food blog . Her recipes are high-protein, diet-friendly, healthy mimics of fast food – an innovative way to eat cakes for better health.
Current Job: Researcher at Bayesian Bodybuilding
Current Location: Cambridge, United Kingdom
Current mobile device: iPhone 5
Current computer: MacBook Pro
Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us? Could you tell us some more about your achievements in powerlifting?
Currently, I work as a researcher for Bayesian Bodybuilding, a private education institute that also does private research. My main task is the conduction of research studies on resistance training and sports nutrition.
Outside research, I am a competitive powerlifter. Earlier this year I became British Bench Press Vice-Champion. At the moment I prepare for the Bench Press World Championship.
My passion for strength training and science motivated to start my own business – ScienceStrength – doing scientific writing, coaching and online consultations.
How do you manage to combine research and sports? What does a typical day or week look like for you?
At the moment, I work from home. Luckily, I can arrange my schedule to my convenience most of the time. I do most of the work in the morning and early afternoon, train in the afternoon and spend time with online coaching and social media involvement in the evenings.
When I worked in the lab, I tried to fit in my training sessions whenever it was possible. Depending on the experiments I planned for that day I scheduled my training sessions around them. Sometimes I trained in the morning, sometimes during the day if I had long waiting times (e.g. incubation) for my experiments, and most often in the evenings after the lab work.
What tools, apps and software are essential to your workflow?
What does your workspace setup look like? Do you have a fixed workspace, or do you alternate between a home office, university office and lab?
I usually work from home.
What is your best advice for productive academic work?
Planning, doing ample literature research, not spending time on tasks that result in low return, thinking twice before starting an experiment (especially about an adequate number of negative controls), and scheduling all activities. Often a to-do-list is not enough for high productivity. Productivity is similar to power – it’s the work performed in a certain time period.
How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks? Do you use a similar method to keep an overview of your training and nutrition?
I always have a to do list, with tasks ranked acceding to their priority and the time frame available to fulfil them.
For my training and nutrition I have an excel spread sheet. I track nutritional content of everything I eat. I love collecting my own data and analysing them in order to track my progress.
Which skill makes you stand out as an academic?
I pay attention to detail. I often discover things that other researchers oversee and find connections between dots that haven’t been made yet.
What do you listen to when you work?
It depends on the type of work I do. Most of the time I listen to metal. For lab work, I prefer music that is fast, loud and powerful. When listening to music, my lab work is accompanied by head banging and dancing. My colleagues got used to it after a while 🙂 When I do reading or writing, I prefer slow and silent music in the background.
What are you currently reading? How do you find time for reading?
Besides research papers? Although there isn’t much time left, I try to read as much as I can. Mostly, books or blogs on exercise and nutrition, but also coaching, sports psychology or business.
Are you more of an introvert or extrovert? How does this influence your working habits?
It depends. In groups of up to 5 people I am mostly extrovert, in groups of up to 25 people introvert and in larger groups extrovert. It is difficult for me being surrounded by other people 24 hours a day. I have the tendency to isolate myself from time to time, especially when it comes to social activities outside the lab.
What’s your sleep routine like?
I try to get as much sleep as possible and go to bed before midnight. Often, I don’t get enough sleep, especially when I work on exciting projects. I simply can’t fall asleep or wake up during the night, because I constantly get new ideas. I have insomnia since childhood. Over time I learned how to deal with it.
What does your training regimen look like?
At the moment, I train 5 days a week. I do full body training every session, focusing on the three powerlifting disciplines – squat, bench press and deadlift – the most.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
Don’t compare yourself to others, set your own standards.
What’s your best advice to young researchers?
Every time you feel like you’re stuck, look back and see how far you have come.