As a first year SOCSI student, I was extremely nervous about applying for the 8-week paid placement through the Cardiff University Research Opportunities Programme (CUROP). Although I was inexperienced, I wanted the opportunity to practice what I had learnt so far, in a real life research environment. I have always been interested in young people’s mental health, and had previously been looking at the possibility of volunteering in this area, and so I was delighted when I was offered the placement on the Wellbeing In Secondary Education (WISE) project. The project aims at improving the mental health and support available to both teachers and students in secondary schools through intervention, making this placement perfect for the field of research I am most interested in!
My first week at DECIPHer was different to any working environment I had ever experienced. There was lot of flexibility and variety in the role, and I often had the autonomy to manage my own workload. This was useful for my own personal development, as I now feel like I have confidence to work independently and more efficiently. My colleagues and everyone at DECIPHer were incredibly friendly and welcoming, and my supervisor, Dr Rhiannon Evans, was very supportive of my work and future career plans.
Before I started my placement, I had little knowledge of how research worked practically, and found it difficult to adjust as I didn’t know what to expect. However, I soon found myself doing things I never knew I was capable of. After just my second week, I was supporting data collection and gave a presentation to a group of secondary school students about the study! I also went out on data collection to twelve schools in three weeks and attended cross-centre meetings. I even safeguarded and entered data onto computer programmes I never even knew existed before my placement. I found that working in research and learning about research to be two very different things, so knowing that the work I was doing was contributing to such an important and large scale study was amazing. Seeing how research is put into practice has encouraged me to concentrate on applying myself to my University work, to be able to be involved in similar projects related to mental health and wellbeing in the future.
My time at DECIPHer has been incredibly rewarding and reassured me that I am on the right degree path. I’d recommend other students to apply for the placement, as it is a unique opportunity and will give you a real taste for research. The placement has given me the confidence to try new things and motivation for my next academic year. I am now determined to have a career in research, and I’m hoping to have further internships in the future. I am also hoping to do a PhD in public health research after seeing the achievements of my colleagues. Previously I had been unsure of what I wanted to do as a career, but this placement has enabled me realise that I would like a future in mental health research. With that said, I am more driven than ever to be able to achieve this, and that is all down to my time at DECIPHer.