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Meet Our Alumni: Rod Knight, MSc

At A Glance: Rod’s Career Path – hover here

What did the MSc give you?

The core knowledge and skills gained during my MSc positioned me to understand public health outcomes in a variety of areas.


What advice do you have for current students and recent graduates?

Attending conferences in your area of research are great opportunities to get your name out there and to meet the leading scientists and community leaders in your field.


Interesting Fact

I’m a proponent of mid-grant-writing walks to refresh the mind.

Rod Knight has been called a “superstar” Early Career Researcher.

Graduating from the Master of Science (MSc) program at the School of Population and Public Health in 2011, and the interdisciplinary doctoral program in 2014, Dr. Knight is now the co-Principal Investigator (PI) of ‘Addressing sexual- and drug-related HIV risk among young gay, bisexual and other MSM’ project, which recently received $2 million in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

The project will bolster efforts to create effective interventions for young gay, bisexual, queer and Two-Spirit men and gender diverse people, currently an overrepresented group for HIV and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections. The project team will work to improve health outcomes among young gay, bisexual, queer and Two-Spirit men and gender diverse people who use drugs, while contributing new knowledge to the field of HIV implementation science, in both metro Vancouver, Prince George, and, in the future, another city in the province.

After graduation, Dr. Knight started a post-doctoral fellowship with the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and now works as a research scientist with the BC Centre on Substance Use, where he leads a program of research around men and substance use treatment. In July, he will start as an Assistant Professor in a partner faculty position with UBC’s Department of Medicine and the BC Centre on Substance Use, while working on the CIHR project. He attributes moving from graduation to co-PI status within three years to meaningful mentoring opportunities.

“Based on my experience, I believe setting one’s self up with meaningful opportunities to be mentored is essential to success in health research. “
MSc alumnus Rod Knight

He highlighted his supervisor, and now co-PI, Professor Jean Shoveller, among those who provided “exceptional” training opportunities; Dr. Shoveller in turn describes Dr. Knight as a “superstar Early Career Researcher.” These opportunities taught Dr. Knight key metrics needed to be successful in academia, such as publishing, while focusing on research about which he was passionate. “I also spent a lot of time on learning the ‘ins and outs’ of grant writing, including through opportunities to assist with the preparation of CIHR grant applications, writing my own training applications and via the Bridge Program.”

An average day at work does not involve a laboratory, despite what people often assume, but instead involves implementing research studies and providing leadership to trainees and staff. This includes meeting with colleagues, trainees, policy makers, and community partners, and he tries to spend at least two hours every morning, uninterrupted, on writing, including articles for peer-reviewed publication.

“I am a huge fan of taking a quick walk half-way through the day to refresh my mind.”
MSc alumnus Rod Knight

Dr. Knight’s ‘ah ha!’ moment with public health came when he realized the theory he was studying in undergraduate sociology work could be applied directly to designing and evaluating public health interventions, including interventions he had come across in his own life. His interest in his field of research developed as he explored interests in how dominant social norms around masculinity shape the experiences that men can and cannot have, including how societal expectations about how men ‘should’ behave or be affect what men feel comfortable telling a practitioner. For many men, talking about sex could be a unique circumstance, Dr. Knight said.

“A lot of men come to our interviews because they want to [be able to] talk about sex and sexual health.”
MSc alumnus Rod Knight

The core knowledge and skills in epidemiological and biostatistical methods and thesis work gained during his MSc meant he was able to understand public health outcomes in a variety of areas, including men’s health outcomes as they relate to drug- and sexual health-related outcomes, and these skills helped in the development of expertise in other health sciences areas, including implementation science and population and public health ethics, Dr. Knight said.

His advice to current MSc students when it comes to employment in the field is to develop networks with colleagues and mentors locally, nationally and internationally. For example, funding opportunities are available to trainees to present research findings at conferences. “Attending conferences in your area of research are great opportunities to get your name out there and to meet the leading scientists and community leaders in your field.”

“I am fortunate in that I get to continue to work closely with many of the others who started their degrees when I started my MSc, and we often laugh about many of the times we had together throughout our course work. “
MSc alumnus Rod Knight

While he is not sure exactly where he will be in 10 years, he expects the next decade to be research intensive, and plans to stay in public health research, in Vancouver, and at UBC.

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