Student Case Study – Test Group

Name of Student:  Georgina Thompson

Degree Subject:  Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery

Type of Internship: Access to Internships (A2I) 

Company Name: Exeter Test Group, University of Exeter Medical School

Job Title: Research Assistant

What were your key duties and responsibilities during your internship?

The aim of this project was to review the evidence for the accuracy, effectiveness, and other aspects of the development and performance of symptom scores used in the triage and diagnosis of cow’s milk protein allergy. The project involved conducting a systematic review of published and unpublished research. We aimed to evaluate the validity, accuracy, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of symptom scores. My roles included the following:

1) Literature search of three databases (CENTRAL, EMBASE and MEDLINE) using pre-defined search terms. I developed these search strategies with help from one of the teams information specialists.

2) Reviewed all titles/abstracts and subsequent full-texts using inclusion and exclusion criteria. This included reading over 1000 titles and over 80 full-text articles.

3) Extracted data from each included study using standardised data extraction forms that I designed with my supervisor. Used critical appraisal tools to critically appraise the included studies.

3) Wrote a narrative review of the findings. This involved lots of collaboration with my team.

What outputs and outcomes did you deliver for your employer?

I have completed the systematic review and written the narrative. I am now in the process of circulating this work around the research team and we will then submit for publication in the peer-reviewed journal Allergy. The findings have been accepted for poster presentation at the MEMTAB2020 conference, which is due to take place later this year.

What was your biggest achievement on your internship?

Writing a narrative review was my biggest achievement. I started writing as the COVID-19 pandemic began which meant I wrote the majority of the review at home. This was challenging as it meant I could no longer chat face to face with my supervisor and had to rely on MS teams meetings. The review itself is a 4100 word manuscript which includes Tables and Figures to illustrate the methods and findings. It was a challenge writing for a new and learned audience. I took notes during meetings so that I could work on feedback from members of the group. It was also a challenge combining ideas from all the authors. I am really proud of the finished draft, and that it is a good enough standard to submit to a peer-reviewed journal.

What did not go so well on your internship? How did you overcome any challenges?

It was challenging adapting to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. I have been able to organise meetings with my supervisor on MS teams, however, I found it easier to be able to walk to the office and show him my work in person. I also found it difficult not having two screens to work from at home. Having two screens makes it easier to read the papers, and also to look between excel spreadsheets and the manuscript. I printed off some of the papers to overcome this challenge which made it easier to refer to specific parts whilst I was writing.

Skills Learnt: 

  • Ability to Work Under Pressure
  • Organisation
  • Decision Making
  • Researching
  • Time and Work Load Management

Attributes Developed:

  • Initiative
  • Perseverance
  • Professionalism
  • Confidence
  • Motivation

Your message to other students considering a similar job role, organisation or sector?

“My internship with Exeter Test Group has been a fantastic experience. I really enjoyed having my own project to get stuck in to where I conducted a systematic review evaluating the use of symptom scores in the diagnosis of cow’s milk allergy in infants. I have learned so much from all members of my research team who were incredibly supportive throughout – they have been amazing! With their help I have written a paper that we hope to get publish later this year. I would urge all students to consider an internship at University of Exeter!”