By Amy Bond
In 2016, I applied for a Cardiff University Research Opportunities Summer Placement (CUROP) at the DECIPHer research centre. The CUROP scheme was initially brought to my attention by my dissertation supervisor, Professor Adam Fletcher, who recommended that I applied. I was thrilled to be awarded a place on the CUROP scheme, where I worked on the service evaluation of the ‘Food and Fun’ School Holiday Enrichment Programme (SHEP) which aims to alleviate childhood food poverty, improve children’s physical activity levels and relieve the financial burden of the summer holidays on families living in deprived areas in Wales.
My CUROP placement was the perfect opportunity to gain first-hand experience of the different stages involved in a large scale research study. I was involved in the preparation of data collection tools, the quantitative and qualitative data collection across Wales and the subsequent data analysis. The placement was hugely rewarding and confirmed my aspirations for a future in research. I would recommend a CUROP placement to any student interested in a career in research, as the placement is such a unique opportunity to experience the real life research environment.
After completing my CUROP placement and graduating from Cardiff University, I was offered a position at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), where I worked within the Labour Force Survey Team. Although working at the ONS was a fantastic experience, I believed my future was within academia and I relished the opportunity to return to DECIPHer as an employee. I joined the DECIPHer team as a Specialist Research Administrator working on the Wellbeing In Secondary Education (WISE) study in January 2017. The purpose of the WISE study is an Intervention to assess its effectiveness on teacher and student wellbeing and emotional health, as well as on attendance and attainment levels. I have a varied role which has allowed me to refine my understanding of the processes involved in large research studies, as well as developing my own data collection and analysis skills further. Additionally, I have been offered a multitude of training opportunities to continue my professional development at DECIPHer and will be attending the DECIPHer short course as well as a short course at the University of Galway later this year.
Within my first week at DECIPHer, I attended an introductory meeting with Professor Simon Murphy, where we discussed my future career plans. I had stated I was looking to have a career in research and was hoping to do a PhD in public health research. Professor Murphy highlighted my interests to other academics within DECIPHer, who offered me help to develop a proposal for the upcoming Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Wales Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) Studentship deadline. My proposal was titled “Engaging low-income families in school-based health interventions: A case study of Food and Fun clubs in Wales” and was built upon my prior experiences working on School Holiday Enrichment Programme.
I was delighted when I was offered a PhD interview. Dr Graham Moore and Dr Rhiannon Evans offered me a mock PhD interview, which fully prepared me for the experience. I was subsequently awarded the funding by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Wales Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) Studentship. In October 2017 I will start the Social Science Research Methods Masters leading to starting my PhD in October 2018.
I would like to thank everyone at DECIPHer for their encouragement and to Dr Graham Moore and Dr Jemma Hawkins for their expertise and support in developing my PhD proposal. My research journey is just beginning and I am looking forward to the next four years at DECIPHer.