This summer, I had the amazing opportunity to intern as a research assistant for Dr. Georgia Richards on the Preventable Deaths Tracker project. It was a chance to use my programming skills to participate in research and make an impact, however small. I looked at prevention of future deaths reports from the UK’s judiciary office, and gleaned insights into the large-scale trends of these death reports using python (e.g. geography, cause, how persons responded to these reports etc.)

My internship was remote and I was the only intern, which has its unique challenges and benefits. Having no peers meant that I had to be self-motivated to work through 40-hour weeks on my own, and it did get lonely at times. On the other hand, I had a lot of contact with my supervisor Georgia, who mentored me one-to-one. She even offered to help me if I wanted to publish my findings in an academic journal.

Researching in a new field was also a challenging but rewarding process. It involved learning on the job, A LOT. My first task was to web-scrape from the judiciary website and update its output to the research team’s website using WordPress (a website creator). I had never web-scraped or used WordPress before… Having analysed perfectly presented data in Physics labs, I was also surprised by how messy real-world data is. The data I was dealing with was filled with empty values, typos (‘mental heath’ really got me), and inconsistent punctuations (imagine writing your bucket list as A; B | C – D and E). Grooming the data to produce any figures at all was extremely difficult, but it made the insights I gained feel more valuable.

As someone who always wanted to do a PhD, this internship made me understand the realities of research a bit more. It also dramatically upgraded my python skills and made me more resilient in the face of challenges and mistakes. I would recommend Mansfield students to apply for research assistant positions if you are considering a career in academia.