Within an hour of his interview James Godwin was offered one of two coveted Cancer Research UK-funded PhD places to study epidemiology at the University of York.

The MSc in health data science he had been taking at the University of Exeter had provided exactly the skills and experience the panel were looking for.

James said: “I got the PhD place off the back of my Masters. In the call they mentioned that they loved how applied I was. I’d had to give a presentation in the interview and discuss my interests. Each my interests was backed up by piece of coursework or a completed exercise.”

As an HDR UK scholarship student James was well-supported through his MSc, something he found very valuable following his years of undergraduate study. And beyond the financial assistance, he was impressed by the level of support and interest from the staff and describes it as “a great year”.

Although his first degree was in Maths and Economics he did some modules that gave him an interest in the use of data science in healthcare, which in turn inspired him to apply for the Masters. What appealed to him about Exeter was the variety of modules on offer such as operational research, genetics, statistics and machine learning.

For his dissertation James looked at the risk factors for younger people with diabetes in COVID mortality. His dataset of around 600,000patients allowed him to consider everything from ethnicity to BMI levels.

James developed a deep interest in how genetics change risk for individuals for certain diseases – a theme that he will continue to explore at York.

He said: “I’m currently building a machine learning classifier using gene expression data to classify different subtypes of lymphomas and seeing if it can provide more accurate diagnoses of subtypes.”

James is not yet certain what he will do after the doctorate is complete, but may spend some time in industry and will probably continue with research.