Jonathan Long

"The experience you gain outside of your A level studies not only helps with your university application but it improves your confidence and enables you to decide on a career path."

What was your project about?

My placement providers were Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry. My project involved auditing data collected in an ongoing study into gestational diabetes, known as the DIPMAB or ‘Diabetes In Pregnancy- a study of Mothers And Babies’. This research is identifying mothers known to have gestational diabetes mellitus and then assessing their metabolic state after 10 years. These individuals are then compared to mothers with normal glucose tolerance. My project report focused on one particular method of determining the lasting effects on the metabolism of the mothers after 10 years from initial diagnosis of gestational diabetes.

During the placement, I was also given the opportunity to shadow a diabetes consultant on a ward round in Derriford hospital which allowed me to gain a better understanding of the patients’ condition.

Why did you apply for a Nuffield Research Placement?

My interest in medicine and scientific research was the basis of my application. I felt that I was not gaining any ‘hands-on’ experience during my A level studies and so I couldn’t resist an opportunity to work at a university and participate in real scientific research. I was also interested in learning about diabetes as I had not covered or researched this topic in great detail before. Working with experts in the field, I knew that I would learn a lot from the experience.

Was the work what you expected?

Before I went on the placement I did not have a great understanding of what the work would be like. The project provider hosted an induction day where they explained what I would be working. Before I started, I was worried that the research I would be doing was going to be beyond my capabilities. I soon realised that my worries were unfounded and that the work was challenging but within my ability. My supervisor was extremely supportive and was always willing to help me through any problems.

Did you know much about the area before you started?

Before I started the placement the only understanding of diabetes I had was based on a GCSE biology coursework and of meeting clients in a nursing home who had Type 2 diabetes. In only 4 weeks I have learnt a massive amount about the condition, in particular gestational diabetes, and its effects on the body both during and after pregnancy.

Did you learn any new skills?

I am now able to use Microsoft Office Excel to analyse data much more effectively than before my placement, as analysing the data from the study involved a lot of statistics. The only statistics I knew before my placement I had learnt during GCSE geography and I had begun to use Spearman’s rank in my biology coursework. Learning about these methods of numerical analysis has been invaluable in the statistics module of my Maths A-Level.

Did this experience help you with your university applications?

My placement made up a large amount of my UCAS personal statement and, as I learnt so much about gestational diabetes from the consultants and professors that I was working with, I had a great topic of discussion during my admission interview.

Did the work you did over the summer help you to decide what you want to do next?

The placement has further informed my decision to study medicine and has clarified to me that becoming a doctor is definitely a career path that I would like to pursue. It has also showed me another branch of medicine that I had not previously considered and revealed to me that the range of opportunities within STEM is vast.