Name: Dr Lidia Panico
Research institution: Gender Institute, London School of Economics and Political Sciences
Research career length: 2 years
Research Council: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Location: London, England
Brief summary of research: Family structures and child wellbeing
BSc in Population Studies, London School of Economics
MSc in Demography and Health
PhD at University College London, in the relationship between family structure and child health using longitudinal techniques
Worked for a non-governmental organisation for a year, between undergraduate degree and my Master’s
Two years as a researcher following MSc
ESRC Post-Doctoral Fellow, Gender Institute, London School of Economics
Politicians and parents often have strong views on the best way to bring up children. Providing evidence on effective family structure is a real challenge for researchers, like Lidia Panico. The long timescales and the complex number of factors that may be involved in influencing a child’s wellbeing, mean that this type of research draws on both the researcher’s expertise, and on powerful statistics to make sense of vast sets of data.
Family structure, income and emotional support are known to affect a child’s wellbeing and how they develop. Since each of these varies from family-to-family, my research looks at the effect on a child’s health of having two parents or one, and whether the parents are married or not. I examine the information from ‘longitudinal studies’ - which means using data collected over a long time period - to test whether the type of family and changes in its structure, have an effect on aspects of health, such as asthma, obesity and physical injuries.
I first became interested in this work through having a passion for my subject, and encouragement from great teachers, both in secondary school and at university. I really enjoyed my first degree in population studies, so decided to stay in research, though I did take a year out between my Undergraduate and Master’s degrees to try working in the ‘real world’. Then I went back to university, but chose not start my doctorate for a further two years. During this time I worked as a researcher, which gave me time to develop my ideas and come up with my own research proposal for a PhD. It was also a good time to meet other researchers and form networks which I still find very valuable.
In my current role as a Research Associate, most of my time is spent researching and analysing data, and writing up academic papers and presentations. I use powerful statistical computer packages to make sense of large data sets. I have frequent meetings with other researchers to discuss results.
Presenting my work at international conferences forms an important part of my work, and I normally attend three or four every year. This year I will be travelling to the United States for a one-month visit, as well as shorter trips to Stockholm, Milan and Paris.
Since my research is of interest to politicians, I have presented my findings to policymakers, including the people who develop new policies, and others whose job it is to make the policies work.
Being a researcher is an incredibly fulfilling job, and also provides me with flexibility - I have a little girl. In the future I would hope to remain a researcher, possibly with a permanent post as a Lecturer or working in a research department for a non-governmental organisation.