The relationship between the immune response in pregnancy, birth outcome and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)

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Toni Spence completed the Summer Studentship at the Northern Ireland Centre for Food and Health, Ulster University under the supervision of Dr Emeir McSorley, Dr Alison Yeates and Dr Maria Mulhern

Project Title: The relationship between the immune response in pregnancy, birth outcome and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA).

About the Project:

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The aims of my project were to investigate the relationship between markers of immune function and birth outcome and to assess the influence of maternal polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) status on this relationship. The study found no relationship between the maternal immune response at 28 weeks gestation and birth anthropometrics irrespective of maternal PUFA status.

What was the best aspect of your summer studentship experience?

I thoroughly enjoyed the lab work involved in my project as I gained experience in using Mesoscale Discovery (MSD) multiplex ELISA equipment and software.

What was the most challenging part of your studentship?

The most challenging aspect of my project was the statistical analysis of the results. I had little experience using statistical analysis software for a large dataset prior to the studentship.

What’s the one thing you learnt that is transferable to future work you might do?

I learnt how important good attention to detail is when working in research. For example, record keeping, data entry and analysis.

Tip for anyone who is interested in applying for the NS – SS or a similar fellowship:

Be enthusiastic, it’s a great opportunity to learn new skills.

Would you be interested to do more research in the future and if so what topic(s) would interest you?

I hope to pursue a career in biomedical/nutrition research.

Continue reading “The relationship between the immune response in pregnancy, birth outcome and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)”

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Interactions between TCF7L2 and MC4R gene variants with dietary factors on Type 2 Diabetes-related factors in the British population

16839641_10155070326003824_1091244081_nCindy Bei completed the Summer Studentship at the University of Reading under the supervision of Dr Vimal Karani

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Project Title: Interactions between TCF7L2 and MC4R gene variants with dietary factors on Type 2 Diabetes-related factors in the British population.

About the project:

Statistical analysis on a study cohort to investigate the interaction between TCF7L2 gene variants [aka: single nucleotide polymorphisms] (rs12255372 and rs7903146) and MC4R gene variant (rs17782313) and dietary factors on Type 2 Diabetes related factors, in the British population.

What was the best aspect of your Summer studentship experience?

Being able to create my own work plan towards the project and getting the chance to experience what research is like.

What was the most challenging part of your studentship?

Overall my project wasn’t particularly challenging, but having to learn all of the basic and advanced knowledge so quickly in a short amount of time was hard.

What’s the one thing you learnt that is transferable to future work you might do?

Creating and delivering a presentation to professionals and non-professionals was an experience, especially translating complex science into simple lay-man’s terms.

Tips for anyone who is interested in applying for the NS – SS or a similar fellowship:

Use this opportunity to learn and experience as much as you can. 8 weeks (or however long other fellowships may be) isn’t that long, but it is long enough to learn some excellent skills that would be useful in future work: in industry, academia or charities. What you learn depends on what you want to learn.

Would you be interested to do more research in the future and if so what topic(s) would interest you?

I’m definitely going into research. As for the topic, I’m especially interested in the gut microbiota-brain axis, especially seeing the influence of diet on the gut microflora and subsequently, mental illnesses like depression or anxiety.

Continue reading “Interactions between TCF7L2 and MC4R gene variants with dietary factors on Type 2 Diabetes-related factors in the British population”

Glycaemic response and satiety after consumption of gluten-free bread containing buckwheat

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Hanna Walsh completed the Summer Studentship at Oxford Brookes University under the supervision of Dr P. Sangeetha Thondre. You can find Hannah on Twitter

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Project Title: Glycaemic response and satiety after consumption of gluten-free bread containing buckwheat.

About the project:

My project was about looking at the effects of a gluten-free product with buckwheat on glycaemic response and satiety. Buckwheat is naturally gluten-free and has high levels of fibre, protein and minerals which we are hoping could be used to create healthier product options for coeliacs following gluten-free diets.

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What was the best aspect of your Summer studentship experience?

The best part of my summer studentship was being able to apply all the knowledge I had about not only nutrition, but research methods and statistical analysis. I liked being given responsibility and being able to work on my own project.

What was the most challenging part of your studentship?

Though I liked the independence, it was at times challenging especially in the beginning when everything is new. I study in Finland so coming to England and getting used to the working environment was a big step.

What’s the one thing you learnt that is transferable to future work you might do?

I learnt all about the practicalities of undertaking research: lab skills, recruiting people, recording data. In general, it also made me more confident in my own skills and abilities.

Tips for anyone who is interested in applying for the NS – SS or a similar fellowship:

Try and find a good supervisor who will be there to support you but also give you responsibility because that is how you learn the most. They will also help you shape a strong research project.

Would you be interested to do more research in the future and if so what topic(s) would interest you?

I think I would enjoy doing more research in the future. Currently, I am interested in tackling nutritional problems in developing countries so being able to build a better understanding of that via research would be interesting.

Continue reading “Glycaemic response and satiety after consumption of gluten-free bread containing buckwheat”

Estimating the dietary intake of “free sugars” in the teenage population in the United Kingdom

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Dove Yu is a final year Food and Human Nutrition student at Newcastle University. Dove completed the Summer Studentship at the MRC-EWL under the supervision of Birdem Amoutzopoulos and also received support from her advisor Professor Chris Seal at Newcastle University. You can find Dove on Twitter or contact her via her email: doveyu30@hotmail.com

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Project title: ‘Estimating the dietary intake of “free sugars” in the teenage population in the United Kingdom’.

About the project:

The recent SACN report recommends in line with WHO that free sugars intake should not exceed 5% of daily energy intake. However, UK NDNS reports sugar intake as “total sugar” and “non-milk extrinsic sugar”. Therefore, this study aimed to explore the feasibility of estimating free sugar intake using NDNS year 4 data and identifying suitable sugar definitions which can be used in population-based nutrition studies.

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What was the best aspect of your Summer studentship experience?

This studentship allowed me to have a practical experience of doing my own research from thinking the rationale of the study to reporting the study findings. This is so different from doing coursework, where you may receive instructions or guidelines as you need to be creative and show your initiative while doing research. Through literature search, I understood more about the different definitions of dietary sugars and the scientific evidence pertaining to the benefits of reducing free sugar intake. Through designing my own study protocol, I developed my critical thinking and decision making skills. All of the skills that I gained here are very useful for doing my dissertation.

What was the most challenging part of your experience?

Manipulating a large database can always be challenging. I used to maintain a list of tasks that can be accomplished in a short time block. However, some tasks took me a lot more time than I thought to complete. So the challenge really is how you plan, prioritise and use your time effectively. Originally, we aimed to look at all of the foods consumed by the teenage population in NDNS year 1-4 but then we finally considered using NDNS year 4 only due to the limited time available. In doing research, you need to be adaptive as well because there are always changes happening.

Tips for anyone who is interested in applying for the NS – SS or a similar fellowship:

If you want to engage with any projects related to food composition, you’ve got to be well organised and pay attention-to-details. A good plan is important for any type of research project. Do prioritise things that are important. If you really get stuck with your research, think of any alternative ways to complete your tasks and do seek advice from your supervisor. Best of luck for those of you who would like to participate in this good opportunity!!!! 

Continue reading “Estimating the dietary intake of “free sugars” in the teenage population in the United Kingdom”

The effect of delivering dietary nitrate via different food matrices on blood pressure in normotensive volunteers

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Caroline Day completed the Summer Studentship at the Nutrition and Dietetics Department at King’s College London under the supervision of Dr Trevor George.  Caroline, myself and Harriet Smith also run Fight the Fads, a nutrition media platform that addresses and corrects misinformation in the media with evidence-based science. You can find FTF on Twitter and Instagram.
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Project Title: The effect of delivering dietary nitrate via different food matrices on blood pressure in normotensive volunteers

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About the project:

My project investigated the effect of the consumption of dietary nitrate, consumed in the form of both beetroot bread and beetroot juice, on blood pressure.

Increased vegetable consumption has been associated with a reduction in blood pressure and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Originally, this association was thought to be a result of the anti-oxidant properties of vegetables. More recently however the effect vegetable nitrate on blood pressure has been investigated. Vegetables including beetroot have a high nitrate content which after ingestion is reduced endogenously to nitric oxide, a potent vasodilator. Previous studies have found the consumption of beetroot juice is associated with a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure.  This could have important clinical relevance if the dietary nitrate in beetroot could be transferred to a commonly consumed food such as bread, which could then be used in the lifestyle management of hypertensive patients.red-beets-1725799_1920.jpg

Whist some studies have found that beetroot enriched bread products also reduced blood pressure in normotensive subjects, no studies had compared the effect of delivering nitrate via bread and juice using beetroot from the same source, so direct comparisons of the efficacy of each method of delivery have not been possible. My project aimed to create a novel beetroot bread product to establish if it was possible to create the same blood pressure lowering effect as when the same source of beetroot was consumed as a juice.

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My results demonstrated that the  both beetroot juice and beetroot bread lowered blood pressure in participants. After the consumption of beetroot bread, blood pressure remained lower for two hours longer than beetroot juice consumption.

What was the best aspect of your Summer studentship experience?

Having the opportunity and funding to design and implement your own research idea is an invaluable experience. I am considering expanding the study for my dissertation project next year, I have gained skills so many areas that I can take forward with me to make this process much smoother! Particularly in participant recruitment, project planning and data analysis.

What was the most challenging part of your studentship?

Learning to adapt when the project didn’t go to plan. Adding beetroot extract to a standard bread recipe presented many challenges. I had originally intended to maximise the nitrate content of the bread by using a concentrated beetroot juice extract. Unfortunately, the high sugar content of this extract killed the yeast in the standard bread recipe and my loaf ended up more like a cake. This then delayed the project as I had to source and trial other forms of beetroot extract. After two disappointing weeks of trial and error, and thirty loaves of unusable bread I finally found a recipe that worked. This has taught me that patience and flexibility are crucial skills for working in research!

What’s the one thing you learnt that is transferable to future work you might do?

My study was powered for 24 volunteers and only 9 were recruited, so the results do not have sufficient statistical power to draw conclusions even though a pattern was observed. Experiencing the difficulties of participant recruitment has been very useful as this is something I will need to do on a larger scale for my dissertation.

Tips for anyone who is interested in applying for the NS – SS or a similar fellowship:

When researching your project for the application process, I would recommend exploring a number of different project ideas. Speaking to researchers in different areas and thoroughly explore the literature. By doing this I gained a lot of knowledge in different research areas before deciding on my final topic, which helped both with the planning of chosen project and has sparked ideas for future research.

Would you be interested to do more research in the future and if so what topic(s) would interest you?

I am hoping to continue this project as part of my final year dissertation with a larger sample size. There is also the potential to test the bread products on participants with hypertension as all the studies to date have used normotensive subjects.

Continue reading “The effect of delivering dietary nitrate via different food matrices on blood pressure in normotensive volunteers”

A pilot study to determine the effectiveness the Change 4 Life Sugar Smart App (SSA) has on influencing sugar consumption and further investigating the affect the App has on motivating healthier eating habits in healthy adults

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Johanna Bolinder completed her Summer Studentship at St. Mary’s University, London under the supervision of Liz Newling Ward. Johanna has her own website called Bolinder Nutrition and you can also find her on Twitter (@bolnutrition).

Title of project: A pilot study to determine the effectiveness the Change 4 Life Sugar Smart App (SSA) has on influencing sugar consumption and further investigating the affect the App has on motivating healthier eating habits in healthy adults.

About the project:

I looked at how habitual use of the Sugar Smart App (SSA) can influence healthy adults, to reduce their sugar intake and motivate them to make healthier food choices. The results of the pilot showed participants reduced their sugar intake by 32%, free sugar intake by 39.5% and overall energy (kcal) by 28.9% after using the Sugar Smart app daily for two weeks. I have since developed and shaped my dissertation from the results of the study, which I am currently researching.

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What was the best aspect of your Summer studentship experience?

The opportunity to get a running start on my dissertation was invaluable. I enjoyed the challenge that came with independent research. Although I was supervised (by Liz Newling – Ward, the programme director for Nutrition, St. Mary’s University), I was strongly encouraged to get out of my comfort zone and fully embrace, the ups and downs, that come with research as independently as possible.

What was the most challenging part of your studentship?

I worked during my research scholarship. I was offered a position at Jamie Oliver, working on his Food Revolution campaign. It was a dream of mine to work for Jamie, and I couldn’t say no. Instead I decided I could do both, research and work.  It was very demanding at times to juggle the responsibilities. However, it was completely manageable and it forced me to be slightly more disciplined in my time management and scheduling. Research comes with a lot of unforeseen challenges, you can prepare research in theory, however, in practice it usually pans out quite differently. I found it was during these times, research was difficult; you must have a can – do attitude and be flexible and creative when things do not go according to plan.screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-18-46-44

What’s the one thing you learnt that is transferable to future work you might do?

Time management will be the first thing that comes to mind, which in my opinion, is something you can never get too much experience in.  I also learned to work independently, and seek ways to reach conclusions on my own, without relying on professionals. Critical thinking, report writing and data analysis are also skills I am much more confident in.

Tips for anyone who is interested in applying for the NS – SS or a similar fellowship:

My best advice would be to just go for it. Pick a topic which interests you, then brainstorm with someone (nutrition related) whom you respect, and can give you honest feedback. Develop the research methodology, and don’t rush it.  This is such a golden chance, and you will not regret it. It sets you up for the future and you will gain confidence and momentum which you will need to complete your degree.

Would you be interested to do more research in the future and if so what topic(s) would interest you?

I would love to go on and do a PhD at some point in the future, possibly in something related to nutrigenomics which is another area of nutrition which fascinates me. However, right now I am ready to take my knowledge and experience and put it all into practice. I am currently looking for work within food tech, public health and/or industry for when I graduate this summer.

Continue reading “A pilot study to determine the effectiveness the Change 4 Life Sugar Smart App (SSA) has on influencing sugar consumption and further investigating the affect the App has on motivating healthier eating habits in healthy adults”

Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Additive Emulsifiers

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I completed my Summer Studentship at the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at King’s College London, under the supervision of Professor Kevin Whelan and Dr Megan Rossi. On the side, I run Fight the Fads with Harriet Smith and Caroline Day. A nutrition platform that aims to remove the fear and confusion over nutrition often created by the social media. You can find FTF on Twitter and Instagram and you can also find me on my personal Twitter account

Project Title: Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Additive Emulsifier

About the project:

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The incidence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is increasing (Hanauer, 2006) alongside dietary intakes of food additives resulting from societies’ demand for palatable convenience foods (Lerner and Matthias, 2015). Exploration into this association has uncovered a novel mechanistic pathway by which some food additives, specifically synthetic emulsifiers, may trigger colitis. (Roberts et al, 2013 and Csaki, 2011) Moreover, convincing evidence in support of this emerging hypothesis demonstrated that mice fed common emulsifiers, carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80, at relatively low doses induced significant colitis in those predisposed to IBD (Chassaing, 2015). This landmark study, published in Nature, has raised serious concerns behind the safety of additive emulsifiers, warranting investigation in humans.

Consequently, aim of this project was to identify from the literature which emulsifiers have been associated with IBD and develop the methodology in order to quantify and qualify emulsifier intakes in patients with IBD, in order to compare them to the intakes of healthy controls and assess the health risk posed to potentially vulnerable groups. 

I conducted a literature review of published research relating to IBD and emulsifier consumption. Emulsifiers in the UK market were quantified using FoodMaestro®. Patients with IBD were recruited and completed a seven-day un-weighed food record. Three patients were analysed further using Nutritics® and their emulsifier intakes was quantified.

The literature results showed that Carrageenan (E407), Polysorbate 80 (E433) and Carboxy methyl cellulose (E466) is associated to IBD. Of the n=94,286 foods in UK Market, 30% contained any emulsifier. The distribution in food subcategories as organised by manufacturers varied greatly. Intakes of the three patients were not consistent, however sources were derived primarily from confectionary and processed meats.

The quantification of emulsifiers was limited as manufacturers are not obliged to provide the amount (mg) of emulsifiers used in food products in the same way as in carbohydrates (g). In addition, the European Commission allows the use of some emulsifiers as per quantum satis (= the amount required), without specifying an upper limit. I attempted to resolve this limitation by contacting manufacturers directly, liaising with the European Food Safety Authority and the Food Additives and Ingredients Association to obtain usage data. None of the information provided was adequate to quantify use of the three selected emulsifiers.

This is a very interesting area of research and additional studies with a larger sample size are required to be able to make any associations between intakes of additive emulsifiers and IBD in humans.

The best aspect of my Summer studentship experience:

Working alongside a team of leading professionals in the area of gut health was one of the best aspects of this project. I specifically enjoyed my meetings with my supervisors as they allowed me to organise my thoughts and experience how it is to be part of a research team. During the meetings I was able to get an insight on the way they work and the research they are conducting and understand how much hard work goes into completing a project. 

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International Congress of Dietetics ENDietS Conference – Granada, Spain 6th September 2016

A highlight of my SS experience was the opportunity to present the outcomes of my project at the International Congress of Dietetics, ENDietS conference in Granada Spain. This required me to prepare an engaging presentation that would present my eight-week project in a ten-minute presentation. I really enjoyed this experience and I understood how much hard work is required to deliver complex information in a simple and engaging way.

The most challenging part of my studentship:

Due to the nature of my project, I was constantly re-evaluating the aims of my project based on the available data. This at times was very challenging mentally and psychologically as I had to completely disregard work I had spent many hours completing. What this taught me though, was that nutrition research is not a straight forward process and it is these changes that evidently led me my results. 

The one thing I learnt that is transferable to future work:

The Nutrition Society SS was an invaluable funding opportunity that not only supported my interest in IBD, but provided me with first-hand insight into a career in nutrition research.  I was able to develop many research skills, including recruiting, re-evaluating goals, time management, data collection, food data analysis, planning a research presentation and presenting. These are skills that will be invaluable for my future academic development and in particular my dissertation next year.

Tips for anyone who is interested in applying for the NS – SS or a similar fellowship:

My top three tips would be:

  1. Take your time to explore several areas of interest. Try to read a paper each day to stay up to date and familiarise with different topics can be useful. Speak to your lecturers and express your interest, this will evidently allow you to decide on an area that will interest you. 
  2. When you decide on a topic – Make sure to be passionate about your topic. Not only does this mean you will learn new things about a topic of your interest it also means you will enjoy your project. This is essential, particularly if you will be spending long hours working on it…  
  3. Take your time to complete your application. A targeted, well organised and structured application is likely to be successful! Explore different funding opportunities and don’t give up if you don’t succeed on your first application. 

Conducting research is a challenging project but one that will give you a lot insight into what it means to do research, organising your own time and being efficient so make the most out of this experience. While working on your project will be your main focus, make sure to speak to other researchers and learn about their areas of interest.

Good luck to everyone that wishes to apply for a research project this summer! 

Am I interested to do more research in the future?

As I have mentioned before I strongly believe research is the way forward in the nutrition science. Studying at KCL we are trained by leading scientist in the field of nutrition. Our training is based on the most recent evidence-based science and I would be definitely interested in conducting further research in the future. Currently, my interest is primarely on gut health, however the more I read on other topics I realise there are a large number of topics that interest me. Renal, oncology and cardiovascular health being some of them. 

Continue reading “Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Additive Emulsifiers”

The Summer Studentship Series

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The Nutrition Society (NS) offers a unique funding opportunity to a limited number of students to undertake a research project during the summer months. The Summer Studentship Series on Research Girl Today is a collaboration with all students that took part in the 2016 NS Summer Studentship (NS-SS).

The Nutrition Society received a large number of applications and eight projects were selected and funded for the summer of 2016. The variety of topics highlight the diversity in the areas of research related to Nutrition. The projects included:

Elisabeth Cresta – Title of Project: Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Additive Emulsifiers

Johanna Bolinder – Title of Project: A pilot study to determine the effectiveness the Change 4 Life Sugar Smart App (SSA) has on influencing sugar consumption and further investigating the affect the App has on motivating healthier eating habits in healthy adults

Caroline Day – Title of Project: The effect of delivering dietary nitrate via different food matrices on blood pressure in normotensive volunteers

Dove Yu – Title of Project: Estimating the dietary intake of “free sugars” in the teenage population in the United Kingdom

Hanna Walsh – Title of Project: Glycaemic response and satiety after consumption of gluten-free bread containing buckwheat

Cindi Bei – Title of Project: Interactions between TCF7L2 and MC4R gene variants with dietary factors on Type 2 Diabetes-related factors in the British population

Toni Spence – Title of Project: The relationship between the immune response in pregnancy, birth outcome and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)

I decided to ask everyone a couple of questions related to their projects and general experience, in an attempt to give you an idea of the variety of projects we completed and the interesting elements of each project. My hope is to inspire more students to do research and provide useful information and tips for those who may be interested in applying for the NS Summer Studentship or other similar research projects.

I firmly believe research is the way forward in nutrition and I hope the Summer Studentship series will inspire more of you to get involved in research projects.

I will be posting daily for a week and you will have the chance to read all about our experiences and hopefully get inspired to apply to do a research project.

The 2017 Nutrition Society Summer Studentship application is now open and you can find it here or by clicking on the Nutrition Society logo below:

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Please comment and let me know if you have found these series useful!

Many thanks,

Elisabeth

Continue reading “The Summer Studentship Series”

Research Struggles

Like every new beginning, every new job has its benefits and also its struggles. As I have already explained, this summer I had the amazing opportunity to work in the Nursing and Midwifery Department at King’s College London to conduct a systematic review.

If one had asked me back in May how would I go about starting a systematic review, I would have no idea what to answer. Although I had read systematic reviews by the time I started the Research Fellowship, it had never occurred to me what the actual process actually involved. Before starting the Fellowship I decided to keep a diary of everything I did each day, I took note of things that went well and other things that I found more challenging.

Here are my top 5 Research Struggles:

1. Getting familiar with the search engines! 

In the end they do become your best friend, but I had to spend about two weeks familiarising with the different engines Medline/ PubMed, Embase, PsycINFO, Web of Science and getting a feel of what each had to offer. Initially, the tricky part was identifying how each engine was worked – where to set limited criteria and also how to export the papers. My Medline search brought up a very large number of papers of which only a few were relevant in the end. Embase is a pharmaceutical engine and therefore had limited papers relevant to the topic I was looking for; similarly, PsycINFO had only very few relevant sources. Web of Science brought up some useful papers, it was particularly easy to use and particularly helpful as it projected on the side of the search the times the paper had been cited, something I learnt to appreciate over time.

2. Setting inclusion and exclusion criteria

Setting Inclusion and Exclusion criteria was mainly associated with the building of the Protocol for the study. A protocol is a document that describes the reason for conducting the systematic review, the rationale, sets objectives and outlines the organisation of the research project. When setting inclusion/exclusion criteria the struggle was thinking about all the possible parameters that had to be taken into account and making sure everything was included. This is challenging at times, particularly when one is not very familiar with the relevant topic.

3. AND or OR

Finding the correct keywords to use for my search.

Although in some studies this can be fairly simple in the study I conducted it was quite challenging as both cancer and diabetes are two very broad terms. I used many different combinations of keywords until we were happy with both the quantity and the relevance of the papers the search was bringing up. I am not going to lie, it did get frustrating at times spending days doing a search and then realising I had to start all over again. However, I realised that this is the only way to do it.

What I found particularly helpful was creating a visual of the combination of terms I would ideally like to find in a paper. I literally took a paper and drew two circles: one had cancer and all the terms associated (eg. Malignancy, melanoma etc.) and the other had diabetes and all the terms associated (diabetes mellitus, insulin etc.) and this is what lead me to the keywords we ended up using!

What I realised is that there isn’t a right or wrong way for doing this: You Search, You Check for Relevance, You Search, You Check for Relevance…

4. A Large – 4 – Digit Number

Being a stressed person from nature I was initially overwhelmed by the quantity of information! Although for some a large 4-digit-number of results might not seem like a lot, it was enough to make me go up and down the stairs of the eight – floor – building every 2 hours to rejuvenate and restore my frame of mind!

While conducting my searches and reviewing the papers I was overwhelmed with the amount of papers and was also at times scared that I would not be able to complete the project. Although reviewing is overwhelming to start off with, it does actually become better as you go along and this is something I learnt through experience and will have in mind when I conduct research again in the future.

5. Management

I am not sure if everyone feels this way but whenever I start a new job or even start a new project I always get that boost of excitement and that kick followed by slight stress – I like to call that productive stress!

However, when I was presented with that Large – 4 – Digit Number I became so preoccupied that this task would not be completed on time that I ended up constantly feeling that I had not made enough progress and disappointed about my performance. I was however very lucky to have my supervisor beside me along the way. She guided me and reassured me I was on the right track by having a mini – review of the goals accomplished each week. This allowed me to develop a mechanism to cope with managing my time and my stress and was able to complete what I had set to do.

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I have realised that although I have mentioned all the above as ‘Research Struggles’, these where the things I took away and appreciated during this amazing experience. Entering my second year of studies I have already been able to apply the knowledge that I attained during the summer in a variety of modules and this has made me very happy!

I am very interested to hear what were your ‘Struggles’ when you first had to conduct a review? I am sure there will be similar and different points for each person and I am looking forward to hearing your experience!

KURF

What does KURF stand for?

KURF stands for King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship.

In late April 2015 I decided to apply for the KURF. Just as I was starting my first exams in May, I found out that I had been accepted for an eight – week fellowship in the Nursing and Midwifery Department at King’s College London to conduct a systematic review on how glycaemic control* is affected during cancer treatment in patients with pre-existing Type 2 Diabetes mellitus. The fellowship required that I become familiar with running a targeted search on a topic forming a protocol for the paper, assessing the literature for relevant papers according to inclusion and exclusion criteria extracting information from selected papers by forming an extraction form assessing bias. At the same time, it involved working with other members of the Cancer Research team in the Nursing and Midwifery Department and primarily with my supervisor, Dr Jo Armes, who provided me with invaluable guidance and support during the fellowship.

*Glycaemic control refers to the regulation of blood glucose levels within a certain range considered as normal (For more information go to NICE guidelines). This can be assessed in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus patients, by obtaining data of Glycated Haemoglobin (HbA1c) and is a useful measure for its control within a time frame of 1 to 3 months.
How did I apply and why?

I decided to apply for the Fellowship as it offered a great opportunity to become familiar with and engage in academic research in a leading institution, while being mentored by experts in the fields of cancer and diabetes during my undergraduate studies. I have a strong personal interest in the relationship between cancer treatment and diabetes, enhanced after some lectures on diabetes and glycaemic control. As both cancer and diabetes are responsible for an increasing number of deaths today, I considered the correlation between cancer treatment and glycaemic control to be very important for a future dietitian. By participating in this study, I hoped to gain a more comprehensive understanding of this relationship. I was able to learn and apply different research and data analysis methods and to further develop my critical appraisal skills. Finally, I considered this fellowship to be a unique opportunity to contribute to the development of a comprehensive summary of evidence, which would form the basis for a publication that will hopefully have a positive impact on the treatment of patients.

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My personal experience

My experience of the fellowship has been nothing but positive. Initially, the amount of work that had to be completed in eight weeks seemed daunting; however, as the weeks progressed I felt more confident with the work I was doing and was finally able to complete it. I also had the opportunity to be part of the greater Cancer Research Team and discuss other studies that I was not involved in, gaining a better understanding on the current research taking place, and met with researchers from other teams who shared their experiences with me. In addition to the above, and apart from enriching my knowledge on this topic, I was encouraged to attend talks and events on a number of research topics, an opportunity that further induced my unique academic experience. After attending the talks I would discuss them with the rest of the team and exchange ideas and opinions on the topic. My experience was made so much more inspiring and educating thanks to my supervisor, who was always available to answer my questions and helped me discover and learn more things as the project was developing.

The benefits of the fellowship

This fellowship has been an exciting academic research opportunity for me, through which I gained experience in research and acquired skills that will be very useful for my academic, professional and personal development. During this fellowship I realised that I really enjoy research, but I also believe that such an experience would benefit even people who may not be considering research as a future career. The skills I gained are transcendent and can be applicable in any discipline; these include organising my time for the completion of the project and being able to discuss the topic I am working on and clearly define the scope and aims of my research. Recently, I had my first lecture in Research Methods for Health Sciences a module which is part of my BSc Nutrition and Dietetics, Year 2 and it was then that I realised how valuable this experience has been and will be in the next few years. I felt confident to use the knowledge I had attained during my summer fellowship to problem solve and answer questions.

What does the future hold?

As part of this fellowship I am still working closely with my supervisor, Dr Jo Armes to finalise this project and I am hoping I will be soon able to discuss the systematic review in more detail on ResearchGirlToday. As part of this project, I will have the opportunity to submit an abstract for oral/poster presentation at the Annual King’s Health Partners Nursing Conference in 2016 and this will be a great opportunity to demonstrate the work that has been completed. In the future I am also looking forward to getting involved in other research projects.

Going forward I will use ResearchGirlToday as a platform to relay research information and I would like to consider this website as an ongoing project of the work I started this summer!

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