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.
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.
If you would like to know more about the research we carry out, please visit our website:
For more information on studying Psychology at The University of Manchester:
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: