- Course: Epidemiology and Biostatistics MSc (Now Health Data Analytics MSc)
- Year of graduation: 2018
Having just finished a BSc in Medical Science, one of the driving influences for me was wanting to help apply my knowledge of treatments and health to as many people as possible. Having seen an Epidemiologist talk to my cohort during my second year had inspired me to follow this as a career path, and I wanted to see just what Epidemiology and Public Health might involve.
Leeds is an excellent University in the Russel Group, and so the opportunity to study there was something I leapt at. In retrospect, knowing about the available clubs and local student life would have only reinforced my decision to study there.
The Masters staff were incredibly helpful and friendly, and the group of peers around us too became very tightly knit. The work was hard, but rewarded diligence and commitment; it meant a great deal to score well on assignments for me because of this. The Masters very much rewarded a ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality, and the approachable nature of the lecturers in particular made for learning that felt engaging as informative.
My research course was on childhood and teenage cancer diagnoses in Yorkshire. I was privileged enough to have access to Yorkshire’s Youth Cancer database, with all of the information contained therein. What I had learnt from earlier modules where we used constructed datasets or converted examples, I suddenly found myself applying to real data from real patients, and it was an incredible feeling to see trends and explore them. It felt like losing the training wheels on a bicycle!
The project, understandably involved a great deal of work, both before and during the research itself. Once I had grounded myself in a solid basis for understanding cancer rates in Yorkshire, I then began to analyse the data closely, looking for discrepancies, or anything that might be of interest, and I found some real differences that I certainly never would have noticed prior to taking the Masters.
The research project really allowed me to hone the scientific writing skills that I used in undergraduate studies, but more importantly, gave me a chance to do work with a real database, with real patients. That alone has helped enormously with my understanding of what is involved with data protection and compliance, even before getting to look at the data.
The research project was conducted in the heart of the University’s Cardiac Research Institute, and so I had access to computer facilities and programs far more advanced than those available on regular university computers or indeed, on my own machine. But while these proved useful, the most helpful part of doing my project there was the presence of skilled and knowledgeable lecturers and researchers, who were incredibly kind in showing how to overcome problems that arose, discuss opportunities and fields to explore deeper, and even, discussions on the ethical nature of operating such databases. The welcoming experiences of working in this environment was enormous and made me feel like my research wasn’t just about my final grade, but part of a collaborative effort.
Outside of my personal studies, I made some great friends while at Leeds, from all sorts of courses, many of whom I’m still in contact with. Leeds itself is a great city, and I had a lot of calming times just exploring along the river, walking in the parks or the old arcades whilst pondering my courses.
The number of common rooms, cafes and empty lecture-rooms that were available allowed some great meetings with my peers to discuss projects, as well as room to myself to focus entirely on my work with no outside interference. I spent more than a few days in sunlit rooms overlooking the rest of the city, planning out my research project, with no risk of interruption for hours on end.
I joined the Opera, Comedy and Re-enactment societies, and the student events associated with these at Leeds were great to participate in, such as Operas and the 24 hour improvathon. There really was something for everyone.
At Leeds, I learnt and had the opportunity to apply myself to more than I ever had before. The supportive environment and the course itself helped me to grow into a researcher, gave me the confidence to explore data like never before, and the knowledge to build a career in a field that I was excited to join.