Over the summer break, I was fortunate to have been selected to participate in the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Medicine and Health research scholarship program. I have been based at a cancer hospital in Camperdown for two months working on cancer genomics research.
As a prospective public health researcher, the value of this experience has been immeasurable. Being part of a team in a research environment has been a huge insight into the professional world of research and it has been an amazing chance to refine my research interests and emerging skills. It was also very nurturing to work with a team who was so approachable and encouraging to an undergraduate!
I was mostly involved in analysing qualitative research data from a sub-study of our main research paper. The study explores the feasibility and acceptability of risk-stratified cancer screening among public participants who were recruited through our main study and a mix of city-based and rural general practitioners.
Risk-stratified cancer screening refers to using the genome to analyse individual gene variants that could inform early detection strategies (such as whom and how often to screen) as a way to improve the efficiency of cancer screening programmes and reduce the harm of over-diagnosis and overtreatment.
The study is very implementation science focused so it was a great chance to directly analyse data that currently represents an important public health issue. I was trained in research analysis software and met some amazing people who are leading the public health field.
The most rewarding part of this experience was how much I grew personally and professionally.
The team I worked with – and beyond, opened up so many opportunities for me to get closely involved in research. Public health genomics is now definitely one of my passion areas and I hope to explore it more in my career.
For any research aspiring health students – I really recommend this opportunity. You have nothing to lose by putting yourself forward. My best advice: ask questions, work hard and be nice to people!