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‘I felt part of a community’ – Chloe’s CUROP placement

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Chloe Ryce, a second-year psychology student, reflects on her CUROP placement at DECIPHer.

I first learnt about the DECIPHer CUROP project when I came across an email advertisement from the School of Psychology earlier this year. I hadn’t previously thought about pursuing a career in research, however when I came across the opportunity to work for eight weeks on the qualitative analysis of the National Exercise Referral Scheme (NERS), it immediately grabbed my attention. Having previously enjoyed qualitative research during my Psychology degree, and having a passion for the benefits of exercise, it seemed the perfect project for me! After being interviewed by Jemma Hawkins and Graham Moore, I was delighted to be offered the CUROP opportunity.

I was unsure of what to expect from the experience. I had just completed a year’s placement in a private sector occupational psychology environment so was intrigued to learn more about research in a public sector context. Furthermore, public health was always something that had been a peripheral interest of mine so I was looking forward to gaining an academic perspective on the field. Despite initially being nervous about starting, from my first day I was made to feel comfortable in DECIPHer as I received a warm reception. Everyone made me feel comfortable enough to ask about things if I was unsure.

My role during CUROP was to examine transcripts (of interviews with NERS co-ordinators) collected to evaluate how the National Exercise Referral Scheme has evolved over the 10 years since it was first introduced in 2007. The longest part of this process was coding interview transcripts, using qualitative software called NVivo. I had never used NVivo or coded qualitative data prior to this placement, but luckily I received full training on the software. I found the training very helpful and I am definitely keen to utilise my coding skills again during my final year project. Alongside my work on the NERS project, I was also involved with school visits for the WISE project data collection and was able to attend a seminar about the National Student Advisory Group . Having the opportunity to learn about a variety of projects helped to broaden my understanding of public health research.

My eight weeks at DECIPHer have given me more confidence in
making independent decisions, which will definitely benefit me when
working on my dissertation

One of the most enjoyable days of my placement was attending the DECIPHer short course. During this course I was able to attend a session in which Graham Moore discussed his initial evaluation of the NERS project in 2007. This was incredibly helpful when I was producing my literature review a few weeks later and it was also insightful to meet individuals working in the field of public health research who had travelled from all over the UK and Europe  to attend the course. Networking with these individuals really helped me to put my project into perspective and built on my understanding of complex public health interventions.

From my first day I was invited to join a leaving picnic and throughout my 8 weeks I enjoyed events such as 4th July celebrations and coffee mornings. Despite only being at DECIPHer a short while, I found it to be an incredibly inclusive and friendly work environment. Being part of the School of Social Sciences, DEICPHer take on many CUROP students each summer. DECIPHer staff Kim Sheppard and Zoe MacDonald made a great effort in ensuring that all CUROP students were sat in the same office together. I really appreciated these efforts as meeting other Cardiff students at different stages of their degrees made me feel like I was part of a community within DECIPHer. It was also interesting to learn about the different aspirations of the other CUROP students and how they were finding their projects.

My eight weeks at DECIPHer have given me more confidence in making independent decisions, which will definitely benefit me when working on my dissertation, which I am due to begin in October! As well as developing new skills in qualitative analysis, I have been inspired by the many passionate people I have met during my placement. I am very grateful to have had the pleasure of working under the supervision of Kelly Morgan and Jemma Hawkins who have guided me through the stages I was unsure of whilst also allowing me to be independent and engage with my intuition during the process. Monday mornings were always something to look forward to with the weekly coffee meetings. Overall, I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to work in such an inspiring workplace full of individuals passionate about what they do, and whose work significantly impacts public health.