I am a Lower Sixth student studying Psychology. I have one more year until I leave school and go to University and although I know I want to do a Psychology degree I am not sure where I want to go afterwards so for the last five days I have been in Edinburgh doing a week’s work experience with Sue.Before arriving I was not sure what to expect and I didn’t know what I’d be doing. As soon as I arrived and heard I was going to watch an MRI scan I knew I was in for a good week. So Monday morning we headed off to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary with a Starbucks’ coffee and sat in the sun before taking it in turns to watch a baby have an MRI scan from the observation room. This was the first scan I’d seen and I found it really interesting to see all of the equipment that was needed in order to carry out a safe and successful scan. Due to the patient being so young, the staff had to hope that the baby would stay still to therefore get clear images. Afterwards, we saw some images from an MRI scan of a foetus in its mother’s womb. There were some extraordinary images including some of the foetus’ eyeballs, which showed up bright white against the black of its face. It was fascinating to see how the work that Sue does can be linked with the work of the hospital and how the two compliment each other.
On Tuesday I helped Sue to rate some parent-child free play sessions from her Click-East project using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-Change (ADOS-C) scale. Some of the things that we were looking for included eye contact, facial expressions, interactions with their parents and their use of the standardised toys in the room. It was interesting to compare my ratings to Sue’s and to see where our results agreed and where they disagreed. It just goes to show the complexity of the ADOS-C rating scale and the need for inter-reliability. I really like the fact that now all of the children have had their assessments, Sue sends them all clinical reports about how they did and the improvements that have occurred. This shows how Sue’s job cares a lot about the participants involved in a particular study and their families and how it is important to inform them of the results.
Reading about Sue’s up and coming project about technology for young children with Autism was very interesting, particularly reading about the ethics of the study, which showed the many considerations that are needed before conducting a study. I also enjoyed recruiting potential participants for the study through finding out which children from the Click-East project used the most technology. Later on in the week, we designed an online questionnaire asking parents with children with Autism to tell us what technology their children use. This questionnaire is designed for people all over the world who can share their knowledge and experiences with other parents.
Leading on from this, it was great to sit in on a meeting in the University’s Informatics Centre where we were presented with some ideas about interactive games for children with Autism and the feedback that was given. Technology is something that is growing rapidly and in that meeting I realised how useful its role is in learning.
On Wednesday I was given the chance to independently put together some data onto a SPSS file. What made this really exciting was the fact that I was using real data from a real study. I have learnt how imperative statistics are not only at the end of an experiment but also at the start. Finding an appropriate sample for a study involves statistics right form the beginning, for example working out how many participants you want in each group. Then, the data was analysed and we were looking for any significant differences that could be found between results.
On Thursday I shadowed Sue preparing a timetable to help write a grant application for a colleague. There were also conversations about project ideas for the future and the endless research that can be done. I also assisted Sue reviewing a student’s ethics form and their ideas for research abroad. Finally on Thursday I got the opportunity to use the eye-tracker machine, which is used to test where participants focus their vision when shown images on a screen. This can give researchers information about the level of concentration a participant has and where their interests within an image lie.
This week I’ve also had the chance to meet lots of people in the Psychological field of work. This includes a PhD student who told me what it was like to be in the first stages of Psychology after getting a degree. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to a clinical psychologist, which enabled me to compare that career to one in research. Overall, the week has been fascinating and I’ve really enjoyed learning about a career in psychology.