Tell us a little about yourself and how you became interested in health data research

I am Augustina Ugwu. I recently graduated with an MSc in Applied Data Science and have a first degree in Biomedical Science (BSc) from Teesside University, with experience in machine learning, bioinformatics analysis and programming languages.

The insidious grip of cancer has left an indelible mark on my life journey after losing my very young mother at the age of 45 to cervical cancer.

My years as a healthcare assistant have provided me with a deep understanding of the human side of illness, fostering empathy and a patient-centred approach. Working closely with vulnerable cancer patients and those battling various diseases has given me insight into their struggles, resilience, and the importance of compassionate care.

Despite the research efforts to find medical solutions for all the above medical conditions, they are not in sight, though long overdue. The medical challenges posed by those diseases are my motivation in health data research. I wish to contribute to early disease diagnosis and better treatment through the application of AI, machine learning, bioinformatics and the biomedical skills developed during my training and from my research and work experience.

How did you hear about the Alumni Network?

I heard about HDR UK Alumni Network through the co-ordinator Phinehas Arkorful during the HDR UK 2023 interns opening ceremony.

What benefits has it brought you or do you hope to get?

The network has allowed me to connect with professionals and peers in the field of health data research, fostering valuable relationships.

Being part of a mentor-mentee programme through AWS has provided detailed and personalised feedback on how to effectively communicate my skills and experiences, ensuring that my CV not only showcases my academic achievements but also highlights my practical contributions in the field.

Regular updates on training, job opportunities, and networking events keep me informed about the latest trends and opportunities in the field. Access to career webinars hosted by Sarah Hodgkins have enhanced my understanding of the industry’s demands, and aligning my skill set accordingly has been crucial in positioning myself as a competitive candidate.

What did you do on your Black Internship?

My internship at the MRC unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing, UCL, has been a transformative experience that has widened my understanding of health data research. I also gained further insights into the health of diverse populations. I applied advanced statistical analysis and data modelling skills when I worked on an ongoing research project on the cause and risk factors of diseases using Big Data from genome wide association summary data (GWAS). I also gained valuable skills in the rigorous process of quality control involved in the preprocessing and cleaning of Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) datasets. This involved several vital steps for ensuring the reliability and accuracy of genetic association analyses.

I am immensely grateful for the HDR UK internship opportunity, and I am confident that the skills and knowledge acquired will significantly contribute to my future.

What are your aims for the future – might being in the Alumni Network help?

My interest is to progress to PhD level, advancing in early cancer diagnosis career through innovative health data science. I aim to explore topics such as the development of predictive models that integrate diverse data sources including multi-omics, clinical records, and medical imaging, for accurate and timely cancer detection.

Why do you think it would be beneficial for other people like you if universities invited the Alumni Network to talk to students about health data research?

Inviting the Alumni Network to talk to students about health data research can offer several valuable benefits for both current students and the alumni themselves. It can create opportunities for ongoing engagement between the university and its graduates. This could lead to the development of a stronger, more interconnected alumni community that is invested in the success of current students.

They could discuss various career paths, highlighting the diverse range of opportunities within health data research. This guidance is particularly valuable for students who may be unsure about their future career trajectories. Alumni can also offer practical advice on the skills and competencies that are most valued in the industry.

Find out more about the Alumni Network