Over the course of my internship, I’ve learnt that research requires a lot of thinking-on-your-feet, flexibility and patience! One of my supervisors, Dr Maggie Ellis, aptly describes the research process as a squiggly line – an unpredictable series of setbacks and breakthroughs.
I was faced with a rather significant, unexpected setback at the very beginning of my internship. My application for ethical approval was denied and couldn’t be reviewed until the end of July. It was approved on review, but this meant I cannot complete the study within the time scope of the internship. However, we are making a good start on it – contacting care homes and organising testing sessions with potential participants. I am very passionate about this study as its findings could help to improve quality of life for people with advanced dementia. As a result, I will continue working on this study during term time, and am looking forward to seeing what we find!
As they say, every cloud has a silver lining, and this setback meant that we had time to design and run a study that could strengthen the theoretical foundations of our original study. I am really glad to have been involved in both studies as they’ve each offered very different experiences . The current study aims to investigate the effects of social interaction, prior to a stressful event, on salivary cortisol and oxytocin levels in healthy adults over the age of 65. The recruitment process was very hands-on – we even joined in a line-dancing class to try to attract participants!
We have now finished testing for the current study and are in the lab measuring cortisol and oxytocin levels in the saliva samples we collected. The kits we’re using to measure the hormones have a step-by-step protocol to follow – which I love as it’s just like following a recipe for a (rather complicated) cake! During my internship, I’ve also been going to a fortnightly journal club – which is where PhD students meet and critique a recent paper in their field. This has given me an insight into what it’s like to be a PhD student and has made me a much more critical reader of published papers.
I’m so grateful to the Laidlaw scheme – I can’t think of a better introduction to the world of research.