This summer I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to undertake an eight-week placement at DECIPHer. Although I was very excited, I was also quite nervous as I had little idea of what to expect. However, from day one I felt welcomed by all the staff who are all very warm and friendly. It soon became clear that DECIPHer is a fantastic place to work, with PhD students, post-doctoral researchers and academics who are all really passionate about what they do.
I had the opportunity to get involved with a number of different projects at DECIPHer. This included analysing data from the School Environment Questionnaire (SEQ), a survey which was distributed to schools involved in the School Health Research Network (SHRN). The SEQ aimed to support research into various aspects of the school environment, which would provide the Welsh Network of Healthy Schools Schemes (WNHSS) with monitoring data that would hopefully help to advance school health and wellbeing in Wales. An example of some of the analyses I worked on involved identifying schools who prioritised or did not prioritise policies such as student physical and mental health, and looking at associations between this data and educational outcomes.
I also worked with Dr. Jemma Hawkins on a project which aimed to evaluate a Group Motivational Interviewing (GMI) intervention that could be used during PSE lessons in secondary schools. I worked on a content analysis of data obtained from GMI sessions on alcohol and helped complete fidelity measures of the sessions that were held. Working on this project was a fantastic opportunity to gain my first real insight into qualitative research. This was a really interesting and enjoyable experience, and I definitely feel that my knowledge surrounding this area of research developed significantly.
In addition, I helped with producing evidence briefs from a number of research papers, that would be comprehensible to teachers and students. I also had the opportunity to attend a number of different events at DECIPHer during my placement. This included a Health Literacy seminar, which was a particularly interesting and insightful session that broadened my knowledge of a significant issue within public health promotion that I had never really thought about before.
Above all, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at DECIPHer and consider it to be one of the highlights of my time at Cardiff University. My ‘Cardiff Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme’ (CUROP) placement exceeded my expectations and provided me with an invaluable insight into the field of public health research. The experience has also allowed me to build on and improve skills such as teamwork, listening, communication and use of initiative – all of which I am sure will help me when going forward at university and beyond. I am grateful for Dr. Honor Young and DECIPHer for enabling me to undertake this placement and would definitely encourage any undergraduate student to take advantage of any placement opportunities here in the future!