Who am I and why did I want to do this internship?

I have graduated from the University of Kent studying Biology with a year in Data Analytics.  During my final year, I started to explore opportunities to further my knowledge and skills in both biology and data, which is when I came across the HDR UK Black Internship Programme. At first, I was hesitant in applying, thinking I was underqualified. However, after some consideration I did apply, and got offered a place with the BHF Data Science Centre team! This was a very exciting opportunity as I would be able to contribute towards the important work funded by the British Heart Foundation, using data to help to improve current knowledge of cardiovascular diseases.

My intern project

The intern project was conducted alongside Victory Obed, another intern, and under the supervision of Dr Jackie MacArthur (Research Project Manager) and Prof Matthew Sydes (Associate Director for Data-enabled Clinical Trials). The project involved working on data-enabled clinical trials, which is one of the six themes at the BHF Data Science Centre. The project  focussed on identifying successful strategies applied by trials researchers to access routinely collected data in cardiovascular clinical trials around the UK.

Collaborating with Victory, we reduced our initial selection of 108 potential clinical trials down to 22 as these met our defined criteria. We collated information from clinical trial registries for these 22 trials. We also contacted the lead researchers requesting further information regarding their trial, and to share their experiences about accessing the data. By the sixth week, five case studies had been produced which each detailed key aspects of the trial and the researchers’ experiences.

This information, and the emerging lessons, will be used by the BHF Data Science Centre, with HDR UK, to provide support to other researchers seeking access to routinely-collected healthcare data for other clinical trials.

My experience and takeaway

It is difficult to sum up how supportive and encouraging this Health Data Research UK internship has been for my personal and professional development. For many graduates -myself included – the idea of entering the ‘real world’ after graduation is incredibly daunting. I was unsure in my own abilities, and I could not picture myself having a career in data science. I started the internship very apprehensive and nervous.

But I have learned and grown more than I could have imagined! The team at the BHF DSC were incredible, allowing us to meet with various researchers, and sit in on meetings. We had the opportunity to meet some of the team in person in London and discuss career paths. Additionally, we heard from some fantastic speakers during the Friday takeovers hosted by Tammy Palmer and Lindsay Cockcroft from HDR UK. Additionally, I was assigned a super encouraging mentor Dr Katja Kornysheva from the University of Bangor. Hearing from and discussing with all these professionals taught me that there is no direct path into data science. I now feel confident that no matter which route I take, I will be able to achieve my goals.

I would encourage anyone looking to enter the data field to go for any opportunity that presents itself, no matter your experience! To the future interns, enter with an open mind, take part in all the opportunities offered, build your network, and enjoy the experience.

My future plans

When I was offered the chance to continue the Health Data Research UK internship with the BHF Data Science Centre for an additional four weeks, I was thrilled. It gave me the opportunity to build on the intern project and work on my coding skills within R, as well as expand my network. When I complete these four weeks, I will be heading off to start my new job at Medable as a data scientist working on clinical trial data validation!