My background was/has been in marine life sciences, with a BSc and MSc in that area. However, I have a special interest in data crunching and the information that proper data handling can provide. But I was lacking in the sufficient skill sets that would make me a data scientist. Therefore, I enrolled in a new MSc program in Applied Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics at the University of Bradford, being part of a debut cohort of students. Hence, this HDRUK internship is my first work experience in health data research and data science. Through this internship, a new horizon of knowledge and expertise has become accessible to me, and I am thankful. Especially to the HDRUK team who developed this initiative and have taken practical steps to address the underrepresentation of black people in data science, particularly in health data research.

How was my experience in the HDR UK Black Internship Programme

The experience in the Health Data Research UK internship is far beyond my expectations. From working on a novel project in Mendelian randomization and the UK Biobank data sets with the tremendous support from an outstanding mentor (Dr Amy Mason), I have been able to greatly expand my expertise in health data research. For example, through my internship project that involves characterising the genetic associations of fish eaters in the UK Biobank, we have been able to uncover the associated health benefits that fish-eating may have. Additionally, working at the University of Cambridge, I have access to a vast number of resources, including, but not limited to, a weekly seminar presentation on various health data research projects in the University, and being able to attend a biennial academic conference on Mendelian randomization. The other good part of this internship is that it offers other great opportunities for mentorship and collaboration.

Every intern is assigned a mentor by the HDRUK team, who would guide them through the six weeks internship experience. Dr Taya Forde of the University of Glasgow was my mentor. Our fortnight meetings over the course of the internship increased my overall confidence and thoroughness, particularly in preparing myself for the next stage of my career post-internship. It is also noteworthy to mention the loads of lessons I learn from listening to the stories of experienced researchers and leaders in the field who anchor the Friday afternoon career talks.

What have I accomplished in the HDR UK Black Internship Programme?

By working/researching on the real-world health data from the UK Biobank, I have been able to identify the patterns of fish eaters and the health benefits they may have in relation to cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. My project findings will be presented in our research unit’s (Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit) seminar meeting on the last day of the internship. Alongside working on my internship project, I am part of a team of eight other interns working on a health data challenge. It has been more than rewarding to collaborate with other interns who have diverse skillsets and come from different backgrounds, but who are united by the singular purpose of health data research.

What are the hacks for getting the best out of the HDR UK Black Internship Programme?

Begin with the end in mind. As ‘buzzwordy’ as that phrase may be, it always pays off to have clear intentions. Because Health data research is an entirely new area for me, it could be difficult to know what exactly that I want to do, and how to best do that. But having a plan pays off and makes things a lot easier. On the first day of my internship, I produced a Gantt chart that will help navigate me through the internship process. As the time of the internship is short – six weeks, having a plan gave me an added advantage.

How will the HDR UK Black Internship Programme help my progress in health data research?

My interest in health data research has massively exploded by taking part in this internship, hence I am now looking out for a PhD project in a similar area, hopefully in epidemiology. Moreover, as I await to apply for an October 2022 PhD, through the experiences gained from this internship, I have been able to secure a one-year job at Leeds Institute for Data Analytics as a Data Scientist Intern starting from September 2021. Again, I am immensely thankful to the HDRUK team who not only made this great internship experience possible but who also advertised the job at Leeds which I got. I am delighted to say that I am a living testament of the transforming impact this internship can have on individuals.

Why would I recommend the HDR UK Black Internship Programme?

The Health Data Research UK internship has the potentials of expanding your horizons and may catapult your career beyond expectations. Therefore, I highly recommend that anyone who is eligible to apply for subsequent internship opportunities.