The technology team at Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) welcomed a new member over the summer: Elise Uzokwe, who joined as an intern as part of the Health Data Science Black Internship Programme. Having recently completed her third year of medicine at UCL, Elise was keen to explore the role of web-based applications in health data science and develop her programming skills. With the team’s support, she quickly adapted to her new role and soon began contributing code to the Health Data Research Innovation Gateway – an online tool, developed by HDR UK’s technology team, for researchers to discover and request access to health datasets and other related resources.

Elise reflects on her experience below.

My code in the Gateway

My project was to update the original piece of code, or script, that makes the onboarding of technical metadata easier for custodians, therefore making their datasets more discoverable to users. Working with the technology team, I got to write, test, and deploy this code to the Gateway. At the end of my internship, I presented the new script to wider stakeholders to explain what the changes would mean for Gateway users, including members of the senior leadership team at HDR UK and custodian representatives.

It’s exciting to know that my piece of code is now part of the Gateway. And the opportunity to communicate my work to others outside of the core team allowed me to put all the tasks I had done into perspective and appreciate how much I had learned in only eight weeks!

New skills (and bugs)

From brainstorming ideas at the beginning of my project to deploying code onto the server at the end, I ended up cultivating a number of new skills. But first I had to get to grips with a range of unfamiliar programmes, processes and applications! The team were extremely effective at teaching me how these all worked, and I am now more confident using a number of tools and techniques commonly used in software development.

I learned a lot about the back-end functionality of the Gateway and had the chance to put into practice important data science concepts, such as the need to check or validate a piece of code using a specialised piece of computer programming. The inevitability of bugs (the term used to describe a coding error) within my script also enhanced my problem-solving skills as I worked with the team to debug and improve the quality of my code.

The social side

One thing that surprised me – in a great way – was the culture and workplace rapport at HDR UK. My internship was mainly home-based, and I was working in quite a small team, so I thought that the job would not involve much social interaction. But it was quite the opposite!

My internship started with a three-day meeting in Leeds, where I met members of the technology team and attended some yummy post-meeting dinners with some of the wider HDR UK community. This helped me put faces to names for the remaining seven weeks and build more of a connection with my new colleagues.

Also, the regular Coffee and Learn calls, informal knowledge building sessions, were great opportunities to learn more about the team and all the cool things going on across the Gateway.

A piece of advice

To anyone thinking about applying for the programme: do not be disillusioned by imposter syndrome! Showcase your achievements, no matter how big or small, and use your strengths to your advantage. The internship is a great experience – you get the chance to work with some phenomenal individuals and achieve more than you could ever expect.

The future

In the short-term, I am continuing my studies having now moved onto my fourth year of medical school (my first clinical year in the hospital). Longer-term, I would love to explore opportunities that would allow me to combine my medical knowledge with my technical expertise, in ways that will improve healthcare for patients on both an individual and systemic scale.

A final thank you

I would like to thank the entire technology team for being so great throughout my time at HDR UK. The internship exceeded all my expectations – I genuinely cannot imagine how it could have been any better, except perhaps if it were a bit longer then I could have learned more about the numerus other roles within the team. It was lovely working with all of you and I hope to see you again sometime in the future!

Some words from the technology team

Clara Fennessy, Senior Technical Programme Manager, said:

“It was a delight to have Elise working with us in the technology team at HDR UK. Her work was instrumental in advancing the metadata onboarding capabilities within the Gateway, making it easier for data custodians to supply technical metadata. This means more information about datasets will be available for researchers to discover on the platform. Elise settled in to her project very quickly and built highly successful relationships with key stakeholders throughout. We wish Elise the very best of luck in her future endeavours.”

Chris Milner, Chief Solutions Architect, said:

“It was amazing to have Elise on the technology team, she settled in exceptionally well and really got involved in the project. The task we had assigned Elise was to update an existing script within the Gateway, to include technical metadata as part of its data ingestion. She very quickly presented a project plan which included areas of learning and regular catch-up sessions to make sure things were on track.


Over the eight weeks, Elise not only gained a great understanding of the usefulness of technical metadata, but also learned about development pipelines, database technologies, and completed the coding updates to an exceptionally high standard, working with key members of the team to develop, deploy and test her solution. This ultimately led to an excellent presentation of the updated solution at the end of her internship which was shown to both internal and external stakeholders. Elise was a pleasure to work with, we all wish her the best for the future!”

person presenting at a conference
Elise presenting at the Black Internship Programme closing ceremony on behalf of her Technical Challenge team. As well as the placement itself, the programme provides lots of opportunities for interns to work together, build new skills and network – the Technical Challenge being one of them.

Find our more about the Health Data Science Black Internship Programme