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Research after University

Introduction

My name is Alice Heaney and I graduated this summer from The University of Manchester with a first class degree in Psychology. Having studied Psychology at A level and being fascinated by the subject, I was eager to learn more about the mind and behaviour. During my undergraduate degree, I developed an interest in health psychology, whilst my enthusiasm for statistics and research methods continued to grow. The enjoyment gained from these modules helped me realise that a career in research was something I wished to pursue. Being fortunate enough to find a position that incorporates my areas of interest, I now work as a research assistant for Galen Research Ltd.


In Depth

When I tell people that I’m a research assistant, they tend to picture me working in a laboratory, wearing a white lab coat and handling chemicals. However the picture is quite the opposite in reality! To provide some background into the company I work for, at Galen Research we develop disease-specific, patient-reported outcome (PRO) measures. In other words, we design questionnaires that assess patient’s views on how they feel their medical condition and the treatment they receive affect their quality of life. The content of our measures is derived from in-depth qualitative interviews with patients to ensure they capture issues important to them.  Our measures serve as valuable tools for the pharmaceutical industry and health services worldwide, such as the NHS, in assessing the impact of specific conditions and their treatments.

As a research assistant, I am involved in supporting the senior researchers with the development, translation and validation of our measures. My responsibilities range from transcribing interviews and performing statistical analyses to helping with the writing of research articles for publication in academic journals. My undergraduate degree equipped me with an abundance of transferable skills which have proven to be of great help to my current role. The obvious one to mention would be the research skills I learned during my Psychology course, gained through experience of designing research questions and studies as well as collecting and analysing both quantitative and qualitative data. The opportunity to undertake an independent project in third year not only helped to develop project management skills but also allowed me to build upon problem-solving, critical evaluation and interpersonal skills, amongst many more.  The ability to communicate information clearly to a variety of audiences is another skill which I have brought with me, exercising effective communication on a regular basis in the form of academic writing, meetings and oral presentations.

I hope that I’ve been able to provide some insight into what my role as a research assistant entails. In the near future I will be applying for a research passport which would allow me to conduct interviews with patients. Something else to look forward to is the international travel my work involves. This month I am heading to Portugal to carry out a linguistic and cultural adaptation of one of our measures. In terms of my aspirations, progressing to the role of senior research associate as well as studying for a PhD are long term goals which I am working towards. For now though I plan to continue to gain valuable experience at Galen Research.

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Going further

If you would like to know more about the research we carry out, please visit our website:

http://www.galen-research.com

For more information on studying Psychology at The University of Manchester:

http://www.psych-sci.manchester.ac.uk/undergraduate/psychology

To keep up to date with current research developments in the field of psychology, please refer to the ‘Research Digest’ section of The British Psychological Society’s website. The site also provides useful information about careers and accredited courses in Psychology:

http://www.bps.org.uk


 

Teaching in School vs University: Is there a difference?

by YPU Admin on November 26, 2015, Comments. Tags: Education, learning, Research, teaching, university, and UoM

Introduction

Hi, my name is Kelly and I now work in the Student Recruitment and Widening Participation department of the University of Manchester. For the past three years, I have been a student studying Psychology at the University and for the thirteen years before that, I too was propelled along the standard education pipeline (or maybe not so standard anymore) by attending first school, middle school and high school.

In Depth…

One of the main parts of my job, for the past couple months now, has been the development of an EBL project for our visiting Year 11 students. EBL stands for ‘Enquiry Based Learning’ (or Inquiry Based Learning if you’re American) and is equivalent to ‘Problem Based Learning’, which you might have heard of before. This method of teaching starts with a question, a problem or a scenario, and it is the student’s task to solve this problem, with the aid of a facilitator.

Not a teacher.

That’s great, right?

Think again.

The lack of teacher leading the way means that the road from problem to solution is less smooth, less clear, but then when in life is the answer ever clear? In this situation, you are responsible for your own learning, for figuring out your answers and where they fall into the topic of your choice. This method of independent learning is fundamental to the way students traditionally learn at university.

  1. You’re given a topic or a lecture – a foundation, so you can understand the task
  2. You are provided with resources to be used as starting points (these can be textbooks, journal articles or websites)
  3. And then you have to produce work at the end of it e.g. an essay, a report or a presentation, about what you've found out

This is what I've tried to recreate in my own EBL project for visiting Y11 students. This project is the finale to the flagship pre-16 Gateways programme, ran by the University of Manchester. Groups of school pupils visit campus year upon year, from Y7 to Y11, to find out more about the opportunities to study in Higher Education and develop new and transferable skills. In this final part of the programme, students are presented with a lecture on a case study (a Volcanic Disaster for this year). They were then sorted into groups depending on their interests and sent away (with the help of a Student Ambassador) to research that area for an hour and a half. The day finishes with each group giving a presentation on what they found and a prize is given to the group that presented the best.


This transition from teacher-led to research-led learning replicates what you would experience if you chose to study at university. When you’re at the cutting edge of your field and learning the newest knowledge being published to date, it’s highly likely that you’ll find yourself not knowing the answers, and being in the position where YOU could contribute to future knowledge, explanations and discoveries.

Throughout your early school days, you may have been taught that there’s only one right answer, and you’ll get a mark for getting that answer right. University is different. There might be some things that we THINK answer the question, but these may still be debated. Something you, or the media or the educational system take for a fact, may still actually be not so certain.

Some courses at university take advantage of this method. Medicine is taught using in many universities around the country. It works in similar to the EBL project above: all of the medics would be split off into groups with people they don’t know, they would be given a case study – perhaps a patient with a case of symptoms. It would be their job to work together to research and collaborate and figure out the causes and treatments of the case.

I believe taking part in EBL tasks early on in education has the advantage of pressing students to think outside of the box and to find their own answers; sometimes topics can be more complicated than just getting the answer right.

Going Further…

Here are some references you may find useful:

 

Study Abroad: Where will your degree take you?

by YPU Admin on November 12, 2015, Comments. Tags: European Studies, french, languages, politics, Research, Study Abroad, undergraduate, and UoM

Introduction

Hi, my name is Carys Rees-Owen and I am a recent graduate of European Studies and French. Doing a joint honours degree gave me loads of options, which is why I chose this degree. I studied French, History and English Literature at A levels – I always knew I wanted to study French at university, as I loved languages, but I also wanted to specialise in another subject. European Studies allows you to choose any module from the Politics, History or Economics department, with one or two compulsory modules in European Politics every year. I decided to focus on politics modules as I’d always followed the news and took part in debates.

In Depth

Choosing Where To Go

The best thing about my degree was the option to spend my third year abroad in order to improve my French. I had the choice of studying abroad, teaching English abroad as an English Language Assistant or working abroad. I wanted a bit of variety, and definitely wasn’t ready to get a proper job or internship. I wasn’t too eager to spend a whole other year studying either, but I did want to experience life as a French student. I decided to make a compromise – I applied to study at a university in Lyon, France for the first term and then applied to be a Comenius assistant in Martinique, a small French island in the Caribbean, for the second term. A Comenius assistant is similar to an English Language Assistant, however with the option to teach another subject besides English (like politics). All assistant jobs are funded by the British Council, meaning all my accommodation, food and travel costs were covered as well as an allowance for living. I also got an Erasmus grant for studying at a European university, so the cost of going abroad was never a big worry for me.

My Year Abroad

I moved to Lyon, France’s second biggest city, at the end of summer 2013. After a lot of searching, I managed to find a flat with another 3 French students just down the road from my university. The next five months are a blur of cheese, good wine and French cafés. I loved living in France, but studying there was completely different to how I imagined. Lectures lasted 3 hours long (when in Manchester they last an hour) and it felt a bit more like high school – there was a lot less discussion and debate than I was used to in Manchester. I studied Politics modules there, but in French. It was interesting to see how similar topics were taught in France but from a completely different angle. I did struggle at first with my courses but as my French improved I found it a lot easier. I saw such a drastic improvement in my French in such a short amount of time, and definitely took advantage of discovering a new city.


I then moved to Martinique in January 2014. It’s such a beautiful island, with so many white sandy beaches, thick jungle and a great mix of French and local Creole culture existing there. I worked in a high school for 5 months, working roughly twelve hours a week.  This meant that the rest of the time I had there I was free to do whatever I wanted. I spent my time on beaches, hiking in the jungle and mountains and exploring the island. Teaching English was challenging, especially considering that my pupils were only 4 years younger than myself but it was a really good way to integrate into the local community. I made really good friends with some of the other teachers there, who taught me more about the culture and history of Martinique.


Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better year abroad. I got to experience French student life, as well as spend months lounging on white sand beaches in the Caribbean. More importantly, my French improved drastically, as did my confidence. Moving to a completely different country without knowing anybody is incredibly challenging, and sometimes frustrating, but the experiences I had were definitely worth it.

Going Further

Getting the chance to study abroad isn’t just limited to language students either – check if your course allows you to study abroad for a semester! I’d recommend checking out these websites for more information on what you could do:

www.thirdyearabroad.com  

http://www.britishcouncil.org/study-work-create


 

Healthy Mind, Healthy Body...

by YPU Admin on October 29, 2015, Comments. Tags: efficacy, Health, psychology, Research, STI, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Nicola Beer and I work as a Graduate Intern for the Student Recruitment and Widening Participation department at the University of Manchester. Prior to this, I completed a degree in Psychology (also at the University of Manchester) and I graduated in July this year.

As part of my degree I was required to undertake a final year project under the supervision of an academic researcher at the University of Manchester. One area that particularly interested me throughout my degree was Health Psychology and so I was pleased when the supervisor I was allocated to was a researcher in this area.

My research project involved investigating factors that influence people’s intentions to take on a particular health behaviour. The health behaviour that I focused on in my research was sexual health behaviour. More specifically, I focused on what influenced people to use a self-test kit to test themselves for STI infections.



In Depth

In order to carry out my research, I tested factors from a theory used by many Health Psychologists, called Protection Motivation Theory. One factor from this model that is believed to influence people’s health behaviour is ‘self-efficacy’. Self-efficacy is defined as one’s belief in their own ability to change their behaviour; if they have high self-efficacy they are more likely to engage in positive health behaviours. Another factor is ‘fear’. Does how fearful someone is about a particular health outcome (e.g. obtaining a sexually transmitted disease, as I investigated in my research) influence the health behaviour they display?

In order to collect data for my research, I developed a questionnaire with my supervisor that contained questions designed to measure what influences peoples’ intentions to use a self-test kit. I ran various statistical tests on the questionnaire to check its internal consistency (whether several items that propose to measure the same general construct produce similar scores). It was then sent out to all first and second year undergraduate Psychology students who completed it online.

What I found…

I analysed the results using a hierarchical multiple regression and found, consistent with much other research in the area, that two factors significantly predicted individual’s intentions to self-test for Chlamydia. These factors were vulnerability and self-efficacy; therefore those who perceived themselves to be more vulnerable to the health risk, and those with higher self-efficacy, were more likely to intend to self-test, i.e. more likely to carry out the positive health behaviour.

What this means…

My research has practical applications to the real-world suggesting that increasing an individuals’ self-efficacy will result in them being more likely to use self-test kits. An example of this practical application could be to provide clear instructions with self-test kits with the aim of increasing individual’s confidence in their ability to use the kit.

My research was also useful in that it can be used to inform academics of future areas that research could be carried out in. For example, more research could go into examining further the role of fear in predicting behavioural intentions (which did not produce a significant result in my research).

I enjoyed my final year research project because I got the chance to use skills gained during my degree (e.g. statistical analysis and data collection skills) to carry out research into an area that interested me.

Going Further…


 

C'est la vie: The Usefulness of Languages in Education

by YPU Admin on October 15, 2015, Comments. Tags: Education, languages, linguistics, manchester, Research, and UoM

Introduction

Hi, my name is Helen and I have just completed my second year of undergraduate study at the University of Manchester.  The subject of my degree is English Language for Education, which is a small course but is very specific and has allowed me to combine my interests in both language and education. In my second year my degree enabled me to conduct research within two schools that concerned the use of languages other than English by bilingual and multilingual students in their school and their education.


In Depth

As part of my degree in my second year, we were required to complete a research project. We were given the choice to do our own independent research or to part take in a research project that the University was already undertaking. I wanted to conduct my own research, however after much deliberation on which subject and areas I would like to look into, I decided to join a project called Multilingual Manchester. This project focuses on promoting the awareness of language diversity in the Manchester area. After a few meetings with the organisers of the project, I understood my role was to take part in and conduct the School Language Surveys. This involved me and a few other students on the project entering two schools in Manchester (a secondary and primary school) and interviewing the students about their language use. This project was great as it allowed me to do research on language within education, which has always been a large interest of mine.

As I originally wanted to conduct my own research, I decided to add some of my own questions into the surveys the Multilingual Manchester project had already provided us. I was particularly interested in the usefulness of speaking a language other than English in school, whether the students used it much in school and if they enjoyed using their language. Using both my own questions and those from the Multilingual Manchester team, I was able to collect data that told me the range of languages that were spoken amongst the students in those schools and their opinions on whether they used languages other than English much and if they liked using languages other than English. I was also interested in the teachers’ perspectives on the use of languages other than English in the classroom, and so I emailed a survey to the teachers at one of the schools.

All the way through completing the project, although I knew my interests and what I wanted to get out of the research, I was unsure on what specific question I would have to answer for my report. However, when all the data I had collected was in front of me, my aims became much clearer and I was able to analyse my data and produce a report on students’ and teachers’ perspectives on the use and usefulness of multilingualism.

Throughout my degree I have become increasingly interested with language diversity, especially in the Manchester area, and I had wondered how this had impacted education. I really enjoyed this project as it gave me the opportunity to gain experience working in a school and to observe for myself the impact that increased language diversity is having on education. I found that the schools were really embracing language diversity, and were beginning to change their curriculum in order to include and teach the languages of their students across the school.

Going Further

As I enter my third and final year of my degree, I have decided to take this research further and work on it for my dissertation. As this project progressed, I found myself becoming increasingly passionate about the subject and the research that I was undertaking. I found it to be an important piece of research as it displays the change in attitudes toward language diversity in schools and where in education students find it useful to speak a second language and where they don’t. I want to carry this on to possibly see how schools could further integrate second language speaking into education, or to see the impact that second language speakers are having on teachers and the classroom.

For more information about the English Language for Education course at the University of Manchester http://www.manchester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/2015/09173/english-language-for-education-ba-3-years-ba/

For further information about education courses at the University of Manchester http://www.seed.manchester.ac.uk/subjects/education/

For further details about Multilingual Manchester http://mlm.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/

For further information on the results of the School Language Surveys http://mlm.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/reports/schools-and-public-services/