Scholar Spotlight - Adrian Pang

Laidlaw Scholar, Adrian Pang, on the vital link between biomechanics and menstrual cycles in athletes.
Scholar Spotlight - Adrian Pang

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Adrian Pang, a University of Hong Kong Laidlaw Scholar, Explores the Intersection of Menstrual Cycles and Biomechanics in Female Footballers.

Research title: Menstrual Cycle Phase and Biomechanics in Female Footballers - A Pilot Study

My summer research attachment involved a pilot study preceding a larger project on comparing biomechanics-related injuries and menstrual phase cycles in female footballers. We recruited players from the national leagues and measured their movement dynamics and balance using an open-source AI-based algorithmic software that analyses smartphone videos. In brief, we are trying to figure out if there are any differences in their biomechanics (which could contribute to injury risks) across their menstrual cycle phases - as it has been proposed that the hormonal changes related to their cycles could be contributing to such effects.

As explained in the report and poster, the current stage (upon completion of the 6-week attachment) focused on the analysis of first-week differences with respect to baseline characteristics, particularly prior training experience. This was due to the 6-week placement constraint and internal deadline, and therefore the full data was not yet available when I left London – the plan was to first analyse the data available at hand, then further explore the full menstrual cycle with an expanded sample size (current n = 20). Since August, we have been analysing the differences in LESS (a jump-landing test) and double-leg squat parameters across the cycle. The individual errors of the LESS score are a particular focus that we are looking into currently. We are expanding to another 3-5 teams to increase the sample size, and hope to publish the results altogether by the end of 2024. 

The whole project hopes to understand what are the effects on biomechanics across menstrual cycle phases if there are any. As such, we will be able to explain different injury risks across the cycle and hopefully inform future training protocols to reduce injuries in female athletes. 

My research poster and Catherine whom I worked with at ISEH for the research attachment.

Where did your passion for this research originate?

My programme is an interdisciplinary BASc in Global Health and Development and is meant to look at world issues including health crises from a holistic, population-level perspective. For sure, what I am studying (even taking into account my second major in Psychology) seems to be completely different from my research scope. So, when I was browsing through the project options, I thought - “given that my studies at HKU offer such a broad overview of health and developmental issues, should I try to look into some issues that involve actual fieldwork and human interaction?”, and so I went for it.

It is not my intention (and arguably difficult) to justify a “passion” for women’s health right here. I have no business with actual sports either. (The closest match is perhaps hiking with my friends sometimes) However, as stated in my blog post on the Laidlaw network, the topic itself being about female footballers should not be an impediment for me, as a male researcher to take part in it. In fact, I should not even care too much about whether it is female or male footballers being the study target. It is known that current literature evidence mostly focuses on male athletes, and there is a huge room for other studies to follow up on female samples as well. So simply it was the scope that is complementary to my population health-level studies, and both challenges and potentials in this field of research that brought me to this project supervised by Dr Blodgett at UCL.

What is the most memorable moment from your Laidlaw scholarship experience so far?

Both my research attachment at UCL and the conference at Dublin was equally spectacular but let me focus on the conference for this question and the research for the other. The conference was a unique opportunity for us Hong Kong scholars to meet with the rest of the European and North American scholars with whom we are separated by thousands of miles. It was also very nice to reunite with fellows from UCL where I spent 6-weeks at for my research. Apart from the fact that it was my first time visiting Ireland (perfectly complementing my summer research’s weekend trips that spanned Scotland, Wales and of course England itself), the Laidlaw Scholars Annual Conference was also my first time taking part in an international event since joining university. It’s a unique experience working with others on some actual academic issues (i.e. research) or making social impact (i.e. LiA) outside of typical lecture settings and even more meaningful to share our progress and results with one another. 

At Trinity Business School with Laidlaw Foundation CEO Susanna Kempe and some UCL Laidlaw Scholars

At the Book of Kells, Trinity College Dublin on the last day of the conference.

What is the biggest challenge you came across in your research and leadership journeys so far, and what did you learn from it?

A new ethics application had to be approved before actually commencing data collection on our athlete participants, thus delaying my fieldwork visits (to the football field) by a week and to a considerable extent, disrupted the timeline of the project. Not knowing how complicated the approval takes before setting off to the UK, I did not expect such a huge obstacle and was initially worried about the data analysis and subsequent report write-up. Of course, I did not waste the first three weeks of time by piloting the use of OpenCap, a key piece of AI-algorithmic technology that the project relies on, writing protocol for the study that is still being used for subsequent follow-up and expanded data collection as well as preparing various study-related documents including questionnaires and a participant management portal. Although I had to continue my data analysis through August when I was back in Hong Kong, I was glad that my supervisor and I were able to work out alternatives both on-site and remotely to enable the timely completion of my Laidlaw research project. A key takeaway for me is certainly to not take everything going on smoothly for granted, and always be flexible to changes. When things don’t go to plan, improvise!

What does it mean for you to be a Laidlaw Scholar?

Once I saw the poster calling for applications in October last year, I felt that the Laidlaw Scholars Programme was one that I must join. It’s an incredible opportunity to get hands-on research experience at such an early stage (year 1) of my undergraduate studies, not to mention doing that overseas at a renowned institution like UCL. To me, being part of the Laidlaw family is a huge commitment to not only ourselves (like completing the research and LiA, overcoming challenges) but also to the peers who are in the programme together. It is not just intellectual and academic exchange (as we have had during the poster sessions in Dublin) but also striving to uphold values like ambition, curiosity and being extraordinary. I find being a Laidlaw Scholar a great chance to build new skills (beyond leadership) in not only learning but also growing as a better person overall. 

Which leaders inspire you the most and why?

Although politically controversial himself, Rishi Sunak, the current UK Prime Minister shared the quote in the Parliament in the early months of his tenure, “Leadership is not selling fairytales. It is confronting challenges”. I found it particularly insightful especially given my previous experience in student leadership roles in secondary school, but having limited chances to polish related skills due to the pandemic (life in Hong Kong barely started to resume until March 2023). There was a time when blank cheques were a norm, due to delayed relaxation of quarantines or social-distancing restrictions and leaders were seemingly as disoriented as their fellow teammates. That quote reminded me always to teach what you preach and actually confront the situation. Do not just sugarcoat things but be honest with your team. These principles helped me navigate through the first three semesters of my uni life very well so far and enabled me to get on well with the new learning environment as well.

Briefly describe a scene from the future you are striving to create.

This does not directly tie to my research topic with it being such a specialised field, unlike those broader global issues like peace and humanitarian crises, or global warming. However, coming from a city with a highly international and intercultural mix of locals and visitors, it appears as crucial to me to foster a future world with more understanding between people and the capacity to accept new and differing ideas. It’s okay to disagree, but not okay to disrespect. Given the recent conflicts no matter in Ukraine, the Middle East or hostility in the Western Pacific (e.g. Japan, China, Taiwan and US interests), it is imperative that we at least try to listen and communicate. We share not only this beautiful globe but also the common responsibility to protect its harmony together.

Quick-fire Questions

🎥 Currently Binging: The Diplomat (Netflix)

📚 My top book recommendation: 

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

🎶 My anthem: A Million Dreams (from The Greatest Showman)

🎵 Podcast obsession: Black Box Down

🌈 Something that made me feel joy recently: 

As simple as hanging out with friends after the final exams!


You can find Adrian on LinkedIn. If you are interested in learning more about Adrian's research, check out his research report and research poster.

Adrian is a Laidlaw Undergraduate Leadership and Research Scholar at The University of Hong Kong. Become a Laidlaw Scholar to conduct a research project of your choice, develop your leadership skills, and join a global community of changemakers from world-leading universities.

Find out more about the Laidlaw Scholars Undergraduate Leadership and Research Programme.

🔦 Discover more Scholar Spotlights: 

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⚡️ Keir Chauhan, a Laidlaw Scholar at University College London on the power of birds in bridging humanity and nature.

⚡️ Lucy Nyamaah, a Laidlaw Scholar at Oxford University's Saïd Business School on pushing past gender norms and envisioning a female-led future in the energy sector.

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