Ace McDermott

"I have developed new skills and achieved so much in just a month that I would recommend this to anyone considering a career in a STEM subject."

What was your project about? 

My Nuffield Research Placement was located at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry. Here I analysed data and methods of the DIPMAB (Diabetes in Pregnancy - A Study of Mothers and Babies) study. With diabetes currently affecting approximately 3 million people in the UK, gestational diabetes affecting 5% of pregnancies and no known cure, this disease is one that can is a part of most people’s lives, either personally or through a friend or family member making research into it very worthwhile. DIPMAB is a 10 year follow-up study, where we compared data of mothers (with no diabetes; with gestational diabetes; with Type 1 and with type 2) 10 years ago when pregnant and at present with children. I decided to focus my report on the effects of anthropometrics on HbA1c levels (glycated haemoglobin). This is used as a measure for average blood glucose. My strongest correlation found was as pre-pregnancy BMI increased, HbA1c levels also increased, thus risk of diabetes also increased. We were also given opportunities to spend time in diabetes clinics seeing the data being recorded, to talk to pregnant women with gestational diabetes in antenatal clinics and time on a ward of Derriford Hospital shadowing a diabetes team.

In my placement, I was able to do more than just the research and was given the time to shadow a team of doctors on a diabetic ward in Derriford Hospital who introduced me to many patients and their illnesses. On a particular occasion, I was with an FY2 Doctor and I was able to assist her in taking blood by securing the cannula she inserted, collecting the blood with a 'vacutainer' and flushing the cannula with saline as well as making sure with the patient that she was fine with me doing this. I highly valued this moment, being able to actually help and spend time with this patient.

How did your supervisor help you with your project?

One of the most challenging parts of my placement was the statistical analysis that had to be done. From my A-level courses I had quite a good idea of some methods of statistical analysis such as Spearman's rank. With help from one of my project supervisors I gained a much greater knowledge of the analysis of data though learning about standard deviation, standard error of the mean and 95% CI which have proved useful to me in my recent A2 Biology coursework and also in improving my general IT skills. Overall they were very supportive of me throughout my placement.

Did you learn any new skills?

I have been able to develop my presentation skills by presenting my research at the celebration event and also on the presentation day on my placement. I was surprised at how much I had learnt over the 4 weeks as I was able to confidently and easily explain my project to those who had attended the event. 

What are your long term future plans?

I hope to become a doctor, I'm currently applying for medicine 2014 entry. 

What advice would you give to students applying for a Nuffield Research Placement?

I would recommend a Nuffield Research Placement to anyone considering a career in a STEM subject. These placements are particularly worthwhile as they will provide you with an amazing insight into the career you wish to pursue as well as lots to write about for your UCAS application! Treat the application seriously as these placements are highly competitive and work hard on your 4 weeks.