What’s it like completing a summer research internship at DECIPHer? Five Cardiff University students discuss their experiences.
‘Overall I have loved my placement with DECIPHer and would recommend it to anyone considering a research career.’
I have recently graduated from Cardiff University with a BSc in Social Analytics and I was keen to start social science research as soon as possible. When looking at the CUROP placements, I decided this would be the best option to enable me to gain an insight into the research going on at the university, and the work being done to better society. I have always been interested in quantitative research and therefore I decided to apply for a quantitative research project to enhance my skills and see how they can be used in the real world.
For the last eight weeks I have been working with DECIPHer as a CUROP placement student. I have been working with Sara Long on a study into the health and education outcomes of children who receive social services interventions. I began by reading articles about research into children in care in Wales and the UK, and getting my head around the study and its methods. After this, I was tasked with importing the statistics into tables to ensure they were in the correct format for journal articles submission. In addition, Sara and the other researchers on the project are in the process of creating an animation of the projects, so I summarised their article in 300 words with the main methods, data collection, and preliminary results.
I also had the opportunity to use my quantitative skills for the Welsh curriculum reform project, also with Sara. This study looks at the health and wellbeing of secondary school children in Wales, and changes to health and wellbeing in schools as a result of the education reforms. I used Stata to recode variables and create statistics such as proportions, frequencies, and crosstabulations. I then presented these data in tables and graphs and presented it to the DECIPHer team at the end of my placement.
Overall I have loved my placement with DECIPHer and would recommend it to anyone considering a research career. The placement has developed my research skills and I have gained extensive knowledge of how academic research is carried out.
‘I have found the work really diverse and engaging and I feel like I have had the opportunity to use some of the skills I learnt during my degree as well as discover some of my strengths.’
I applied for the CHARMING CUROP placement for two reasons. Firstly, as a just-turned English Language and Literature graduate awaiting my psychology masters, I wanted to fill my summer doing work where I could utilise some of the skills I had learnt during my degree. Secondly, I felt intrinsically passionate about the CHARMING project – a physical activity role model intervention for girls – because of my background in Personal Training and own personal experiences of never feeling included in sports at school and so therefore only finding the benefits of exercise in my late teens. I was excited to learn more about the project and to get involved.
Whilst I applied for a few different placement options, CHARMING was the one I wanted most as it felt most applicable to where I want to go career wise. My aspirations are to become a sports psychologist but also to help contribute to the research around physical activity and mental health – both of which felt really relevant to the project.
I have absolutely loved working within DECIPHer, I have found the work really diverse and engaging and I feel like I have had the opportunity to use some of the skills I learnt during my degree as well as discover some of my strengths. My supervisors have been so welcoming and supportive throughout my time here and have let me use my own initiative to tackle the work which has given me confidence for when I do start my career.
The bits I enjoyed most were getting involved with the public engagement work and creating dissemination materials – a task that I did not think I would enjoy as much as I did. Reflecting back on the experience, I have definitely learned to trust in my ability to tackle different tasks that I may not feel confident with initially. I have also made some really lovely friendships and am certain that I want to be involved in academia and research throughout my career in some way as I have loved working towards something that has the potential to make real impact in people’s lives.
I would highly recommend doing a CUROP placement if you are considering it, it’s such a good opportunity to gain experience but in an environment that is so supportive and encouraging of you and where you are at.
‘My CUROP placement has been an incredible opportunity to gain and develop transferable skills, as well as an understanding of the mechanisms involved in research and development.’
I am currently studying psychology and just recently completed my placement year working at Caerphilly Educational Psychology service. I was already quite interested in pursuing developmental and educational psychology, therefore a placement in the field of school health research was a great opportunity for me to be able to apply some existing knowledge from my course as well as my placement.
Over eight weeks, I undertook a research placement in DECIPHer to help support phase 2a expansion of the School Health Research Network (SHRN) into Primary Schools, including helping to recruit schools to take part in a Key Stage 2 pupil Health and Wellbeing survey. This has been a great opportunity to attend meetings with a multifaceted team of researchers and work within a professional setting as well as develop a set of both quantitative and qualitative research skills.
My main tasks involved developing dissemination materials for school feedback reports, where I analysed responses from school staff and local authorities to note down suggestions of what worked well, or what could be improved. I also wanted to further explore qualitative data analysis, so my supervisors were cooperative and accommodating with this. I had a fantastic opportunity to develop an understanding of how to use NVivo when exploring thematic analysis of interviews with different education stakeholders. I was able to use NVivo to help explore the relationship between digital learning and school connectedness as well as school and environment.
As for quantitative analysis, I was responsible for compiling publicly available data, gathering details from local authorities for the upcoming SHRN primary school Key Stage 2 survey in 2022/23. I analysed the structure and design when comparing the wave 1 and wave 2 (pilot survey) to highlight differences of what’s been changed or captured. Both sets of research experiences were very insightful, as I was able to apply existing knowledge from my psychology degree. I also took part in DECIPHer’s short course and was able to learn various theories and principles involving complex intervention research. This was ideal for me to explore how different designs evaluate the rationale and decision-making processes as well as feasibility of plans. Throughout this course there were real life examples used which further helped me understand how relevant this course context is when improving overall health and wellbeing of adolescents. It truly was an eye opener.
Overall, my CUROP placement has been an incredible opportunity to gain and develop transferable skills as well as an understanding of the mechanisms involved in research and development. It further heightened my interest in pursuing a career involving academic research and developmental psychology. This summer placement has helped me stay motivated and productive as well as prepare my mindset for upcoming studies, especially with my dissertation on the way!
‘It was really useful to have the practical experience of qualitative analysis, as it’s very different when you do it yourself compared to reading about it in theory!’
I have just finished an eight week on-campus research internship with DECIPHer after completing my Psychology degree in June. As part of a placement year during my degree, I worked for Public Health Wales, which I really enjoyed. I also knew that I enjoyed academia and had skills in research from other work experience, so I wanted to try combining these interests by working on public health research in DECIPHer.
I worked with Professor James White and Dr Jemma Hawkins, using data from the FRANK Friends trial to conduct analyses on the association between gender identity and health-related quality of life in adolescents. I learnt how to use Stata for data management and analysis, which I found challenging but rewarding, as I had never used it before. I was also really interested in learning about qualitative data analysis, so Jemma kindly put me in touch with Dr Kim Smallman from the Centre for Trials Research, who taught me a lot about the process of conducting qualitative research. I put this new knowledge to use by using NVivo to practice analysing a dataset collected during a trial of a guided self-help treatment for PTSD. It was really useful to have the practical experience of qualitative analysis, as it’s very different when you do it yourself compared to reading about it in theory!
One of my favourite parts of the experience was the working environment in the Sbarc|Spark building, as there were often seminars and talks happening which allowed us to get a feel for the work going on both in DECIPHer and other research teams. All the members of staff were so welcoming and willing to answer any questions we had about working in academia. My experience has confirmed to me that I would love a career in public health research, and I am excited to be working towards this by starting a Research Assistant role in November. Overall, I had an amazing time working for DECIPHer, and I want to express my gratitude to everyone in the team for making it such a great experience – thank you!
‘The internship is a great opportunity to learn all of the ins and outs of the research process and how a study is carried out. I would recommend doing an internship like this to any student interested in a career in research.’
I am a third-year Cardiff University student studying Criminology and Social Policy. I had the great opportunity this summer to be a part of the DECIPHer team and I have been presented with many opportunities to develop my knowledge and skills. I applied for the Innovation and Industry Internship because I thought it would be a really good learning experience and it would give me an insight to what my ideal future career would entail. I am interested in a career in research, so doing a research-based internship has helped me massively to understand how the research process works.
As I write this, I am six and a half weeks into my placement, and I have gained so much experience so far. On my second day I got thrown in the deep end and sent out to shadow a trial manager doing data collection! This experience was invaluable for me and I got to witness several semi-structured interviews for staff, students and nurses which enabled me enhance my knowledge on this form of data collection. Once all of the data were collected, I was able to take part in the data analysis. One of the qualitative researchers at SPARK kindly showed me how to analyse data using NVivo where I took a deductive approach to qualitative data analysis; this will be really useful for me in the future when doing my dissertation and hopefully my Masters and PhD.
Not only did we all have a lot to learn from the studies we were involved in, but we also had the amazing opportunity to take part in the DECIPHer short course: Methodological Innovation in Public Health Intervention Science. This has been a good learning experience for all of the interns who have taken part and we have been able to have an insight to how the interventions that we have been working on came to life.
The internship is a great opportunity to learn all of the ins and outs of the research process and how a study is carried out. I would recommend doing an internship like this to any student interested in a career in research because the knowledge, skills and connections you make are so valuable to supporting your future career.
Find out more about internships at Cardiff University here: https://bit.ly/3CubpSr.